British Academy workshop on interdisciplinary research

History researcher Dr Maria Nita (left) displays our poster at yesterday’s British Academy workshop on interdisciplinary research. We’ve achieved much of what we set out to do on the Hippy Trail. We interviewed dozens of really interesting and lovely people. We’ve provided a resource (this forum), which will be ongoing, and will allow ex-travellers to continue to share their experiences and reconnect with old friends. And we’ve published some of our research, with more to come next year. This project has inspired us to continue research into this era so we’ve started a new project called ‘A Social History of Pop Festivals: Woodstock, Glastonbury, Altamont, Isle of Wight’. We’ve set up a new blog on that subject and it will be up and running soon:

hippy-trail-a1-maria-nita-%282%29 british-academy-poster

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Local Government in Wales – Services and not Structures

The structure of local government in Wales is once again on the agenda and there is talk about the existing 22 councils and whether they need to be re-organised. This topic goes back a long way, possibly starting shortly after the 22 were put in place in 1996. Questions about whether local authorities were too small to deliver services including education, whether there should be 22 heads of service across Wales and whether the best leaders were in place were all being asked about local authorities in Wales.

The size of public organisations including local authorities is an important issue. However, in relation to size of public organisations and their effectiveness, the jury is still out. Bigger organisations do not necessarily deliver better services no more than smaller ones. No one size fits all. There may be a range of factors supporting and promoting effective services and these will also include leadership, expertise and the demand for the service, for example. Sometimes, government looks more favourably on ‘big is better’ and sometimes ‘small is closer to people and better for democracy’.

At this point in 2016, with all the demands on public organisations including local authorities and finances are really stretched, Ministers will look back and wonder why reorganisation hasn’t happened. For now, a full scale re-organisation is off the agenda. It’s too expensive, too much of a distraction and public want the focus to be on services and not structures.

Instead and building on existing good practice, local authorities will do what they have been doing for some time – building up effective joint working around service delivery. It is reduced budgets, cuts in funding and a desire on behalf of local politicians and officers to keep up services have both been a big driver of this change rather than politicians in Welsh Government.

Welsh government is now keen for this joint working to go much further.
The local government cabinet secretary Mark Drakeford laid out his vision for the future of local government in Wales on Tuesday last and said the current 22 councils would remain in place unless there were cases where authorities wanted to merge voluntarily. In relation to the delivery of services, the Minister is keen on an approach were cities and regions are responsible for services including strategic transport, and economic development, with organisations similar to health boards in Wales delivering other services including education and social services. Local authorities will be strongly encouraged to deliver services jointly and work even more closely with other bodies including health, police and the ambulance service.
Clearly, then the agenda is much more regional for the delivery of key services. Over the next five years, I think that a new pattern of local government will emerge and there will be joint heads of service across two or three councils in some areas of delivery and maybe even a shared Chief Executive or two. A few councils are likely to merge voluntarily.

A big issue for the future is integration with other services and not just local government – police, fire and rescue, ambulance, housing, health and so on. Joint working arrangements to deliver services will become the norm and these will be different across Wales. It is services which interest citizens more than structures.

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You Say You Want a Revolution? (exhibition at the V&A)

You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966 – 1970

What : Exhibitions

When : 10 September 2016- 26 February 2017

Where :  Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, London, SW7 2RL

EXHIBITION: This major exhibition will explore the era-defining significance and impact of the late 1960s, expressed through some of the greatest music and performances of the 20th century alongside fashion, film, design and political activism. The exhibition considers how the finished and unfinished revolutions of the time changed the way we live today and think about the future.–Records-and-Rebels-1966—1970/dt/2016-10-07/free/2

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USW Support Staff Conference 2016

Ben Calvert’s talk on Student Experience I recently attended the support staff conference here at USW as I was asked if I’d like to run a small session on sketchnoting, and thought it’d be rude not to go along to the rest of the event. I was glad I did. The first session was Ben … Continue reading USW Support Staff Conference 2016
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Who Governs our Schools?

The governance of our schools and our children’s education has been under the spotlight over the last month, as Education Minister Kirsty Williams announced proposals to alter the current system.


It is pleasing that the new Education Minister has chosen the reform of school governing bodies as one of her first initiatives in the improvement of education in Wales. Effective governance is an important part of successful schools.


For years, school governing bodies have been made up of a range of different members including head teachers, teachers and non-teaching staff, parents and other members of the local community. Staff members and parents on governing bodies are currently elected.


When we look at the future make-up of these governing bodies and how they might be reformed, there are two big issues that we need to consider.


The first of these concerns who sits on governing bodies. Currently, the number of people from each of the groups is determined by the size of the school. A smaller school will have a lower number of parents and community representatives on their governing body, when compared to a larger school.


The new proposals for governing bodies will allow schools to have a greater flexibility in determining how many parents, staff and community representatives sit on a governing body. This is to be welcomed. It will give schools more of a say in deciding what is right for them.


The second issue to consider is the contribution and skills which individual members of a governing body bring to the school.


In Wales, the ‘stakeholder’ model of governance is currently used, where each governor will contribute their particular interests.



Parents will bring with them a knowledge of the school through their children, their children’s education, and how the school fits into their local community – they may even have been a pupil there themselves. Community members can add expertise from their employment, volunteering, public office or private sector backgrounds.


The changes suggested by the Minister indicate that schools should continue to be governed on the basis of this ‘stakeholder’ approach but with a much sharper focus on the skills that they have within the governance field. This is called the ‘stakeholder plus’ approach to governance.


The continuation of the ‘stakeholder’ approach to governance in Wales is in sharp contrast to the ‘skills based’ approach operating in the academy schools in England. Here, lawyers, accountants and other professionals are appointed to sit on governing bodies and the contribution which others bring in is not valued.


This means that parents who may have the greatest knowledge of schools, and arguably the highest level of interest, are being left out. Retaining the stakeholder approach in Wales is therefore a positive decision as parents have the depth of knowledge and an interest in schools performing at their best.


The Minister’s new proposals, which will be consulted on in the autumn, will mean that schools in Wales will have greater flexibility in terms of the number of people who can sit on the governing body. Even more interests can be represented as the formula which determines how many governors of each type must sit on a governing body may be removed.


There is also an intention to bring in short term co-opted members to assist a school when it is dealing with a particular specialist issue – something that I am sure schools would find useful.


But how will the proposed changes to governing bodies benefit our children’s education?


The new proposals are primarily focused on getting governing bodies to better lead schools and this should in turn mean that the education of pupils is improved.


On the basis of the ‘stakeholder plus’ model, having the right governors in place for each school is likely to assist school improvement and the achievement of pupils. Schools with the weakest governance will not be as successful.


They don’t just need to be the right people, they also need to be able to challenge head teachers and schools to deliver against important issues such as pupil performance, employability and key skills. This is essential if schools are to have robust and effective governance structures in place.


Improving governance is just one part of making schools better for pupils in Wales, but it is a good place to start.

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Hello and welcome to our new research project on music festivals!


Welcome to our new research project based in the History department at the University of South Wales. In the attached pic, History researcher Dr Maria Nita (left) displays our introductory poster at a British Academy workshop on interdisciplinary research. We’ve achieved much of what we set out to do on the Hippy Trail. We interviewed dozens of really interesting and lovely people. We’ve provided an online forum, which is ongoing, and will allow ex-travellers to continue to share their experiences and reconnect with old friends. And we’ve published some of our research, with more to come next year e.g. a book about the Hippy Trail to be published by Manchester University Press. This work has inspired us to continue research into the era so we’ve started a new project called ‘A Social History of Pop Festivals: Woodstock, Glastonbury, Altamont, Isle of Wight‘. (For convenience sake, we will be focusing this blog on Glastonbury and Woodstock, mainly because of the forthcoming 50th anniversaries of those festivals.)

WE WELCOME CONTRIBUTIONS FROM ANYONE WHO ATTENDED ANY OF THESE EVENTS! Please share here your thoughts and experiences. Contributions will be moderated and may therefore not appear immediately.


  • Prof Sharif Gemie:
  • Dr Brian Ireland:
  • Dr Maria Nita:
  • Prof Madeleine Gray:


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IWMW16 – The big roundup

As is now customary, I’ve made my sketch notes available elsewhere, but this year I thought I’d have a go at rounding up and responding to the sessions. For more detail there is very comprehensive coverage on Lanyrd. Requirements Are Hypotheses: How Lean UX Can Help You Develop Better Products I’ve seen Neil speak a few … Continue reading IWMW16 – The big roundup
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Home Again: Discharge and Recovery – the Integrated Way

2000 patients and 20000 bed days later… (or goodbye to delayed transfers of care aka DToC!) My last WIHSC blog in October 2015 told of a new service in South Kent stopping delayed transfers of care (DToC) by giving all … Continue reading
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What next for local government in Wales?

Now that the re-organisation of local authorities has been put on hold with the election of the new government in Wales, where next for local government?

In the previous Welsh government, it was felt that structural reform was necessary to drive forward on efficiency and cost savings. This view was set within the background of the Williams review of public services in Wales where it was highlighted voluntary collaborations and partnerships did not go far enough. The Local Government Bill suggested reforming the existing 22 authorities to 8 or 9 new ones to ensure that services were not duplicated, to reduce staff costs particularly at the highest levels and most senior posts and to deliver better collaboration. Ultimately, the purpose of re-organisation was to deliver more effective services with the best outcomes.

With the new government in May of this year, priorities may have changed a little. There are new Assembly Members who are probably unwilling to tell their electorates that their local authority is to be re-organised. There is also the maths to think about – the minority Labour government has 29 members and with the ‘appointment’ of Kirsty Williams from the Liberal Democrats to join them to make 30, this number does not allow ‘unpopular’ legislation to be approved. Plaid Cymru or UKIP do not have local government re-organisation as a top priority.

So, where next?

The new Minister would be well advised to identify the effectiveness of the existing collaborative arrangements across local government. Where they are seen to be working and delivering services effectively, good practice should be encouraged to be taken on in other areas. This will mean that authorities will all be responsible for the same services legally but delivering different ones in practice. One authority may take on the delivery of social services for another area or the library function for a range of authorities. These collaborations may also be with third sector voluntary bodies where the function or service is delivered by outside bodies (maybe even private sector ones).

If Welsh government moves in this direction, the key framework which has to be got right is governance. Good governance will involve ensuring responsibility, the agreement of key performance measures and what effective service delivery will look like. Delivery can be undertaken by the best service providers from across the sectors.

Effective services must come first and structural reforms if they are needed, second.

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New book forthcoming

Good news! Manchester University Press have offered Sharif and I a contract to publish our hippy trail book in HC with a follow-up PB version. It’s likely the HC will be published late this year or early next year. The title is still to be confirmed but the working title, for now, is Journeys to Nirvana: a history of the Hippy Trail, 1957-78.

As you can imagine, we’re both very happy. Many thanks to all who helped us on the journey, including but not limited to those who consented to be interviewed, who completed a questionnaire, who contributed to the conference, sent us photos, and contributed to this blog. We will acknowledge as many of you as possible in the book itself.

Brian & Sharif

8 May 2016

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