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Yesterday marked the 5th birthday of the Thoughts From the Criminology Team blog. I’ve documented our history before, so don’t want to go over the same ground. However, it is worth mentioning that very soon we will have reached over 50,000 views across 129 countries. (Interesting fact, after the UK and the USA, our next biggest group of readers is based in Hong Kong). We’ve come a very long way from our first cautious forays into the blogsphere and today I want to celebrate the things that I love most about our blog.
First, it provides accountability, it means that even in the most difficult times when writers’ block hits, I have to write. It may not be my best writing, at times it is very loosely structured and when I look back I do wonder what was in my mind. Nevertheless, something was written, which means that something else can be written. It means my ideas are captured and can be explored further, combined with other ideas or even abandoned. Over time it has also enabled me to see what reoccurs enabling me to develop my academic and personal passions.
Second, it provides a refuge and solace for writers (and hopefully readers). This was most obvious during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic when we were rapidly releasing entries, sometimes on a daily basis. In total in 2020, the blog published 222 separate entries containing 190,226 words. To put that into context, in an “ordinary” year, we generally manage around 90 entries a year. It is fair to say our bloggers have explored this unprecedented time in many different way. This place of refuge and solace has also been very apparent in entries centred on Black Lives Matter. Most recently in can be observed in entries around the recent UCU industrial action, see here, here, here. here and here.*
In August 2011, following soon after the police shooting of Mark Duggan, riots broke out in many of our inner cities. I desperately wanted to discuss what was happening with my colleagues and students, but alas it was peak summer and everyone was away. This brings me to my third point, the blog allows writers to respond quickly to events happening, both in the UK and globally, in a way that isn’t always possible in the classroom (timing, constraints of the timetable and curriculum). For instance, responses to the sexual allegations against Prince Andrew, the Windrush scandal, the murder of George Floyd, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to name but a few. It also allows us to take part in national and global initiatives such as Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month and Amplify Melanated Voices giving more space to those too often excluded.
Fourth, it allows writers to focus on issues that are very close to them. For instance, the Hillsborough and Grenfell disasters and Black history. These are extremely difficult to address in a single blog entry, hence they are discussed by a variety of different authors approaching them in diverse ways. What is more important than answers is the space to explore these issues, without censorship and with room for others to also contribute an alternative perspective.
Fifth, the blog provides a place to showcase student and graduate excellence outside of institutional paremeters. For example our now annual ‘First Week Activity‘ offers the opportunity for students to work together to create posters on very current issues. in 2020/21 the criminological issues discussed were Knife Crime, Policing Protest and Creating Covid Criminals and our students demonstrated their criminological knowledge and understanding to a very high standard. The blog also provide a space for our newest (or soon to be) graduates to write about their dissertations as well as students and graduates to write about the things that excite their criminological imagination.
Sixth, it provides space for debate, discussion and most importantly, disagreement. A beautiful example of this is the two entries focusing on policing and racism, here and here. Similarly, discussions around misogyny, femicide and the murders of Sarah Everard and so many other women, here, here and here. Only through thoughtful and empathetic dialogue and exposure to different standpoints can we hope to gain the holistic understanding so imperative to criminology.
Seventh, there are no rules around blog writing, only the constraints provided by the medium. Those that write for the blog are provided with very generic guidance to allow them to decide how best to explore their subject, maybe through a short essay, complete with references, maybe in the style of a news article with lots of images, or perhaps through poetry. The choice is down to the individual blogger and very little in the way of copy editing, beyond the occasional correction of typo goes on behind the scenes.
By now it should be clear that my love for the blog is strong and unwavering. From the smallest of ideas, the blog has grown into something beautiful and inspiring, beyond my imagination in 2017. It has attracted a wonderful collective of very different people coming from all different standpoints and perspectives. Equally important there is space for many more voices to contribute. For sure, there is plenty more we can do, to provide space for more subjects, more bloggers, more perspectives, more initiatives and we will keep striving to offer this. Nevertheless, I am incredibly proud to have played a part and to continue to be involved in this joint enterprise as partners in criminology. Our blog is definitely something worth celebrating and not just on its birthday. To my fellow bloggers, I raise a glass, may we never lose the desire to argue, debate, discuss and continue to learn from each other.
*It is worth noting that in discussions around what constituted Action Short of a Strike [ASOS], the Criminology Team decided that the blog was too important to each of us to consider abandoning it, even for a short period time while industrial action is ongoing.
