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Harry Stopes

Harry Stopes is a postdoctoral fellow at the Free University of Berlin.

Short Cuts: Life on Licence

Harry Stopes, 9 December 2019

John​ is one of more than 250,000 people in Britain living under the supervision of the probation service. He got out of prison in April 2018, when his sentence still had some years to run. I met him while I was reporting on the shortcomings of the law on joint enterprise. In 2005 he had been convicted for murder after a man died as a result of injuries received during a burglary John was...

From The Blog
4 October 2019

I moved to the Afrikanisches Viertel, in Wedding, about a month after I arrived in Berlin. Most of the streets are named for places in Africa – Togostraße, Windhukerstraße – but Nachtigalplatz commemorates Gustav Nachtigal, Bismarck’s Reichskommissar for West Africa, and Lüderitzstraße is named for the founder of German South West Africa. Only one of these colonial names has been changed – sort of. In 1986, the city announced that Petersallee now referred to Hans Peters, a co-founder of the CDU and a member of the Kreisau Circle of wartime resisters. Small panels were attached to the street signs giving his name and dates. But the street was originally named for Carl Peters, an imperial high commissioner of northern Tanganyika in the 1890s and a notoriously brutal, violent racist, condemned even in his own time.

From The Blog
16 August 2019

Eighteen people were killed when soldiers charged the meeting at Saint Peter’s Fields, Manchester, on 16 August 1819. Elizabeth Gaunt tried to hide in a hackney coach. She was grabbed by special constables who beat her with their truncheons. Covered with blood, she was dragged to a house nearby and flung before the magistrates. She spent a day and a half in jail without food, before being remanded on a charge of high treason. She was eventually released without charge after eleven days, during which time she had miscarried.

From The Blog
5 April 2019

When I began working at the Freie Universität Berlin last September, I put up on the door of my office a photo of Bernhard Trautmann, captioned with Lev Yashin’s remark: ‘There have only been two world-class goalkeepers. One was Lev Yashin, the other was the German boy who played in Manchester, Trautmann.’

From The Blog
12 February 2019

Rough sleeping is up 169 per cent across the country since 2010, along with every other form of homelessness. The rate in Manchester is more than twice the national average. Among major English cities, it’s higher only in London and Bristol. The numbers of homeless people referred to temporary accommodation in Manchester rose 319 per cent between 2010 and 2017. It’s bizarre in these circumstances for Greater Manchester Police to downplay the crisis of homelessness by claiming that the genuinely homeless receive help, and those visible on the street are not really in need. ‘There is plenty of help for those willing to accept it,’ they say.

From The Blog
21 January 2019

On the second Sunday in January every year there is a march to the Friedrichsfelde Cemetery in Berlin to commemorate Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg.

From The Blog
5 November 2018

The last time I was in South Africa, in 2015, I met with members of Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM), an organisation of informally housed people, based mainly in Durban and the surrounding KwaZulu-Natal region. The group’s name means ‘Shack Dwellers’. I was added to their mailing list. In the last few months the tone of AbM’s updates has become increasingly urgent, as the violence of the state’s response to the movement seems to have intensified.

From The Blog
24 August 2018

‘Ordinarily at this point I’d be looking at her,’ Will Mitchell told me as we approached the Cefas Endeavour, a research ship owned by the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Acquaculture Science, a mile offshore the Cornish port of Fowey. ‘I’d be looking at the size of her, how she moves, where we’re going to board her. But I’ve worked this vessel before.’ It was a Wednesday lunchtime in July and the sky was overcast – a rare interruption in a week of fine sunshine – but the sea was almost flat.

From The Blog
6 July 2018

Last season Raheem Sterling was a linchpin of the best club football team that England has seen in at least a decade. Manchester City smashed records, winning 100 points and scoring 106 goals, 18 of which came from Sterling (he assisted a further 11 of them). He is one of the best footballers of any nationality currently playing in this country. He is also the subject of a relentless campaign of abuse in the English media which deploys racist tropes about young black men in order to put him down.

