Category: Insipirations

Hey Old Friend! An 85th Birthday Tribute to Stephen Sondheim

I have long been a  fan of Stephen Sondheim. I first encountered him back in the 1960’s, but my love affair was sealed with Merrily We Roll Along in the early 80’s.  And so we roll on….. And last Sunday I found myself at a rally of Sondheimites at the Drury Lane Theatre Royal to celebrate…

Two New British Musicals: Union, Southwark and Mercury, Colchester.

And now: for my 160th blog, something completely different……. The White Feather     and       The Smallest Show on Earth Last week I had the joy of seeing not one but two brand new British musicals.  One was at the tiny Union Theatre in Southwark – a dramatic tale of the First World…

ESSEX SOCIOLOGY 50th ANNIVERSARY CONFERENCE: PROGRAMME

Sociology Department’s 50th Anniversary Conference: 24th June, 2015 NEW DIALOGUES AND DIRECTIONS   Ivor Crewe Auditorium 9.15-9.50 Registration and Refreshments 9.50-10.00 Conference Introduction (Nigel South)   10.00-12.30 Past Excitements New Dialogues A panel of distinguished members of the Department reflect on what was thought to be most exciting about Sociology in the past (both as…

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The 50th Anniversary Conference of the Department of Sociology at the University of Essex

Wednesday 24th June, 2015

 Ivor Crewe Hall, 9.30 start.

 The Essex Sociology Department has helped to shape sociological thought and practice across Britain and around the world. In our 50th year, a panel of distinguished former and current members offer their own critical reflection on this contribution.

 In the morning, we discuss its legacies and the new dialogues it continues to foster (Ted Benton, Joan Busfield, Diane Elson, Ken Plummer, John Scott and Paul Thompson).

In the afternoon, there will be three thematic sessions (social theory, civic challenges and new terrains) that will explore some of the Department’s contemporary research challenges and collaborations. These include: theorizing excess, moral selfhood, hacker ethics, countering austerity and urban security (Michael Halewood, Linsey McGoey, Sandya Hewamanne, Michael Bailey, Neli Demireva, Isabel Crowhurst, Robin West, James Allen- Robertson, Darren Thiel, Pete Fussey).

ALL WELCOME

For further details and to reserve your place please contact Agnes Skamballis on askamb@essex.ac.uk

 INSPIRATIONS: PETER TOWNSEND (1928-2009)

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Peter Townsend was the founding Professor of Sociology at the University of Essex and he has been an inspiration for many, including me. I first read his study of care of the elderly – The Last Refuge – as a student in the mid 1960’s. His book was enormously influential at the time. I was later to have the privilege of teaching with him.  Most famously he developed the idea of relative poverty and he lived to see it being widely accepted and applied  in many countries across the world.

But it has now been rejected by the current coalition government, who have returned us to the old language of the disreputable poor: the skivers and the scroungers , ideas we thought had been laid to rest. This government has displayed a dire form of anti-humanity which has distressed large numbers of people. If it returns to power, it plans to take it even further with even deeper currently unspecified cuts into welfare of between £11-30 billion pounds.   I sigh with disbelief and horror. It would be cruel and nasty government. Poor Peter would turn in his grave at the horrors being perpetrated  and the loss of much of his life’s work.

Let’s recall the final words of his book, The Last Refuge (1959):

We look back with horror at some of the cruelties perpetrated in the 1860’s, just as our descendants, a hundred years hence, will look back with horror at some of the cruelties we perpetrate today. Possibly the ultimate test of the quality of a free, democratic and prosperous society is to be found in the standards of freedom,  democracy and prosperity enjoyed by its weakest member.

I am already starting to feel the horror!

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INSPIRATIONS:MARTIN LUTHER KING

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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the central figure of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s in America. A Christian Humanist who believed in the power of non-violence and love, he was assassinated by a lone gunman on 4 April 1968 on a motel balcony in Memphis, Tennessee as he prepared to attend a rally in support of striking sanitation workers.

April 4th is my birthday and so his assassination is always a date for me to remember.

He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977, and a posthumous Congressional Gold Medal in 2004.

I find his compilation book A Testament of Hope remains  an inspirational book.

Transplants and the Total Life Experience: On the 10th Anniversary of ‘Becoming Ill’

          Today, March 9th, marks the 10th anniversary of my ‘illness’. It is this day in 2005 I was rushed to hospital in Santa Barbara, diagnosed with ‘alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver’, told to give up drink or die. It was also the day I first heard the word ‘transplant’ It…

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