Knitting Civil Society?

Yarn and knitting needles_1

It was like the bad old days in the 1980s in the months when the cuddly [hardly ‘Marxists’ which is what one Tory MInister called them!] Anglican Bishops brought our their ‘Faith in the City’ report – Keep out of ‘politics’ and stick to ‘saving souls’ we were told. And then New Labour and the Tories discovered that faith groups could ‘deliver’ community cohesion and a ‘big society’ [in the days before the Coalition cuts bit and the David Cameron’s ‘big society’ network threw away pots of public money and the ‘big society’ died]….

And now the new ‘Civil Society’ government Minister [Brooks Newmark] tells charities to ‘stick to knitting’ and to keep out of ‘politics’ – Try to rewind the clock if you want Mr Newmark but the civil society genie is out of the bottle – Religion and politics do mix – they have to if people of faith are motivated by a vision of a better more equal society where the outsiders and left out come first. I’ve written about this relationship in my 2013 book ‘A Theology of Community Organizing’

Al Barrett is an Anglican Minister on a large housing estate in the city of Birmingham in the UK. Read what he has to say about ‘knitting’ and politics by clicking on ‘This Estate We’re In’…..


Picturing the City

I have written and spoken a lot about my work alongside unemployed young men on the large Bromford estate in Birmingham and about the graffiti spiritualities project, ‘Bromford Dreams’ that we developed together in 2012 – Urban Theology in action…..Enough words, here is the project in pictures

Social Exclusion and Urban Youth Spiritualities

Here is a brief interview I gave just over a year ago about my two year ethnographic project working alongside unemployed young men on a large Birmingham housing estate – graffiti arts meets and challenges social exclusion and provides a new mode of theological discourse for young men who have no time at all for organised religion.


A Theology of Community Organizing

It took me almost three years to write but my new book ‘A Theology of Community Organizing’ (Routledge) is finally out….Political theory and social movement studies meets action research and liberation theology……Have a read – and let me know what you think….It’s even out as an e-book so nice and easy to read without lugging a heavy hardback book around!

Globalising Dissent

Generation Self?

Tent outside St Pauls

A recent poll for The Guardian newspaper in the UK suggested that young adults in 2013 are what might be called ‘generation self’. The survey suggests that whilst young adults in 2013 may dip into the Occupy Movement or UK Uncut they are not motivated by the commitment to solidarity that characterised the activism of older generations.

Such a survey and The Guardian report that accompanies it depicts youth in 2013 as atomised – no sense of community or connection with other people in other places. This is not what I see and misrepresents the activism or young adults in 2013 and the nature of activism in a connected networked age. The lack of youth engagement in traditional communitarian or left of centre politics does not necessarily equate to disengagement of disconnection as the survey implies. The online activism of networks like Avaaz, the disparate challenge of the Occupy Movement and UK Uncut and the engagement of young adults in street-level politics in the shape of rap music and graffiti art gives the lie to the myth of ‘generation self’.

Perhaps the organisers of the survey and the journalists at The Guardian need to wake up to a new world rather than rehearsing assumptions from another century and a different age. Things really weren’t better in the 1980s when we [and I mean I!] marching during the miners strike, breaking down fences and occupying US Airbases or organising the ‘oppressed working class’….

‘Generation Self’? I don’t think so!