As myself and Mr Kelly arrived in Liverpool after our long-haul flight from Belfast it hit me that I was extremely calm. There was a peacefulness about me that belayed the event that was a ’bout’ to unfold. We laughed and joked with the Liverpool cabbie about ripping Belfast tourists off and promised to call him with future business over the coming days – we didn’t. The taxi cost £15 into the City Centre the bus cost £3 and is every half hour for future reference.
We went straight to the conference venue and are met by two gorgeous young women from Liverpool who greeted us and the whole conference with what can only be described as ‘loveliness.’ Seriously guys. Rachel and Steph you are fabulous. Liverpool was already starting tot live up to it’s reputation. The obligatory caffeine fix was acquired as the phone rings. “Where are you” as I walk round the corner and bump into one of the loves of my life Toni Wood. As per, we pick up where we left off and get cracking on discussing our up and coming paper at The European Group Conference also in Liverpool this September. Toni insist I meet a guy called Dave Honeywell. Ten minutes later Dave and I are shaking hands and chatting about why we are here. “Do you fancy a pint after lunch?” he said “Why not.” Says I. After all we are in Liverpool and the sun is putting an added cheeriness to my soul.
This year I decided to mix business with pleasure as I’m to old and unseasoned to this late night malarkey and knew there was no way under the sun I’d be able to do it. Improvise and a adapt I thought. So I pick one 100% panel I must attend each day. I attend a Panel chaired by Mr Kelly and where Toni is also presenting. This is the first time I’ve seen her in action and am beaming like a Cheshire cat. Toni does not disappoint. Getting access to prison is ridiculous and dare I say it ‘dysfunctional’ or ‘fettered.’ We shouldn’t really be surprised but it does need challenging properly. After all what multi million pound dysfunctional industry/system want to reduce the meat and two veg of it’s existence – namely it’s dysfunctional nature and the criminalised defunctee’s of society. I’m now satisfied that I’m not alone in this academic world and true to our word Dave and I meet up in the Cavern Club a few hours later.
We discuss our relevant inclement past’s and where this has led us. Where has it led us? Sitting in the Cavern Club in Liverpool that’s where. Two rogues and at one stage or another of our lives not very nice or good people, supping cider watching a train of people from all over the globe who stare in awe of the Beatles and discussing the benefits of delivering Higher Education to a prison system. I mean seriously, who’d have ever thought we’d be sitting here doing this fifteen years ago? I mean fucking seriously!
I suppose, that’s what it’s all about for me. This change. Change, is everywhere constant and fleeting. What we do now is important to us now and it is also relevant to how we can become part of history. I’m not in this for fame or glory or kudos. I want a better/safer society where my nieces and nephews and possibly one day little Michaels’ or Michelle’s live without fear, have peace in their hearts and respect for their fellow citizens as their core values.
I still had a couple of my panic attacks, although they are no where near as frequent as this time last year. Crowds and noise and tiredness are triggers. Also excitement and adrenalin can set them off. So conferences are a bit of a minefield for me. I often ask people why there is so much literature on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Suicide, Recidivism post release as a direct result of the ‘Duty Of Care’ provided by the state. Historically, we have The Church, Care Homes, Celebrities, MP’s. et al under investigation for sexual, physical and mental abuse yet prison alludes this scrutiny as after all this is what we all deserve and what is delivered to in the name of society if we fuck up, make a mistake and or break a rule/law.
Jessica Bird, delivered an unbelievable paper on the protests available to prisoners. It was about ‘shit’ basically. The power of the stool as a final weapon of choice. It blew my mind. Jessica blew my mind in more ways than one. In fact, sitting between Jessica Bird and Cara Jardine was one of the highlights of my stay. Not simply because I was in the company of two beautiful women but more to do with with their intensity, their power, their intellect and their searching probing minds, their desire to know and to understand why. I only had two pints and left early. Well I mean 11.30pm is way past my bedtime and I simply could not cope with the next day with a hangover. This old dog has a bit of sense and skulked off to his kennel.
I spent the whole of the last morning in the company of Sacha and Andy from British Convict Criminology, I am now part of and intend to promote and defend at every juncture, I listened to Joe Sim, the final word was with him. I’ve just tweeted what I got out of it. Stanley Cohen disagreed with Criminology yet he is one of the most cited people in it. Joe spoke my language. He is force to be reckoned with. I never knew of him but had quoted him a few times. As I’m being honest I thought he was a she so I was surprised from the off. After the event we were joined by Serena Wright and we all went off for coffee and beers and the post mortem of the event was fantastic.
This was the beginning and the end of some friendships and fantasies. This Conference allowed me to learn more about me and how I negotiate this ever changing life we call humanity. There were highs and lows. The low being I burnt a hole in my favourite T-Shirt (sober by the way) as the Hotel Iron was wonky. If that’s the lowest point I haven’t done too bad. The highlight of the BSC Conference that will stay with me for the rest of my life, was when I was sitting in the Cavern listening to renditions of The Beatles. I flicked on to Facebook and saw the pictures of my Brother Richard Irwin receive his BA in Criminology at Queens University Belfast. I can’t say any more than that. See you all soon.