Barnett Fellowship

On 25 June 1928, ‘certain British and American friends of Canon Samuel Augustus Barnett’ established the Barnett Fellowship, to be managed by trustees to be appointed by ‘an association called the Universities Settlement in East London and commonly known by the name of “Toynbee Hall”…and…Barnett House in the city of Oxford, an institution for the promotion amongst other things of economic study’. The first trustees included William Beveridge, Barnett’s widow Dame Henrietta, JJ Mallon, the warden of Toynbee Hall, and WGS Adams, the president of Barnett House.

The subscribers donated £4,336 (equivalent to approximately £230,000 today), and it was planned that the value of the Fellowship was to be the net yearly income on this amount to be paid to a Fellow who would hold the post for one to four years. The Fellow was to ‘devote him or herself to such an extent and in such a way as the Trustees shall reasonably require to work which shall involve teaching or research (or both) in social or economic science in or in connection with one of the above named universities with a period of residence in an industrial community’. The first Fellow was appointed from the settlement movement in the United States. Henrietta Barnett was disappointed that Barnett House moved away from settlement ideas, though the social work students continued to use Toynbee Hall for placements until the 1960s. There was sporadic contact in the 1990s, when the new Warden Luke Geoghegan was appointed Fellow in 1998 and gave occasional lectures in Barnett House.

In this post credit crisis world the rate of return on the value of the fund has become rather small. Consequently, the newly appointed trustees of Toynbee Hall and Barnett House decided to spend the capital on the appointment of a final Barnett Fellow. We are particularly pleased that Rys Farthing has accepted the appointment to the fellowship, which coincides with the Centenary.

The Barnett Fellow will be exploring the ways in which the geographic spaces within which young people live and grow define their current actions and their aspirations for the future. Young people in Tower Hamlets experience some of the highest levels of deprivation in Europe. Poverty is associated with reduced mobility, not only socially but also geographically; and with a narrowing of horizons not only metaphorically in terms of aspirations but also literally in terms of reduced awareness of the potential to access different areas of the city for learning and leisure. Existing research suggests a number of important factors such as limited money for transport and leisure services, as well as space being constructed in terms of gang turfs and consequent fear of crime. However other factors are likely to be important such as a greater tendency to attend schools located in one’s immediate neighbourhood and a consequently more geographically concentrated social network.

The project will involve collaboration between academic researchers and young people in and around Tower Hamlets. The project includes training young people in qualitative research methods, and will provide them with an Open College Network accreditation. They will conduct focus group discussions and runs surveys with young people from the locality and explore the different spaces in which they feel they are able to exercise political agency. Results will be disseminated by the Fellow and the young people at special events in Oxford, Toynbee Hall and at academic conferences.