Friday, 20 August 2010

Britain at Work - Building Workers Project

Substantial progress is being made with the Britain at Work 1945-95 project, which I have previously mentioned in my newsletter. The parent body is a steering group comprising all interested parties and is open to anyone who wishes to put their project under its umbrella. Dave Welsh of HISTORYtalk has updated me about its work within the wider project. It has already done some 30 interviews with people in West London and Middlesex about their working lives. These interviews are snapshots of work, industrial relations and the labour movement across the vast outer West London corridor in the post-war era, and includes people who worked at Kodak, on the tubes and buses, in education, libraries, in engineering factories, Ford's Langley near Slough and Heathrow Airport. The interviews are a key component in the construction of a new social and economic history of the whole area. It will be an important resource for future historians and researchers. Britain at Work is a nationwide programme which was launched in 2009 at the House of Commons by Labour MP John McDonnell and labour historian Nina Fishman (now sadly deceased). HISTORYtalk has funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Another strand is about to take off: Constructing Post War Britain: Building Workers' Stories 1950-70 run from the University of Westminster. It is a pity they are not starting in 1945 as my study of building workers' struggles in the immediate post-war period through the activity and experience of Alf Loughton provides an important foundation stone for understanding what was going on in the building industry, between workers and employers, within the trade unions and between the Communist Party and those who were suspicious of or hostile to the Party. Many of Alf's other papers, which I am in the process of donating to Wandsworth Museum, are an important resource for many other aspects of the building industry through to the 1960s. The Westminster project would like to hear from people in West London or those who worked in the building industry for more interviewing.
Britain at Work main contact person: Stefan Dickers (Bishopsgate Institute):
Britain at Work website based at TUC Library:
HISTORYtalk:; 020 7792 2282;

Westminster Project: Chris Wall 020 7911 5000 (ext 3322);

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

The Great Unrest - A Proposal for a London History Workshop


The Great Unrest of 1911-13 saw an upsurge in militant working class and labour movement action around wages and working conditions. The potential for a new wave of unrest in the light of the savage cuts by the ConDem Coalition Government makes that history of relevance. However, at the centre of the struggle 100 years ago were the armies of industrial workers particularly in the mines and transport. The modern blue collar working class has been decimated. The white collar working class of today is much less organised in trade unions, and their life styles make many of them regard themselves as middle-class. Meanwhile many of those who still regard themselves as working class consider they have been betrayed, and their history, culture and identify marginalised.

The Background

New ideas about industrial organisation and action were emerging with the labour and socialist movements: syndicalism, a rejection of parliamentary politics, the creation of industrial unions and advocating direct industrial action to win control of the economy. One the main advocates of syndicalism was Tom Mann, who had been a leading activist in the New Unionist wave 1889-92.

The Transport Workers Federation was created by the dockers and seamen. A wave of strikes swept the country involving seamen, dockers, miners and railwaymen. There was a massive strike of transport workers in 1912. The ASRS, the General Railway Workers Union and the United Signalmen and Postmen merged into the National Union of Railwaymen in 1912. In 1913 the NUR entered a Triple Alliance with the Miners and the Transport Workers Federation with a view to joint action for mutual assistance. Troops were used by the Liberal Government against striking miners in Tonypandy, with one killed and hundreds injured. This was also the time of militant action by suffragettes demanding the vote for women, and the Conservatives encouraging Protestant mutiny in Ireland against Home Rule. Out of a strike by the London Society of Compositors members merged The Daily Herald newspaper, which had the support of the Parliamentary Committee of the TUC which was represented on its Board by W Matkin, the General Secretary of the General Union of Carpenters and Joiners. From 1913 under George Lansbury's editorship it upset MacDonald and the Party's Parliamentary Committee withdrew its support and launched the short lived The Daily Citizen. The Liberals reversed the Osborne Judgement in 1913 allowing unions to have separate political funds, which revived the fortunes of the Labour Party. The militancy petered out.

Commemorating the Great Unrest

The hundredth anniversary of the Great Unrest begins next year. Its significance has been highlight in the editorial by Mike Squires in the current newsletter of the Socialist History Society. That editorial is supported by an article by Paul Burnham on the High Wycombe Strike of 1913, and a review of a new book on the South Wales Miners' Strike.

It occurred to me that it would be worthwhile to consider organising a History Workshop type event in London on the Greta Unrest, aimed at attracting people from London's vibrant networks of people engaged in community, local, family, labour movement and BME histories.

The initial ideas are:

(1)A project launch event at Bishopsgate Institute with speakers setting the scene and plenty of time for people to discuss how to set up local projects, including research sources.
(2)A workshop looking in detail at the events of the Great Unrest in each area of London: South West, West, North West, North East, East, South East London.
(3)A London History Workshop utilising the Great Hall at Bishopsgate Institute will bring together all the local work and examine the lessons and questions arising, including consideration of how in new conditions campaigning can reach deep into local communities.
(4)There should be a linkage to the New Unionist agenda created in the early period of mass mobilisation 1889-1892 started by the Match-Girls Strike in 1888.


To achieve these outcomes will take time and require the support of London members of many organisations including Socialist History Society, Society for the Study of Labour History, Labour Heritage, London Socialist Historians Group, Black & Asian Studies Association and the Friendly Societies Research Group, the support of trade unions, whose members were at the core of the Great Unrest, and the support and engagement of members of local history groups, like HistoryTalk in North Kensington. If pre-Workshop events were to be held in different parts of London good quality venues in each area will be needed. Good quality and wide-scale publicity through political, trade union, social and history networks. A website with blogging and networking features would be useful.

An early task will be identifying people already undertaking work on aspects of the Great Unrest in London, the establishment through the local networks of research groups to undertake local projects, and thought about ways in which this work can be linked into schools work on Citizenship.

London wide Workshop

Possible topics for speakers, panels and workshop sessions at the London wide event might include:

(1)Syndicalism. What was it in the period of the Great Unrest, what did it achieve, what has been its lasting been, are syndicalist ideas relevant to modern times?
(2)London's economy – what was happening?
(3)Effect of London living standards?
(4)The role of Tom Mann.
(5)Railwaymen's action across London.
(6)The response of the Liberal Government.
(7)The effect of the Liberals reversal of the Osborne Judgement in 1913 allowing unions to have separate political funds.
(8)The response of London's Municipal Reformers (Conservatives)
(9)How different was the Great Unrest in Ireland and what effect did that have on London's Irish workers?
(10)The response in different local communities
(11)The effect on the London municipal elections of 1912
(12)The response of the different local authorities and Poor Law Guardians.
(13)What led to the petering out of the Great Unrest?

Next steps

I have contacted a number of people active in the national groups mentioned earlier, and individuals involved in working class history activities in parts of London. I have asked them for their comments and to raise the idea at their Committee meetings to seek support. A planning meeting will then need to be held to agree a more detailed timetable and actions required. Once agreement on a detailed proposal has been reached then the proposal can be sent round the whole range of organisations from local history to trade unions and networks. There will also need to be preliminary exploration with potential funders.

If you are interested in becoming involved either post a comment in response to this blog or email me on

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Battersea's Tideway Houseboat Community Under Threat

In June my Nine Elms walks went along the Tideway, where there is a thriving house boat community. This is now under threat. A petition has been launched on the GoPetition website, and by end of 1 August had already received over 1,090 signatures. It states:

'Now yet another very special London gem is under threat: Tideway Village and the Nine Elms Pier Boat Community may disappear forever, possibly as early as March 2011. Tucked away next to the Battersea Power station the 30+ houseboats with their inhabitants form a diverse vibrant community framed by old boats, water wildlife and nature, dearly loved and frequently photographed by passers by.The current plans being submitted for the construction of ‘Tideway Wharf’ by St James (Berkeley Homes) proposes a development that would replace this special corner of London with cloned, soulless structures, erected in pursuit of profit at the expense of beauty and diversity.The houseboat community calls on you for help, there is still time to prevent the loss of Tideway Village so please sign the petition today and forward the link to all your friends!We the undersigned call on Wandsworth Council and Berkeley Homes to let the residents of Tideway Village, remain in our dock and keep the houseboat community spirit alive!'

