Edition number 69; dateline 11 December 2013

It’s Christmas: let’s have a Beveridge

As the calendar slips towards the winter solstice there is always a temptation to embark upon a period of stocktaking, a weighing of positives and negatives throughout the year. It is, of course, largely a conditioned response to the arrival of the larger tins of Quality Street on supermarket shelves but reflection is part of any effective learning process so it is as well to embrace it and view a little weight gain as an essential and timely part of one’s personal development.

Whatever the angle of the scales as you weigh the pros and cons, all individuals and teams will no doubt be able to find their own successes to celebrate, and from the wider perspective of the sport, leisure and culture sector there are still a few things to note even as the weight of darkness seems set to increase. By way of example in this issue we offer an interview with Christine Parsloe, one of the leading lights of the leisure sector and now recognised with a national public service award courtesy of The Guardian. It is well-deserved recognition of Christine’s achievements in, and on behalf of, the London borough of Merton but at TLR Towers we also like to imagine it might also be a reflection of the importance members of the public attach to their leisure services. As Christine is pleased to acknowledge, she is an alumnus of the National Culture Forum’s Leading Learning Programme and was indeed a member of the programme’s first intake of students. That the Leading Learning Programme is able to continue in such times of austerity is testament to the value it delivers, and to the ambition and dedication of the programme’s students. With such commitment to personal improvement and leadership development the leisure sector can continue to look to the future rather than the past.

There is, of course, much to concern us, much of it commented upon at splenetic length in this column. Recent headlines in the national press do not make for pleasant reading. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation report that envisages a time when local authorities will be able only to deliver statutory services, abandoning any aspiration to deliver services, such as sport, leisure and culture, that might seek to improve the lives and wellbeing of their communities. A further 1,000 job cuts for Birmingham city council and fears among the council’s leaders that the authority’s ability to deliver even statutory services must be in jeopardy in the face of continuing cuts to its budgets. Plans within the Treasury to shrink the state to its barest levels of support, the better to create a permanence of austerity, a brave new world in which the Giant Evils of Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness are returned to our society strengthened and ennobled at the behest of Elitism and Greed. Take your pick from your chosen news outlet on any given day; it is ever harder not to despair.

However, there are some pinpoints of light in this enveloping gloom, a few hints that while dawn might not be just around the corner just yet at least the clock is still working and we have crept past midnight. Thus we recognise and celebrate Jacqui Cheer, the chief constable of Cleveland, who, as we report in our news section, took the opportunity of a public platform to be critical of the new antisocial behaviour bill, which will allow authorities to apply injunctions on children as young as ten for “causing nuisance”. Cheer observed that criminalising children for “what looks like growing up to me” was not a sensible approach for a sensible society. The chief constable’s comments remind us that good sense is still present among people in positions of influence and that some of those people are prepared to speak out in defiance of the general presumption of the merits of authoritarianism. Such outspokenness is increasingly hard to find but it is still discernable on occasion and thus more valuable for its rarity.

Perhaps the best motivation for anyone working in the sport, leisure and culture sector is to have a day off. With your work hat left at home, drop in to a park or a pool, go to a gallery or a play just to see the expressions of delight and wonder on the faces of fellow visitors, particularly if some of them happen to be children. Here is a reminder of what sport, leisure and culture provides and why it is essential that such opportunities remain available to everyone regardless of the circumstances of their birth, education or income.

Whatever the angle of the scales, they would be tipped heavily towards the negative without you. Well done and thank you. We can but hope that we are just around the corner from the light of day.

Jonathan Ives



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