FREEDOM TO LEARN
A blog post written by volunteer Katherine Riley on her first oral history interview for the project and how it made her think about women's activism across the whole North of England...
With thanks to Ruth as well for her involvement in the project.
On 15th July 2019, I conducted my first oral history interview for the Remembering Resistance project. I met with Ruth Colbridge, who is a strong advocate for changes to the school curriculum which allow children to learn in a freer, more creative environment. She became increasingly politically active after the birth of her children, and used her skills in PR to organise school strikes protesting Michael Gove’s stringent overhaul of SATs tests. The stress caused to pupils, parents and teachers by the restrictive curriculum was contrasted by hugely successful ‘alternative education’ events at Williamson Park, Fairfield Orchard, and other locations, which allowed the children to learn outside the classroom while spending time in the local community.
Ruth spoke of her particular motivation to have the events covered by local and national media, particularly after the government published figures denying the widespread impact of similar strikes which took place all over the country. Although according to a Whitehall source ‘the number of children involved may have been as few as 1,000’, Ruth relayed how more than 1,000 people participated in the strikes in Lancaster alone. Media coverage of the event by Sky News, BBC Breakfast, and Radio Lancashire (amongst others) constituted an opportunity to spotlight activism in the North of England – an area of protest Ruth feels is neglected by mainstream news sources.
Ruth expressed admiration for Lancaster’s rich history of protest and lively alternative scene, something she was not wholly aware of at first. She wondered whether this played a part in building momentum for the school strikes. It is certainly something which has inspired me to help document the history of Northern activism – stories of which, permeated by resilient and determined women, continue to emerge right across the North of England.
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