Bridging the gap between business and academia

I’m really proud to have taken on two new roles at work over the past few months: Bristol Business School has launched the Bristol Business Engagement Centre and I’m one of the new Subject Business Associates – working with the new Director, Dr Noordin Shehabuddeen. And I am now the liaison for the Business School and the Small Business Charter. Exciting times! I’m also proud to have been featured in the latest blog on the Small Business Charter’s webpage:

The University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) has set up a team of academic experts whose job is to provide a pathway between its Bristol Business School and SMEs. 

The success and growth of SMEs is crucial to an economic recovery in the UK and one way to achieve this is with the help of academic institutions like the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol).

To help achieve this and provide SMEs with a pathway to academics, alumni and students, the university’s Bristol Business School has set up a team of Subject Business Associates (SBAs), from disciplines covering accounting and finance, economics, human resource management, law, marketing, leadership, and strategy and management.

These academics devote up to two days a week to engage with the business community and help SMEs deal with business challenges. New knowledge gained is then filtered back into Bristol Business School’s teaching and curriculum.

Through the SBAs, businesses can call upon academics for collaborative research, consultancy, and executive education. They are also able to tap into UWE Bristol’s extensive contact list of alumni and business networks for collaboration opportunities. SMEs can also benefit from the university’s student body by taking on placement candidates, interns, and hiring undergraduates to work on live projects or undertake Pro Bono work (in the case of the Bristol Business School, this includes law and marketing services provided for free in exchange for work experience).

A typical area where an SME could benefit from the knowledge and experience held within Bristol Business School might be when it plans to expand. “When SMEs go from being a small business to a medium-sized company, they often encounter challenges relating to people, marketing or finance,” says Lucy Wicksteed, who is Senior Research Business Development Manager at UWE Bristol. “We want to ensure SMEs are equipped in those areas to enable them to grow.”

Dr Harriet Shortt is Senior Lecturer in Bristol Business School’s Leadership and Change Centre and is one of eight SBAs. “The role of SBA is an important way of joining up the dots between teaching, research and business engagement,” she says.

Shortt, who is liaison officer between UWE Bristol and the Small Business Charter, specialises in workspace research and how space influences staff wellbeing and everyday working practices. She is currently working with Work Wise UK, a not-for-profit development organisation that explores how the country’s workforce can work smarter and more productively.

The organisation also produces standards of excellence regarding the adoption of smarter working practices. Dr Shortt is helping refresh these standards, taking into account the current labour force landscape, which increasingly combines both ageing staff and millennials. As working-from-home or flexi-time become common practice, part of Shortt’s role is to think about how Work Wise’s standards can apply to SMEs. “In an SME of 20 people, if all staff members want to work flexibly you might have a more complicated way of working compared to a large corporation, where there are many more staff,” she explains.

Shortt says a big part of her role as an SBA is also to help students. “The better the connections we have with organisations, the more placements we can set up and in this way we can inspire students to enter specific industries,” says Shortt. “This is amplified when industry leaders come and speak at the university.”

Jeremy Allen is a Writer and Content Developer at Bristol Business School, University of West of England

Original article can be found here: http://smallbusinesscharter.org/bridging-the-gap-between-business-and-academia/ along with more information about the Small Business Charter and its work with UK Business Schools, driving innovation and growth in the domestic economy.

A few reflections on my new work space: dressing up, talking on the stairs, and missing the corridor

I write about liminal spaces at work – the spaces ‘in-between’ where people meet for ad-hoc conversations, where people hide and escape the gaze of others, where the serendipitous meetings between people provide opportunity for creative thinking. It’s not about the defined spaces at work – the office, the meeting room or the classroom, it’s about the corridors, the toilets, the corners and the stairwells – that’s where good, interesting and meaningful stuff happens. And if there is one thing I like about my new workplace, it’s the conversations I’ve been having in some of the liminal spaces.

A few weeks ago, after the Easter weekend, Bristol Business School and Bristol Law School opened the doors to its new £55m building on the Frenchay campus at UWE. It has been years in the planning and finally, after a delay in building work over Christmas, our crates had been packed, our old offices emptied and our new home sparkly home was ready for occupation.

