After facing a traumatic redundancy process from April to June 2021, in July I gave my public support to a new campaign to Save British Archaeology. This post documents the character and scale of that involvement and links to my principal tweets on the subject. I reflect on the wider implications regarding the discipline’s reaction to this campaign set up to fulfil an important and much-needed task: to campaign against cuts and closures in UK HE Archaeology.
The recent report in thePipeline makes for essential reading for the UK archaeology community in response to an unprecedented time of crisis affecting the provision of Archaeology in UK Higher Education. I agreed to be named as a quoted source and likewise I agreed to be interviewed by Andy Brockman and Marc Barkman-Astles for Watching Brief. In both regards, I do so because of the severity of the subject and the ongoing and wider ramifications of what transpired in July and August 2021.
Both article and video report on an attempt to undermine the campaign set up by Chris Whitwood (hereafter CW) within only a few weeks of its inception. To begin, let’s introduction CW.
CW is not a professional archaeologist and never claimed to be. From the few conversations, I can confirm he has experience with, and contacts through, political campaigning and that he loves archaeology.
CW’s was set to lobby specifically against closures and cuts in UK HE archaeology with good intentions, having sought advice from those who had been prominent in the defence of UK academic archaeology in the months leading up to July 2021.
Within weeks, CW had already appeared in more public venues and the media talking about the future of the academic discipline than our celebrity professionals and academics had mustered in combination. His approach towards the benefits of archaeology has been positive and constructive. Moreover, it is my experience that CW has been happy to take advice.
However, it seems his existence has been seen as a threat to some within UK archaeology. Reacting to criticism and insinuations involving a host of individuals including representatives of the CBA, UAUK and the Dig for Archaeology campaign, in late August CW decided to suspend his campaign. However, this leaves us with questions about the ethics and behaviours at play in UK archaeology.
I want to begin by outlining my role and contributions.
The timeline of events
I had no previous experience at campaigning. However, from April through to June 2021, I’d worked hard with colleagues to support my union (UCU) to campaign against proposed cuts to a range of academic depts and support units across the University of Chester. In those three months, with the help of colleagues, I created new website, email account, social media accounts, a petition, and lobbied for support. Check out the Archaeology Chester website for posts and links. Colleagues and I were extremely grateful for support from many in the UK and global archaeological communities (see below). During this time I became aware of the broader threats unfolding in UK academic archaeology and began contributing to support for Sheffield’s Department of Archaeology when shocking news of its closure was announced.
CW introduced himself on 26 June 2021. By this point, I already knew jobs were ‘safe’ at Chester following the stressful and exhausting 3 month campaign. I responded to CW because I had gained some limited experience in campaigning which had garnered not insubstantial public support. I’d already offered support to the broader and still-new Dig for Archaeology campaign and I could see the potential for a focused initiative in response specifically to the situation in UK HE. As stated above, by this time, Sheffield had announced it was closing its department, and as a former undergraduate of that very department, I wanted to do all I could to help to translate the momentum and successful strategies learned for the Chester campaign to other institutions through targeted lobbying as well as broader advocacy.
I had a series of Twitter DM exchanges with CW at the end of June and early July. I was enthused by his ideas for how best to campaign against academic cuts and closures. Moreover, I saw the potential of multiple benefits in someone with political experience from outside the profession having some involvement in supporting UK academic archaeology.
On 30 June CW shared with me his soon-to-be published letter in Current Archaeology about ‘Shutting Sheffield is a Shame’.
Between 2 and 8 July, CW and I exchanged a few further messages in which he shared his draft website and I offered some constructive suggestions, mainly tweaks to the wording.
On 9 July, I contributed to a digital rally in support of #SaveSheffieldArchaeology, sharing my experiences of Chester, reflections on the broader challenges UK academic archaeology faces, and expressing my solidarity.
The Save British Archaeology website went live on 28 July when CW confirmed he had secured the support of Professor Umberto Albarella of the University of Sheffield among others. I agreed to have my name listed among the supporters and I provided a quote and a photograph of myself.
I was delighted to see a range of other academic archaeologist willing to add their names beyond the ‘usual suspect’ celebrities. I gave CW some further suggestions of who else might be approached.
This same day, on 28 July, I was then approached by a non-academic archaeologist, wishing to know what Save British Archaeology was about and whether its existence would cause ‘confusion’ in relation to the Dig for Archaeology campaign.
Also that day, a representative of the CBA got in touch on behalf of its director, Neil Redfern, wondering if CW’s campaign was ‘legit’.
On 30 July, another archaeologist reached out also expressing ‘concerns’ about Save British Archaeology.
Then on 3 August a fourth archaeologist got in touch with me, telling me they had been contacted with ‘concerns’ about Save British Archaeology, explicitly telling me these ‘concerns’ came from two named sources: Dig for Archaeology’s David Connelly and the Council for British Archaeology’s director: Neil Redfern.
In each case, I explained the character scale of my involvement honestly, and my view that the two campaigns (D4A and SBA) had different foci and did not ‘clash’ or introduce confusion. Likewise, each was different from the specific campaign being run for Sheffield (and also the same applies to that soon to be started at Worcester): each had different aims which did not cause ‘confusion’. I saw all these initiatives as positive developments. I made clear I was supporting all these discrete campaigns, and I encouraged each ‘concerned individual’ to contact CW directly with any questions and to register their support. CW’s contact details were on the SBA website and he was on Twitter. Two of the individuals above made individual decisions to put their names to the SBA campaign.
All went quiet then until CW got in touch on 11 August to let me know he had secured an interview with Times Higher Education (THE) to discuss his campaign and the situation in UK academic archaeology.
On 18 August CW and I were in brief contact regarding the sad news that Worcester had announced it was closing its Archaeology staff and programmes. CW got in touch with BBC Hereford and Worcester and spoke out about the Worcester situation, being quoted on BBC News which appeared 22 August.
On 23 August, The Past announced the SBA campaign launch.
On 24 August, Chris’s interview in THE was published by Matthew Reisz.
At the same time, I learned that Worcester’s Dr Jodie Lewis had put her name to his campaign alongside Umberto, myself and group of other professional and academic archaeologists, plus Members of Parliament from across the political spectrum.
On 24 August, CW also indicated he was moving ahead with contacting MPs whose constituencies had Universities with archaeology units/depts across the UK. I offered some brief advice on potential gaps and the different characters and scales of Archaeology provision at these different institutions.
All seemed to be going very well in circumstances which fully justified the necessity of the campaign – with first Sheffield, then Worcester, planning full closure of its archaeology core provision.
But then CW asked me something else in confidence: whether I knew much about the Dig for Archaeology campaigners. CW confirmed he had previously been in touch with them but that they had stated that they didn’t require his help. Incidentally, D4A gave a similar response to my own independent offer of support, and I’ve learned that the same response was given to others who offered their names and support to D4A. There was nothing wrong in that beyond uncertainty regarding who was deemed an appropriate supporter for D4A and who was not. What was concerning, however, was that CW confided that he had noticed that at least one of them had blocked him on social media despite having no previous contact with the individual. CW was very concerned that, as a non-professional, he didn’t want to ‘ruffle feathers’. I had warned CW of the factional nature of the archaeology sector, so I reiterated this point, although I had no idea why individuals involved in a public campaign would block others with whom they hadn’t interacted with. This was the first point I started to become concerned that something odd was going on at a time when all archaeologists should have been focused on supporting and defending efforts to save Sheffield and Worcester’s archaeology staff and programmes.
It was for this reason that I then spoke on the telephone to CW for the first time – to find out more about him and his plans. On 26 August, we talked, mainly about his personal background and career, as well as his passion for archaeology. I was assured by this candid conversation that his motives were genuine and his plans were relatively modest, realistic and well-considered.
Then, I was contacted by Neil Redfern (NR) of the CBA directly, following up on his representative’s communication a month earlier. Again, I was asked whether I had news on whether CW and his campaign were ‘legitimate’. Following up with a phone conversation on the morning of the 27 August, I took the opportunity to thank NR for his organisation’s rapid and vocal support regarding the situation at Chester in the spring/early summer. I expressed my enthusiasm for offering my help and support with the broader UK situation moving forward. NR expressed concerns about the Save British Archaeology campaign and indicated he would be talking to Professor Chris Gerrard, chair of University Archaeology UK (UAUK) and others, to explore these concerns further. Specifically, NR asked whether I was ‘comfortable’ being so prominently associated with Save British Archaeology. I replied: ‘yes’. I encouraged him to talk directly to CW.
I went through with the plan already in place to speak with CW for a second time on 27 August since our conversation the previous day had ended abruptly due to CW and I each having other commitments. Whereas in the first talk we had almost exclusively talked about CW’s back story, in this second conversation we discussed CW’s strategy for the campaign, all of which seemed reasonable and nothing which could compromise other initiatives across the sector.
It was that day that I also saw the email message from Professor Chris Gerrard (CG) cascaded by my Head of Department, warning the entire UK academic archaeology community of his concerns regarding CW’s campaign and suggesting we shouldn’t talk up a ‘crisis’. Note: this message was not marked as confidential and was shared across 39 Higher Education institutions’ archaeologists.
It was unclear whether CG was writing in a personal capacity, or expressing views shared by the entire UAUK panel. CG explicitly stated in his letter than he was writing having talked to NR of the CBA about the matter. I infer from this that the CBA and UAUK had shared information and agreed a stance against supporting or associating with Save British Archaeology and both were implying some unsubstantiated wrong-doing on the part of CW and his campaign. Had CG looked at the website of Save British Archaeology before sending out this email, he would have seen that his ‘concerns’ implicated named supporters: not only myself, but also Dr Jodie Lewis (Worcester), Professor Umberto Albarella (Sheffield) and Dr Jim Leary (York) as well as other archaeologists, heritage professionals and politicians.
Also, and it is crucial to add this: NR had by phone indicated his preference for working with Dig for Archaeology moving forward as opposed to Save British Archaeology. Therefore, from this and from the previous communications I’d received, I infer D4A campaigners had been in communication with NR and/or CG and were somehow involved in their agreed stance. In other words, there seems to have been some form of mutual agreement already in place to query and oppose Save British Archaeology involving multiple individuals and organisations, prompting NR’s communications and then CG’s email.
CW had confirmed to me that neither NR nor CG, or anyone else for that matter, had contacted him to express concerns directly. Instead, UAUK went public with their ‘concerns’ regarding the SBA campaign to the entire UK HE archaeology community.
I had queried in our second telephone conversation why CW had not contacted UAUK himself; his response was that their profile was not prominent on social media or in the media and he had not realised they were involved in campaigning.
Given UAUK’s stance had already been circulated to every academic archaeologist in the UK, my response to CG’s email took the form of a Twitter thread you can read below. The day after, a different UAUK panel member got in touch to request I do not orchestrate a ‘pile-on’ but instead to wait on a reply in due course from UAUK because many of them were on holiday. I assured that individual that I had no intention of orchestrating a ‘pile-on’ against anyone and I dutifully stayed quiet and awaited a response. I concede I got increasingly frustrated by the silence. Still, I’d hoped to receive an apology for the treatment of CW, and by association, the disrespect and defamation afforded to me and others who had publicly supported his campaign in good faith, especially those at Sheffield and Worcester. I hoped this might lead to a constructive way forward. A reply never transpired.
I believe it was only in my second conversation with CW that I first heard about his plan to accept an invitation to appear on GB News in his capacity as director of Save British Archaeology. I made clear my reservations. However, CW saw part of his role in leading a campaign to answer media requests. He made clear to me that this might lead to further media invitations and built on his existing track record of appearing in various media venues including BBC News and in the THE as recorded above. In any case, my priority was to request in all sincerity that he did not say anything about the negative reactions he had experienced in the previous 24 hours. He assured me he would not despite being surprised and upset by the communications. In the interview with Neil Oliver, CW expressed clear, positive and constructive arguments in defence of the value of Archaeology as an academic discipline. CW robustly countered some of Oliver’s problematic statements regarding the nature of the academic archaeology community.
After the GB News interview there was a backlash on Twitter objecting to the venue and host but also questioning ‘who CW was’ and his qualifications in representing UK Archaeology. Notably, this response was led by Dig for Archaeology’s Dr Tess Machling (responsible at the time for D4A’s social media posts). Reactions included several tirades of rude and dismissive comments from other UK archaeologists and false accusation that I was Save British Archaeology’s ‘main’ supporter and thus imply that I was somehow therefore implicated in CW’s campaign and presumably also his choice to accept an invitation to appear on GB News.
I expressed to Chris that he needed to make a decision on how to respond. CW made the decision to lock his Twitter account until things had resolved and awaited an opportunity to discuss the future with Neil Redfern at the CBA: a meeting that later happened and did not go positively from CW’s perspective.
After further exchanges, CW and I agreed I should withdraw my support, and many others who had been happy to be named on the SBA website also requested their association be withdrawn.
