Tribute to Brian Street from Lancaster

Brian was a dear friend and supportive colleague to members of the Literacy Research Centre at Lancaster, going right back to an early seminar here in 1983 where we were building bridges between literacy theory, research and the practice of adult literacy in the UK.

He took part in many key events we organised in Lancaster, including the ‘Worlds of Literacy’ conference in 2000 and ‘Worlds of Literacy revisited’ in 2014. His convivial presence at these events and his steady support in what was, at the beginning, a fragile new movement, was very important to us. Along with so many other areas of literacy research and action, Brian’s work on academic literacies was an inspiration to us. Thanks partly to him, academic literacies became established as an important field in the Lancaster Literacy Research Centre. As editor of the Benjamins series ‘Studies in written language and literacy’ he encouraged and helped Roz to publish Writing and Identity in 1998, which was the springboard for much of our academic literacies research in the years since then. Roz Ivanic says “Thank you, Brian, for those meticulous editorial comments in your much-loved jiggly handwriting.”

He was always ready to discuss ideas with us and as one person recalls “his gentle and friendly manner with everyone, no matter the state of their knowledge and experience, always made me feel part of his discussions.”

Though he held strongly to the principles of critical, rigorous scholarship he wanted his ideas to enter the worlds of literacy policy and practice and he participated with great energy and good humour, in conferences, research and policy forums around the world, patiently articulating the theory of literacy as social practice and searching for ways to apply it.

Brian was a true internationalist and as President of the the British Association for Literacy in Development (BALID) he fostered thoughtful critique and interaction across an incredible diversity of adult literacies teaching and learning, research and other practices across the globe. He worked hard to connect this wider vision to literacy in the UK as well, through his work with the Research and Practice in Adult Literacies group (RaPAL), as a member of its editorial board and writing for its journal.

For many of our students, Brian’s work was key to the theoretical underpinnings of undergraduate study, professional development courses and research degrees. He fundamentally shaped the understanding of a generation of scholars and practitioners in school and adult literacies. His capacity to return the local to its rightful place in educational discourse shifted many people’s worldview and his words are a powerful legacy.

We miss him sorely and his influence will continue for many years to come.

 

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About maryh

Mary Hamilton is Professor of Adult Learning and Literacy in the Department of Educational Research at Lancaster University. She is Associate Director of the Lancaster Literacy Research Centre Co-director of the Centre for Technology Enhanced learning and a founder member of the Research and Practice in Adult Literacy group.

One thought on “Tribute to Brian Street from Lancaster

  1. My favourite memory of Brian isn’t really literacy related … On 25 May 2005 I went down to London to give a talk at King’s College and went out to dinner afterwards with Brian, Ben Rampton, Roxy Harris and various other people. Obviously we were discussing academic topics, but at the same time I was watching my phone under the table for updates from the European Cup Final. Coming from a Liverpool-supporting household, the result of this match was going to be very important, but we held out little hope.

    Predictably, Liverpool went 3-0 down by half time and I focused on the dinner conversation. My attention wavered somewhat, however, in the second half, when Liverpool first got one goal back, then another, and then a third in the space of a few minutes. The tension mounted as we got towards the end of the first 90 minutes, I was paying more and more close attention to my phone and less and less attention to the conversation, and then – extra time!

    While most of the others at the table seemed utterly nonplussed by my interest, Brian leaned over and said “I know a place on the South Bank where we could go and watch extra time, if you like …” So it was thanks to Brian that I actually watched Liverpool win their fifth European Cup (on penalties), in a crowded London sports bar, very exciting and a very treasured memory!

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