Thursday, 10 July 2014

UPDATED: Keele Student of the Year - Nicola Edwards

We are delighted that Nicola Edwards, a Criminology and Sociology student has received the Neil and Gina Smith Student of the Year award.  This award was established in 2006 and four of the winners have been students in Criminology or Sociology.    

Nicola's achievements are described in more detail here and below:

"From an exceptionally strong pool of candidates, the awarding panel decided that Nicola Edwards should be the recipient of the 2014 Neil and Gina Smith Student of the Year  Award.  
"Nicola graduates from Keele in 2014 with a First Class Honours Degree in Criminology and Sociology.  She has been accepted onto the Masters in Criminology and Criminal Justice at Keele.
Nicola EdwardsNicola was nominated for this award by the School of Criminology and Sociology. She is described by her Head of School, Professor Bill Dixon, as an “exceptionally able student” who has made a “unique contribution to Keele and the wider community”.
Having left education at 16 and worked in a succession of low paid jobs, Nicola made a decision to turn her life around. She came to Keele via an access course which she completed at the same time as carrying out voluntary work in her local area. Her referee from the Apex Charitable Trust in St Helen’s where she worked as a peer mentor says that she brought “fresh ideas” to the project and became a valued member of the team.
Whilst at Keele, in addition to attaining exceptionally high marks for her academic work and attaining three school prizes in her first two years as an undergraduate, Nicola has been instrumental in establishing both a Criminology and a Sociology Society and she is a prominent member of the Women’s Society, which was nominated for a Most Improved Society award in the Students’ Union awards this year.  Nicola’s involvement in these societies has ensured that they have been active and have provided positive experiences for their members with an ethos based in community involvement, establishing foodbank collections and raising money for Women’s Aid. In addition, Nicola has been a course representative, providing representation and advocacy for her colleagues at university level in relation to their academic studies.
Nicola has shown an interest in social enterprise and applied, with other students, for funding for one of their ideas. They were ultimately unsuccessful, however she has recently been awarded, a Santander Student Fellowship of £5,000 to study street art in Chile later this summer.
The interview panel members were extremely impressed with the warmth and passion with which Nicola spoke about her journey into higher education, her academic subjects and about her enthusiasm for volunteering and her future plans either in academia or in community-based work, enthusing and facilitating others to reach their potential. Nicola’s achievements are even more impressive when taking into consideration that she has four children and came to Keele a single mother."

UPDATED - Nicola has kindly written this reflection on her achievements:

I just wanted to add a few things to the university statement to say that my achievements within and outside of Keele are testament to the support that the Sociology and Criminology lecturers and support staff offer.
During the three years of my degree, life has been far from plain sailing. However, every problem has been overcome with their support; from claiming EC's, to helping me with exam or timetable problems. Each time they have come through for me, filling me with confidence and believing in me when I couldn’t believe in myself.

Studying at Keele gave me confidence to volunteer at Probation, teaching clients to read. Taking part in societies, such and the sociology & criminology societies, helped me make friends and actually address social inequality within the local area with food bank collections, plus much more. Being at Keele pushed me to be the best version of me that I can be, which has enabled me to achieve some awards along the way; including getting the chance to fly to Chile this summer and look at graffiti / street art, and an award for my criminology dissertation.

However, I am still completely overwhelmed to have been given this award! I am truly grateful to have been given this opportunity, and the award means that I will be able to return to Keele this September and complete an MA in Criminology & Criminal Justice, whilst working part time. I am really excited to be staying on at Keele and hope to go on to complete a phd someday!

Thursday, 26 June 2014

A Prize Winner in Criminology - the 2014 Centre for Crime and Justice Studies Essay Competition

Andrew Henley, a Graduate Teaching Assistant and PhD student in Criminology, is the winner of the 2014 Centre for Crime and Justice Studies essay competition.

As their website reports, "Entrants to this year's competition were asked to write an essay of between 1,400 and 1,600 words on what criminal justice institution, or what aspect of policy or practice, they would want to see abolished. Andrew's essay, entitled 'Abolishing the stigma of punishments served', argued for the abolition of the routine requirement to declare criminal convictions.

His essay concluded by arguing in favour of a tighter set of principles regarding disclosure that offered: 'a more proportionate, humane and legitimate system of dealing with previous convictions which would go some way to abolishing the persistent ‘non-superior’ status of former lawbreakers. Significantly, they could also play a significant role in a wider decarceration strategy because, whilst they will not address the underlying issues of social marginality and economic disadvantage which often contribute to individuals being criminalised in the first place, they may at least remove a significant barrier to those aiming to escape the ‘revolving doors’ of the criminal justice system.'

Reacting to the news Andrew said: 'I'm delighted to have won and want to extend my thanks to the judging panel. I think it's great that the competition topic was criminal justice abolition and that the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies is encouraging PhD students to think of alternatives to current policies and practices.'"

Congratulations to Andrew! He will now receive a bursary to attend the British Society of Criminology Conference and his essay will be published in the centre's quarterly magazine.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Conference papers at 'The right to the city in an era of austerity', Paris

Dr Ala Sirriyeh and Dr Andrzej Zieleniec, (Sociology) recently gave papers at a conference at the Universit√© Paris Ouest Nanterre/Universit√© Paris-Sorbonne,The right to the city in an era of austerity’.

The abstracts for the papers are below.  A recent blog post about Andy’s work can be found here and the final report that Ala’s co-authored paper was based on is here.  

‘The Great Meeting Place’: Bradford’s City Park, doing regeneration differently?
Dr Nathan Manning (University of York) and Dr Ala Sirriyeh (Keele University)

Recent accounts of urban space frequently note pervasive trends which undermine public spaces: privatisation, commercialisation, securitisation and homogenisation (e.g. Hodkinson 2012, MacLeod 2002, Minton 2009, Mitchell 2003, Sennett 1974). While we accept the broad sweep of these analyses, this paper will present a case study of Bradford’s City Park which, to some extent, seems to run counter to prevailing tendencies.
City Park is a new urban space with a central interactive water feature in the centre of Bradford (West Yorkshire, UK). The park is a focal point of Bradford Council’s regeneration plan. It opened in March 2012 and despite some on-going criticism, the site has drawn thousands of people to the heart of Bradford. 

During the summer of 2013 we undertook a research study in City Park to explore how the park is used, experienced and perceived by different groups. The fieldwork involved a series of observations in City Park, interviews with park users, relevant council staff, security personnel, and businesses operating in the park.

We argue that commonly accepted principles of urban regeneration structure who has the right to the city and what activities are pertained to be acceptable. In particular, post-industrial city regeneration is often centred around appeals to commercial interests and investment and to attracting creative classes into the city (Florida 2000, Power et al. 2010). Bradford’s City Park displays some elements of these models of recovery: as an investment in physical infrastructure and the urban environment and also a site for showcasing key arts and cultural events in the centre of Bradford. However, we found the development also presents a unique regeneration pathway which deviates from renewal projects in other northern UK cities.

 ‘The Right to Write the City: Lefebvre and Graffiti’
Dr Andrzej Zieleniec (

There is an increasing academic, artistic and practitioner literature on graffiti. It covers a range of issues (identity, youth, subculture, gender, anti-social behaviour, vandalism, gangs, territoriality, policing and crime, urban art, aesthetics, commodification, etc.).  

What they all have in common is an acknowledgement of graffiti as a quintessential urban phenomenon. However, there is a fairly limited attempt to specifically address graffiti within theories of the urban and more explicitly within conceptualisations of the complexity of produced urban space.
Lefebvre’s analysis of the city as an oeuvre, a living work of art, is linked to his ‘triad of necessary elements for the production of space’ and his ‘cry and demand’ for the ‘Right to the City’ as a means to argue that graffiti, in its various forms, styles, locations, meanings and values demonstrates features that represents Lefebvre’s assertion of the need to appropriate and use space in everyday life. In particular, it is argued that the lived experience of everyday urban space is creatively engaged with through the imaginative and artist interventions of mural, pictorial and textual graffiti to challenge dominant representations and regulation of space.
Graffiti represents a quotidian and non-commercial artistic intervention in the urban landscape. Graffiti involves knowledge and use of the urban environment and practices that challenge and contest the schemes and structures imposed by urban designers, planners and architects. It confronts and resists the restrictive political regulation and imposition of the spatial order. It offers non-commercial alternative aesthetics to the economic and financial interests who decorate the urban landscape with signage and commodity advertising. This perspective then sees graffiti in Lefebvrian terms as everyday acts in which representational space is literally created through imaginative acts that reassert through visual poesies and praxis, the right to colonise, appropriate, use and inhabit public and social space. That is, graffiti is a political as well as artistic and aesthetic exercise. An example of the creation of socially meaningful space through the reassertion and reprioritisation of use values rather than exchange values. ‘The Right to the City’ by ‘Writing the City’ through graffiti provides an urban semiotic that engenders new spatial practices and new ways of reading and understanding the urban, the city and everyday life.

Children, Collecting Experience, and the Natural Environment

By Lydia Martens, Senior Lecturer in Sociology

I have just completed the end of award report for the British Academy small grant Children, Collecting Experience, and the Natural Environment. The grant provided a budget to conduct ethnographic research on a holiday site on the North West coast of Scotland, during the summer months of 2012 and 2013. My research focused on the informal ways children learn to pay attention whilst being in the outdoor environment of this setting with family members and other children, using it as a resource in the creation of their activities. The research consisted of extensive on-site ethnographic work and focused research with seven families.

The research was intended to allow me to move my established interest in families, children and consumer culture towards the problematic of the environment. The connection between children and nature has, in recent years, very much captured the popular imagination in the UK, with regular newspaper coverage and actions initiated by nature charities (e.g. the National Trust’s Natural Childhood inquiry). In this coverage, contemporary childhood is much lamented, with claims that contemporary British children grow up with substantially fewer opportunities to explore outdoor environments compared with previous generations. These are, in turn, linked to other childhood worries, such as the growth in childhood obesity, the lack in children’s physical activity, children’s ignorance of everything ‘natural’, and the growth of a sedentary mediated consumer culture around the child. It is clear that in these ways of thinking about children and nature, consumption and consumer culture are considered a salient part (if not the actual cause) of ‘the problem’. By contrast, my study suggests that the holiday experience consumed by families on this site actively stimulates the creative engagement of children in and with this outdoor environment, and also contributes in positive ways towards the establishment of family memories and attachments to people, animals and place. It thus brings a rather different perspective to bear on these concerns.

Focusing very much on the ways in which children learn in outdoor settings, my research is significant for highlighting how this type of holiday is not only a source for learning about the social qualities of engaging with other people, important though these are. It is also a source for learning in embodied and moral ways about being in, what is in essence, an environmentally complex outdoor setting, that brings together a beach, rockpools, rocks, the sea, and a surrounding crofting community, in addition to all the creatures and vegetation that also use this location as their habitat. This environment is also subject to highly variable weather conditions, and as such, it is not unlike many other British seaside locations that attract visitors. Whilst the weather has interesting implications for activities on site, including my fieldwork, with invitations to participate in outings that ranged from canoeing trips to rockpooling, this was a fun project for me to do.

I am still thinking about the complex moral and ethical issues that arise from being in the outdoors. A substantial proportion of people on site choose to be here on a yearly basis and are very vocal about their emotional attachment to the landscape and its natural qualities. Observing the interactions of the young and old shows how children are immersed in the ‘nature’ ethics and moralities of their elders and peers. Even so, in the pursuit of fun, it was apparent that care for the environment was not always at the forefront of people’s minds. From a nature conservation perspective, the natural environment of this site is regarded as fragile. This gives rise to the tricky question how people can be in this environment in ways that are sustainable in the long run.

Together with four colleagues (Emma Surman from Keele, Elizabeth Curtis from Aberdeen and Monica Truninger from Lisbon, Portugal), I presented on the findings of this project in the context of a special session we organised on the theme of Children, Consumption and Collecting Experience, at the recent Child & Teen Consumption Conference in Edinburgh.