BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award honours: “an ordinary woman who fought with a mother’s love for what she believed was right and simply refused to give up”

Anne Williams at the Hillsborough Memorial Service at Anfield

Anne Williams at the Hillsborough Memorial Service at Anfield

Anne Williams, whose fifteen year old son Kevin was killed in the Hillsborough Disaster of 1989, has been honoured by the BBC at the Sports Personality of the Year Awards. Anne, who campaigned tirelessly on behalf of her son alongside the families of the 95 others who died at Hillsborough, passed away three days after the 24th memorial service at Anfield in April this year. She was awarded the Helen Rollason award for outstanding achievement in the face of adversity. The Liverpool Echo reports:

Having lost her beloved 15-old-son Kevin in 1989, Anne was at the forefront of those challenging the original inquest verdicts for many years, refusing to give up on the fight for justice despite seeing three memorials to the Attorney General and a petition to the European Court of Human Rights all rejected.

Her tireless campaigning, along with new evidence she uncovered, helped lead to the formation of the Hillsborough Independent Panel and, though she received her terminal diagnosis just six weeks after their historic report of September 2012, she was in attendance at the High Court last December to see the accidental death verdicts quashed and new inquests, set to begin next March, ordered.

LACUNA’s first issue: “On Protest”  to be published in February 2014, features an interview with the Chief Civil Servant to the Hillsborough Independent Panel Report. The publication of this report finally vindicated the victims of the Hillsborough disaster and brought to light previously unseen documents which implicated South Yorkshire Police, amongst others, in the disaster and subsequent cover-up. To read more about this story, and find out what it takes to bring about effective change through protest subscribe to our mailing list , like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.


The 65th anniversary of the Universal Declaration- A happy birthday?

Birthday CakeToday is the 65th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the world’s most translated document. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was published in 1948 in response to the events of World War II, sets out a broad range of fundamental rights and freedoms to which all people are entitled without distinction.

The European Court Blogspot writes:

After World War II and the creation of the United Nations, the international community vowed never again to allow such devastating conflict. World leaders decided to complement the UN Charter with a document which would guarantee the rights of every individual everywhere, always.

How close are we to achieving this aim? What barriers stand in the way? To read more about these questions, and to submit your own answers, subscribe to our mailing list, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

How one journalist’s chance encounter on New Years Eve uncovered a scandal that would strike at the heart of the Catholic Church

Philomena Lee and Martin SixsmithThe film “Philomena”, starring Steve Coogan and Dame Judi Dench, has received rave reviews for it’s portrayal of the relationship between the journalist Martin Sixsmith and Philomena Lee, a woman whose son was taken from her by the Catholic Church when she was an unmarried teenager and sold to adoptive parents in America. A chance encounter at a New Year’s Eve party led to Sixsmith travelling with Philomena, first to Ireland and then America in order to find out what happened to her son. In doing so Sixsmith uncovered systemic abuses of power perpetuated by the Catholic Church in the 1950’s against unmarried mothers and their children. Sixsmith’s moving first person account of the story is available here, although those who have yet to see the film should be warned that it contains spoilers.

The UK release of Philomena coincides with the Irish Council for Civil Liberties appearing before the UNHCR to appeal for an independent investigation into conditions at the Magdalene Laundries, institutions run by religious authorities where women who were deemed to be “fallen” were incarcerated indefinitely. The first edition of LACUNA, which will be published in February 2014, will feature writings on of the role of protest in uncovering the treatment of women and children in the laundries. To ensure that you don’t miss out on this or any other content, subscribe to our mailing list, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

What does it take to expose injustice in the face of systemic opposition?

Rebecca MunroMembers of the Lacuna team headed to the Home Office to find out. Researcher Rebecca Munro (pictured) met with  the Chief Civil Servant to the Hillsborough Independent Panel to discuss the mechanisms through which historic injustices can be brought to light. This meeting revealed some surprising and moving insights and is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand how protest can bring about change at the highest levels of government.

