The Matthew Caygill Lecture, 17:30 – 19:00 3rd May 2017

Last year Taking Soundings tragically lost Matthew Caygill, a founder member and a dear friend.

Matthew worked at the School of Cultural Studies at Leeds Beckett University, and they are going to hold an annual lecture in his name…

The School of Cultural Studies & Humanities is pleased to welcome Dr Madeleine Davis who will give the inaugural Matthew Caygill Lecture on a subject close to Matthew’s interests.

17:30 – 19:00 3rd May 2017, Leeds Beckett University, Rose Bowl Lecture Theatre B, City Campus

Madeleine Davis (Queen Mary, University of London) will speak on ‘‘Among the ordinary people’: the New Left and working class political organisation’. Madeleine specialises in the history of political thought, particularly the development of socialist thought in Britain in the twentieth century. She has published on the work of intellectuals and activists associated with the post-1956 British New Left, and has a forthcoming book on The British New Left and its Legacy.

Madeleine’s research overlaps with many of Matthew Caygill’s historical interests as well as the contemporary concerns and challenges facing political activists. Matthew, a much loved and respected colleague, teacher, activist and friend who passed away suddenly in 2016, was keen to help students and younger researchers to think through ideas – particularly related to political ideology and social and cultural theory – and apply them to their own research. He had recently started his own PhD research into the cultural politics of the New Left during the 1960s.

Matthew was an integral member of staff in the School of Cultural Studies & Humanities, not least as our long-serving UCU rep. He taught on multiple courses since the university’s days as a polytechnic, organised memorable student trips to Berlin and Paris, and even taught students from other schools in the university. A committed interdisciplinarian, passionate educator, and staunch political activist, Matthew embodied Cultural Studies as we practice it in the classroom, through our research and in the wider community.

The event is free to attend, but booking is required.

 Refreshments will also be available at the event.

For further information, please contact Shane Ewen by email at, or by telephone on 0113 812 3340.

Milena Buchs: Postgrowth: what about welfare and wellbeing? (16 March)

Leeds Taking Soundings presents:

Postgrowth: what about welfare and wellbeing?

Milena Buchs
In recent years, ideas of postgrowth economies have been gaining much wider appeal. This approach is based on critiques of economic growth from environmental and social perspectives, and on increasing fears about whether Western economies are entering an era of “secular stagnation”. In this setting, economic growth becomes both less desirable and less achievable.

All this has important implications for debates about the future of welfare and wellbeing. Advocates of postgrowth offer many good arguments about how social wellbeing can be maintained and even improved. However, they require more critical consideration. This is because the present welfare state and wellbeing are tightly coupled with growth-based capitalist market economies.

This talk aims to provide an overview and invites discussion of the main arguments about welfare and wellbeing in the postgrowth debate which is also the focus of our current Palgrave Pivot book project (co-authored with Max Koch).

Milena Buchs is an Associate Professor in Sustainability, Economics, and Low Carbon Transitions at the University of Leeds. Milena’s background is in sociology and social policy. Her current research focusses on the relationship between low carbon transitions, welfare and well-being.  More here

Twitter: @mmbuchs

VENUE: Room CL311, Calverley Building, Leeds Beckett University, Woodhouse Lane

TIME: 6 pm – 730 pm, Thursday 16th March, 2017

HOW TO FIND US: Enter the university through the huge glass doors opposite the Dry Dock on Woodhouse Lane.  Walk straight ahead, descending a flight of about ten stairs. Turn right at the next set of stairs and get into the lift in Calverley Building. CL 311 is on the third floor.

For disabled access, please ask the staff at the reception desk on the right, through the glass doors.

Sunder Katwala discusses immigration in light of Brexit (9 March)

Leeds Beckett University

Politics & International Relations Public Lecture


After Brexit how should we talk about Immigration?