Since at least two individuals who were actively involved in Dig for Archaeology had clearly been active in criticising Save British Archaeology, I decided to publicly withdraw my support from both D4A and SBA until things had resolved themselves. Hitherto, I considered myself supporting these two different but complementary campaigns in equal measure, having previously volunteered to support D4A in June as stated above (communicating privately with both Dr Tess Machling and Dr Chloe Duckworth).
Still, I decided I had to retain support for colleagues facing redundancy and their specific campaigns for Worcester and Sheffield. So, I continued making efforts on their behalf, including writing a first and second time to Worcester’s Vice-Chancellor having previously written to Sheffield’s.
Subsequently, as mentioned above, I talked to the author of thePipeline article, Andy Brockman, and agreed to being quoted in his piece since I felt this was a deeply troubling and divisive experience: upsetting for me but also worrying for the academic discipline’s governance and future. Likewise, I agreed to appear on Watching Brief to talk to both Andy Brockman and Marc Barkman-Astles.
I reiterate again: I had offered my support to Dig for Archaeology and #SaveSheffieldArchaeology in June in good faith, and then in July, also in good faith, I lent my name and some modest advice to #SaveArchaeologyAtWorcester and CW’s campaign. There was never a time when these initiatives were in existence when I supported one and not the others.
Yet, given this surprising pushback, it felt as if all my modest efforts to support the UK academic archaeology sector were being undermined and denigrated. More upsetting too was to see UK archaeologists attacking a campaign that had Worcester and Sheffield academics on the ticket at a time that was nothing short of an unprecedented crisis and both departments were closing down.
To repeat myself but to be absolutely explicit: at that point I had no choice but to withdraw my support from both Dig for Archaeology and the Campaign to Save British Archaeology and I have not been a supporter of either since.
What were the objections all about?
I’ve had no clear and convincing explanation regarding the motives of those expressing concerns and I do not find the claims reported in thePipeline that the motives for publicly expressing ‘concerns’ was about ‘due diligence’. Other campaigns were not subjected to the same or similar treatments.
Objections to CW not being an archaeology academic or professional raised by CG’s email and on social media are a spurious reason for querying his capability to campaign for UK academic archaeology. Archaeologists in academia work with so many amateurs and enthusiasts and across disciplines; it would be shocking had there not been a desire and expertise outside of the academic archaeology discipline itself to campaign for its survival!
Equally, claims on social media that CW plagiarised the Dig for Archaeology website are without a basis to my knowledge; similarities arise from the fact that CW had researched the issue and had consulted with leading academics regarding its contents.
Likewise, the accusations and insinuations raised by CG in his letter regarding donations and governance are without foundation, and concerning the latter ironically apply to UAUK itself which has no details on its website regarding its own governance.
CG’s concerns regarding a ‘fragmented picture of lobbying and advocacy’ is certainly valid and important. However, it might be questioned whether a ‘single voice’ is essential on all fronts. Furthermore, in the absence of any publicly articulated strategy by UAUK or anyone else, it is possible that a ‘fragmented picture’ exists outwith SBA. Moreover, it is is difficult to understand why this concern is levelled exclusively at the SBA campaign and in this context.
So what else might have been going on?
Clearly, rumours and objections about CW’s emerging campaign had been circulating through back channels at the very end of July and through August 2021, evidenced by those who reached out to me. It is clear from this timeline that the GB News event, while prompting genuine anger and frustration regarding the host and venue, also gave the opportunity for those who already disapproved of CW to attempt to scupper the SBA campaign.
I can but speculate as to why CW was greeted with suspicion and then outward hostility. Was it (a) fear of the unknown? (we all tend to be suspicious of someone outside our existing real-world and digital networks; (b) a sense of shame that the entire sector had managed less than CW had achieved in a few weeks in defence of UK HE archaeology; (c) a fear of loss of power: a sense that CW might be competing with organisations, campaigns and individuals who wished to maintain their positions as the principal defenders of the discipline; (d) maintaining the power balance within the academic discipline itself since, by criticising CW and those who in good faith put their name to his campaign, it served to put those archaeologists at risk of losing their jobs at Chester, Sheffield and Worcester back in their place?
But there is, of course an (e): This must be set against the background of workloads spiralling, pay declining in real terms, inequality in the workplace including pay on gender, disability and racial grounds, and stark exploitation via casualisation, academic archaeology in the UK is in crisis with a dip in student recruitment. Academic archaeology is being marketised for decades, embroiled in the ‘culture war’ stoked by the Tory government and the discipline being targeted by extremist voices on both the left and right of UK politics. It is possible in this polarised context that some archaeologists see this as a moment of opportunity to oversee the culling of the UK academic sector of unwanted elements?