Two weeks before that we had said goodbye to our 1970s asbestos filled Felixstowe Court. Yes, it was on the grubby side, yes it was rough round the edges, and yes it was a slightly awkward sort of space that certainly didn’t scream ‘welcome to our business school – a place of cutting edge research and teaching’ but it was ours and there were many mixed feelings about leaving it behind.  There were also many mixed feelings about what the new space would hold too.

So, we are a few weeks in and the new building is still a huge talking point and I thought I’d get something down about how I feel about it so far. I’m sure I’ll write about this again and I’d like to spend a bit of time thinking about dear old Felixstowe Court too – I can still see it from my new office, dwarfed by the shadows of our 7 floored mansion, empty and unloved – but not forgotten.

In the meantime, and in my opinion, three interesting things have happened in the new building:

The building is making me dress differently: Well, it’s making me dress in a way that I associate with pre-maternity leave! Maybe I have been waiting for a tipping point since returning to work after the birth of my daughter, waiting for some sort of excuse to get my heels out again and actually consider if my earrings match my lipstick…which also match my bag. It’s been a funny old year back after maternity leave and my wardrobe (and figure) still don’t quite feel back to normal. But in the last few weeks I have found myself really considering what I’m going to wear to work. I have found myself digging out outfits that I haven’t worn in over 2 years – and I love it. I feel like I’m getting back to the old me and I am enjoying wearing old clothes that now feel like new. I’m not sure if it’s because the building feels WAY more corporate – which it is – I feel I need to ‘match’ it and ‘look the part’. Or whether it’s a case of new space = an excuse to have new clothes; it’s like when you start a new job or a new academic term and you feel compelled to go out and buy new stationary to mark the occasion. All this links to the argument that different spaces we occupy can influence how we dress ourselves and adorn our bodies – research that argues our spatial encounters are embodied experiences. There are links between the corporeal and the social and ‘the materiality of the world influences and shapes us as irreducibly embodied and spatial social beings’ (Dale and Burrell, 2008, p.217; and see Lefebvre, 1991). But I wonder what time does to this experience? When something or somewhere is new and sparkly we might feel the need to ‘match it’ through our dress, but what happens when that space isn’t so new anymore? As we bed into a space and it becomes more familiar, how does our experience of it change and how might that influence our choice of dress or how we present ourselves? I wonder what I’ll be wearing to work in a year’s time?

For the time being at least, I’m enjoying being proud of the new building, proud of meeting our business visitors in the atrium, proud of arriving to those meetings in heels, and proud of walking a little bit taller in this space – now it DOES scream ‘welcome to our business school – a place of cutting edge research and teaching’.

How we share space has changed: the building has been designed and built with collaboration and transparency in mind and I can certainly say that has been achieved. In dear old Felixstowe Court we had academic offices that were always open to students but they were in a separate building to teaching and learning spaces – and there were no ‘break out’ spaces or flexible ‘pods’ for people to meet or work in. Now, break out spaces are everywhere and our offices are next door to teaching rooms. Staff and students are side by side. In some ways this is important, useful and inclusive – we should share and enjoy this new space as members of the same university, the same faculty. However, and this is really a key issue in my eyes, staff have, as yet, been unable to colonise a space for themselves that’s outside their office walls – there are no clear staff kitchens (the students are using the kitchen areas on each floor and they’ve labelled their milk in the fridge), there are no clear staff toilets (I met one of my dissertation students by the sinks in the loo as I was hitching up my tights), and there are no clear staff break out spaces (the students use most of them – lounging across sofas with their shoes off, laptops on and headphones in – clearly hanging out here because this building is probably WAY nicer than their student digs). As yet, there is nowhere for us to go to have meetings about students/ student issues/ module development without the students over-hearing. And this is a problem – professionally these conversations should not be within ear-shot of students. It is Henri Lefebvre (a French philosopher) who talks about the contradictory nature of space in his work on the Social Production of Space. He says that space can be both exclusionary and inclusionary at the same time (1991, p.294) and that’s what’s happening here – this space both includes staff and students as collaborators of teaching and learning, but excludes staff who wish to (or rather need to) meet without the presence of their students. From what I hear, new signage is currently being discussed.