Sunder Katwala, Director of British Future


Thursday 9 March 2017

17:30 – 19:00

Refreshments from 5.00pm


City Campus

Woodhouse Lecture Theatre 1 WHG01


All Welcome


Public attitudes to immigration and cultural diversity are polarised between ‘Rejectionists’ and ‘Migration liberals’ but with quite a large ‘Anxious middle’. There have been persistent majorities in favour of reducing immigration, and in recent years immigration has consistently been seen as one of the most important issues facing Britain. Immigration was a key issue in the EU referendum and was one of the main concerns motivating Leave voters. Consequently, Brexit has been interpreted by the government primarily as a vote in favour of controlling, and reducing, immigration. British Future has been at the forefront of efforts to promote an open and constructive public discussion of immigration, the need for which is now urgent. In this lecture the Director of British Future, Sunder Katwala, will discuss how to talk about immigration after Brexit.


Sunder Katwala is the Director of British Future. He has previously worked as a journalist. He was general secretary of the Fabian Society think tank from 2003 to 2011, and was previously a leader writer and internet editor at The Observer, a research director of the Foreign Policy Centre and commissioning editor for politics and economics at the publisher Macmillan. He was born in Doncaster, Yorkshire, to parents who came to Britain from India and Ireland to work for the NHS.


Register here




Taking Soundings on The Northern Powerhouse with Dr Arianna Giovannini, 14 Feb 2017


Dr Arianna Giovannini on

The Northern Powerhouse and devolution: revolution or chaos?

The Northern Powerhouse agenda, and the devolution deals associated with it, were presented by George Osborne as the making of a ‘devolution revolution’ in the North of England. But while the signing of the ‘Devo Manc’ agreement has followed a rather smooth path, the plan is developing in an uneven way across other parts of the North, especially in the aftermath of Brexit and of Osborne’s departure as Chancellor.

The aim of this talk is to highlight the key issues underpinning the Northern Powerhouse and Devo-Deal discourses, questioning whether these strategies have the potential to lead to a more economically, politically and socially sustainable system of governance across the North. To unpack this argument, I will draw on the case of Yorkshire—an area that seems to epitomise most of the idiosyncrasies implicit in the current devolution agenda for the North of England.

It will be argued that, beyond rhetoric, the Northern Powerhouse and Devo-Deals agreements in the North are still part of an un-codified, ‘muddled’ process based on a centrally orchestrated patchwork of spatial and governance ‘fixes’ that lack a common purpose, a sound democratic basis and, crucially, a clear roadmap.


Dr. Arianna Giovannini is a Lecturer in Local Politics at the Department of Politics and Public Policy, De Montfort University, Leicester. Her research focuses on territorial politics and devolution in the UK, with a particular emphasis on the ‘English Question’ and the case of the North of England. Currently, her work in this area concentrates on the tensions between technocratic and democratic approaches to devolution in the context of the recent ‘Devo Deals’ and ‘Northern Powerhouse’ agenda, as well as on the link between territorial identity and devolution in the North.

She is on Twitter @AriannaGi

VENUE: Room CL311, Calverley Building, Leeds Beckett University, Woodhouse Lane,

DATE & TIME: 6 – 7.30pm, Tuesday 14th February 2017.

HOW TO FIND US: Enter the university through the huge glass doors opposite the Dry Dock on Woodhouse Lane.  Walk straight ahead, descending a flight of about ten stairs. Turn right at the next set of stairs and get into the lift in Calverley Building. CL 311 is on the third floor. For disabled access, please ask the staff at the reception desk on the right, through the glass doors.

The populist moment: how to respond? (14 Dec 2016)

Leeds Taking Soundings’ next Readers’ Meeting will examine the new populism, focusing on Brexit in the UK and Trump in the US, but other countries will no doubt come into focus too.

For the meeting, we will have read this article by Chantal Mouffe (on populism), this article by Paul Mason (on Brexit) and this article by Zymunt Bauman (on Trump).

We welcome anyone who would like to join in an open-ended discussion. No charge.

The discussion will start at 7.30pm and end at 9pm (or earlier if we dry up). Then anyone who feels like a festive drink will repair to a nearby hostelry.

It’s on Wednesday 14th December. The discussion will be at Leeds Becket University’s city centre campus, in the Portland building, room 408. [CC PD408] This is best accessed through the huge glass doors on Woodhouse Lane, opposite the Dry Dock pub. There should be a helpful security person at the desk on your right. If not, walk past the library and the Grumpy Mule cafe area, down two flights of steps to the lifts on your left. Up to the fourth floor, room 408. This web-page might help.


Zygmunt Bauman lecture is cancelled

We are very sorry to announce that Professor Bauman is too frail to give the lecture planned for Wednesday 30th November 2016 at LBU’s Rose Bowl.

Zygmunt has three new books in press and his brain is as sharp as ever. But, having just turned 91, even this dynamo is slowing down. He finds it hard to move about and is in a lot of pain. He is extremely sorry to have to call off his talk; he was looking forward to it.

Here are some of the photos taken by Guy Farrar at the event which launched Taking Soundings in Leeds in January 2007. You can see how spry he looked . . .

img_0005 img_0011 img_0015 img_0029 img_0030 img_0033

Making art against the Right: Is this Elvis Costello?

Carry On Up The Brexit

Roll over Napoleon, sod-off Adolf Caesar
You’re not grinning anymore Mona Lisa
Listen to the words of Mother Theresa
Brexit means Brexit

Shoot yourself in the foot, throw dust in your eye
Jump off a cliff, plucky Englishmen can fly
Smack yourself in the face with a custard pie
Brexit means Brexit

Flat-pack furniture without instructions
A vacuum-cleaner without any suction
Sherlock Holmes without deductions
Brexit means Brexit

Building sandcastles in the pissing rain
The people chose sandcastles – don’t complain
Bucket, spade, anorak – soak up the pain
Brexit means Brexit

Pull up the drawbridge, fortify the shores
Turn back the clock, lock all the doors
Spotted dick, scurvy, saloon bar bores
Brexit means Brexit

Give two fingers to the liberal elite
Make the cosmopolitan obsolete
Ignore expertise, idiocracy’s sweet
Brexit means Brexit

Repel the migrant armada, be prepared
Let their jungle burn, watch them running scared
Leave them all abandoned dans la merde
Brexshit means Brexshit

By Elvis Costello — according to an email, 17.11.16.

And then we find that maybe it’s not THE Elvis Costello

and then we receive this in another email (20.11.16):

This parody lyric came to our attention and we hope you will not be too disappointed to hear that is most definitely not in Mr. Costello’s handwriting.

We believe it is the work of a former-Soviet mole or possibly the Seaford Mods.

Many Thanks

We say: great poem/song, anyway!

Zygmunt Bauman speaks in Leeds on 30th November

Taking Soundings is delighted to host Zygmunt Bauman on Wednesday 30th November 2016. (Venue details below.) The title of Prof Bauman’s talk is

“Some comments on current social and political tendencies”


Zygmunt Bauman, launching Taking Soundings in Leeds on 16th January 2007. (Photo: Guy Farrar.)

“Some comments on current social and political tendencies”

Zygmunt Bauman will be offering his answer to these two questions:

  1. What do Brexit and Trump tell us about the state of society today?
  2. What does the moral panic about the “influx of immigrants” tel us about society today?

You can get a preview of his analysis in this interview (released on 14.11.16) with Social Europe.

Zygmunt Bauman, Emeritus Professor at the University of Leeds, is one of the world’s leading sociologists. He is the author of more than 70 books, translated into many languages. (Wiki’s version of Bauman’s biography, ideas and Bibliography is here.)

He is one of the most persuasive of commentators on the effects of what he has called ‘liquid modernity’, pointing to its rampant inequality and the transition it makes from a welfare state to a security state.