Whatever the precise motives, and indeed there might have not been anything approaching a rationalisation along these suggested lines or any others, the message and warning was clear: the official archaeological organisations were claiming to have ‘got it covered’.
Now, for me, this would be fine if they had! After all, I have limited campaigning, lobbying and advocacy experience and I’d be delighted if the experts took up the baton. However, I have seen little tangible evidence that UK HE archaeologists are in communication and collaboration with each other to agree a plan for what comes next. Certainly no one but CW had been in touch with me to discuss the current situation and future developments. For while Chester’s archaeologists are currently safe thanks to sustained campaigning and public support, as well as tough negotiations by our union (UCU), Sheffield and Worcester are closing down and I fear next year will see more of the same at other institutions and little by way of cross-institutional and organisational support for those affected.
The future: is there hope for UK Academic Archaeology?
This is undoubtedly a disappointing and demoralising moment for UK academic archaeology when we sorely need to focus on securing a future for our discipline.
In that regard, I wish to finish on a more positive reflection.
In the weeks after I started campaigning for myself and colleagues at Chester, in April 2021, I was overwhelmed by the kindness, concern, guidance, insights, enthusiasm and dedication of the many academic and other archaeologists, across the UK and across the globe. So many stood up and were counted as our supporters. Many individual archaeologists, celebrities, professionals and amateurs of high standing and reputation wrote in our support when we requested it. Among these we were very grateful to gain the support of leading organisations, including the Society of Antiquaries of London, the Council for British Archaeology, and the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists, as well as many other big names and critical voices.
Thousands upon thousands signed our petition because they love archaeology and heritage, because they love these islands, Chester’s multiple ‘regions’ and Chester itself, because they love our teaching and research, and they want to see the retention of expertise and excellence for the benefit of current and future generations. Past students, present students, former co-workers, colleagues, family, friends, all lent a hand. Government and museum archaeologists, commercial and amateur archaeologists, and those with a range of other careers and expertise all voiced their support on social media, on our petition and when asked wrote in our support. I’m grateful to them one and all!
Most importantly, we won!
But the crisis was not averted. Indeed, Mike Pitts of the CBA’s magazine British Archaeology for Sept/Oct 2021 accurately called it with his headline and editorial: this is a time of crisis and there was (and is) a ‘sense of doom’. We cannot deny it. Everyone knew it and knows it.
And if one is looking for ‘talking up’ a crisis (as CG put it in his letter to all 39 member institutions’ representatives of UAUK), the front cover of British Archaeology magazine speaks volumes. This is a photograph of students looking grim and bleak with their masks on, sitting on a spoil heap to hammer home the uncertain times we find ourselves in. Clearly the words ‘The crisis facing the profession’ can be seen below, with the rather off-putting heading ‘Who would be an archaeologist?’ I cannot confirm whether NR of the CBA and CG of UAUK were in contact directly with British Archaeology‘s editor, or instead circulated an email to the entire HE sector, expressing concerns regarding his editorship in ‘talking up’ a crisis: I didn’t see those communications and I suspect they don’t exist.
Within this same issue of British Archaeology, the lede for Dr Chloe Duckworth’s (hereafter CD) piece, presumably also written by Mike Pitts, mentions an ‘uncertain future’ and that CD saw it as ‘time to make a stand’. How is any of this messaging in contradiction to the reality we have all perceived and the motives and tone of the SBA campaign, other than that SBA was focused specifically on the University situation rather than broader parallel challenges and concerns?
She goes on to say ‘We need to send a clear message that archaeology matters’. Of course CD had co-founded and represented the academic side of the Dig for Archaeology campaign. They called it accurately when their website, established in May 2021, which claimed there was a ‘cycle of decline’ at work and ‘a perfect storm of threats’
In other words, archaeologists within and beyond the academy started to take notice and speak out in 2021 and use this language. Folks across the globe showed their support and looked for leadership. We started something that should, and I hope will, continue and evolve for the good of the discipline, its practitioners, and wider publics in the UK and further afield. This was not the time to fear ‘bad publicity’ by ‘talking up a crisis’ for UK HE archaeology by objecting to cuts and closures: this was a time to stand up and be counted!