The feature based on this interview will be published in the first edition of Lacuna which launches in February 2014. To ensure you don’t miss out on this or any of our other original features follow us on Twitter and subscribe to our mailing list.

Liberty, Fraternity, Equality?

ITN Correspondent Sophie Foster has reported on wildcat strikes that have seen thousands of students take to the streets in response to the deportation of two separate high school students. Foster reports:

Thousands of people have taken to the streets of Paris and blockaded high schools in protest at the seperate deportations of students Leonarda Dibrani and Khatchik Kachatryan.

Fifteen-year-old Leonarda, of Roma descent, has become the latest focus of France’s agonised debate over migration after being taken off a school bus and deported to Kosovo.

“We are against expulsion and we don’t agree that a person who is integrated is sent back to her country that she doesn’t even know,” said one student protester.

“Normally, our country is ‘Liberty, Equality, Fraternity’ but the problem is that there is a student who was thrown out of his high school, the police came to get him at the end of his classes, and normally they should not have the right to do that. More so, it was someone who was working, not someone who wanted to trouble people,” said another.

For the full story, please visit the ITN website here. For more content like this please subscribe to our mailing list.

Unintended consequences- Does the Government’s lobbying bill threaten free speech?

disabled-people-against-cuts-and-uk-uncut-protest-atos_1416340 Leading human rights lawyer Helen Mountfield warns that the government’s new lobbying bill, designed to make lobbying more transparent, will have a chilling effect on the campaigning activities of charities. Her comments, published in an article in the Guardian today, reflect growing concern that the bill, which was brought before parliament without consultation, includes provisions that could constitute a threat to the right to free speech. The bill curtails the ability of  charities and other non-party groups to campaign on political issues in the 12 months before a general election , and broadens the definition of what constitutes “election campaigning” to include: “activity which affects the outcome of an election even if that was not its purpose”. Mountfield is quoted as stating: “This uncertainty about what the law requires is likely to have a chilling effect on freedom of expression, by putting small organisations and their trustees/directors in fear of criminal penalty if they speak out on matters of public interest and concern…” Karl Wilding, director of public policy at the National Council for Voluntary Service argues that: “This bill takes us from a situation in which charities and community groups largely understood the rules on what they could do, into a position where no one has any idea of what the rules are, but may nevertheless face criminal prosecution for getting them wrong. This is the inevitable consequence of rushing legislation through without any consultation”.

Do you work for a small charity or community group? Are you concerned about the lobbying bill and it’s potential impact on campaigning? If so, please comment, subscribe to our mailing list and get in touch via twitter. 38 degrees have produced an online form to make it easy to express your concerns to your MP, contacting them takes less than 5 minutes!

250 million protests worldwide, from 1979-2013, visualized in one time-lapse image

Map   Penn State doctoral candidate John Beieler has created a stunning time-lapse visualisation of every protest on the planet since 1979 using data from the Global Database of Events, Language and Tone. This map is surprising in many respects, not least because it shows that the number of protests taking place in the 1970’s ( popularly regarded as the golden age of political activism), are vastly outweighed by those taking place in the late 1990’s up until the present day. Foreign Policy have published a useful article here  which offers a timeline of events to look out for when viewing the map and explains some of the limitations of the dataset, which is derived from reports of protests in the mass media. Despite these limitation, Beielers work is important in encouraging viewers to critically evaluate statements that have been made about the increasing level of apathy which is supposedly characteristic of the twenty-first century.

The first edition of “Lacuna”, due to be published in January 2014, features writing around the theme of “Protest”- if you have any thoughts or suggestions for topics please subscribe to our mailing list and get in touch through our Twitter account, writing_justice

The Global Database of Events, Language, and Tone (GDELT) tracks news reports and codes them for 58 fields, from where an incident took place to what sort of event it was (these maps look at protests, violence, and changes in military and police posture) to ethnic and religious affiliations, among other categories. The dataset has recorded nearly 250 million events since 1979, according to its website – See more at: