Podcast: Mad Studies at 2016 Lancaster Disabilities conference Introduced by Prof Peter Beresford and Dr Brigit McWade

On the 6-8 September 2016 the Lancaster Disability Studies Conference took place at the University of Lancaster.  Having got a sponsored place to attend the conference with a poster presentation, another thing which I did was audio record the conference to add to the Mad World archive as a part of the Ragged University project.

Dolly Sen Mad Studies Stream
Dolly Sen Mad Studies Stream

The Mad World archive and initiative came from the inspiration of the Mad People’s History talks which were given several years ago by Kirsten McLean and Steve Tilley.  These were shared as Ragged talks and opened new horizons onto an emancipatory view of mental health for me.  Finally the voices of people who were subject to medical attentions were being paid attention to.
This podcast and the following series is an attempt to ensure that everyone has access to these important conversations so that they can hear that not all people are agreed on simplistic biomedical models of neurochemical imbalances in the brain.  That there are deep and rich challenges to the veil drawn over sociological perspectives of trauma and deprivation is a medicine in itself. – Alex Dunedin


Lancaster University
Lancaster University

Hanna Morgan

Senior Lecturer at University of Lancaster, and previously working on disability-related research projects at the Social Policy Research Unit (SPRU), University of York and the Centre for Disability Studies at the University of Leeds. Her research has focused on the field of disability studies including the self-organisation and citizenship of disabled people; independent living; welfare and service provision for adult service users; the self-organisation of disabled people and their organisations; disability policy at a UK and European level; and mobility and social capital.
She sits as a member of management committee of the Centre for Disability Reserach (CeDR) which is an interdisciplinary centre drawing together colleagues interested in disability from across Lancaster University and beyond.  She sits as an Executive Editorial board member of the international journal Disability and Society and also on the editorial boards of Social Work Education and Disability Studies Quarterly.

0 minutes 0 seconds

Welcome to Lancaster, my name is Hanna Morgan and with my colleague Brigit, I am a conference organiser. I have spoken to a lot of you by email and I have met a lot of you before, so you are all very, very welcome.
It seems to be warm but not sunny but we are hoping that that might improve later in the week, but we are fairly sure that there is not going to be any rain which is a major success. I want to do a brief introduction – I promise it will be very brief – I then need to run through some housekeeping and we have got a few other bits of introduction before Sarah has her keynote. We are due to break at half past for lunch.
So it is my very great pleasure to welcome you to our 2016 Lancaster Disabilities conference. This is the 8th conference we have had here at Lancaster. We started in 2003 and then again in 2004 when we then realised that it is much more sensible to do it every two years, which is what we have done ever since.
So this makes this our eighth conference. Another reason why we have made it alternating was that we wanted to support our sister conference the Nordic Network on Disability Research (NNDR) conference which happens in the opposite year; and this is a really important relationship for us to have and we are really happy for us to have significant representation from NNDR here today… And I will also say a little more about their conference at the closing ceremony.
It is a real delight the extent to which the conference has grown and flourished over the past thirteen years, and it is really wonderful to see so many repeat (I have to be careful here not to say repeat offenders) – repeat attenders as well as many new faces.
We have over 275 people registered which is about 40 higher than previous conference, and that is really amazing particularly as finance is so stretched and we feel that it a real testament to what people get from the conference. So thank you, I know that for some of you it is a significant issue to meet some of the costs and we really appreciate you supporting us.
I think that one of the restraints of the conference which we are very proud of is the extent of which it represents the very great diversity of disabilities studies which is really our main aim. We are less concerned to have a tight conference where everyone is speaking to the same theme; we want to represent what is going on across the discipline and continue building out beyond that.
So we have go delegates from over 35 countries and it is amazing to have them here. We have got post graduate students, we have got undergraduate students, we have got researchers, academics, activists and practitioners – and many of us combine a number of those roles. Again, I think that that contributes to the really rich nature of the conference.
I will leave the majority of my thank you’s to the closing session but want to formally acknowledge the support of the department of sociology and its head of department… they host the Centre for Disability Research (http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/fhm/research/centre-for-disability-research/) now, because they have given very significant support to the conference and have been particularly indulgent about the amount of time they have given to it. So we are really appreciative of that.
I would also like to support my CeDR colleagues from across the university who make Lancaster a really vibrant and exciting place to do disability studies and are very supportive of the conference. In particular I wanted to give particular tribute and single out my colleague Carol Thomas; Carol is one of the founding directors of the centre along with Eric Eddison and Bob Sadie who have both retired along with Chris Hatton who is fortunately with us and not retired just yet.
Chris Hatton: Did you say fortunately or unfortunately ? (laughter)
I wrote this down to get this right – it is fortunately he is still with us. Possibly for you it is unfortunately you have not retired. Carol established the center in 2008 shortly just after we had started the conference here at Lancaster and has really made an amazing job leading the centre and is standing down but is going to remain as a part of the conference as well.
The conference is hosting two streams this year. First is Mad Studies which convened by Brigit McWade and Peter Beresford which returns after running in the conference 2014. And this year we have got a sexuality stream convened by Tom Shakespeare and Kirsty Lidyard marking the 20th anniversary of the book ‘Sexual Politics and Disability’