Indeed, despite pressures to stay quiet and ‘leave it to the big organisations’, including a demonstrable sense looking through their Twitter timeline that D4A has also been nobbled to ensure it is merely promoting ‘good news’ stories, in my view there’s no going back to complacency and silence. I still have hope that those involved will take note, reflect, admit we have collectively missed significant opportunities over the last 8 months, and sort out some (any) plan for what’s coming next. It is not too late!
Furthermore, the Save British Archaeology campaign hasn’t gone away. It is currently suspended, but it retains potential as distinctive from, but complementary to, D4A and others. Hence, I believe there remains the option of reviving this initiative as part of a series of interleaving voices speaking in a robust and responsible way for the discipline’s future. Some aspects can be distinctive, other voices can be in coordination and unison with the activities of other organisations. There is room for specific campaigns within our shared overarching goals! I understand CW would be keen to discuss moving forward with any academic archaeologists willing to contact him to take this forward. His email is on the SBA website but I copy it here for convenience: Email: email@example.com
I believe if we change course in coming weeks, there might be still hope to contend with what might happen next academic year in UK HE archaeology. Yet, time is running out and some have actively or inadvertently facilitated its running out! As CD says in British Archaeology: ‘we need to work together with a common vision – and not shy from addressing failings’. Also, she says: ‘archaeologists must unite if we are to defend ourselves’. I fully agree with both these statements, and I believe there might still be a promising future for UK academic archaeology if we are willing to fight for it.
For my part, I wait on a formal apology from UAUK and others in the sector who took this as an opportunity to scupper CW’s campaign and in doing so to impugn my academic reputation rather than focus their attention on campaigning to save the academic discipline. After that, I hope I can begin to take stock regarding any future roles I might wish to take on associated with campaigning, lobbying or advocacy in UK academic archaeology.
My thread on Save British Archaeology, 27 August 2021
THREAD: On 1 July @CurrentArchaeo magazine published this impassioned, clear and succinct letter written to object to the shocking news Sheffield was closing its Dept of Archaeology #SaveSheffieldArchaeology
2/ The author of the letter – @Chris_Whitwood – is a lifelong archaeology enthusiast and Fellow of the RSA with experience of campaigning. Concerned about the threats faced to the study of Archaeology in UK HE, Chris got in touch to request my help & support.
3/ Context: I was one of the Archaeology & Heritage staff at risk of redundancy April-June 2021 @ArchaeologyChe1 & I’d repeatedly made clear publicly that the campaigns against cuts at Chester & closure at Sheffield were symptoms of bigger threats
4/ Grateful of the superb support received from colleagues, students & the general public for our plight at Chester, I’ve continued to use my social media platform to campaign with UCU in support of Archaeology + other disciplines at Sheffield @ChesterUcu @sheffielducu @ucu
5/ I’ve shown support to other disciplines under attack as with the shock debacle at Leicester @leicesterucu and now sadly also Archaeology at the University of Worcester @saveworcsarch #SaveArchaeologyAtWorcester
6/ So when @Chris_Whitwood stated his intention to initiate a focused campaign against cuts on UK HE Archaeology, I committed my full support. I explained the Chester situation to Chris and how we had successfully seen off compulsory redundancies with @ChesterUcu
7/ I was pleased & proud to be asked by @Chris_Whitwood to provide my name, photograph & a quotation expressing my opposition to cuts in UK HE Archaeology programmes. The Campaign to Save British Archaeology was launched on 27 July 2021 https://www.savearchaeology.co.uk/news/campaign-launch
8/ I tweeted my support 31 July 2021
9/ Since then, the campaign has built momentum, complementing the activities of both the broader campaign @ForArchaeology and specific campaigns notably @saveworcsarch, with Chris lending support via the media, e.g. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hereford-worcester-58297752
12/ So I was shocked to learn yesterday that Prof Chris Gerrard, Head of University Archaeology UK
@UAUK_Matters has written to their representatives across UK HE expressing ‘concerns’ about the Save British Archaeology campaign without having first contacted
13/ I’m disappointed that this letter, now shared via email around every academic archaeologist in the UK, not only snubs @Chris_Whitwood but publicly undermines the campaign he set up. I note at least one academic has already withdrawn as a direct result.
14/ Also, I feel the letter indirectly but explicitly aims criticism at those, like me, who have offered support to the Campaign to Save British Archaeology in good faith.