My favourite TV show - This is hard! I love a box set and it depends on my mood but This Is Us for when I need a good cry and Travels With My Father or Idiot Abroad for laughs (combines my love of travel with belly laughs) My favourite place to go - Mum and dad's. Their home and gites at Cousserat (shameless plug) in South West France is the most peaceful place I've ever been. Waking up with a view of the vines, having breakfast with my parents, running for miles and not seeing another car, the beautiful boulangeries and lively night markets. I wish I could travel over more than I do My favourite city - Paris My favourite thing to do in my free time - CrossFit - functional fitness combining cardio, gymnastics and Olympic weightlifting elements. It's super addictive and has a real sense of community so it's my social life as well as my gym My favourite athlete/sports personality - Any of the CrossFit women but Tia-Clair Toomey is an absolutely phenomenal athlete. Her mindset, work ethic and determination is inspiring My favourite actor - Tom Hardy. Needs no further explanation My favourite author - I can't remember the last time I read fiction. We're probably talking about the Jane Austen period it's been that long. If we're talking academia then Vicky Canning. We think alike and she's lovely My favourite drink - Diet Coke but I quit for months at a time because it's addictive. I also love Caribbean Nocco and lemon and ginger tea My favourite food - If I could only eat one food for the rest of my life it would definitely be chicken My favourite place to eat - My own dining room but in terms of restaurants there's so much choice in Manchester I rarely eat in the same place twice! I like people who - help others I don’t like it when people - are racist My favourite book - Gendered Harm and Structural Violence in the British Asylum System by Victoria Canning. It's been my go to during my PhD My favourite book character - Jo from Little Women My favourite film - Bridesmaids My favourite poem - I don't know a single poem. Is that bad? I studied English Literature at Access and I don't recall what I read My favourite artist/band - Emmy the Great has a special place in my heart My favourite song - I can't answer this. It's like choosing your favourite child My favourite art - I was on site during the fieldwork phase of my PhD research at a womens' group for newly arrived migrants. There was one woman who didn't speak a word of English but she loved the art activities. She created a series of tiles over a few weeks. The artwork was beautiful because of what it symbolised. The woman came in withdrawn and closed, wearing her veil tightly like it was an extra layer of protecting from the world. By the time she completed her mosaic tiles she looked taller, younger and she smiled. Her veil loosened, as did her furrowed brow. It was absolutely incredible to see the change in her. Sat with a group of women making mosaic tiles for a few weeks positively influenced her wellbeing. My favourite person from history - I'm a woman from Manchester so it has to be Emmeline Pankhurst. Her legacy continues today in her home which is now home to a range of women's services
My favourite TV show - Those who know me, probably will understand why I find this one difficult to answer but considering the situation I shall go with Years and Years from the BBC My favourite place to go - I am reluctant to say because it is my fortress of solitude, but it is an island somewhere in the Ionian sea My favourite city - Thessaloniki, the second largest city in Greece and a place that is in my heart and in my memories My favourite thing to do in my free time - I like to read, usually fiction with a drink and some music on the background; classical music ideally but jazz is also good. My favourite athlete/sports personality - who came up with these questions? I had to think long and hard on this and I am going with Greg Louganis. An inspiration to many My favourite actor - Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator his speech at the end remains one of the most potent antifascist speeches. Ironic considering that he made his career in silent movies! My favourite author - Milan Kundera the author of several of my favourite books, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Immortality and Life is Elsewhere. Thoughtful novels full of very complex ideas. My favourite drink - Lemon juice, ideally harvested springtime from an Ionian island; a couple of spoonfuls of sugar and some iced water and plenty of freshly squeezed lemon juice. My favourite food - Spinach and cheese filo pie My favourite place to eat - A little taverna by the sea; there is a little place, that my mind wonders to; the food may not gourmet but its honest, homemade food. I like people who - speak their mind, are honest and have a positive outlook in life I don’t like it when people - lie, gossip and pretend to know everything My favourite book - Eichmann in Jerusalem an excellent study on the "banality of evil" a very interesting criminological idea My favourite book character - elementary, Sherlock Holmes My favourite film - The Life of Brian this is the movie that evokes old blasphemy laws because of its content. A good demonstration of how art can reflect on life and call institutions to heel My favourite poem - Ithaca by Kavafis, a wonderful journey through the eyes of the cosmopolitan Greek My favourite artist/band- David Bowie, I cannot choose a particular era; definitely a incredibly creative mind. My favourite song - Bitter Sweet Symphony My favourite art - The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo My favourite person from history - Marie Curie so much more than a woman, a scientist, a wife. An enduring example to scientific reasoning
