2021 in review

The pandemic dominated journalism this year and last, but I wanted to use this last post of 2021 to give a round-up of the work I’ve been lucky enough to carry out this year, what I’m doing next year – and to thank everyone with whom I’ve worked – whether as a collaborator, an editor or as an interviewee.

I’ve written on subjects ranging from disability, to environmental justice, to the history of forced migration, as well as the plight of Afghan nationals, both here and stuck in Afghanistan, in a rapidly deteriorating situation. I’ve worked increasingly on the rights of Gypsy and Traveller communities, in a year in which the right to live a nomadic life has been put under extreme threat by the Johnson administration – and looked at the effect of hostility on community members. I wrote a long-read about the ten year anniversary since the eviction of Dale Farm, considering its lasting legacy.

I was also lucky enough to be asked to work with the veteran disability rights campaigner, Alicia Wood, in co-creating a new website, Dying to Matter, which aims to memorialise the deaths of those dying in institutional care. Our launch article was my long-read about the death of Danny Tozer. It’s a hard read, and I want to thank Danny’s family for being so generous with their time. I hope it’s a fitting tribute to a much loved son. Do visit the website if you’d like to read more, or post a memorial of a loved family member who died in care. We will start to post them as soon as possible.

Friendship and family has been a real comfort this year. Books too, so I’m including a link to some of the books I’ve reviewed. I enjoyed books by Pat Barker, Nigel Farndale and Meg Keneally, among many others.

I also reviewed three books that, in different ways, explored the rich experience of disability and family – by Jan Grue, Jessica Moxham and Melanie Pearson. All recommended.

Talking of books, I spent much of my spare time this year finishing off my first novel, The Low Road, which tells the story of two young women who were convicted of grand larceny and eventually transported to Botany Bay in the 1820’s. It is based on a true story I uncovered in my Norfolk home town – more news on the book next year. This year I also looked at the history of transportation in a long read for Byline Times, asking why it has largely been forgotten in the UK, whilst it is remembered in Australia.

Turning to next year, I’ll be continuing with my work on environmental justice and looking at how health intersects with planning and housing for my project for the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. You can read more about that work in my previous post from just a month or so ago.

I’ve also teased out some of the intersections between low traffic neighbourhoods, environmental justice and marginalised communities, in an article for the Times – I hope to look at this area of work again, in my wider work on what environmental injustice looks and feels like.

My dad and me, as a very young adopted child

I’ve also returned to my own roots, thinking through my own family history of trans-racial adoption and asking more urgent questions about this government’s handling of children at risk of harm, abuse and neglect, and interrogating whether the profit motive is a fit one for boosting protection within our care system. I looked in detail at concerns around transparency, independence of the ongoing review of care and accountability in my latest article. In other articles for Byline Times I looked at the recent murders of two small children and asked about what good system change would look like.

Lastly, I want to point up an article I wrote for the Guardian in December 2020, just over a year ago. It looked at the effect of hate crime on Gypsy, Roma, Traveller and other related communities, including the high levels of suicide.

I hope that next year will be a happier, easier one for everybody. This year has been hard. Unfortunately it has convinced me even more that we need investigative journalism more than ever, as we live through dark times, with political mismanagement, to say the least.

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