I am also conscious that we share space with ‘things’ – objects, things and bits that make a space, in my view, human and occupied. Lived. At the moment I need more of this in the new building – although I thought the individual ‘welcome pack’ on each desk when we moved in was a super touch (picture above of ‘personalised mug and biscuits). My office is bigger than before, but I’d like to have my lovely PhD wall hanging put up on the wall; the atrium space is vast and light but I’d like to see some living trees break it up a bit, soften it; I like the green space outside the building but I’d like to see some benches and bedding flowers and a few of my colleagues walking their dogs then taking them back up to their offices to sit under their desks. I’d like to see more books, more symbols of learning, I’d like to see more pictures on the walls, especially in the classrooms. This is a key theme that crops up in my research ALL the time – the sense of identity in otherwise shared, fluid and transparent spaces – and it often gets overlooked in favour of clear desk policies, consistency and standardisation. I remember a participant in one of my research projects at a Government Agency, where I was looking at the impact of new open-plan working spaces, took a photograph of a huge sombrero hat on top of a coat stand in the office. She told me it reminded her that humans, not robots work here. I hope in the months to come we see a little more of the human creeping in…and a sombrero hat or two.

The bits in-between ARE important: already the ad-hoc conversations that I have had halfway up the stairs have been fruitful (see picture of the main staircase above). I love that everyday I’ve been in I have accidently bumped into someone along one of the new walkways, or in the lift, or on the main staircase and we’ve had the opportunity to briefly catch up on life, that email, that meeting, or that thing we never finished talking about last time. It is in liminal spaces like these that we experience work getting done and decisions being made and that should be valued. I guess this is partly down to the visible and transparent nature of the design – I’ve literally SEEN more people since we’ve moved in and I’m enjoying that. But I do need some time out and however much we embrace collaborative working spaces and aspects of open-plan building design, we do need to be able to remove ourselves from the gaze of others once in awhile. And yes, privacy plays a part in that – now my office has a glass window one end and a glass door the other (Foucault, as my Head of Group remarked, would have a field day) and everyone who passes by can see me touching up my make-up and even when hitching up your tights in the loo you run the risk of bumping into the student you were just having a meeting with. But it’s not just about privacy, it’s about escape and the new building has prompted me to start thinking about what this means – escaping isn’t just about hiding and privacy, it’s about the ability to withdraw from work or people or anything else feels sort of ‘visually demanding’. Being able to withdraw, even for just 5 minutes in the day gives you a ‘moment’, it gives you a breather, just a moment to reflect, think and catch up with yourself. Sometimes I just want to shut off for a minute. But I haven’t found a space to do that yet. In addition to all this, there is a liminal space that I miss – the corridor itself. In Felixstowe Court each subject cluster fitted loosely into a corridor of staff offices and that corridor became, for our subject group (Organisation Studies) a transitory sort of space where you could bump into each other and talk. That space has now gone and outside our offices there are open-plan spaces currently occupied by students. It just doesn’t feel the same – not bad per se, just not the same. We used to leave our doors open and wander in and out and talk across the corridor. We’d talk about children and challenges, about house renovations and relationships, we’d talk about meetings, TV shows, holidays and we could swear and we could cry. I’m yet to see how and where we might have some of these sorts of conversations in the new building – these interactions were (are) vital to our sense of well-being.

So, these are some of my reflections thus far. In the meantime, the whole thing still feels a bit like when you leave your shared student house and move into your own place – you’ve got loads more space and you run about from room to room thinking ‘it’s all mine!!!!’. You spend lots of time rearranging things and decide that you must go out and buy a few plants – and this time you WILL keep them alive. You suddenly want to invite all your friends round for a housewarming and arrange mini tours for each of them. And despite NEVER washing up in your student house, you find yourself keeping everything tidy and clean…well, for now at least.

A coffee and a chinwag with Mo

Yesterday I had coffee with one of my former students, Mo. He’s now a member of staff at Bristol Business School and a PhD student, and I’m proud to call to call him a colleague and a friend. He often remarks that I inspired him with regards to his studies and his thirst for academic work. He remembers that I gave his first lecture in his first year on his first day at university. He tells me he has kept feedback I wrote on his work 6 years ago. He’s now doing a fabulous PhD (in a different subject group to me) on organisational archives and is being supervised by the fabulous Charles Booth. But yesterday it was Mo that inspired me.

We met for coffee in our new business school building and sat in the window of the Atrium Café. The title of our meeting in Outlook was ‘Chinwag’ and the main aim was to gossip about people, places, things and recent changes at work. But quite by accident the conversation took a different turn and ended up being rather like a coaching/mentoring session (for me at least!) and it was really refreshing. There is nothing quite like a former student, now fresh into the weird world of academia, sitting in front of you reflecting back what they see in you – the great, the good and the questionable. I’m not sure how often really honest conversations happen at work, least of all when they are about the choices you make, the perception others have of you, and what people really think of your potential. Our conversation went to lots of places and as much as I would have happily continued into the late afternoon, the moderation of undergraduate dissertations called…

As I went back to my office I found myself thinking about one topic in particular  – how I might spend more focussed time on building up an external profile. Mo had talked about how my research ‘gets out there’ to a bigger audience, how I might inspire others with what I say, how I might engage with the outside world and take my expertise out of the university walls and make my stuff matter. I had talked about my experience of imposter syndrome, my rather uncomfortable feelings about being seen as an ‘expert’, and my fear of failure. He asked me about my blog and why I’d stopped writing. I answered that it had turned into something that I found difficult – it had started as a joyful activity; the freedom of writing about work/ creative stuff (without the academic referencing!) but had morphed into apprehensive it’s-got-to-be-perfect writer’s block.

He told me to get over myself – that these sorts of patterns of thinking are sabotaging my creativity and potential, that opportunity shies away from neediness. Then we both laughed. But he’s right. And so are others that I have talked to about similar things in the past. But there was just something about Mo saying it. Something about someone who treads fine lines between colleague and friend, someone who knows your work but not your field, someone you trust but don’t see on a regular basis, someone who lives a different life to yours but appreciates the world you’re in. And someone who offers a new view with no other agenda. I think everyone needs a Mo. Everyone needs a coffee and a chinwag with someone who treads that fine line.

With all this in mind – it’s about time I got over myself (or at least the writer’s block) and got back on the blog.

ShorttCuts #2: “Hairdressers in the wider public health workforce …or, why we shouldn’t assume hairdressers only talk about holidays!”

wider public health workforce

So, for the first time in 6 months (!) I sit in front of my dusty and neglected blog and think about all the wonderful writing I was going to do on maternity leave… all those projects, plans and musings that were going to fill the nap times and keep me connected to work related things… hmmm, clearly not so much! Hanging out with my daughter was far interesting…

But here I am, 2 weeks in to being back at work. New routines have begun; nursery drop offs, juggling work and motherhood, nursery pick ups …and old routines have returned; marking summer exams, writing external examiner reports and teaching prep for September (already). So now feels like a good time to polish the virtual dust off this blog and get writing again…and true to form, I’m thinking about hairdressers…

A few weeks ago a friend of mine, who owns a beauty salon, sold her business and I happened to spend part of her last day at the shop watching the clients of over 11 years come and say goodbye. It was an emotional day. Loyal clients came and went, dropping off flowers of thanks, gifts and cards. Probably one of the most common phrases I heard from those who dropped in was ‘what am I going to do?!’ …there was a sense of loss in their voices… ‘where will I go now?’, ‘who will I talk to?’, ‘who can I really trust?’. I half expected them to finish with a crack in their voice and cry ‘WHY ARE YOU LEAVING ME?!’

Genuine bonds and friendships had clearly been formed and in this well-documented ‘intimate’ industry (see Paula Black’s book The Beauty Industry, 2004) clients are left bereft of a regular confidant, a frequent counsellor, an advisor for life, love, health and family.

I left the shop to the sound of clinking glasses and the popping of farewell champagne. The next day I was in my regular hair salon (which happens to be opposite my friends shop), with Emma, my hairdresser. Over foils, bleach and tea we talked about the shop closing and how and why clients become long term friends. We made comparisons with hairdressing and once again came back round to acknowledging how this intimate work creates trusted bonds – not just in terms of the work done (lots of us know how hard it is to find a good hairdresser!), but what the relationship itself offers clients.

From articles in the Sunday Times (see Blasberg’s article in the Magazine, 2006, pp.137 – 138) to academic research (see Gimlin, 1996; Black, 2004; Cohen, 2010), for years many have recognised the in-depth and close relationship that often develops within this physically intimate service encounter. In my own research I found mobile hairdressers in particular become heavily involved in family life and the boundary between client and friend becomes blurred and fuzzy. Many of the hairdressers I have worked with talk about the personal, private, emotional parts of their work and how deeply involved they have become in the lives of those sat in their chairs – support through divorces, guidance through pregnancy, coaching through career breaks. And at times, this can be a reciprocal relationship; one hairdresser I worked with in London briefly moved in with one of his clients whilst his divorce was finalised.

Thinking about all this reminded me of one of the stereotypes hairdressers often live with –  hairdressers only talk about where you’re going on holiday. They don’t. At least not the ones I have met during my research …and I was pleased to find that a recent report (2015) by the Royal Society for Public Health has recognised something similar in this valuable relationship hairdressers can have with their clients. The report, ‘Rethinking the Wider Public Health Workforce’ suggests that hairdressers (and firemen and postal workers) could help form a wider public health workforce and positively impact health and well-being through their work. The idea here is partly based on the fact that these workers see clients on a regular basis, have often formed close, long-term relationships already and have opportunities to initiate conversations about health and well-being in a sensitive and non-judgemental way.

Given the current health crisis in the UK and with an under-resourced public health workforce, this report calls for action and highlights those professions that could help make a big difference …and I’m all for it. I think there is a real opportunity here and I think Blasberg was right when he said, ‘Hairdressers have gone up in the world and are no longer regarded as tedious mane-crimpers you are forced to discuss your holiday plans with every six weeks…they are pioneering a new status, mixing beauty maintenance with friendship, pride and dependence…’ (2006). Many hairdressers are already a core part of communities across the country, already offering support to members of those communities…if, with appropriate training, they can enhance that support by acting as signposts to health advice and services, then surely that can only be a good thing.

For more information and for the report itself see:  https://www.rsph.org.uk/en/policy-and-projects/areas-of-work/wider-public-health-workforce/

 

The ‘materiality of maternity’

mat 1 mat 2

I have just finished a fabulous book – ‘Strange Material – storytelling through textiles’ by Leanne Prain (2014). It was one of those reads that makes you say out loud, ‘Yes! I think that too!’, ‘I know exactly what you mean!’ or ‘I do that!’ It examines the role textiles play in our lives and how quilts and textile art can help us make sense of experiences, tell stories or bring us together as communities. Throughout the book there are interviews with textile artists from all around the world, some great photographs, and suggested projects for the reader. I enjoyed the topics covered too – clothing as social history, ‘rugs of resistance’ and how poetry and fabric work together. I found it a really inspiring read and consequently, it made me get out my sewing machine and return to a project I started at the end of last summer, when I found out I was pregnant…

In much the same way as I made a quilt after I submitted my PhD thesis, before my Viva exam (https://harrietshortt.wordpress.com/2012/06/28/phd-quilt-7-2/ ), I filled the somewhat similar liminal space between pregnancy and birth with a variety of creative endeavours. One of which was to make fabric squares that told the story of my feelings towards being pregnant, the shift in my identity, feelings towards my work and career, and document my experience with midwives and having a baby. After reading Prain’s book, I was compelled to get back to these squares and have recently started putting them together to tell this story in textiles. I have included a couple of pictures here to show my ‘work in progress’! As is common with these sorts of projects, they grow! And I have decided to tell my textile story in two parts; pregnancy and birth, and my year of maternity leave/ the first year of my baby’s life – both of which I see as periods of transition and liminality.

For me, and for other textile artists interviewed in Prain’s book, it is the ‘time it takes to stitch the piece’ that allows space and time to really think about the experience or memory. Sarah Lynn Wood (one of the artists interviewed) says that hand-stitching words ‘allowed me the time to meditate on what I was writing and confirm it in my memory’ and I feel the same – the act of creating these squares of fabric, with their stitched words, patterns and images commits the memory to something tangible. So far, I have used different colours to represent meanings and feelings, metaphors have provided useful images and I have been able to incorporate some of my drawings in the quilt by using fabric that goes through a printer – handy stuff! I also found my old wooden French Knitting Doll, and have created something that will somehow be representative of an umbilical cord – I think this might be a nice way to think about the connections you make with your baby before they are born.

