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Hope and constraint: how young people on Sheppey imagine their lives in 1978 and 2010 Graham Crow (University of Southampton) and Dawn Lyon (University.

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Presentation on theme: "Hope and constraint: how young people on Sheppey imagine their lives in 1978 and 2010 Graham Crow (University of Southampton) and Dawn Lyon (University."— Presentation transcript:

1 Hope and constraint: how young people on Sheppey imagine their lives in 1978 and 2010 Graham Crow (University of Southampton) and Dawn Lyon (University of Kent)

2 The original study Divisions of Labour (1984) based on an extensive, mixed methods project Methods included essays written by 142 school leavers in May 1978 (mainly 16-year-olds, 90 boys, 52 girls), imagining themselves towards the end of their lives and looking back Essays now archived at UK Data Archive Speedy publication of Living without a job: how school leavers see the future New Society 2 November 1978: 259-62; focus on themes of work, unemployment and family

3 The original study Pahl acknowledges that article doesnt do full justice to essay material which would be extremely hard to interpret without some knowledge of the local context. As this improves, I may wish to modify my present interpretation (1978: 262) Analysis of young people developed further in Claire Wallaces For Richer, For Poorer (1987), based on ethnography and questionnaires Analytical theme of contrasting myth and reality (Pahl 1984: ch.7; Wallace 1987: 14)

4 The original study One of the things about the Isle of Sheppey is that there does appear to be a slight low self- esteem amongst people, it tends to get put down by a lot of people, Islanders, and theres lots of myths floating around. What was good about his [Pahls] report was that it cleared up a lot of those myths, showed them to be unfounded. One of the myths was that young people never want to travel off the island so their employment prospects are very low because they want to stay on the Island, they dont want to travel.

5 The original study But in his report he found that a tremendous lot of people commuted off the Island. A lot of young people went to Canterbury College and to schools in Rochester and what have you, so that wasnt really proved to be true. Its true that if you ask young people if they havent been off the Island much, theyve been schooled on the Island and their first thought is if theyve got to get on a train and change here and change there, its going to be a mission, but that would be the same for anybody leaving school. (2009 interview with an original adult study participant)

6 The original study Important implication that responsibility for high levels of unemployment on Sheppey, including youth unemployment, in a period of recession are not because of lack of ambition – that would be blaming the victim Need to be cautious around folk wisdom: one of the first things I was told about Sheppey was that there were some people still living there who had never been off the Island (Pahl 1984: 144)

7 What do the 1978 essays say about space and time? Revisiting archived material allows previously undiscussed themes contained in the essays to be explored, such as time and place Some reproduction of negative local images, suggesting ambition to leave Sheppey: this domp of a place (Essay 64, male) living in a dump like Isle of Sheppey (73, male) I was now living in London away from the increasingly boring Isle of Sheppey (28, male) I would also dream of the day that I would leave the island for good (110, female)

8 What do the 1978 essays say about space and time? Not all essays locate their authors imagined futures, but 55 of the 142 envisage geographical mobility beyond Kent: London (12 essays) Scotland (3 essays), Cornwall (3 essays) Crawley, Derby, Devon, Doncaster, Dorset, Hampshire, Newcastle, Newmarket, Northampton, Norwich, Portsmouth, Reading, Wales (1 essay each) USA (4 essays), Australia (3 essays), Germany (2 essays) Cyprus, France, Italy, Tibet (1 essay each) Overseas seeing the world with Armed Forces (11 essays)

9 Image from Digimap. Used with permission Mobility envisaged within the UK 31 of 142 essays

10 Travel with the armed forces 24 of 142 essays Mobility envisaged beyond the UK Image from maps-world.cn

11 What do the 1978 essays say about space and time? But indications also of the pull of the Island: we decided to stay on the island being as we both had our families here (99, female) me and my wife decided to move to the Isle of Sheppey back to my home (42, male) When I retired I bought a house in a quiet part of Minster and I settled down to laze away the years I had left (85, male) Working-class Islanders do have a strong commitment to their locality (Pahl 1984: 193)

12 What else do the 1978 essays tell us? Essays written as a teenager may not be very realistic Archive includes Ray Pahls notes about the essays, including (on a few) total fantasy (on 8) totally unrealistic idea of what he earns and what he gets – own house, car etc. (on 38) And author of essay 64 asks how can you right about something that has not happan or may never happan

13 What else do the 1978 essays tell us? But also some distancing from fantasy: The author of essay 96 imagined herself working in a shirt factory and dreaming that she would go off to Canada and marry a rich millionaire and…live happy ever after….but instead I met Robert, who was a year younger. Married and moved to near Doncaster and had 4 daughters, working as a bar assistant. Husband a motor bike racer. Although I didnt mind Robert going racing, I was always sure some kind of accident would happen and it did. Robert confined to a wheelchair and needed care so author gave up job to look after him, but said this was all she ever really wanted. She imagined by the end of her life having 4 daughters all grown up with children of their own.

14 What do the 2009-10 essays tell us? Issues further complicated by bringing in material collected in 2009-10 from a more diverse group of different ages: not simply comparing like with like In addition, modes of communicating have changed as technology has developed Patterns of youth transitions have changed in the intervening 3 decades, e.g. greater chances of going to University, and longer life expectancy – several are written by people imagining themselves living into their eighties

15 What do the 2009-10 essays tell us? Interesting continuities e.g. in geographical mobility, with moves envisaged to Australia, Alaska, California, Miami, Canada, New Zealand, Spain, Greece, Italy, Africa, and (within UK) Scotland, Yorkshire, London, Liverpool, Colchester, Stoke, Sussex Rich imagination: I became an inventor and designed many objects…When I was 32 I designed the very first hover-car (male) Career as palaeontologist I discovered a new type of dinosaur, it was even named after me, a Suddsapophalus (34, male)

16 What do the 2009-10 essays tell us? One essay in full (67, female), 345 words, emphasis added Looking back on my life, I realise that I could have accomplished more in my past. When I recieved my GCSE results, I was proud of my self. I earned the results I had aimed for. I later joined 6 Form of the Isle of Sheppey Academy, to earn my A-Levels in Biology, English and History. Each of these subjects fascinated me. It felt like they would play a major part in my future. After two years studying I was now eighteen, and eagerly awaiting my results which could send me off to University. Ever since I was seven, I had already decided what I wanted out of life. I wanted to be somebody that spent his days among the animal. If I remember correctly, I wanted to be a vet at first But when I was 15, my job was fixed to me. An animal behaviourist. When I recieved my A-level results I was overjoyed, after so long of dreaming I could finally leave the Isle of Sheppey to study Animal management and behaviour. It was a hard job deciding on which University, so I followed in my older sisters footsteps and accepted to go to Anglia Ruskin. Three years had passed when in Anglia Ruskin, and I was qualified with a degree in Animal Management and Behaviour. It was hard but not impossible. For the next year I travelled through Japan with friends. We were always so fascinated by their culture. I even used my qualifications to study endangered animals over there. After years of working through different zoos, I finally felt pleased. I had worked in around 4 different zoos. Its hard to leave a workplace after being there for so many years, but different zoos have so many different animals. I married at the age of twenty three, shortly after we had our first child. One year later, we had our second. And now, their both working hard. In towns outside of the village I reside in. Im pleased with my life, but I think I could have asked for more.

17 What do the 2009-10 essays tell us? Continuities in importance of family, especially children and grandchildren as focus of attention Im going to have a family a boy and a girl, girl called Alice and dont no about the boy, have a proper white wedding get a big house and support my family (male) Im a widow with 4 children and 8 grandchildren and love our get togethers (female) When I turned 26 I had the best boyfriend ever and… I was pregnant. I had my baby and I called her Hope. I got married when I was 37 and my 11 year old was my bridesmaid (female) Continuing relevance of discussions from 1970s/1980s study about family and marriage and how these are affected by economic change

18 What do the 2009-10 essays tell us? Continuing importance of family as a route into work: Finally getting through collage with all my grades including a A in product design, all I now had to do was get a job at my grandads work (male); After being at college I started work on the farm where my dad got me a job (male)

19 What do the 2009-10 essays tell us? And strong ambition to own ones own business: At 32 I opened my own café in Sheerness High Street (female); Then I started my own company. It was very successful. I made millions (male); After a few years and many promotions, I had enough money to start up a business of my own (male); by the age of 24 I had fulfilled my dream of becoming my own boss (6, male); I dont want to just work for someone in a hairdressers, I want to be able to have my own salon (63, female)

20 Concluding thoughts Material links in to wider on-going debates generated by use of this and other techniques about young peoples ambitions, aspirations, plans, strategies, expectations, dreams, fantasies, and the best ways of capturing these Different interpretations by different members of the research team regarding hope and constraint It would be fascinating to get accounts of what actually happened in the lives of the 1978 essay writers now aged 48 In particular, what would they say about views expressed on ageing: at 40, I can safely say my life had ended (4, male); by 50 I was old (129, female)?

21 References Anderson, M. et al (2005) Timespans and plans among young adults Sociology 39(1) 139-55 Brannen, J. and Nilsen, A. (2002) Young peoples time perspectives: From youth to adulthood Sociology 36(3) 513-37. Brannen, J. and Nilsen, A. (2007) Young people, time horizons and planning, A response to Anderson et al Sociology 41(1) 153-60. Himmelweit, H. et al (1952) The views of adolescents on some aspects of the social class structure, British Journal of Sociology 3(2) 148-72 Pahl, R.E. (1978) Living without a job: how school leavers see the future New Society 2 November 1978: 259-62 Pahl, R.E. (1984) Divisions of Labour (Oxford: Basil Blackwell) Thompson, R. and Holland, J. (2002) Imagined adulthood: resources, plans and contradictions Gender and Education 14(4) 337-50. Veness, T. (1962) School Leavers: Their Aspirations and Expectations (London: Methuen) Wallace, C. (1987) For Richer, For Poorer: Growing up in and out of work (London: Tavistock)


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