Recent news and activities


Event Report: Young People and the ‘New Urban Agenda’ Conference (14th – 15th September, 2016), University of Birmingham

On 14th and 15th September 2016 the ‘Young People and the New Urban Agenda’ conference was held at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Organised by the University of Birmingham and supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Geographies of Children, Youth and Families Research Group (GCYFRG), the event was attended by delegates from Brazil, India, Kenya and across Europe.

The aim of the event was to bring together academics, NGOs, government representatives and UN agencies to address the key themes of the UN-Habitat III New Urban Agenda, to provide a forum for debate, critical reflection and interdisciplinary discussions.

With more than 18 per cent of the world’s population aged between 15 and 24, it is a crucial time to be discussing the challenges and opportunities which face young people in diverse urban contexts. Taking Habitat III’s key themes of mobility, planning and design, water, and energy the conference delegates drew on recent research in diverse contexts to set the research agenda for young lives.

Professor Anoop Nayak opened the conference with a thought-provoking presentation on everyday encounters of racism by Bangladeshi youth in the UK, highlighting how young women in particular navigate urban space and encounter everyday racism. On day One of the event, parallel sessions focused on mobility, planning and design and water and energy. Presentations addressed young people’s everyday pedestrian practices (Dr. John Horton); mobility and inclusion (Dr. Miriam Ricci; Zoi Karampini; Sonja Marzi); travel and transport (Sarah Brooks-Wilson; Catherine Walker); mobility in the context of urban transformation (Dr. Sophie Hadfield-Hill and Dr. Cristiana Zara); mobilities and everyday technologies (Professor Pia Christensen and Dr.Susana Cortés-Morales) and mobile phone connectivity (Professor Gina Porter). In the realm of planning and design, presentations focused on inclusive town planning (Bonnie Kwok); the infrastructure of play (Grant Menzies); child friendly transitions (Ainara Sagarna Armburu) participation in planning (Jenny Wood; Selba Arin; Angeliki Bitou); cultural heritage (Dr. Andreza de Souza Santos); young bodies in public space (Mina Rezaei); the use of technologies to incentivize walking (Rebecca Craig); and children’s outdoor environments in Chinese cities (Dr. Helen Woolley).

Young people’s experiences of water and energy was a further theme of the conference. Professor Peter Kraftl considered the food-water-energy nexus in the Brazilian context; Dr. Cristiana Zara and Dr. Sophie Hadfield-Hill presented on (Re)thinking urban flows, drawing on young people’s experiences of urban change and Katherine Mycock on the role of forest schools in educating young people about water and energy use. On the second day this theme continued with a focus on student’s understanding of the watershed in Brazil (Dr. Arminda Eugenia Marques Campos) and unpacking the barriers to sustainable water consumption (Dr. Georgina Wood).   Picking up on the themes of play and safe cities, Dr. Helen Woolley presented on her work in disaster contexts and Dr. Sudeshna Chatterjee and Tannishtha Datta spoke about their work in India with ACE and UNICEF.

Youth in urban areas often lack access to housing and live in cities where they face difficult economic, political and social challenges. The Keynote presentation on Day Two, by Douglas Ragan, the Chief of the Youth and Livelihood Unit of UN-Habitat, addressed a range of UN led projects with youth. Douglas offered an insightful reflection on youth-led development and offered points of conversion between UN agencies and academic research. During the event there were two discussion sessions bringing together the themes of urban challenges, social inequality and the role of the New Urban Agenda in shaping young people’s lives. These discussion sessions were attended by an artist who is currently working on a visual representation of the issues raised.

The event concluded with a session on research methodologies, offering some interesting insights into ongoing research using participatory methods and the use of technologies to explore mobilities, feelings and experiences of urban space.

To conclude, the conference provided an intellectually stimulating environment for scholars and practitioners, coming together to discuss young lives in the context of a New Urban Agenda. Many thanks to all who participated, the funders, and the organisers, we are excited about the research and opportunities which may emerge from this dialogue.


Methodology workshop participants – two sessions exploring participatory methods and the use of technologies in research with young people.



Please join us for our GCYFRG twitter hours:

Next up on our GCYFRG twitter hour is Dr. Matt Finn on Thursday 28th July 2-3pm where he’ll be discussing his paper:

“Atmospheres of progress in a data-based school.” Cultural Geographies January 2016 vol. 23 no. 1 29-49

Put the date in your diaries and join the conversation using #gcyfrgchat

Missed the last twitter hour with Prof. Peter Kraftl? See the attachment for a summarized version of our conversations.



Next up on our GCYFRG twitter hour is Prof. Peter Kraftl on Monday 18th July 2-3pm where he’ll be discussing his paper:

Alter-Childhoods: Biopolitics and Childhoods in Alternative Education Spaces Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 105:1, 2015.

Put the date in your diaries and join the conversation using #gcyfrgchat

Missed the last twitter hour with Sophie Hadfield-Hill and John Horton? See the attachment for a summarized version of our conversations which included topics such as quantitative methods, affect, emotions, writing styles and living in the field.



Keep these dates in your diaries:

Thursday 30th June 3-4pm:
Dr Sophie Hadfield-Hill (University of Birmingham) and Prof. John Horton (University of Northampton) discussing their co-authored paper:

Hadfield-Hill, Sophie, and John Horton. “Children’s experiences of participating in research: emotional moments together?.” Children’s Geographies 12.2 (2014): 135-153.

Monday 18th July 2-3pm:
Prof. Peter Kraftl (University of Birmingham) discussing:

Kraftl, P. (2015) Alter-childhoods: Biopolitics and childhoods in alternative education spaces. Annals of the Association of American Geographers. 105: 219-237.

Thursday 28th July 2-3pm (Time TBC):
Dr. Matt Finn (University of Exeter) discussing:

Finn, Matt. “Atmospheres of progress in a data-based school.” Cultural Geographies January 2016 vol. 23 no. 1 29-49

We’d love to have you join us, any questions about how these work, just ask, or look back at previous conversations using #GCYFRGchat

Do circulate amongst your colleagues/students,



Two journal special issues published from the 2013 ‘Play in Times of Austerity’ workshop

John H. McKendrick (Glasgow Caledonian University) has led the guest editing of two special issues arising from the 2013 GYCFRG ‘Play in Times of Austerity’ Workshop held at the University of Leicester.

The first collection was published in Journal of Playwork Practice (1 [1], 2014) guest edited by John H McKendrick, John Horton, Peter Kraftl and Perry Else entitled “Practice: Playwork in Times of Austerity”.

The second was recently published in International Journal of Play (4 [3], December 2015) and co-edited by John H McKendrick, Peter Kraftl, Sarah Mills, Stefanie Gregorius and Grace Sykes.

This collection contains original articles and essays from academic researchers and playwork practitioners on themes surrounding play in austere times.



GCYFRG Logo Competition – Winner! (19/11/15)

We are delighted to announce the winning entry in our recent logo competition and present our new GCYFRG logo:

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The logo was a joint entry by Dr Anika Duveneck (Free University of Berlin) and Mathis Eckelmann. They receive a prize of £30 and a year’s subscription to children’s geographies.

The logo will be used on our new social media presence as well as GCYFRG printed materials.  Congratulations again to Anika and Mathis!

RGS-IBG Annual Conference 2015: Reports from GCYFRG Sponsored Sessions 2015, Exeter, 1-4 September 2015

Being and becoming citizens: spaces of political engagement
Session organisers: Jonathan Duckett & Dr Sarah Mills (Loughborough University)

Two sessions entitled “Being and becoming citizens: spaces of political engagement” were jointly sponsored by GCYFRG and PolGRG at the RGS-IBG Annual Conference 2015, held at the University of Exeter. Our aim with these sessions was to engage with a wide range of understandings of P/political participation and identities, as well as open up new avenues for discussion around the politics of age and the boundaries of youth citizenship.

Both sessions engaged with diverse themes on the political geographies of children and young people, exploring ideas about youth citizenship in tandem with those of youth transitions. A number of exciting research projects were showcased at different stages of development, all of which considered diverse spaces of political engagement and reflections on age. These included an empirical focus on children, young people and/or families in Scotland (Jonathan Duckett; Gurchathen Sanghera et al.), Wales (Rhys Jones et al.), the UK (Naomi Maynard; Sarah Mills & Catherine Waite; Richard Yarwood & Naomi Tyrrell), Singapore (Tracey Skelton) and Zambia (Caroline Day), as well as a comparative study of young people in three cities: Athens, London and Hyderabad (Sevasti-Melissa Nolas et al.). Overall, the sessions were well attended and authors received generous and critically-engaged feedback from the audience. We would like to extend our thanks to all those who presented their research in this forum.

Jonathan Duckett & Sarah Mills, Loughborough University


Building and living with natures: more-than-human geographies of children, young people and families in urban environments. Children and Nature in the Anthropocene (1)
Session organisers: Dr Sophie Hadfield-Hill (University of Birmingham); Dr Cristiana Zara (University of Birmingham); Dr John Horton (University of Northampton); Professor Peter Kraftl (University of Birmingham).

The Geographies of Children, Youth and Families Research Group sponsored a series of four sessions on Children and Nature in the Anthropocene at the RGS-IBG Annual Conference held in Exeter in September 2015. Here we report on the first of these sessions, which brought together four papers exploring the social, cultural and more-than-human geographies of new and rapidly changing/developing cityscapes, with a focus on children, young people and families. The papers discussed a range of fascinating case studies across minority and majority worlds investigating diverse ideas, uses and experiences of nature in the built environment from the perspective of children and young people. Nadia von Benzon (Lancaster University, UK) opened with a paper exploring disabled young people’s perceptions of urban green space in Greater Manchester, drawing on research conducted in a Special Educational Needs Secondary School. Moving on to India, Cristiana Zara and Sophie Hadfield-Hill (University of Birmingham, UK) reflected on the emotions, narratives, encounters and more-than-human engagements of young people and families living in a new urban environment, highlighting the role of nature as an anchor to place in children’s everyday experiences. Sruthi Atmakur Javdekar (City University of New York, USA) then brought into focus children’s play in India, critically examining the types of natures that children access, engage and play in, particularly in dense high-rise residential buildings. From a practitioner and policy perspective, Haney King (Natural England, UK) provided an interesting analysis of the correlation between nature provision in the city and health inequality, showing the importance of improved urban green infrastructure in supporting healthy living. Despite the session being abruptly ended by a fire alarm, we were able to begin the day’s focus on Children and Nature in the Anthropocene with lively discussion on the multiple conceptualisations of nature which are conceived, emerging and experienced in built environments across minority and majority worlds.



A new edited publication on children’s emotions in policy and practice published

This publication was developed from a triple-session at the Fourth International and Interdisciplinary Conference on Emotional Geographies at the University of Groningen in July 2013, which was co-sponsored by the Geographies of Children, Youth and Families Research Group.

The volume examines the many ways in which children’s and young people’s emotions matter within diverse policy contexts and forms of intervention. Its contributors explore diverse forms of emotion and emotion work including emotions experienced during the course of professional interventions; emotions underpinning and evident (or overlooked and absent) in policy-making for children; management of young people’s emotions as part of professional practice; and the use of emotion to justify particular moral or political imperatives. Combining theoretical and empirical rigour with a clear focus on policy and practice, this collection presents new findings and original understandings of children’s and young people’s emotions, as well as developing existing theorisations of emotions in policy and professional contexts. Children’s Emotions in Policy and Practice is an engaging resource for students and academics, as well as professionals who work with or on behalf of children.

Further details about the book can be found at:



Symposium on Family Troubles: Care and Change in Diverse Contexts

University of Reading, 16 September 2015
This inter-disciplinary symposium, co-funded by the University of Reading, the Open University and the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) Geographies of Children, Youth and Families Research Group, aimed to explore family relations, care and ‘troubles’ in diverse contexts. The symposium reflected on the powerful, often emotive discourses associated with ‘family’ in different cultural and policy settings and set out to explore the (potentially troubling or troubled) changes, caring practices, and intergenerational relations that shape family lives over time and space across the global North and South. 21 papers and plenaries were presented and 45 people participated in the Symposium.

Dr. Jane Ribbens McCarthy gave the opening plenary discussing key conceptual approaches and challenging and provoking our thinking on what we mean by ‘family troubles’ and how these issues may be addressed across diverse cultures. Paper and poster presentations from UK and international academics, researchers and practitioners addressed the following themes:

  • Meanings of ‘family’ and (troubling) changes in family lives
  • Care and interdependencies in diverse household forms
  • Support for ‘troubled’ families
  • Responses to death and ‘bereavement’
  • Life-limiting illness, dying bodies and family caring practices
  • Policy framings of ‘troubling’ families.

These contentious, emotive and sensitive issues pose questions and dilemmas for policy makers, practitioners and service users, as well as researchers and academics interested in issues of family change, care and support.

Jane Ribbens McCarthy Family Troubles Symposium Sept 2016_3

In the afternoon plenary, Dr. Ruth Evans, Dr. Jane Ribbens McCarthy and Dr. Sophie Bowlby presented key findings from their cross-cultural research on Caringscapes, Responses to Death and Family Relations in Urban Senegal. Rebecca Smith, Save the Children, Dr. Avril Maddrell, University of the West of England, Isobel Bremmer, Candle Project, St Christopher’s Hospice and Prof. Rosalind Edwards, University of Southampton gave insightful comments about the ethic of care adopted, the linkages between formal and informal systems of support in resource-constrained settings, the role of education and how we understand emotions and narratives of family life in cross-cultural perspective. This led to an interesting discussion in response to the issues raised by the discussants and audience members.

Sophie Bowlby Ros Edwards Isobel Bremmer Family Troubles Symposium Ruth Evans Family Troubles Symposium Sept 2016_2

The keynote lecture by Prof. Samantha Punch, University of Stirling, on Reflections on negotiated and constrained interdependencies within and across generations raised critical questions about conceptual approaches to children’s agency and highlighted the importance of an inter- and intra-generational perspective and led to a stimulating discussion and conversations, which continued in the drinks reception which ended the day.

Samantha Punch and audience members Family Troubles Symposium

We plan to develop a special issue of a journal from papers presented at the Symposium. For updates, please follow our blog: Symposium built on earlier work on the theme of Family Troubles? sponsored by the Centre for Citizenship, Identities and Governance at the Open University (see also this podcast about the book, ‘Family Troubles: Exploring Changes and Challenges in the Family Lives of Children and Young People’ edited by Jane Ribbens McCarthy, Carol-Ann Hooper and Val Gillies, 2013, Policy Press).

This Symposium was co-sponsored by the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) Geographies of Children, Youth and Families Research Group, the British Sociological Association (BSA) Families and Relationships Study Group, the BSA Death, Dying and Bereavement Study Group and the Association for the Study of Death and Society (ASDS).

For more information, see:
Contact: Ruth Evans:

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Report: 4th International Conference on the Geographies of Children, Youth and Families: Young People, Borders & Well-Being, San Diego, California, 12-15th January 2015

Sonja Marzi and Eeva Rinne

The 4th International Conference on the Geographies of Children, Youth and Families was held successfully on 12-15th January 2015 in San Diego, California. Around 180 attendees, representing 33 countries, presented issues concerning studies of children, youth and families in the 36 sessions. Being a highly interdisciplinary conference, academics and practitioners who participated were from disciplines such as geography, public health, education, sociology, anthropology, history, development studies, child development and literature, among others.

Thus sessions under the overarching theme of young people, borders and well-being focused on immigration, border crossings, education policy, identity, young people’s futures, children´s rights and well-being. They provoked interesting discussions on and insights into current research all around the world. For example, presentations explored issues about unaccompanied migrant children under the age of 12 when migrating from Central America to the US and emerging problems in relation to refugee children from different international perspectives. Other presentation examples are topics such as transition to adulthood, wellbeing, future aspirations of young people in different contexts, youth organizations, political participation, youth mobility, places and spaces of children and young people. Others discussed educational approaches as well as how to use innovative participatory methods, like radio and photography, when working with young people and children in research aimed at providing them with their own voice.


The border between San Diego and Tijuana (Source: Wikicommons)

As keynote speakers, Professor Tracey Skelton from the National University of Singapore and Professor Katharyne Mitchell from the University of Washington provided excellent presentations. Professor Skelton emphasized in her presentation the development of children and young people´s geographies within the disciplinary framework of geography, reflecting on her own work in this field. A focus on the study of children and young people is important and adds important insights into the discipline of geography. In her talk, Tracey Skelton included a particular emphasis on themes around politics, mobility and research ethics in relation to the study of young people. Starting with a reflection on the discipline of Geography itself, Tracey Skelton explored the transformation the discipline has had in the past and how new themes have been included such as feminist approaches and how these challenge the adultism of the discipline. One of these approaches is about young people and political spaces and argues that they have been excluded from political participation as they have not yet been acknowledged as full citizens. However this neglect has been challenged since 2010 and young people and children are now included more into political geographical research. Similarly young people have been excluded in terms of mobility research and urban studies. However, recently, new collections of journals are challenging this neglect and young people are becoming more present in relation to mobility studies and urban studies.

In the second keynote speech, Professor Katharyne Mitchell discussed her counter-mapping research project with middle school children and the students´ growing understanding of the processes of spatial inclusion and exclusion for historical groups of Seattle. Using maps as a participatory instrument to teach children and young people concepts about social justice and the importance of civic engagement through collaborative counter mapping, the project elicited awareness about the power of space and the struggle space creates in term of inclusion and exclusion in the city of Seattle. However the project also seeks to explore the possibilities of challenging and contesting the processes that were identified as unjust during the mapping analysis. Katharyne Mitchell also explained that this project produced transformative knowledge for everyone, for students and for teachers and parents, where young people could question and challenge normative practices. Therefore young people got to choose which historical group they wanted to examine and map historical events and places related to this group. For example, young people chose African American groups and historical events related to these groups in the city of Seattle. This process created an awareness of the struggles over space and in space within the young people’s neighbourhood. Additionally the project asked the young people what has been done to address these problems as well as what actions could the young people take themselves to solve them? Consequently this is a project that enables young people to understand how cultural history is layered and pictured in the urban landscape and create an understanding about discrimination and spatial struggles. Mapping then can be an instrument to connect history and space and connect events and processes to a spatial dimension. In this way young people could become political actors in their own right, creating awareness of these struggles and thinking about how to challenge them.

For us as PhD students – whose research is also linked to the themes of the geographies of young people – this conference was a great experience and an opportunity to share our research with others in the same field. However, it was also inspiring and provided us with new perspectives. We particularly enjoyed sessions on multiculturalism and racial issues, as well as on young people’s aspirations and issues of migration – including its dangers for young people. We also could enhance our networks during the conference and make new international and interdisciplinary contacts and meet people whose work we follow with much interest. As a result we went back home after an inspiring conference with much energy to continue our work and looking forward to even more interesting topics and challenges that might wait for us once we are finished with our PhDs.

We would like to thank the organizing committee, especially Prof. Stuart C. Aitken and Dr. Thomas Herman for a fantastic conference and the keynote speakers Prof. Tracey Skelton and Prof. Katharyne Mitchell, for their inspiring speeches. Also we want to thank the Chairs, presenters, and all the sponsors and exhibitors for making this great conference possible. A very special thanks from our side to the Geographies of Children, Youth and Families Research Group of the RGS-IBG for the financial support which made it possible for us to successfully participate in this conference.

Sonja Marzi is a PhD researcher at the University of East Anglia in the School of International Development. Her research focuses on young Colombians in Cartagena de Indias between the age of 15 – 22. She is interested in how young Colombians living in poorer areas of the city develop their aspirations, as well as how they create strategies to achieve them, while being influenced by the spaces of their everyday lives. Her work combines qualitative conventional with participatory visual methods.

Eeva Rinne is a PhD student at the University of Tampere in the School of Management and Space and Political Agency Research Group SPARG. Her research project examines multicultural world view and national identity as communicated by Finnish school books and experienced by pupils.

Report: Youth Inclusionary Geographies, International Geographical Union Regional Congress, 19th August 2014, Krakow

The Geographies of Children, Youth and Families Research Group co-sponsored three sessions about young people’s inclusionary geographies at the Regional Congress of the International Geographical Union in Krakow in August 2014. The aim of the sessions was to explore patterns of inclusion and exclusion in the lives of young people emerging through interplays of institutional policies and practices, informal social relationships and bonds, and young people’s own agency. Eleven papers presented by contributors from the United Kingdom, Finland, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden and the United States discussed themes ranging from the agency and livelihoods of child workers in Peru, through the impact of neoliberalism on academic aspirations in Singapore, and the lives of young people in (post)conflict zones to everyday experiences in work, school and public spaces in Western Europe. The concluding discussion, involving the speakers as well as the audience, then raised a number of challenging questions about the appeals and limits of inclusivity, alternative visions of reconnecting young people’s lives with their environments, and about the notions of power, ethics and spatiality in youth geographies. The day was concluded with an informal drink reception and dinner attended by most speakers as well as additional delegates of the conference.

We are very grateful to the IGU conference organisers for hosting the session, to the GCYFRG for generously sponsoring the event, to all speakers for their contributions, and to everyone else who attended for their interest.

Full details of sessions and abstracts can be found at

Fiona M. Smith (University of Dundee,, Matej Blazek (Loughborough University, and Kathrin Hörschelmann (Leibniz-Institute for Regional Geography and University of Durham, and

RGS-IBG Annual Conference 2013: Reports from GCYFRG Sponsored Sessions

Economic Change and Children, Youth and Families: Current Experiences and Future Frontiers

Our session on Economic Change and Children, Youth and Families: Current Experiences and Future Frontiers was kindly co-sponsored by the Geographies of Children, Youth and Families Research Group and the Economic Geography Research Group. The aims of the session were to explore how children, youth and families cope during times of economic turbulence, and how they draw on the past, present and future to do so. We were also interested in how experiences, perceptions and understandings of the future and futurity according to children, youth and families have been shaped by recent economic changes.

We were fortunate to have eight paper presentations across the two time slots of the session, alongside a final discussion piece from Prof. Linda McDowell. The papers were arranged so as to enable an ongoing conversation, starting with a discussion of families and children, and moving towards a discussion of youth and young people. A number of re-emerging themes and questions were raised throughout the papers, many of which were highlighted and provoked further by Linda’s piece. These included the roles of definition of measurement – such as how to deconstruct taken-for-granted concepts such as family and youth – as well as how to measure change, and at what scale and temporality. Many of the papers also touched on questions of how to theorise economic crisis and change, and whether there is an existing conceptual framework within geography to draw upon.

We are hoping to continue some of the discussions from the sessions in the form of a special journal issue – so watch this space!

Sarah Marie Hall, (University of Manchester) and Helena Pimlott-Wilson (Loughborough University)

Unruly Subjects: Governing Young People

Papers in this session grappled with the variety of ways in which young people’s sense of self is forged, both in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) and against the back drop of increasing levels of uncertainty brought about by political, socio-economic, environmental and cultural  instability, change. Presenters discussed efforts to shape, and transform the hopes and aspirations of children and young people by engaging with the variety of methodological, theoretical and/or empirical challenges and opportunities that these governmental ambitions present. An analysis of entries on the ‘We Are the 99%’ blog revealed how young people come to re-imagine such things as identity, enterprise and democracy in a post GFC environment. Other papers explored young people’s aspirations in a variety of contexts, from an exploration of young men’s aspirations in Monrovia, Liberia post civil war, to the ways in which young people’s sense of citizenship emerges through their negotiation of competing ideological tensions in their volunteering work with NGO’s in the UK. Other papers focused upon how space is used to ‘regulate’ young people.  In the South of England the regulation of young people’s use of public space resulted in young people themselves reproducing notions of moral spatial order, while the placement of young people deemed to ‘pose risk’ and be ‘at risk’ within non mainstream educational settings highlighted a replacement of behavioural with psychodynamic approaches, analysed as an attempt to direct young people’s sense of self. This was a provocative session generating reflective discussion. Questions remained regarding the nature of aspiration and how it might be understood, and the ambiguous nature of young people’s agency in contemporary contexts of uncertainty.

Jo Pike,

Bridging the divide: Researching children/ young people and sexuality (1), (2) & (3) 

Conveyors: Joe Hall (University of Hull) and Nelly Ali (Birkbeck College, London)

These sessions brought together a diverse range of scholars from both within and outside of the discipline. We heard from MA research students, doctoral candidates, early career researchers, practitioners and established academics throughout the day in what was the first collaboration between the Geographies of Children, Youth and Families Research Group and the Space, Sexualities and Queer and Research Group.

The first two paper-based sessions focused on methodological and ethical issues in sexualities research with children and young people. Papers in these sessions covered a wide range of issues including how informed ‘informed consent’ could be, the extent to which conceptions of ‘homophobic bullying’ are limiting for sexualities research in schools,  whether institutional studies of sexuality should be complemented with home visits and how methodological/ ethical issues are further intensified when undertaking research with young gay deaf men. We would like to thank all nine speakers for their contributions.

The panel session provided an opportunity for further discussion and exploration of the methodological and ethical issues that surfaced in the paper sessions and we were fortunate enough to be joined by leading expects in the field. The panellists were Dr Mark McCormack (Sociology, University of Durham), Prof. Debbie Epstein (Education, Roehampton), Prof. Deborah Youdell (Sociology of Education, University of Birmingham) and Prof. Gill Valentine (Pro-Vice-Chancellor Social Sciences, University of Sheffield). Dr Robert Vanderbeck (Geography, University of Leeds) got proceedings underway with some opening, introductory remarks and then we heard from members of the panel who reflected on some of the potent themes from the paper sessions, like whether ‘informed’ ‘consent’ can go together. They also raised some of their own concerns, like the teaching of ‘safe sexualities’ in schools and outing gay and lesbian secondary school pupils in class.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank panellists for their contributions and we would also like to thank all those who attended and participated in the discussion.

Joe Hall (Co-organiser)

rgs panel 2

From left to right: Nelly Ali, co-organiser; Joe Hall, chair and co-organiser; Gill Valentine; Deborah Youdell; Debbie Epstein; Robert Vanderbeck; Mark McCormack.

Faith, Space and Youth: Young People Negotiating the Geographies of Spirituality

This aim of the session was to explore the role of faith-based spaces, institutions, discourses, and embodied spiritual practices in shaping young peoples identities and subjectivities. Work by Baillie Smith et al. (2012), Hopkins (2011) and Olsen (2012) illustrates how young people engage with, adopt and transform, or resist such spaces, discourses and practices in the negotiation of their everyday lives and emphasises the intersectionality of spiritual identities with other social identities.

Although four papers were accepted for this session, Chloe Patton (University of South Australia) was unable to attend due to illness, and Roberta Ricucci (University of Turin) did not attend. There were thus two papers by Michael Richardson (Newcastle) and Peter Hart (Durham). Claire Dwyer chaired and acted as a discussant.

Michael’s paper explored the meaning of faith in the intergenerational narratives of men of Irish descent on Tyneside and the intersections of Catholicism and Protestantism with Irishness. His findings suggested that the younger generation were not often involved in institutional religion, although most had been to faith schools. However many of them emphasized the values and ethics gained from their religious foundation and stated that they still ‘believed’ even if they did not practice. The older generation had varying links with religion, and for this group ‘spirituality’ emerged as a theme describing belief but not practice. The paper identified interesting differences in the sample, including the significance of religion for Irish Traveller families.

Peter’s space explored the ‘contested space’ of a ‘secular’ youth club run by practioners without a religious affiliation, but with a ‘Christian’ management committee and meeting within a church building. Drawing on on-going ethnographic work he explored the ways in which management, youth workers and young people as competing ‘placemakers’, using equipment, furnishings, displays, conversations, and practices to mark out a dedicated space for young people, imbued with meaning. The paper also highlighted the different understandings of ‘good practice’ by youth workers from Christian and secular organisations.

The two papers were both well received and both provoked a number of specific questions, including some interesting discussions about methodologies and intersections between youth work and geography. The wider discussion focused on questions about secularism both as a contested theme in academic work on  belief, and in relation to debates about public space. We reflected on the ways in which the secular is defined and the ways in which ‘secular’ and ‘sacred’ spaces are defined, negotiated and contested.

Claire Dwyer, & Ruth Judge, UCL Geography.

Children, young people and critical geopolitics (1 & 2)

The two sessions aimed to continue the dialogue between critical geopolitics and children’s/young people’s geographies which has been started in recent years by several of the speakers present (e.g. Peter Hopkins, Kathrin Horschelmann and Tracey Skelton). It aimed to explore how children are not simply the victims of state and non-state violence but are active in the creation of ‘alternative geopolitics’ (Koopman, 2011) at a range of interconnected geographical scales. Indeed, the papers illustrated the ways in which children and young people are engaging with geopolitics in diverse ways across a host of geographical settings from Germany, England, Scotland, Singapore and the Falkland Islands.

The respective papers each raised a host of interesting questions in relation to the session aims and provided some overarching themes that were succinctly summarised by the discussant Klaus Dodds. In particular the focus on the lives of children and young people encouraged us to problematise and extend what it is we think of when considering ‘the geopolitical’. The papers also highlighted the ways in which young people can be enrolled (e.g. in the military), ignored, dismissed, empowered and represented by the state for geopolitical ends. Notwithstanding this state power, the research presented also variously showed how young people have agency and make decisions about their lives which are influenced by wider geopolitical processes. The session clearly demonstrated how research with children and young people enriches as well as advances critical geopolitical enquiry and deserves to be taken seriously by political geographies more broadly.

Matt Benwell,


Play in Times of Austerity Workshop, 22nd May 2013, University of Leicester

Over 30 delegates from across the UK attended a highly successful ‘Play in Times of Austerity’ Workshop, co-sponsored by the Geographies of Children, Youth and Families Research Group of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) and the Human Geography Research Fund at the University of Leicester. A large scope of excellent papers (some of which were presented in a PechaKucha session), with participation from both academics and practitioners made for a successful day. Delegates included academic geographers, professional Playworkers, and representatives of Play England, several Local Authorities, Playing Out CIC and Plexity. This meeting of minds lead to some interesting and varied theoretical and practical discussions focusing on the marginalisation of play from the political agenda, how cuts are affecting play with some case study examples, and the importance of children’s play. Several speakers focussed on innovative and creative ways in which play can be encouraged in the context of dramatic cut-backs – from opportunities raised by temporary ‘Playstreets’ to the relative merits of organised clubs.

For more information about the workshop, and about the Geographies of Children, Youth and Families Research Group (GYCFRG), please contact Dr Peter Kraftl, Chair of GCYFRG,

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3rd International Conference of Geographies of Children, Young People and Families, University of Singapore (NUS), 11-13 July 2012 


Held on the 11-13th July 2012 in Singapore, the 3rd International Conference of Geographies of Children, Young People and Families jointly organised by the Geographies of Children, Youth and Families Research Group of the Royal Geographical Society UK; the Faculty of Arts and Social Science (FASS) NUS, Fass Children Youth and Families and Youth Research Cluster, NUS; and the International Journal of Children’s Geographies, was a resounding success. Over 70 delegates from 25 different countries attended and participated in the 3 day conference, which brought together a variety of perspectives and approaches to study prevalent issues concerning children, youth and families. The Conference Organiser and Chair, Associate Professor Tracey Skelton envisioned four key aims and aspirations for the conference which were:

  1. to actively showcase Asian scholarship and academic work focused on Asia
  2. to put the key goals of the journal, Children’s Geographies, into practice (
  3. to create an intellectual and social meeting space, without hierarchy, for international scholarly exchange
  4. to arrange a space where young people who are active within their communities and nations could engage with delegates about their experiences regarding youth participation (Skelton 2012: 473-474).

High quality key notes and papers were presented. The themes of this year’s conference revolved around a broad spectrum of issues relating to children’s and young people’s identity and sense of self; the life-course; education; future aspirations; challenges and opportunities; intergenerational relations; agency; participation and citizenship. The interdisciplinary and international focus allowed the delegates to engage with cutting-edge theoretical and methodological scholarship on geographies of children, young people and families.

A sincere ‘thank you’ is extended to the organising committee, especially to Dr Tracey Skelton, Chairs, key note speakers, presenters, abstract reviewers, and all the sponsors and exhibitors.


Skelton, T. 2012. Geographies of children, young people and families in Asia. Children’s geographies, 10(4), 473-479.


Previous Copies of GCYFRG Newsletter

July 2011

January 2011


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