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NTFS 2022: From weaver and working class daydreamer to National Teaching Fellow

11 Aug 2022 | Dr Craig Hammond National Teaching Fellow 2022 Dr Craig Hammond, Senior Lecturer in Education at Liverpool John Moores University, reflects on his working class heritage; his journey from being a weaver, studying with the Open University, gaining his first degree and subsequently pursuing a career as a university academic.

Mr Airport Man

It is an absolute privilege to receive this 2022 National Teaching Fellowship award. This achievement, in conjunction with my current academic roles of Senior Lecturer, Co-Director of LJMUs Centre for Educational Research – CERES – and Managing Editor for the education-based journal PRISM, means that the bestowal of this award is amazing. However, it is even more meaningful when this recognition as an NTF is situated against the backdrop of my working class childhood and youth, with its associated experiences of failure at school and general limitation.

Since becoming a non-traditional entrant to higher education as an undergraduate in the late 1990s, I have achieved impressive levels of academic and career progression. Recently, I have written about the challenges, demands, and subsequent successes of my unorthodox journey into academia, as part of the autoethnographic chapter: Mr Airport Man and the Albatross: A Reverie of Flight, Hope and Transformation. In this piece, I celebrate my working class transformation through pivotal experiences with music, popular culture, (and of course airports); and my later academic relationship with music, memory and daydreaming.


Disappointed with the prospect of leaving school at 16 with few qualifications, and either applying for production work in a factory or seeking work as an unskilled labourer, I took the only other available route out of unemployment and joined the army. However, after two years, it was clear that I was generally unsuited to the rigidity and discipline required to be a successful soldier.

As a result, two months after turning 18, I was discharged from the army under the category ‘Services No Longer Required’ (SNLR). Returning to Blackburn, I started work as a weaver, working on a three- shift basis. The work was arduous, physical and isolating, and after several years in this role, I started to experience a deepening sense that something was missing; that I maybe had the potential to achieve more than I had been led to believe.

In February 1994 (at age 24) I enrolled on an Open University D103 foundation course, an introduction to the social sciences. In the canteen during break times, I would read, study, make notes and occasionally write parts of my assignments. At home late at night and in the early hours, I would continue to study; I grew to love the learning, but it was in a secret and interior world, shared with Andy Dufresne (a character out of the film the Shawshank Redemption), the bands New Order, and The Stone Roses, that a new found personal belief in the possibility of a new and different life and identity started to emerge.

During 1996, the second year of my degree studies at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN), a chance conversation with an anarchist friend, who was studying political philosophy, introduced me to the German philosopher Ernst Bloch and his work The Principle of Hope. I immediately sought out this three-volume work in the university library; and with this, the constellations of my history and disappointments, my culture-infused hopes and daydreams all started to align.

Utopian pedagogy

Throughout my academic journey, I have always maintained an interest in working with and supporting working class and other underrepresented entrants and postgraduates in HE. In 2014 (whilst a lecturer at University Centre Blackburn College) I developed my own creative approach to student engagement in the form of a utopian pedagogy. Based on recognising, and developing the dynamism of personalised discoveries, and the utilisation of popular culture, I started to constructively disrupt traditional pedagogies and mundane learning experiences. Captured as part of my 2017 monograph Hope, Utopia and Creativity in Higher Education: Pedagogical Tactics for Alternative Futures my utopian pedagogy is in some ways an extension of my own transformative experiences; however, through experimentation, collaboration, error and success – at least in some areas – I have developed a range of curricular and pedagogic tactics that engage learners with cultural moments in powerful and instigative ways. Cracking open and making accessible everyday encounters with popular culture and autobiography, a supportive environment is established that can facilitate the emergence of hidden identities, struggles and transgressive experiences of previous instances of oppression.


Returning to my current NTF award, I’m glad that I resisted the urge to not get on the train for my first Open University class in 1994, (as I didn’t feel that I was intelligent or good enough). I’m glad that I made friends with an anarchist at university in 1996, who helped me to discover a philosophical home in the work of Ernst Bloch. I’m glad that I listened to my wife in 2006, who convinced me to pursue a PhD. I’m glad that I chose wandering over my structural positionality, and eventually secure a position as a university academic. I’m glad that I’ve experimented with different, maverick, and often challenging, learning experiences. With all of this in mind, I invite you to do the same.


Craig Hammond is a Senior Lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University, a managing editor for the education journal PRISM, and Co-Director of LJMUs Centre for Educational Research (CERES). He is currently completing the PESGB funded project: A Catechism for Oedipus: A Critical Approach to Pedagogic Practice in Higher Education.


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