Inspired by an interview with Lisa Turnbull...
In 2015, Durham County Council proposed changes to Teaching Assistant’s (TAs) contracts which would lead to a salary cut of up to 23%. The mainly women TAs, nicknamed the Lions of Durham, began a campaign opposing the changes which lasted into 2017.
The TAs organised rallies, protests, and strike action, and gained widespread support, including from the Durham Miners’ Association who said: “the women always stood behind the miners, the miners will stand behind these women”.
At the end of the dispute, The Northern Echo summed up their view saying: “They may not have achieved all of their aims but they can feel content that they reminded the wider community about the valuable role they play helping the next generation to achieve their potential. We value them.”
Involvement in political campaigning also had a significant impact on the women who took part, as one TA explained: "Two years ago I wouldn’t have given a speech in front of a thousand people or been interviewed on camera. This has changed us. This has changed us from just mums and wives and daughters. We have a cause and people are talking about the Durham TAs all over the country."
One of the TAs Lisa Turnbull wrote a number of poems about her experience including these,
I'm not a commodity than you can share around
I'm not like a dog at the Table...
waiting around for scraps of jobs you have found
I’m not being made to feel I’m not able
I'm not here to be called upon when and if you see fit
I’ve always pulled my weight
I’ve always done my bit
I’m not a bookable resource
I’m a professional
I’m a woman
I’ll always stand up for others
To fight what's evidently wrong
Whilst life may seem like a big black hole
With passion in meagre supply
None of us have all the answers
But together at least we can try!!
A lion steps forth with a powerful stride
A lion stands firm loyal to its pride
A lion shows bravery when faced with a test
A lion keeps going and rarely takes rest
A lion is powerful
A lion is strong
A lion stands for what's right and not wrong
A lion is honest
A lion is true
A lion’s unique
That lion is you