page contents

Roy Bailey (1935- ) is an English singer/songwriter.

“For 20 years I have done nothing but sing songs. In the songs I choose, I believe I am continuing the political work in which I have always been involved, either as a teacher, a lecturer, an academic or a folk singer. In fact, sometimes the two worlds—of folk singing and social work—overlap. I was in Australia some years ago when a young woman came up and asked ‘are you the same Roy Bailey who produced the book entitled , Radical social work?’ I said I was. She asked if I would be in town for the next couple of days. When I said I would, she replied ‘good, I’ll come with my book for you to sign tomorrow.’ I was flattered and surprised! This exchange leads me to ask, what was it about that book that made it so popular and left such an imprint? Looking back, radical social work was formed out of events at the end of the 1960s. In 1968 I was invited to attend the initial conference known as The York Symposium. We were a group of criminologists and Social Theorists, critical of the positivistic approaches to the study of crime and delinquency that dominated such studies at the time. We eventually morphed into the National Deviancy Conference. We met regularly at York University hosted by Laurie Taylor and the Department of Sociology. We listened to many excellent presentations from sociologists and criminologists, including Stuart Hall, Laurie, Stan Cohen and others. These were exciting times. After some time many of the participants argued that while listening to these albeit interesting contributions, we really were only talking to ourselves and not engaging with the world around us. Many responded by focusing their research agendas on problems and policies of the ‘real world’. Some, like Jock Young, became involved in the ‘new criminology’. Mike Brake and I turned our attention to social welfare and social work. In 1967 I moved to Bradford University from Enfield College of Technology—which was, in many ways developing quite radical approaches to course development. At Bradford I was in a building shared by various departments of social science, including social work. The building was a ‘shell’ divided into prefabricated rooms with very thin walls! In my room, I was struck by the number of times I heard arguments between social work tutors and students—about the world in which we lived, about the politics of the new movements (for example, Case Con or Squatters) or the various models of social work within which students were expected to operate but with which they disagreed. And I was astonished by the number of times, it seemed to me, such disagreements were turned against the student with the words ‘have you always had a problem with authority?’ I thought this quite shocking. This was the 1960s; everything was questioned and nothing was taken for granted. So the idea that social work students couldn’t question the ideas and theories of lecturing staff just struck me as unacceptable. I thought it would be helpful if students in this situation could quote from a social work reader. In the academic world it would give their ideas a degree of validity and, if nothing else, it would let them know that there were academics who shared their general outlook. To assert ‘as so and so says’ gave a degree of legitimacy to an argument. I invited Mike Brake to join me and we wrote a piece that was to become the Introduction to the book…. What we did was legtimise the notion that we could criticize the psychodynamic model or framework that dominated social work theory and practice. Mike and I were concerned to locate that theory and practice within the wider context of a political economy. We raised the idea that it was possible for people to resist being stigmatised by social services, and to resist poverty being blamed on poor people. We hoped that social work in its understanding and practice might provide assistance to the victims of the worst excesses of a capitalist economy. We wrote, as the closing sentence in our introduction, ‘we hope that the recipients of social work will themselves oppose stigma and stereotyping and resist all authoritarian attempts by the state to undermine their dignity.’ I like to think that this is something which I continue to present in my solo concerts…. In a world of growing inequality, welfare cuts, war and racism there has to be a space for social work that has, at its heart, a commitment to social justice, meeting human need and equality.”

—Roy Bailey, Foreword, Radical Social Work Today: Social Work at the Crossroads (2011)

The Ant and the Grasshopper (with Leon Rosselson)
The World Turned Upside Down (with Leon Rosselson)

Leave a comment: