Widening Participation Talk at Sir John Talbot's Comprehensive School, Whitchurch, and at King Edward VI College, Nuneaton
On November 12th 2019 I revisited my old school, Sir John Talbot’s in Whitchurch Shropshire, to provide a follow-up session to the one I delivered in October. This time, though, it was just the Year 13s who were in attendance. The title of my talk was: ‘How should we deal today with the legacy of the British Empire?’ I ran the students through a number of examples of how UK universities are attempting to confront the way in which their history intersects with the history of British imperialism and the history of British slave trading. Different institutions have adopted very different strategies, and I utilised interactive technology to allow the students to use their phones to vote in real time on the effectiveness of those strategies. The actions of UK universities are often a means of signalling contrition at their complicity in imperial structures, which opened up the discussion to a focus on political apologies more generally. The students were able to see just how difficult political actors have found it to offer an unconditional apology for even some of the worst atrocities committed in the name of the British Empire.
I then gave a version of a very similar talk to the Think Higher day at King Edward VI College in Nuneaton on January 30th 2020. Once again, interactive smartphone technology was used to enable the students to participate in the lecture and also to guess the opinions that they believed their classmates held on strategies for confronting Britain's imperial past and devising suitable commemorations of Empire.
On June 25th 2019 I was invited back once again to my old school to talk to the Sixth Form Forum. The students had asked me to talk about Brexit back in October 2018, and they wanted a follow-up session this time around: not one that simply brought them up-to-date with things that they might in any case already have seen on the news, so much as to show them the types of questions that they might be asked about Brexit if they choose to study politics at university in due course. I delivered a new session called 'Imperial Nostalgia and Brexit' that I had worked up specifically for them. Once more I was able to speak to over fifty sixth-formers. I will be invited back in the autumn to unveil our Colonial Hangover project to them.
On October 23rd 2018 I was invited to speak at a Black History Month event organised by Lloyds Bank Inclusion and Diversity Division. The event had the title, 'A Mile in My Shoes: Putting the 'B' into BAME', and it was held at Chatham House in St James's Square in London. My paper was entitled, 'Windrush, Brexit and the Racialised Language of British History'. 150 Lloyds staff and guests were invited to hear a range of talks that reflected on the difficulties of a distinctively black history finding its voice in modern Britain and what this might mean for people of colour working within an organisation like Lloyds. As the one white person invited to speak, I thought that it was beholden upon me to talk about the continuing effects of white privilege and how this phenomenon is currently evident within the Brexit debate. This same theme was prominent in lots of the questions asked at the 'Question Time'-style roundtable, where the audience asked the panel members whether they believed contemporary Britain was moving closer towards or further away from racial equality.
On October 19th 2018 I was invited to Lyng Hall School in Coventry to give a talk about the politics of statues, but to do so specifically in relation to the city of Coventry itself. The students quickly embraced the issue, and they will be working with our Widening Participation team on a project this year that will ask whether an alternative way might be found of memorialising Myrtilla, who was brought to this country from St Nevis as a slave in the late seventeenth century. She is buried in the churchyard of St Lawrence in Oxhill in the Warwickshire countryside, and unusually for someone in her situation Myrtilla was provided with a headstone. However, her headstone states that she continued to be 'owned' even in death. The students are interested in developing a new way of commemorating Myrtilla's life. They have also promised to pass on to us any interesting stories they learn about the statues that they encounter in Coventry when they are walking around the city in future.
For a week during the school summer holidays of 2018, my Department hosted sixteen young people who had successfully applied to the Politics stream of the Sutton Trust Summer School at Warwick (https://summerschools.suttontrust.com/). Our week of events was organised around the themes of the Colonial Hangover project. I delivered three sessions to the students during the course of the week: (1) To What Extent Is Empire Still With Us Today?; (2) The Politics of Imperial Commemoration; and (3) The Politics of Global Apologies. I also helped to organise their outing for the day that they spent away from campus, which was designed to show them how the threads of empire were woven deeply into the Warwickshire countryside from the seventeenth century onwards.
On July 21st 2018 I appeared in an 'In Conversation' slot at the annual Belgrade Mela in Coventry and was also interviewd by Radio Plus. The Mela is a public event hosted at the Belgrade Theatre to celebrate South Asian arts and culture within the UK and, more specifically, within the Coventry and Warwickshire region. I was interviewed by my Department's Widening Participation Officer, Shahnaz Akhter, before the discussion was opened up to a Q&A session with the audience. The theme was the Colonial Hangover project that we have been running with local schools, showcasing the activities we have put on for students within the region and, more generally, asking how modern-day Coventry is located in relation to the ongoing political and economic structures of imperial legacies. At the instigation of both Shahnaz and the audience, there was a distinct Brexit theme to the developing conversation.
On October 31st 2017 I was invited to speak at a Future Leaders Event organised by Lloyds Banking Group's Inclusion and Diversity Division. The event took place in The Shard in London. 160 Lloyds staff and guests were invited to hear a range of talks about the difficulties experienced by BAME colleagues in moving through the ranks of their organisation and into middle management. I spoke about the Colonial Hangover project, linking the work that I do on one of my Department's schools outreach projects to the distance that large organisations still have to travel if they are to provide a context for their staff to experience a working environment that survives the charge of being institutionally racist. I argued that an organisation that is only partially aware of its own history is an organisation that cannot guarantee that it will survive such a charge. I illustrated this through reference to the imperial legacies that our Widening Participation students learn about through the Colonial Hangover project and the imperial legacies that all of Britain's banks still have. The evening was a great success, and further talks will follow as a means of deepening the link.
