Let’s connect with working class, black and ethnic minority neighbourhoods in Nottingham the same way we we welcome students every year: new economies, opportunities, jobs for all

When you consider a place like Nottingham it’s full of locked down potential, it’s full of success and failure sitting together on the tram, in offices, in coffee bars, in doctor’s/dentist’s surgeries, shops, walking through the streets, day and night.

Yet, if you look at Illustrator Becky Riley’s rebranding of the neighbourhoods of Nottingham in Left Lion’s Welcome To Nottingham for new students

Above: Welcome To Nottingham for Students Left Lion 2021 Illustration Beck Riley

as I did when I was working with new undergraduates, it made me realise how when we visualise where we and others live we often create a hostile, toxic ground where nothing new grows through the way everyday words get loaded with a power that saps the life out of us.

If you could create a block of words that might help you to imagine what it’s like to be in our culture now it might contain all the words that are not about political representation throughout the lifespan, that aren’t about things improving, it might contain words about types of activity that have evolved since the end of the second world war to stand in for the political accountability and representation that has been eroded during that period. 

Although people have emerged from this period alive but withering under the harms of having to be so self-centred to survive, though we have proved during Covid that self centredeness didn’t work in a crisis, we’ve realised that our code words for social success had packed away histories, cultures, ways of thinking and feeling that we need more than ever now. For example when we say

business (and especially successful business)

We know now that this word had previously meant: don’t mention community unless it’s to encourage volunteering rather than paid employment. It’s time now to understand new jobs that can come out of local neighbourhoods and business had better get with the programme of regeneration. 


This was a word that we realise now had been asking us not to consider in our evaluations of people, projects, histories, buildings, ways of doing things, the social composition, history, energy of the neighbourhood as a value that we could/should develop:now we realise that real value inspires us to include as many people in a business as we can.


When we use this word we join an elite who are on it with apps/trading/blockchain/nfts It’s a language that a hip maths teacher might bring to his/her/their FE classroom but when you consider the social background of the young people in the class they’re more likely to become entranced by gambling apps/loan/gig working apps, areas where the performed and the real self are divided by the need to exploit.

If teachers/tutors/assessors/employers explore what working class and minority students know and want to ask of the teacher/tutor/employer/assessor: actually, many of them have a history and insights in their families of ways of working that are collaborative, people centred, cause orientated. 

Instead of being a spectator to other people’s success we need to realise that we can help create new opportunities beyond the superficial.

We realise that a culture that squeezes out collaboration, altruism, shared enterprise, a culture where you can’t/don’t talk about worker shareholding/cooperatives needs rejuvenation) because those young people in the maths class need far more than a two dimensional role model of success that they can’t interrogate, test or disprove.

Compliance: we’re beginning to understand why and how compliance mechanisms don’t drive economic activity because they’ve been done on the vvvv cheap and encourage wastage, high turnover, discrediting of human value. 

Drivers: (we realise that when we ask well, what are the drivers that noone understands anything outside the small network/silo of which they are part. This means then the sense of accepting the wheel in many companies is only for a couple of years and you could be driving any of these enterprises because noone seems to be interested in connecting what they do with a real sense of social value and change. We’re realisng that we don’t have to accept the drivers when we know they’re toxic, whether they’re feeding into harms or not) 

Technologies: ownership, supply chains, poverty, crime: all words driven by the same words we’ve just looked at. Until we understand them, make them relevant and transparent, they’re hurting us.

Industrialisation we think this word means changing processes of manufacture and production when really industrialisation is a cultural process that discredits a value (say like education) and everything it has represented over many years.

When we industrialise university education we go back and forth with the american system (we charge, they offer sports and other scholarships but both systems (in spite of civic projects) have lost a sense of direction and accountability).

What we do in this model (and the same is true of hospitals, schools) is value the buildings that house education, health, more than the process of learning, trying to get as much profit and revenue out of those buildings in the virtual world selling, selling and selling though teacher call centre/virtual environments that discourage anyone from wondering how they could really understand what is actually happening in a university, really, here in the 21st century.

Accepting the ever industrialising view of the university is realising that this system will only evolve to diminish the value and expectation of the people who disseminate that education.

So thing (building) is too important and process (education and teaching) and people: (students and teachers, how the wider community perceives and relates to this wrapping up of learning) are diminished: the possibilities of everything are always predetermined by the demand to do more than you even know you ought to do.

This kind of shock and awe, discipline and punish keeps on encroaching on everyone’s understanding of what it is they’re doing: charging students more, paying university staff less, leasing people like cars parked in a multi-storey.

The university is a massive international asset worth billions until you try to capitalise its value and it’s suddenly worth what the supply chain says it’s worth. It’s time to take universities back into a sense of why they’re really here: to bring more people, from more backgrounds into education, training, skills and learning where they can contribute to something bigger than profit. 

At the moment we’re all moving, all in the process that we watch, moving away from the idea of a community working together remembering a shared history as if there never was such a thing as a shared community vision. 

There always was and there always will be a community vision it’s just that it needs to be recognised and acknowledged in more places, on the walls of universities, workplaces, hospitals, schools, colleges. We need to feel we can create the evidence that we’ve been here.

The problem we have now is that we haven’t allowed the whole community to be represented so they can evolve and grow and we haven’t kept our community eyes on the political system which since the 1970’s has been focussed on narrowing the scope of parliament, the franchise and refusing to make the establishment inside the parliamentary system itself democratic and to recruit equally across both chambers from all backgrounds, all social classes and be changed by that process.

As in the covid pandemic we saw how very highly socially privileged MPs seemed to be really just managing massive gig and gang labour and rentier supply chains. It’s instructive to consider that in 2022 that people charged with the authority to root out corruption, say in the police can only have credibility and respect of those organisations if they’ve been enobled. Really we should forget about peerages, CBEs and OBEs until we’ve allowed parliamentary representation work in the way that the populations in constituencies across the UK need it to work: to enfranchise more people to change the agenda to something more balanced, fairer, less orientated to the greed, scale profit of the post modern feudal supply chains.

Although Select Committees, questions in the upper chamber and the role of the civil service make the actual process far more complex, rich and layered than it appears, it feels as though we need to write another social contract that can move us away from what’s turned out to be the modern feudal nightmare of a post colonial wold that hasn’t adjusted to the potential of the global majority either in their constituencies or in the wider world. The way political parties work in this context is instructive: using the whip. A word from slavery times that needs abolition.