Bauman’s analysis, we suggest, should inform the new progressive, left-alliance politics that is emerging in response to the authoritarian populist movements of the political right.

After his lecture, Max Farrar, who was a student of Zygmunt Bauman’s, will offer an appreciation of his work.

Date: Wednesday 30th November 2016

Time: 6 – 8 pm

Venue: Lecture Theatre C444, on the fourth floor of The Rose Bowl, Leeds Beckett University, Portland Crescent, Leeds LS1 3HB

Free event: pay as you can afford.



Festival of Politics in Leeds (November 2016)

Apologies for not posting on this site since we announced the sad news of the death of our friend and Taking Soundings founder and stalwart, Matthew Caygill. We’ve been doing some re-thinking and are pleased to say that we have new committee members and plans for future meetings.


Right now, we recommend these events organised by our colleagues at Leeds Beckett University

The annual Festival of Politics & International Relations involves a programme of talks, debates, workshops, films and other events providing opportunities for argument and discussion on a range of social, political and economic issues – contemporary and historical, national and global.

Full information/registration

Each year speakers include academics, politicians, campaigners and journalists and this year we are delighted to confirm the following visiting speakers:

  • Making Sense of the Syrian Conflict- Federico Venturini, Leeds Friends of Rojava & Javaad Alipoor, co-author ‘Khiyana: Daesh, the Left and the Unmaking of the Syrian Revolution’
  • Should universities be ‘Safe Spaces’?- Robert Sharp,  Head of Campaigns and Communications, English PEN
  • Responding to the Refugee Crisis. What can be done, locally and nationally?- Jon Beech.  Director, Leeds Asylum Seekers’ Support Network (LASSN)
  • Can Labour Win Under Jeremy Corbyn?- Richard Burgon MP (Labour, Leeds East) Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice

All events are free and open to the public except for those indicated.

For more information and to register for events, please go to:

Please share with your networks and students.

The festival is organised by the Politics & International relations Group in the School of Social Sciences at Leeds Beckett University.


Matthew Caygill – an appreciation



It is with great sadness that we have to announce that Matthew Caygill has died. He was 60 years old. It happened suddenly and has taken many of us some time to digest.

Matthew was a founder member of Leeds Taking Soundings in 2007. He played a leading role in our events and activities: from chairing meetings to booking rooms; from his lively contributions to discussions to collecting donations; and from organising film shows to writing our leaflets and applications for funding… and much, much more. He was also deeply involved in the Leeds-based Ford Maguire Society which holds discussions on political history.

Matthew was an active trade unionist at Leeds Beckett University where he taught history and cultural studies with great imagination and energy. His lectures (for example, on the Vietnam and its effects on the counter-culture in the West) were particularly popular with students.

Matthew was also a fully committed socialist. In recent years he was involved in Left Unity. He was politically passionate but reflective, eager to learn and ready to argue, and warm and witty. He had a wonderful sense of humour, a twinkle in his eye and a ready smile.

Matthew was incredibly active, attending numerous academic conferences and often presenting papers.

He was working on a PhD on the cultural politics of the 1960s and had a wealth of knowledge about the subject. Over the years, he had amassed a vast library stored both at work and in his cluttered home. There were books everywhere.

He was also a ‘culture vulture’, a lover of opera, the cinema and the theatre and very knowledgeable about them. He travelled the length and breadth of Britain, from large cities to seaside resorts, from visiting art galleries to tucking in at chip shops.

We have lost a good friend but we did have the good fortune of knowing him.

Barry, Dave, Franco, James, Max and Zoe

Leeds Taking Soundings steering committee

Matthew’s funeral is on Friday 5 August , 2016, at 11.40am, Lawnswood cemetery, Otley Rd, Leeds, LS16 6AH. 

Matthew Caygill can be seen on film here, talking about his research on the Dialectics of Liberation conference of 1967. This link also includes a fine obituary to Matthew published in Socialist Worker.