15/ I urge all archaeologists to read Professor Gerrard’s unfortunate email and the public statement in response by the Director of the Campaign to Save British Archaeology @Chris_Whitwood https://www.savearchaeology.co.uk/news/correspondence-between-campaign-to-save-british-archaeology-and-uauk
16/ It’s not for me to counter every ‘concern’ raised as it’s not my campaign! Still, the pitch of the Campaign to Save British Archaeology claiming our discipline is ‘under threat’ is clear & appropriate, it doesn’t mention a ‘crisis’!
17/ I hope we can move beyond this unfortunate moment. We must support fellow academics, our students and the discipline across the UK and beyond. I’m confident a public apology will be forthcoming from @UAUK_Matters
18/ @Chris_Whitwood isn’t a professional or academic archaeologist, but he deserves our courtesy, respect & gratitude for his initiative & endeavours thus far. I understand he’s open & willing to work with us all moving forward, incl.
@ForArchaeology @archaeologyuk @UAUK_Matters
19/ For my part, I have remained open to communications with anyone in UK Archaeology who wishes my support and advice. Our focus should be on our common goals of opposing cuts and closures in UK HE, whether we are academics, professionals or amateurs.
20/ The fate of Worcester & Sheffield & threats of cuts elsewhere must be our shared & steadfast concern. There should be no time for in-fighting or unhelpful baseless insinuations.
21/ If attitudes & behaviours don’t shift soon & quickly, I fear the ‘under threat’ status of Archaeology in UK HE reflected most recently by cuts/closures/threats to Manchester, Bangor, Hull, Chester, Sheffield & now Worcester will indeed become a crisis!
22/ I’m hopeful things can be resolved as the campaign website reads: ‘Update: University Archaeology UK has since responded to the email below and both organisation are now in communication about how best to cooperate on this important issue.’
Response to the GB News backlash from 28 August 2021
After a miserable 3 months facing the sack Apr-June, I’ve tried my utmost to support campaigns elsewhere against cuts & closures in UK HE Archaeology incl. Sheffield & Worcester. I fear there’s more to come. So, I’m very sad to read how this now being narrated. That’s all for now
Here’s a link to a thread in which I outline my (limited) involvement in the SBA campaign and how it has been effectively torpedoed behind the scenes by the discipline it set out to support long before the interview which caused outrage last week
For the record, I was never SBA’s ‘main’ or indeed ‘only’ supporter. Given last week’s dismal kerfuffle, I’ve decided to remove my association & support from SBA and all other campaigns I’ve been supporting until this mess gets sorted out. One exception: @saveworcsarch
Note: I subsequently added a qualification that I also would continue to support #SaveSheffieldArchaeology.
Follow up thread, 16 September 2021
Sadly, after nearly 3 weeks, I’m unaware of any resolution to this sad, embarrassing and tawdry state of affairs for UK academic archaeology.
Here’s my follow up statement withdrawing from supporting campaigns beyond @saveworcsarch
and (sorry I forgot to add) #SaveSheffieldArchaeology, both of whom require our ongoing love & support regardless of the demeaning behaviours of others in UK HE.
I’m undecided whether documenting this situation would be best suited to an additional Twitter thread, or instead a blog-post, a YouTube video or a series of TikTok videos. Or maybe all of them combined. Or maybe I approach the media. What do you think?
I mean, it almost seems as if folks think I will ‘go away’ if they keep ignoring me. Sorry, but I’m not going anywhere and this won’t get sorted until folks start acting like mature reasonable adults.
So, I’m still waiting on that apology from UAUK and Chris Gerrard…
Further reference to the unresolved situation, 31 October 2021
Archaeologists in the UK: academic archaeology departments and programmes are being closed down!
Archaeologists also in the UK: that’s sad but some awards, a fresh website and positive thinking can wish it all away!
This is not to mention efforts at crisis-denial, victim-blaming, orchestrated dirty tricks, media disengagement and lack of any consultation let alone concerted campaigning strategy. A truly dismal state of affairs after 6 months.
Obviously, I don’t have all or any of the answers, but I have learned a great deal over the last 6 months about how UK Archaeology has been operating and where it is heading. I’ve tried my utmost to stay positive, but I predicted Oct/Nov 2021 would be the critical juncture…
And for the record, since I learn some folks are happy to perpetuate the misinformation: Chester hasn’t closed and isn’t closing any programmes or its departments. Thank you.