My favourite TV show - Narcos - I have always been fascinated with the story of Pablo Escobar. Narcos gives a very good insight into the corruption behind the Columbian Cartel and as a viewer you are immersed into the shocking world of drug trafficking My favourite place to go - The theatre, I have been to see various productions. My all time favourite show would have to be The Lion King My favourite city - I love the hustle and bustle of London. There are so many things to do. So many sights to see and it is brimming full of culture My favourite thing to do in my free time - Shopping My favourite athlete/sports personality - Usain Bolt, he runs with so much finesse My favourite actor - Christoph Waltz, I like how versatile he is. From his comical performance in Horrible Bosses 2 to his terrifying role in Inglourious Basterds, he is always on point in his roles My favourite author - Charles Dickens My favourite drink - A classic Mojito My favourite food - This is a hard decision to make as I am a real foodie. I would have to choose a classic Carrot Cake with cream cheese frosting My favourite place to eat - Ascough’s Bistro – Market Harborough I like people who - encourage others to do well and celebrate their success I don’t like it when people - are jealous and sabotage others My favourite book - Nicholas Nickleby, it reminds me of my teenage years My favourite book character - there are too many to choose! My favourite film - I am a big fan of 80’s and 90’s films, my favourite has to be Romancing the Stone. I love adventure films, I also love The Goonies My favourite poem - Still I Rise by Maya Angelou, I say no more My favourite artist/band - – I am a big music lover. I like music from all genres from Motown and RnB to Hip hop and Drum and Bass. Whitney Houston will always be my number 1 female artist My favourite song - I don’t have one, but Chris Brown's Indigo Album has been on repeat since 2019. This album is a masterpiece My favourite art - Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh. This reminds me of the winter nights during my favourite time of year, Christmas My favourite person from history - Queen Nanny – she was a lady captured from the Asante people and brought to Jamaica and sold into slavery. She is an important figure in the Jamaican rebellion against slavery. She escaped the plantation she was held on and settled in the Blue Mountain region of Jamaica. There she set up Nanny town which was a free village for Maroons/ African slaves and Arawak that had escaped their slave masters. This settlement was a key element for the uprising against oppression. Queen Nanny was not only a liberator of over 1000 slaves, she was also a warrior and is Jamaica’s only female national hero.
My favourite TV show - My favourite current show is Friday Night Dinner. My all-time favourite has to be Breaking Bad, I’ve watched from beginning to end three times! My favourite place to go - Definitely has to be the beach, I always find being by the sea calming. My favourite place in the world is Thailand. I’ve never met such happy, friendly people. Thai street food is amazing and it’s a beautiful peaceful part of the world My favourite city - London. I have so many memories of day trips, nights out and experiences in London. Every time I probably don’t spend as much time there as I would like actually considering how easily it’s reached from where I live My favourite thing to do in my free time - Bake. You can’t beat a home-made cake. I’ve been baking a lot lately, my children are fed up of cake! My favourite athlete/sports personality - I’m not a huge sports fan but I have a lot of respect for Usain Bolt. I watched a documentary about his life once, his commitment to training and resilience was incredible My favourite actor - Morgan Freeman. He always seems to choose roles well that suit him. I don’t think I’ve seen any film’s he’s been in that I haven’t enjoyed My favourite author – I don’t think I could choose. It’s not very often I read books by the same author for myself. I do with my children though, my favourite children’s author is probably A.A. Milne or Roald Dahl because they’re classics which never grow old My favourite drink - Chocolate milkshake… I’m not sure I’ve ever grown out of drinking chocolate milk! My favourite food - Cheeseburgers. My friends call me a connoisseur of cheeseburgers because I eat them so much. Everyone I know asks me before trying out a new burger restaurant My favourite place to eat - My mum and dads house. My mum makes an amazing roast dinner. There’s nothing better than a family meal, even if I do normally end up washing up at the end I like people who - are open minded, honest and empathetic. I don’t see any reason to be anyone other than yourself. I also think the best way to learn and grow as a person is to remain open minded. As for as being empathetic, I think people show this in many different ways, sometimes it’s less obvious. I like to believe most people have some good in there somewhere I don’t like it when people - are closed minded and argumentative. I think there’s a fine line between intelligent debate and opinionated argument My favourite book - Since I was a teenager my favourite book has always been Junk by Melvin Burgess My favourite book character - Raoul Duke in Fear and loathing in Las Vegas. I find it interesting the way the character is a representation of the way the author views his life. Hunter S. Thompson was an interesting enough character without needing a fictional version My favourite film - Interstellar. Space fascinates me. I like to ponder over the possibilities of time travel. I love that physicist Nolan Thorne was hired to make the explanation of a black hole accurate My favourite poem - Warning by Jenny Joseph. I read it on my wedding day. It was actually the priest who suggested it, I think he saw I was a little bit of a wild, independent woman! My favourite artist/band - I’ve been going to raves since I was 16 so most of my favourite artists are small and less well-known DJ’s. My husband Dj’s as well, so many of them I met through him, and are now good friends of mine. I don’t think I could pick just one My favourite song - This a tough one, I like so many genres of music. I guess if I had to choose one, it would be “The way you look tonight” by Tony Bennet because it was my wedding dance song and it always makes me think of my grandparents My favourite art - My favourite type of art is portraits. I watched a documentary with artist Grayson Perry and he described how portraits are an interpretation of how the artist see’s that person. I like to look at portraits and imagine what I think that person is like My favourite person from history - It would have to be Albert Hoffman. My area of research is mostly based in psychedelic medicines and drug policy. Albert Hoffman is the scientist who discovered LSD. He’s quite well-known for accidentally administering himself the first documented dose of LSD and riding his bicycle home. He was one of the first people to recognise the potential pharma psychological benefits of hallucinogens, I like to think one day modern science will make a strong enough case to revolutionise psychiatric care with substances like LSD. Although Hoffman discovered LSD in 1943 we still don’t fully understand the full complexities of how it works on the mind
My favourite TV show - Gogglebox. There is nothing I love more on a Friday night than watching others watch TV, especially if a Chinese takeaway is involved. I do have my binge tv shows too, such as Brooklyn 99 and I love a Louis Theroux documentary My favourite place to go - During term time, it's to go to the pool at the local gym and de-stress. It helps when I’m getting stressed about uni work or even work itself. I always come out refreshed, ready to take on the day. However, I can’t go to the pool for the foreseeable future, which is a downside to liking a sport you cannot do from home. At the moment, sitting in the garden is a good way to get away and have some me time My favourite city - Barcelona. It so full of culture and bright colours. It has the most beautiful architecture and a stunning beach front. I will definitely be giving it another visit after lockdown and hope to visit Barcelona many more times My favourite thing to do in my free time - be with my family, go on long dog walks and just relax My favourite athlete/sports personality - I suppose it would have to be Rebecca Adlington. I think she is an inspirational person and her passion for swimming inspired me to take it up, however I don’t think I’ll be going pro My favourite actor - This is a hard one, I love most genres of films. Robin Williams would be very top of that list. He was such an inspirational person, and Mrs Doubtfire is one of my favourite classic films. I also absolutely love Aladdin, and his part as the genie is just amazing, there was nothing that man couldn’t do My favourite author - I have been very slack with my reading in recent years. As a child, Jacqueline Wilson was my absolute favourite. They are brilliant books, even to me now, with such meaningful messages behind the story My favourite drink - If we are going with alcoholic, it has to be raspberry gin and pink lemonade. Nothing like it on a warm summers evening and a BBQ My favourite food - This is a tricky one because I love so much food. I’d probably have to go with a burger. But I also love Chinese, Indian, pizza, pasta, the list could go on and on. The only food I’m not too bothered about is sweet food. I much prefer savoury. But on special occasions a sticky toffee pudding goes down very well My favourite place to eat - The Cherry Tree in Olney. They do the best burgers around and have so many great gins. The bar area is lovely and cosy which is important because the dog goes everywhere with us. They have a biscuit tin for dogs and he loves that, its his favourite place to go to I like people who - tell it how it is and like me for who I am. These are the best kind of people I don’t like it when people - are not truthful and patronise me My favourite book - I don’t really read, but now I have quite a lot of time on my hands it is something I have started doing. I am about halfway through The Handmaid's Tail and is one of the best books I have read so far My favourite book character - Hetty Feather, a well-known character from Jacqueline Wilson, who is very defiant and strong willed. She has not come from much but is determined to make something of herself. I admire her for that My favourite film - Probably the High School Musical trilogy, they remind me of my childhood, and I will forever love Zac Efron. Although I do enjoy a true story, such as The Darkest Hour and Saving Private Ryan. I also enjoy a cheesy rom-com, I think I’ve seen the majority of them on Netflix My favourite poem - The Caged Bird by Maya Angelou. I studied Maya Angelou during A level English Literature and found her to be an inspiring woman with an extraordinary story to tell. The poem compares the lives of those who are free and those who are not, and I believe this to be an important message in our society My favourite artist/band - Def Leppard are probably my number 1, although I like so many more My favourite song - This changes on a monthly basis, at the moment its anything by Harry Styles My favourite art - Girl with a pearl earring. Its just such an iconic painting and I would love to see it one day My favourite person from history - Princess Diana. Nothing more needed to say. Such an inspirational woman with so much to give the world