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The conveners are going to come up and tell you a little more about their sessions in a minute so I wont say anymore. I also wanted to acknowledge the significant sponsorship we have received from two publishers – Taylor and Francis which is the publisher of ‘Disability and Society’ (http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/cdso20) as well as many of the books which are being presented today.
And PCCS books has provided sponsorship for a number of activists and unfunded delegates for the mad studies stream. So we are very grateful for that. In addition some other publishers, Academic Press, Policy Press and Polity have made contributions towards our bursary fund which printed the books which you will find in your conference packs.
….The image on the front is taken from the work of Liz Crows work ‘Figures’ (http://disabilityarts.online/magazine/opinion/liz-crow-on-figures/) ; there is more information in the pack which explains why it was important to us why we wanted to use that. There is also a postcard that we want you to take away.
….Just a reminder that about a third of you are Twitterers or Tweeters and hopefully there will be quite a lot of Twitter activity using the #CEDR16…think that one of the most important things, and one of the things I value most about this conference here is that we have rigorous, stimulating, often controversial debate but what a lot of people say – and what I am very proud of – is the friendly and generous nature of that debate…

…some are very experienced presenters, some are very robust presenters; and we have got some people who are newer. So we ask you to respect that spirit of solidarity and support. I would like to introduce Brigit and Peter who are going to introduce the Mad Studies stream.


Professor Peter Beresford

Professor Peter Beresford OBE

Professor of Social Policy at Brunel University London is also the former Director of the Centre for Citizen Participation. His work has focused on public, patient and service user involvement in policy and practice; democratisation and participatory approaches to research, particularly in relation to user controlled and user involvement research. His areas of particular interest are disability, mental health, palliative care, social work and social care, welfare reform, social work education and participatory research.
Involved in a great number of things, amongst them Chairing Shaping Our Lives, the national user controlled organisation and network concerned with the strategic development of user involvement and improved service quality in health and social care. Shaping Our Lives is a strategic partner for user involvement in the third sector with the Department of Health and a frequent research partner of Brunel University London. He has published widely via books, journals and newspapers.

9 minutes 36 seconds

Peter Beresford: Hello everybody, it is so nice to be here – can everyone hear alright ? It does feel amazing but it is only two years since we had the first of these mad studies streams. I want to thank the organisers of the disabilities studies conference for again providing a home for us because I think we are a bit of a cuckoo getting all kinds of benefits from the generous parents who have willingly let us come into their nest.
But I hope that we will repay that generosity by offering disabilities studies insights and opportunities from mad studies in the same way that disabilities studies has done that for us. Of course there are overlaps and there are intersections. There are common issues and challenges, there are also – though – different issues and unique ones; and there are also separations.
I hope coming together like this, this is a lovely way to kick off to offer some helpful insights and understandings. I hope some who have come primarily to the conference for disabilities studies will also feel that they can get something from the stream which people are welcome to dip in and out of, and vice versa.
I just want to say something very briefly from Mad Matters. I think the book from Canada which really kicked this off which talked about mad studies as a project of enquiry, knowledge production and political action – and crucially it puts at its centre the experience, the ideas and knowledges of people who identify as mad and as survivors of mental health services; as well as the contribution of others who will give value to such knowledge and experience.

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In this short time, and this is why I think the sessions we are going to have are going to be all about how mad studies has made an amazing impact, in the UK and internationally over these two years but also has to grapple with more and more issues about being truly inclusive, committed to equality, to challenging racist and other oppression, and other discriminations to avoid becoming elitist – all criticisms which could justifiably be made.
I want to thank Brigit specifically here for the efforts that she has made through crowdfunding to make it possible for more people to be here than might of done through funding supported places. I thought, the more you do, the more that you realise we fall short – and I know that is how Brigit has felt; I know we will keep going on that.
As Lucy Costa who will be speaking later has said “we need more action” – and that has to be what mad studies ultimately is about. Increasing action, increasing understanding, opening up the subject to all people, to more perspectives, developing and opening up ideas of course, to make a difference. That is what we are here for.
And I have to briefly say – but not by way of conclusion but by way of the forceful reminder that people are getting in their lives that the dominant (whatever we call it) biomedical model, discourse about madness and distress maybe failed and largely an imperialist past but they have been given new life, new vitality by the power of neoliberalism internationally, let alone in the UK.

They fail us all as service users, as family members, workers, researchers and educators, and the rest. So that is part of the challenge. Developing our own ideas on combating those who have damaged us. And I will hand over now to Brigit who will go through some of the practicalities. Thank you.


Dr Brigit McWade

Dr Brigit McWade

Research Associate at University of Lancaster, she is an interdisciplinary researcher working across the fields of mad studies, disability studies, feminist media and cultural studies, and science, technology and medicine studies. She is also an Early Career Researcher member of the editorial board The Sociological Review and an Occasional Editor of Disability & Society.

13 minutes 8 seconds

Thank you Peter. Id like to start by thanking Peter for coming up with the idea of having a mad studies stream at the conference in the first place and for opening up this space. Again, two years passing seems that it has grown exponentially with the interest in mad studies, and that was shown alone in the number of abstracts that we have received this year.
This is really encouraging and exciting. Id also like to thank Hanna for keeping that space open and supporting us in being able to do this. So we have made a little book of abstracts specifically for the stream for those who are interested can pick up in the room which we are in…

I would like to acknowledge Dolly Sen, survivor artist for the artwork which she has allowed us to use for image for this years stream, and that’s really great to have that and move on from the Alice in Wonderland finally.


Dolly Sen Mad Studies Stream
Dolly Sen Mad Studies Stream

So we have two keynotes in the stream. The stream that’s running throughout the program and it is our honor and delight to welcome Dr Jijian Voronka who is over from Ryerson University and Rutgers in Jersey as well. Jiji has taught mad studies for ten years at Ryerson University and has been instrumental in building mad studies on an international scale.
And we also have Lucy Costa from the Empowerment Council and a great and well respected activist who has been instrumental in fighting for the rights of psychiatric patients in Ontario. So the way that is going to work is that Jijian is going to be in here for the keynote address and then after that we will have Lucy’s keynote back in our stream as part of the main conference program.
So if you want to hear both of them you should make sure that you are aware of them taking place. PCCS books, we would like to send our great thanks for sponsoring two full places for people attending mad studies stream. They are here promoting a new and very exciting publication called ‘Searching For A Rose Garden; Challenging Psychiatry, Fostering Mad Studies ‘ edited by Jasna Russo and Angela Sweeney.
It is great that Jasna can be here to celebrate the launch of that book too as part of a special panel that forms links between survivor research and mad studies. And also PCCS publish Asylum Magazine which is a well respected publication, and Helen Spandler is one of the editors is here…
Helen would like to do a write up about the mad studies stream so if anybody attending would like to contribute to that write up please get in touch with Helen. Also we have Alex here from the Ragged University and he has been creating a Mad World archive of the different and unheard perspectives in the area of mad studies.
It is inspired by the Mad Peoples History course by Ryerson University in Toronto Canada and the aim of the archive is to provide authentic voices and sources for people to tap into which exists outside of the institutional space.
Alex is very keen to interview anybody who is willing to be interviewed about mad studies, and also he will be recording some of the presentations for sharing ostensibly beyond these three days…And finally, if you are tweeting about our stream we would like you to use the hashtag #CEDR16 #madstudies – all one word…and that is on our poster and on our book of abstracts… so that is everything. Thank you very much.