From The Blog
26 June 2017

Having finished my PhD, I’m looking for a job, checking the academic recruitment websites every few days and keeping an ear out for teaching assistant positions. Most jobs with a September start advertised this late in the year are part-time and fixed-term. A Russell Group university in London, for instance, has been looking for a lecturer in British Intellectual and Cultural History, who will be paid the equivalent of £40,000 a year. On a half-time contract over ten months, they'll get about £16,700: just enough for a single person to be able to afford to live in London, according to the Living Wage Foundation. They will probably be able to pick up some more work, but their chances of reaching a full-time entry-level lecturer's salary (£32,004, according to the nationally agreed pay scale) are slim. It's more likely that they will be forced to use most of their unpaid time to do the research on which their prospects of a future academic career hang. Problems of this kind in academic employment are not new. But another vacancy which recently closed appears to plumb new depths.

From The Blog
29 January 2016

There’s a scene in Ewan MacColl’s autobiography in which his father, boozy after a weekend trip to Heaton Park, begins singing on the tram back to Salford:

From The Blog
10 August 2015

The Jardin des Olieux is a small park just off the Boulevard Victor Hugo in Lille. Twenty-five or so homeless migrants have been camping there for a couple of months. Several of them are teenagers. Mamadé from Guinea, who is 16, told me that every morning they walk to a day centre near the train station for a meal, coffee and a wash. But they have nowhere to sleep except the park, and the police have taken away their mattresses. The French state in theory guarantees appropriate accommodation and support for unaccompanied migrant children, but there is an effective ‘presumption of majority’, according to a local lawyer, as well as long delays in the process which leave many on the streets for weeks.

From The Blog
4 August 2015

On 13 July 1906, Benoît Damien, the dean of the science faculty at Lille University, wrote to the president of the Lille Chamber of Commerce, Edmond Faucheur. Damien was a member of the Esperanto Industrial and Commercial Society of France, and had probably been to the first Universal Congress of Esperanto in Boulogne-Sur-Mer the year before. Local writers and politicians had been describing Lille as a ‘crossroads’ city between Germany, France, Belgium and England since at least the 1870s. With an eye to its commercial future, the municipality offered German and English classes in its schools. Damien was convinced that Lille should adopt Esperanto.

From The Blog
14 July 2015

According to the Policing and Crime Act 2009, for violence to be ‘gang-related’ means that it involves at least three people, associated with a particular geographical area, who have ‘a name, emblem or colour’ which allows others to identify them as a group. Last month this was revised in new statutory guidance from the Home Office. There’s no longer any mention of geographical territory or gang emblems: a ‘gang’ is any group that commits crime and has ‘one or more characteristics that enable its members to be identified as a group’. There’s no mention of what those ‘characteristics’ might be.

From The Blog
13 June 2015

Many people imagine that Afrikaners are the ‘pure’ descendants of Dutch or Huguenot settlers of the 17th and 18th century. According to the historian Hermann Giliomee, 'a sense of being Afrikaners rather than being Dutch or French or German had crystallised by the end of the 18th century'. But relationships across language (and, less frequently, ethnic) lines were not uncommon. Die groot Afrikaanse familienaamboek says that most descendants of John Higgo, a Cornishman who went to South Africa in the mid 19th century, are Afrikaans speaking. But one them is my father, Robert Higgo, an English-speaker from Cape Town.

From The Blog
17 April 2015

In December 2013, a group of people living in shack settlements in Newlands West, Durban, entered and squatted a development of 16 nearly complete apartment blocks on Castle Hill, about ten miles north-west of the city centre. They stayed for more than a year before they were evicted on 17 December 2014. The developer calls the site Hilldale; the squatters called it the Mandela Complex.

From The Blog
27 January 2015

Table Bay Boulevard in Cape Town is to be renamed after F.W. De Klerk, subject to city council approval at a meeting tomorrow. When Eastern Boulevard was renamed after Nelson Mandela in 2011, the council chamber burst into rapturous applause. That’s unlikely to happen tomorrow.

From The Blog
17 November 2014

More than half the academic staff at London Metropolitan University – around 840 people – are on zero-hours contracts. Their hours of employment vary from term to term or year to year. Most earn nothing during the university holidays. They do the same work as permanent staff but have no job security, minimal prospect of advancement and inferior benefits. Many are teaching courses that they designed: their work is not incidental or unskilled. They can be fired at a month's notice. Many have been in this position for years.

From The Blog
30 July 2014

University fees are a dead issue from the point of view of the major political parties. But the last year has seen the development of a new student protest movement that attempts to move beyond the question of fees to the broader logic of the Browne Report. Local campaigns to pay a living wage to support staff have merged with calls for flatter top-to-bottom wage ratios and a reshaped, democratic university administration involving students and academics as well as managers. It's nothing to match the size and anger of 2010, but the movement possesses something like its reanimated spirit – together with the usual attachment of the British left to heroic defeat.

From The Blog
13 June 2014

Last Friday, a majority of the cleaners and porters working at the University of London's halls of residence in Bloomsbury – the Garden Halls – began a five-day strike. Later this summer the halls will be closed and demolished. Some of the staff will be moved to jobs elsewhere in the university, but many will be made redundant. They are employed by Cofely GDF Suez, the multinational firm to which the university outsources its cleaning and maintenance services. The last day of work is 30 June. The strike – unlikely to succeed at this point, as some of the workers admit – was held to demand that Cofely guarantee no compulsory redundancies and transfer all workers to other jobs, in the university or elsewhere, on the same pay and conditions.

From The Blog
8 April 2014

Last month the governing body of the US National Football League considered banning the use of the N-word on the field, on pain of a penalty. Several black players criticised the suggestion, including the Superbowl-winning cornerback Richard Sherman. ‘It’s a pretty common word in the locker room... But once a white person says it, it’s a derogatory term.’ Banning it ‘would be almost racist’, Sherman said, as it would discriminate against black players who used it between themselves. The organisation Kick It Out, which campaigns against discrimination in English football, is holding a debate in Manchester tonight on the Y-word. Since the early 1980s, at least, some supporters of Tottenham Hotspur have referred to themselves as ‘yids’. The nickname, if it can be called that, is supposed to have been adopted as a defence mechanism, a way of positively embracing the perceived Jewish identity of the club, and throwing it back in the faces of opposition fans, some of whom targeted Spurs with anti-semitic songs. Most Spurs fans, including many who use the word to describe themselves, are not Jewish.

From The Blog
27 March 2014

When Manchester Corporation launched a public competition to design a new library in 1926, the idea of a large, modern, purpose-built library in the city was more than two decades old. At the start of the 20th century it was proposed that an art gallery and library should be built on the site of the demolished Royal Infirmary in Piccadilly. ‘The working classes are daily becoming more important in our democracy,’ William Boyd Dawkins wrote to the Manchester Courier. ‘Have we given them equal opportunities of obtaining the higher knowledge which is within the reach of the well-to-do classes?’

From The Blog
9 January 2014

1. Mark Duggan was shot dead by a Metropolitan Police officer on 4 August 2011 after getting out of a minicab on Ferry Lane, Tottenham. The inquest into his killing concluded yesterday. All ten jurors agreed he had a gun with him in the taxi before police stopped it. Eight of them were sure the gun was no longer in his hands when he was shot. And yet, by an 8-2 majority, they found that Duggan was lawfully killed. The jury accepted that V53, the anonymous officer who shot Duggan, ‘honestly believed, even if that belief was mistaken’, that he needed to use deadly force to defend himself against an unarmed man. According to the police witness accounts, Duggan was holding a gun until the moment he was shot. A gun was later found behind a wall nearby. No witnesses – including the only civilian – describe seeing Duggan throw anything away.

From The Blog
3 December 2013

After a thirty-month campaign for sick pay, holidays and pensions on the same terms as directly employed staff, and a two-day strike last week, outsourced cleaning, security and maintenance staff at the University of London have won major concessions from their employer, Balfour Beatty Workplace. The agreement doesn't give them the same rights as directly employed workers, and entitlements are dependent on length of service, but the changes are still significant. Instead of statutory sick pay, a cleaner who’s been in the job for six years could now be entitled to six months on full pay. ‘That's extremely rare in the cleaning industry,’ according to Jason Moyer-Lee, the secretary of the University of London branch of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain.

From The Blog
20 November 2013

As well as tripling fees and changing the repayment structure of student loans in 2010, the government has been looking into ways of ridding itself of loans that predate 2012, currently worth around £40 billion. They asked Rothschild to produce a report on the possibility of selling off the loan book to private investors. The report was delivered in November 2011, but only made public in June this year after a Freedom of Information request and a botched attempt at redaction.

From The Blog
15 November 2013

When my father was a student at the University of Cape Town in the 1970s, the university went to court to prevent the police coming onto campus during political demonstrations. Yesterday Michael Chessum, the president of the University of London students’ union, was arrested on suspicion of an offence under Section 11 of the Public Order Act – failing to notify the police of a public procession. The procession in question was a demonstration the previous day of maybe 200 students, on the pavement outside the students union, around the perimeter of Senate House and in the Senate House car park.

From The Blog
24 October 2013

Since the summer, members of the London Chinatown Chinese Association say, the UK Border Agency has been targeting businesses in Chinatown, looking for people who may be living or working in Britain illegally. Most of the raids, according to the LCCA, have been speculative ‘fishing’ trips, based on no intelligence and designed to intimidate. Almost every business in Chinatown has been hit. At one restaurant the officers showed the manager their warrant only after the raid was finished – they were at the wrong address.

From The Blog
18 October 2013

There were no more than twenty of us outside South Africa House the other week. Londoners are used to small demonstrations outside foreign embassies, and passers-by didn’t pay much attention. We were there in support of the Abahlali baseMjondolo (Zulu for ‘shackdwellers’) movement. AbM was founded in Durban in 2005, after land at Kennedy Road, which the municipality had long promised would be used for housing for the poor, was sold to a developer. Echoing the language of Lefebvre, AbM call for the poor's ‘right to the city’.

From The Blog
10 May 2013

For most clubs in the NPower Championship, the football division below the Premier League, the season is now over. Cardiff City will be promoted as champions, along with Hull City, who came second. The next four teams are competing for the third promotion place. Leicester City beat Watford 1-0 in their first leg last night; Crystal Palace are playing Brighton and Hove Albion this evening; after the second legs on Sunday and Monday the winners will meet at Wembley. Palace and Brighton have a longstanding rivalry. Violence between fans isn’t unknown.

From The Blog
9 April 2013

There are a few hundred outsourced workers at Senate House and other University of London buildings in Bloomsbury, including the intercollegiate student halls. Most of the caterers are employed by Aramark; the cleaners, security guards and maintenance by Balfour Beatty Workplace, the services arm of the construction giant. Most are immigrants; from Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe and, overwhelmingly in the case of the cleaners, Latin America.

From The Blog
15 March 2013

Foxtons estate agents started out in Notting Hill in 1981, and opened their second branch in Fulham two years later. It was just the time for them. Large Victorian houses were being stripped down and redone, and in a recession London property still represented a good investment. The Brixton branch of Foxtons opened last weekend. The windows are full of two-bedroom flats for 11 times the median London salary. Rents meanwhile keep going up – by as much as 15 per cent last year, according to the Standard.

From The Blog
26 November 2012

On last Wednesday’s demo, I and three other PhD students marched as the UCL Historians' Bloc. Our placards summoned the spirits of E.P. Thompson and Eric Hobsbawm. It can seem as if raising a smile is the most to hope for from a protest when its manner, timing and location are subject to police permission (last year when the police threatened to use rubber bullets demonstrators responded with: 'If I wanted to get shot I’d play Call of Duty’). Coming down the Embankment I bumped into an undergraduate from the course I teach on the revolutions of 1848. I'd been marking their essays the evening before for approximately £7 an hour. He told me he was one of UCL's delegates to this year's NUS conference. The slogan they chose for the demonstration was: 'Tax the rich to fund education.'

From The Blog
5 July 2012

The only football ticket I’ve ever bought a from a tout was for the FA Cup semi-final between Manchester City and United at Wembley last year. It cost me more than a third of my monthly rent. After the tout had satisfied himself that I wasn’t a cop he told me that the ticket was ‘one and a half’ and that I could collect it from his pal. ‘My mate’s in the bookies, ’cause it’s bent round here with the Old Bill.’ In the bookmakers there were horses on the telly, beer in the air, and football on everyone’s lips. A thin man with an unlit cigarette in his mouth gave me a ticket in a Club Wembley branded envelope, and I handed over £150.

From The Blog
18 November 2011

‘Welcome to the Hathersage Folk Train,’ the woman with a clipboard called out as we pulled away from Manchester Piccadilly. ‘Is there anyone with us who hasn’t been on the Folk Train before?’ A few hands went up. ‘The Full Circle Folk Club are going to play for us all the way to Hathersage and then we’ll all go down to the pub and –’ Someone interrupted to ask if we’d be stopping at Dore. ‘Nobody panic, this is a normal train to Sheffield!’ The band started playing.

From The Blog
30 September 2011

Their proposed route would have led them past the labour exchange, but, as the leader of the procession wheeled to the right towards a side street, the policemen in front about faced and formed a cordon. The column halted: drum and bell were silenced. The organiser stepped forward desirous of an explanation, receiving scant courtesy of the inspector, who, pointing his stick down the road and staring elsewhere than at the man to whom his remarks were addressed, said: ‘Keep straight on.’... The police farther down the line behaved strategically, breaking up the column into several small portions, preventing further augmentation of the crowd blocking the roadway higher up. The Battle of Bexley Square took place on 1 October 1931,

From The Blog
8 August 2011

From Josephine Avenue the first sign that something was up was the sound of a helicopter overhead just after midnight. A Telegraph journalist tweeted that ‘youths’ were throwing bricks and bottles at police. I walked up to Brixton High Street to have a look. Shops near the station like H&M and Vodafone had already been looted and the JD Sports was on fire, with flames spreading to the Foot Locker nextdoor.

At about 1 a.m. a group of teenagers managed to lift up the metal shutter of the Gamesmaster on the corner of Ferndale Road and the high street, attacking the window just off the high street out of sight of the police. There were shouts of ‘quick, quick’, but the police didn’t move and possibly didn’t realise immediately what was happening. One boy of about 14 stood at the corner with his thumb up to signal it was OK to carry on. The smoke from the burning shops was getting thicker and blowing towards us, and the rain was getting heavier.

From The Blog
8 July 2011

‘At first I treated you as not an idiot, out of politeness,’ Slavoj Žižek said to Julian Assange last weekend, ‘but more and more I have to admit that you are not an idiot.’ Žižek and Assange were on stage at the Troxy in East London, watched by a crowd of nearly 2000 people who had paid £25 each for a ticket. If Assange changes his mind about not publishing his memoirs, he won’t be short of readers. Amy Goodman, chairing the discussion, asked Assange to respond to Joe Biden’s accusation that he is a ‘high-tech terrorist’. As Assange floundered, Žižek stepped in. ‘You are a terrorist,’ he said, ‘but in the sense that Gandhi is a terrorist.’ He quoted Brecht: ‘What is robbing a bank, compared to founding a new bank? If you are a terrorist, what are then they who accuse you of terrorism?’ Assange looked grateful.

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