My favourite TV show - Although it finished nearly 18 years ago, I think my favourite has still got to be Buffy the Vampire Slayer. More recently I thought Succession was a great show, mainly because the characters were just so awful My favourite place to go - The Lake District, but anywhere with mountains and water will do My favourite city - Reykjavik, Iceland. It’s really laid back, fantastic galleries, museums and architecture My favourite thing to do in my free time - Is it cliché for a librarian to answer this with reading? I’ve just finished Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo and thought it was amazing. I’ve always got at least two books on the go. Otherwise I really like learning new crafts and do a lot of mixed media type stuff. If you see me with inky fingers, it’s what I’ve been doing My favourite athlete/sports personality - I don’t really follow team sports, but Jessica Ennis-Hill has had an amazing career. The discipline and determination to excel in such a range of events is extraordinary My favourite actor – Matt Berry is a terrific comic actor, he never fails to make me laugh. For more serious acting, I really like Elizabeth Moss My favourite author - impossible to pick just one My favourite drink - it depends on the time of day, but either a really hot cup of tea or an Aperol spritz My favourite food - Cheese My favourite place to eat - my mums, especially if it’s Christmas Day I like people who - are considerate and don’t mind poking fun at themselves I don’t like it when people - are rude to or dismissive of people trying to help them My favourite book - there are different favourites for different times in your life. I still love E. M. Forster’s A Room With a View and Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, which I first read in my teens. Last year I read John Boyne’s The Heart's Invisible Furies which was just brilliant. I love being surprised by a new ‘favourite’ My favourite book character - Little My from Tove Jansson’s Moomins series, she doesn’t take any crap My favourite film - Stand by Me. It’s an adaptation of a Stephen King short story and never fails to make me have a little cry My favourite poem - Either 'The Applicant' by Sylvia Plath or Carol Ann Duffy’s 'Prayer'. I wrote my undergrad dissertation on Plath and still love her writing now My favourite artist/band - I mainly listen to stuff from the 60s and 70’s with quite a bit of 90’s/00’s indie thrown in too; Bowie, Blondie, Blur and the like. I used to love discovering new exciting bands when I was a teenager and it’s something I should make an effort with again My favourite song - Waterloo Sunset by The Kinks or Back to the Old House by The Smiths My favourite art - I can’t ever resist a gallery and like a mix of styles, but I do really like John William Waterhouse. I also really like book illustrations (it’s the ex-children’s librarian in me) and Jim Kay’s illustrations in A Monster Calls are just stunning My favourite person from history - I don’t really have one favourite, but when I visited Norwich I read about Edith Cavell, who was a pioneering British nurse working in Belgium during WW1. She helped injured soldiers on all sides, as well as civilians and later helped around 200 allied soldiers escape to safety. She was eventually caught, tried at court martial for treason and later executed. She was extremely brave and insistent about continuing to help others, even when it endangered herself
My favourite TV show - Westworld My favourite place to go -out for food! My favourite city - Copenhagen My favourite thing to do in my free time - I’m a gamer, so spend a lot of time on my Switch My favourite athlete/sports personality - Rafael Nadal (I took Spanish up to A-Level, and had to do a whole project on him and his life – plus I love the tennis!) My favourite actor – Fiona Shaw – she plays my absolute favourite character in Killing Eve My favourite author - that’s a hard one! Right now it’s Philip Pullman My favourite drink - tea (milk two sugars) My favourite food - a good (medium rare) steak My favourite place to eat - right now I’m missing Nuovo (Northampton) for Italian food, but I also love Mowgli (in Birmingham) for Indian food I like people who - take time to actually listen to what you’re saying, undistracted I don’t like it when people - are rude! Who does?! My favourite book - I recent read Circe by Madeline Miller, and that’s definitely up there. The Power by Naomi Alderman is also great My favourite book character - Peeves from Harry Potter 🙂 My favourite film - this does change frequently! At the moment though I still have a lot of love for Midsommar. My favourite poem - I’m not a huge poetry person, but I did find Milk & Honey from Rupi Kaur interesting (a controversial choice I guess) My favourite artist/band - The Maccabees, all day everyday My favourite song - Waiting for the beat to kick in – Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip My favourite art - Georgia O’Keefe’s From the Faraway, Nearby, or Maman from Louise Bourgeois My favourite person from history - Dolly Parton is a queen