To look at the petition and sign up in support go to

Tideway Within Context

We don't actually need more apartment blocks. We need to halt and reverse the growth in the size of London and encourage a more even spread of population and economic activity around the country. We need more and more experiments in different types of living and communities particularly those which are green and sustainable; not just increasing the number of exploited tenants and leaseholders, whose blocks will have major repair and maintenance problems within 20 years.
While the effect of an individual planning application may seem small and not worth the effort making a fuss about, each one adds to an accumulation of developments which can completely change the nature of an area, often not for local benefit. The Tideway development needs to be seen within the context of the massive proposals for the development of the whole of the so called Vauxhall, Nine Elms and Battersea Opportunity Area.

Wandsworth Council Information Meetings

On 27 July Wandsworth Council held an information meeting about the Wandsworth part of the Opportunity Area. Senior officers of Town Planning gave the overview of the proposed development and the policies that the Council will have in place by 2012. Councillor Ravi Govindia then fielded questions and comments. As local resident and community activist Brian Barnes has pointed out to me by 2012 most of the planning applications for Battersea Power Station, the US Embassy and Ballymore’s Embassy Quarter will have all been decided. All those attending were opposed to some element of the redevelopment. The Tideway group complained that they would be losing their homes. Another group opposed the US Embassy because a Battersea resident Shaker Aamer is in prison in Guantanamo Bay and called on Govindia to get him released. A Chelsea Wharf resident wondered if his view of the Power Station will disappear with REOs new plans. The tube line was treated with scepticism and Govindia suggested a supplement of hopper buses. Brian adds: 'The Council’s strategy for the Nine Elms area has the acronym SSAD'!
The Council's second meeting on 28 July followed the same format. When an officer said that 45,000 jobs would be created, someone pointed out that the construction phase jobs would be temporary, and that the same people from large building firms might work on all the schemes. Given that a primary school would be needed, the Council was asked why it had sold off John Milton School in Sleaford Street to be replaced with flats. The second meeting was more polite with some applause for the speakers than the stony silence of the night before. The issue of Shaker Aamer was brought up again. The audience was rather hostile to idea of 16,000 new incomers to the area and congestion on roads and especially bridges, to the height of the buildings and absence of affordable homes.

Blind Faith in the Private Sector?

Brian's impression is that the Council seems to believe that the developers will provide school, health service, parks, affordable housing and tube stations. When did this ever happen?

Battersea Power Group are very anxious about the way the largest site around the Power Station will be decided on in September and the deadline for the residents to comment is 5 August. There was hardly any mention of the Power Station and the permission to demolish and rebuild the chimneys by a company whose debts are £1.6 billion in NAMA, the Irish Government’s toxic bank The group is also concerned by Council Leader Edward Lister claiming that the Nine Elms area is the last undeveloped land in central London, when it is being used intensively by a wide range of businesses. As Brian asks: where will those displaced by luxury apartments go?

What Benefit for Local Residents?

And what will become of the people of Patmore, Savona and Carey Gardens Estates all of which are in the Opportunity Zone? As I pointed out on my Nine Elms Walks in June's Wandsworth Heritage Festival they are unlikely to benefit, just as preceding generations in the Nine Elms district did not benefit, which is why the area was so poor when Charles Booth did his survey. This was shown with telling effect by Sandra Keen in her 'Poverty and East Battersea' talk which I organised in the Festival.

It should be noted that several people involved in local organisations only received notification of the first meeting and copies of the leaflet for distribution 5 days beforehand.

Community and Mutual Ownership in History and Today

'Nurturing community and mutual ownership requires a coherent and systematic approach, based on a clear set of values, if it is to realise its full potential.'

This is one of the key conclusions of Community and mutual ownership: a historical review published this month by Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Researched and written by Tom Woodin, David Crook and Vincent Carpentier at the Institute of Education, it surveys the history of ‘community and mutual ownership’ and considers the implications for policy and practice in this area.

As a member of a research team that unsuccessfully bid to undertake this review, I strongly believe that pushing the pace of municipal and state owned public services to community and mutual ownership could seriously damage both the services and the credibility of these forms of ownership. This report underlines that view and therefore I have no hesitation in arguing that the report is essential reading for those involved in Cameron's Big Society debate, including the members of the Lambeth Council Co-operative Council Commission initiative (see

The authors conclude that there is 'a contemporary opportunity for community and mutual ownership to help meet needs relating to the economy, welfare provision, society in general and the environment.' BUT 'new forms of democracy, membership and belonging cannot be created overnight. In the past community and mutual ownership was built up over a long time and depended on the growth of popular participation and associated feelings of ownership.'

Models of Ownership

Five non-private ownership models are identified: customary and common, community, co-operative and mutual, charitable, municipal/state forms of ownership.

They point out that 'Modern ideas and practices of ownership took a long time to develop, and were based on the enclosure of common land, the emergence of concentrated private ownership and the enlargement of state activity, both through regulation and the direct ownership of resources and services. These long-term historical transformations were not inevitable processes with a fixed income.'

Key Historical Points

Significant points in their historical analysis include:

'The Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, precipitated by a punitive poll tax, was indicative of the broader ways in which peasants viewed feudal ownership as unjust and exploitative.'

From the 16th to the 18thCs individual 'freedom and liberty were increasingly connected to the ownership of private property. The onset of enclosures was bitterly contested by those, such as the Diggers and True Levellers, who argued for the value of common and communal forms of ownership.'

'The rapid increase in land enclosure fuelled the development of capitalism.'

During the 19thC 'industrial and urban development exerted great changes and stripped away older responsibilities inherent in ownership of the land.'

Responses included the formation of mutual and co-operative organisations and the growth of charitable organisations 'grew considerably in response to the harsh conditions faced by the poor.'

'However, as inequality and social problems extended into the twentieth century, municipal and state ownership became increasingly prominent.'

'Post-1945, state ownership was viewed as a means of meeting common needs through universal welfare services and controlling the economy. It was to be undermined, especially during the 1980s, when many forms of public ownership were privatised, such as housing and nationalised industries.'

Both a summary and the full report can be downloaded from

Mutuality and Radical Politics

Combining my experience of working at the British Association of Settlements and Social Action Centres on neighbourhood renewal and social inclusion issues, and my involvement in researching aspects of the history of mutuality in Battersea and through the Friendly Societies Research Group, and stimulated by involvement in discussion at an Independent Labour Publications weekend school, between 2002 and 2004 I argued that the Labour Government's regeneration, neighbourhood renewal and social inclusion agendas provided a wide-range of potential opportunities for mutuals respond, and for mutualism to become a key vehicle for developing radical politics.

Radical politics remains the same as it always has, expressed in the modern words: social justice, social inclusion, anti-racism, equalities, community development, community engagement, human rights, environmental protection, sustainable development, internationalism, extending participatory democracy, and social enterprise.

A New Associationism?

Mutuality or to use the alternative word 'associationism' seemed to open up opportunities for a new phase of radical politics. The scope for radical political activity around practical organisation of a new associationism, involves reviving and strengthening existing mutual and cooperative organisations and developing new ones. Back in the period 2002 to 2004 there seemed to be considerable scope for this within local communities linked to then government agendas. And while that has been the case since it has not been without considerable difficulties, and Cameron's Big Society initiative poses even greater challenges.

The neglect of the historical power and legacy of mutual association contributes to a distorted picture of the way British society developed, keeping hidden from each new generation, the major contribution of ordinary people to the development of civil society, as well as the contributions of particular groups like women or ethnic and faith minorities.