The evening event also grew to encompass an afternoon event where members of my Department spoke in an informal and off-the-record manner with executives from Lloyds, Deloittes, Ernst and Young, Bank of New York Mellon, the BBC and the Black British Business Awards on matters of inclusion and diversity. Documents under discussion were the recent Parker, McGregor-Smith and Black British Business Awards reviews on the restricted opportunities for career advancement amongst BAME staff within the corporate sector. Again, things went very well, and further meetings are planned to move the conversation forward.
Along with my Department's Widening Participation Officer, Shahnaz Akhter, I launched the Colonial Hangover project at a Schools Day event we ran for Year 12 students on January 17th 2017. The project will run for the whole year and will invite the participating students to reflect on the images of empire that they continue to find around them on a day-to-day basis. It picks up on an increasing sense that the British Empire might well have been formally disbanded, but that assumptions about empire continue to shape our everyday experiences. This has perhaps never been more amply demonstrated than in the vision of Britain's place in the world that animated the Leave campaign at the 2016 EU referendum and that now provides the dominant imagery for Theresa May's preferred account of what a post-Brexit Britain might look like.
Assisted by our undergraduate student research assistants Taznema Khatun and Jonas Eberhardt, we also put on a Colonial Hangover conference on June 30th 2017. This was designed to allow our schools competition winners to present their work - both essays and spoken word pieces - in an environment in which they could interact with our undergraduates and learn more about university life from the latter's presentations. It proved to be an exhilarating day in which all of the students took the opportunity to really talk about themselves, their experiences of the legacies of empire and what it means to live in a society that continues to be dominated by assumptions of white privilege. Recordings from the day will shortly be available.
On November 24th 2016 I gave a talk to a group of Year 12 schoolchildren entitled, 'The Price of Citizenship'. It focused on taxation, the way in which markets are currently being made to facilitate tax avoidance, and what the current political tendency to equate taxation with some sort of state-sanctioned theft of peronal money does to the ability to continue to fund public goods such as healthcare, education, environmental protection and pensions, access to which is traditionally seen as being part of the rights we hold as citizens.
On November 23rd and 24th 2016, along with my Department's Widening Participation Officer, Shahnaz Akhter, I gave a poster presentation on our Colonial Hangover project at the PAIS Impact Conference at the University of Warwick. The poster was seen by the eighty participants at the conference and by seventy Year 12 students visiting my Department on the second day of the conference for a Pathways to Politics Widening Participation Day. The students will be enrolled into our Colonial Hangover activities as the academic year progresses.
On July 23rd 2016 I participated in a roundtable discussion about photographic art and everyday experiences of the British Empire. This was as part of the Colonial Hangover project that I have been running for my Department's Widening Participation Programme. My talk was entitled, 'Photographs, Family Histories and the Colonial Hangover', and I appeared alongside Jason Scott Tilley and Tarla Patel. The event took place at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry and was an element of the 2016 Coventry Mela, a celebration of South Asian arts and culture within the city.
On June 29th 2016 I gave a talk to supplement citizenship training to both Year 9s and Year 12s at Rainhill High School in Prescot, Merseyside. The talk was entitled, 'Paying for the State: Taxation and Citizenship'.
I also participated alongside my departmental colleagues Trevor McCrisken and Shahnaz Akhter on a post-EU referendum Question Time-style roundtable discussion.
On March 22nd 2016 I was the academic lead on a Schools Day event, joining together with my Department's Widening Participation team to put on a series of sessions around the theme of the Colonial Hangover. Students were asked to reflect on the ways in which the legacies of the British Empire continue to reverberate down the generations and lead to particular perspectives being taken on the issue of racial politics today.
A film of the opening lecture I delivered can be found here: https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=youtube+matthew+warwick+colonial+hangover&view=detail&mid=99B586FCAE014EACB7C599B586FCAE014EACB7C5&FORM=VIRE.
I chaired and was involved in a roundtable discussion between colleagues in my Department and various anti-austerity activists and campaigners from the Coventry and Warwickshire region. The event took place in the Coventry Central Methodist Hall on March 3rd 2016.
An audio recording of all the speakers can be found at http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/pais/research/impact/events/austeritybritain/.
On May 12th 2015 I appeared on the PAIS Post-Election Roundtable in my Department. This event was run as part of the Festival of Social Sciences held to celebrate the University's 50th Anniversary. I was invited to speak about the economic and welfare dimensions of the General Election campaign and the economic and welfare implications of the result. I was on the panel alongside my professorial colleagues Wyn Grant, Mike Smith, Richard Aldrich and Shirin Rai.
On April 29th 2015 I delivered a teaching session to members of Liverpool Football Club's Academy. The men's under-18 team was visiting Warwick for two days, and this was part of my Department's attempts to show them how studying politics at university might run in parallel with trying to build their football careers. My session was entitled, 'Market Ethics and the Ability to Pay Principle'.
On Feburary 26th 2015 and on March 6th 2015 I delivered teaching sessions to different groups of secondary schoolchildren who were visiting Warwick as part of my Department's Pathways to Politics events. The session was entitled, 'Food Justice and Market Ethics'. A similarly themed session, this time called, 'Access to Food and the Market Ethic of Ability-to-Pay', was delivered to the University of Warwick Faculty of Social Sciences Widening Participation Summer School on July 7th 2015.
This article, entitled 'Widening access to university entrenches social class attitudes to student debt', was published in The Conversation on March 27th 2014 to coincide with the release of new data by the Higher Education Statistics Agency. It explores the relationship between higher education marketisation at the level of university income and attempts to enhance access to degree programmes for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. I argue that the current policy is inattentive to class differences in attitudes to holding debt and therefore has hidden costs that operate against the stated objectives of policy.