This lack of popular understanding, coupled with widespread apathy and disillusion with the political process and politicians was a fundamental stumbling block to achieving regeneration under Labour. Ordinary people reacted to the opportunities with cynicism, a belief that they are being conned, and that government and local politicians do not really mean it. And often the way local and central government treated local communities confirmed this.

So radical politics must continue to do what it has always done: to challenge the power structures that operate against the interests of the majority of ordinary people and to campaign for greater democratic control and participation.

Opportunities and cracks in the system have to be continually identified, and campaigning undertaken in order to at minimum try and ensure that the next lot of measures that government introduces do not make things worse than they are.


We continue to be faced with choices. Back in 2004 the following questions seemed to me to be important.
• Do we continue to demand renationalisation of privatised services and industries, or do we look for a wide range of forms of mutual or common ownership?
• Do we continue to defend the managerial way in which local authority and other public services are delivered or do we build new delivery mechanisms?
• Do we continue to politically campaign as if the working class was still largely skilled, semi- and unskilled blue colour workers in large scale enterprises, or do we find new ways to campaign relevant to the new style work forces?
• What are the opportunities for radical political activity, working in the cracks in the system, and utilising divisions within it?
• Can we be sure that ‘new mutualisation’ is not a form of privatisation that will end the universal features of public services?
• How can we roll back the democratic deficit in mutual organisations?
Are these questions still relevant as part of the Big Society debate?

Developing Practical Activity

I suggested that answering these questions should help develop practical activity that will stimulate further development of mutual self-help organisations. The fact that there have been problems in the past should not deter action. The most important thing is to try and devise solutions which overcome the dangers of replicating past problems, which minimise the potential set of new problems that will arise, and which will in their turn require new solutions. Keeping co-operative principles in the forefront of thinking will be helpful in this process: voluntary and open membership, democratic member control, member, economic participation, education, training and information, autonomy and independence, concern for community and co-operation among cooperatives.

Previous writings:
Collective action and the sustainable renewal of Britain. Democratic Socialist. Autumn 2001
Mutuality and radical politics. Democratic Socialist. Summer 2002
Mutuality and Radical Politics. History & Social Action Publications Discussion Paper. September 2002
Mutual Associations and the Sustainable Renewal of Britain. History & Social Action. October 2002
We need to grapple with reality. Democratic Socialist. Summer 2003
Co-operation, Mutuality and Radical Politics in Co-operatives and Mutuals: The New Challenge. Independent Labour Publications 2005

The Real McCoy: Developing Interest in Industrial Innovation

The economic crisis has focussed attention on the distortion nurtured under Mrs Thatcher's Governments of over-reliance on the financial services sector, and the destruction of industry and manufacturing. Blair and Brown continued with the obsession about the City. When he was London Mayor Ken Livingstone accepted and supported its role through his economic, planning and other policies.

In my walks in Nine Elms and Vauxhall I talk about the area's rich industrial and manufacturing history, including links with the creative industries. Most of that past was swept away by the developments of the 1960s and 1970s. The aspirations of Mayor Boris Johnson's Vauxhall, Nine Elms and Battersea Opportunity Area Framework, supported by Lambeth and Wandsworth Councils, and the large scale developments already proposed for Battersea Power Station and the US Embassy will sweep away most of those 'newer' developments. The Strategy, however does not address the needs of the large number of people who live in and around the Area.

LDA Economic Development Strategy

This failure simply continues the Mayoral tradition. When I worked for the British Association of Settlements & Social Action Centres I argued in comments on Mayor Livingstone's draft London Economic Development Strategy that:

it failed to analyse London’s economic system from the bottom up, from neighbourhood level and from the experience of different socially excluded groups.
overarching analysis either at local authority or sub-region level ignores local needs and problems will be ignored, and therefore would not address those problems.

it needed to ask questions like: what are the economic needs of the people of London; how does the current economic system operating in London meet those needs; and what needs does it not meet?

London’s essential public services needed to be adequately staffed, given the cost of housing and travel.

jobs created in regeneration schemes should benefit those people who are unemployed in adjacent neighbourhoods rather than attracting in employees who have to travel long distances from the edges and beyond of London.

London South Central Strategy

Part of the Opportunity Area covers Livingstone's former London South Central Strategy area. This was characterised by:

a lack of imagination as to the kind of jobs that might be encouraged
an acceptance that many of the jobs that might be created would be low paid service jobs
a neglect of the industrial legacy of the area.

The Strategy delivered nothing of any lasting significance. The opportunity of opening up a new way of encouraging creative industries, linking manufacturing and training young people in relevant skills was dismissed when the London Development Agency refused to financially support Lady Margaret Hall Settlement's proposed Artisan School. This had been based on a detailed study of the area and its needs, which I was involved in researching and writing. The Settlement continued to argue the case, and developed its Kennington Quarter strategy for developing the local creative industries, of which the School would be a vital component. This was launched in July 2007 at the Push the Envelope Further event which I was involved in organising for Riverside Community Development Trust, Beaconsfield art gallery and the Settlement. Turning the Artisan School idea into reality was scuppered by Lambeth Council's constant changes of approach to the future of the Beaufoy Institute in which the Settlement hoped to house the School.
The new Opportunity Area strategy also lacks the kind of broader vision that the Settlement was arguing was required. All that will be created is a range of office based employments with large numbers of commuters pouring in, supported by residents of the local estates in low paid manual jobs

Low paid – menial jobs

An important issue in socio-economic regeneration is who is going to do the manual service jobs without which social, leisure, and employment facilities cannot operate. Where will this workforce come from if not from (a) those whom the education system fails, (b) those who are new arrivals into the country, and (c) students, mothers and the elderly wanting part-time jobs. While they may be low skilled and menial there are many people who obtain immense satisfaction from doing such jobs well – like keeping things clean. Such jobs need to be recognised for the important value they provide: in making public and work environments look and feel good, and in safeguarding public health. They should be better paid. The grand strategies do not address the issue of the type of jobs, and what controls should be operated through public funding investment on wages and conditions.

Historic Legacy

The London South Central Strategy's tunnel vision on the creative industries ignored the area's industrial heritage, especially railways, engineering, small scale boat building, potteries and candle making. All these depended on innovation and design. Marc Brunel, Isambard’s father, invented a military boot that would not leak, and which was credited to have been an important contribution to Wellington’s victory at Waterloo. The boots were manufactured at Brunel’s factory on the Battersea river front. Doulton’s and more recently Lambeth Tiles demonstrated the link between design and manufacture of desirable consumer products.

The area is still covered by a major railway network, with Waterloo as a major terminus at one end and Clapham Junction further west from the other end. People are fascinated by railways, engineering and industrial design. The Tate Modern building is a symbol of that design, and attracts people partly because of its stunning cavernous space. The arguments about the appropriate regenerative uses of Battersea Power Station hinge around people’s passion for it as a well designed building. Price's Candles started at Vauxhall and went on to to light the world from its Battersea base (see my History & Social Action Publication by Jon Newman Battersea's Global Reach. The Story of Price's Candles. What is significant about Price's is the key role of inventiveness in chemistry and engineering.
This industrial legacy is not celebrated. There is no local museum devoted to it. Yet we know that with imaginative display and interactive exhibits such museums elsewhere fascinate children and young people, and can open up their minds to science, engineering and design.

The Real McCoy

And the epitome of great design is the phrase ‘The Real McCoy’. More than just the name of a range of crisps. McCoy was a black American, who designed lubrication systems that enabled the railway locomotives to be oiled while they were still moving. His methods soon came over to Britain and through British railway building to other parts of the world. What a positive image McCoy projects for black pride and enterprise. How many ‘Real McCoy’ designs by others from around the world have influenced the machines of yesterday and today. How many started off in local industrial premises?

Back in 2003 I drafted the kernel of an idea, The Real McCoy Project, that would explore in its first stages:

the industrial and design heritage of the London South Central area
the development of a ‘museum’ to showcase that history and its relevance to industrial design today
how to foster and support improved design and technology teaching and activity in schools
the contemporary design needs of the railway industry
what could be done to contribute to better design for river transport which would make it more attractive
how to improve the visual design of the main bridges that link London South Central with the north bank of the Thames
showcase exhibitions of industrial design at Tate Modern
the development of an exhibition about McCoy and other inventors, engineers and scientists

Unfortunately it was not possible to work this up for funding support. But I still think there is mileage in the idea. And there must be scope for turning a building within the Opportunity Area into a facility dedicated to the industrial, engineering and creative industries that were in the area, and that show cases the lessons from them for the future.

The Abolition of MLA: Is Part of a Wider Threat to Inclusive Heritage?

'Half baked posh kids have taken over and I don't think they know what they are doing and dangerously they think they do.' So comments a friend who works in the heritage world.

The news that the MLA is being axed as part of the cull of quangos, raises serious questions about the future of infrastructure support for museums, libraries and archives. After all the cut is not about diverting the money into other forms of funding these organisations. Apart from a whole tranche of staff flooding onto the heritage freelance market at a time when there will be less money available for projects for freelancers to work on, questions must be asked as to what the policy will be on:
(a) the preservation of the MLA archive;
(b) the resources available on the MLA website;
(c) the continued availability of MLA publications.

and what the effect will be on the Culture 24 website it partners:

I know there will be many people in archives, libraries and museums who will not mourn the MLA's passing because they regarded it as an absolute disaster, spending a load of money on expensive consultants and costly managers, mostly from outside sector for projects no one wanted.

Implications for Regional Funding

More importantly concern has been expressed to me that if it is not just the abolition of the MLA structures but the funding streams routed through MLAs, then the closure of what appears to be simply bureaucratic structures, offices and staff in fact disguises the end of state funds, unless there's a way for regional museums to obtain funds from the centre. This is because some MLA funding has been directed at 'regional hubs' that have materially assisted other museums in their areas. For the past decade these have flourished and will lose out under the proposed dispensation as alternative funding from local resources especially local authorities is not and cannot be available.

Implications for Widening Audiences

Under the Labour Government's policy programmes became more aimed at including requiring museums and archives etc to expand their audiences from social classes 3, 4 and 5 and BME communities, with funding became partly dependent on achieving this. This prompted organisations to adapt their practice with some very good initiatives and results.

In addition the major funding input for 2007 prompted many museums from large to small to plan and deliver displays, events, etc related to this and often organised by BME personnel. There was also the Insight programme which funded minority personnel into training positions in museums where they were and remain signally underrepresented. The fear is that all these policies will presumably vanish and the sector will revert to being virtually all white in terms of audiences and staffing.

Threat to HLF?

The axing of the MLA must be also seen within the wider context of what looks like a broader attack on inclusive heritage: not just changes to the history curriculum in schools, but also the reported threat to the Heritage Lottery Fund.

If it is axed the money raised by the National Lottery for heritage projects will still have to be distributed. After all the Government is consulting on getting the National Lottery back to its original purpose of 20% each for sport, culture and heritage. So if this happens it will mean cuts in those programmes that Labour added to the Lottery. See

Clearly there is a need for a debate about what all this means for the future of the heritage sector as whole, but crucially for us the impact on Black & Asian, community, labour movement, radical, mutuality, public and women's heritage activity.

The Need to Campaign

While there has been a flurry of activity: e.g. see:;, as a friend has pointed out to me there has been no concerted protest in the way that there has been against the abolition of the UK Film Council.

We cannot afford to wait, as another friend has suggested, to see what the Government's approach to equalities and human rights and citizenship is going to be and then pitch in with something in ‘their’ language which encourages them to reinvent the best bits.