So, watch this space for more details and I’ll post again as this piece of work progresses. Oh, and a thank you to my friend Fiona, who saw this interesting work and passed it on to me: http://www.jellybeanquilts.com/baby-quilts.htm and thanks too, to my friend and colleague, Jenny Hall – her midwifery quilt is both inspiring and a lovely piece of work to reflect on during my project http://www.midwiferyquilt.co.uk/author/midwifery_quilt/

Hairdressers and toilets win prizes!

I think there must come a point during maternity leave when most women might wonder what their career will look like when they get back to work. Or they sit at home surrounded by toys wondering whether they will still be able to teach, or stare lovingly into the eyes of their baby and wonder if they have forgotten how to write a paper, run a meeting, write a programme report or plan a three-day teaching block…well, I’ve certainly had these thoughts over the last month…!

So, it was a somewhat well-timed email that I received yesterday afternoon – Human Relations, one of the 4* journals in the Business and Management field, wrote to tell me that my paper, Liminality, space and the importance of ‘transitory dwelling places’ at work, has won Paper of the Year 2015! They said this award is “…given to the article that the Editorial Team considers best encapsulates broad readership appeal, sound methods, and whose theory advances our understanding of human relations at work…”

Needless to say, I was chuffed to bits with this news! I’ve always been very proud of this paper and it is lovely to receive this acknowledgement. It is particularly pleasing since I know some were sceptical that publishing research on hairdressers that used visual methods might have been a challenge – so, here’s to research on overlooked workers and to visual methodologies! I’m off to open the fizz…and the formula!

Human Relations Harriet Shortt Liminal Space Paper.full

Shortt Cuts #1: “What if it comes out ginger?”

 See introduction at: http://www.harrietshortt.wordpress.com/2015/09/07/back-to-school-this-years-subjects-are-babies-and-bleach

20150904_203039-1

When I was pregnant this was one of the questions I was frequently asked. I’m not a redhead and nor is my husband, although my mother-in-law has naturally auburn hair. But this seemed to be a genuine concern for some people – “Can you imagine? A ginger child?! (gasp)…oh the horror, oh the shame!”

Really? Is it still ok to say/ ask this? Are these prejudices still around? And so what if I had a red-headed child?!

In Wendy Cooper’s book on ‘Hair’ she presents a brief history as to why red hair was once so popular; famously Titian depicted beautiful red-haired Venetian women in his paintings, and at the time of Elizabeth I’s reign, society was apparently desperate to find ways of replicating her copper locks…even rhubarb juice was used to try to get that flame haired look. Yet somehow, over time, red heads have been mocked, distrusted and portrayed as suspicious. Flame coloured hair, Cooper writes, is linked to Judas, witches and witchcraft, and sexually promiscuous and dangerous women.

Cooper’s book was published in 1971. Her short narrative on red hair rather breezily concludes that it is now ‘back in favour’, certainly in Europe and the U.S. and she seems to equate this with the advent of colour television and movies and as such, red-haired women being seen as passionate rather than dangerous. Hmmm…Cooper seems to suggest historical prejudices are no more…I’m not so sure. And it seems I’m not alone…

In the last few weeks The Sunday Times has published two articles on the topic of ‘red’. In one, Emma Smith reviews a new book (out last week) by Jacky Colliss Harvey, ‘Red: A Natural History of the Redhead’ in which Harvey explores the history, mythology and biology of red hair. It sounds like a good read – a cultural and social foray into the who’s who of red hair, including Tintin, Ronald MacDonald and Mary Magdalene. As Smith suggests, this book seems to be part of a current ‘growing movement’ to reclaim red hair from the ‘bigots and bullies’ and ‘celebrate it’s varied hues’.

In another article, and on the back of this new publication, red haired historian Kate Williams reports on the mocking of ‘gingers’ and recounts her own experiences of bullying as child growing up in the 1980s – as she puts it, having red hair was a ‘social disaster’. Williams’ article goes on to present a number of grim prejudices experienced by a variety of young people in recent years; name calling, those who are ginger deemed as ‘unattractive’ (she recalls a university friend explaining that ‘ginger rhymes with minger’), those driven to suicide by bullies’ slurs on the colour of their hair, the advent of ‘Kick a Ginger’ websites (that led to attacks on school children), physical harassment…and, reportedly, that red heads are now seven times less likely to get a job than a dark-haired applicant. All pretty shocking stuff.

Following these cruel accounts of bullying and frankly appalling stories of discrimination, Williams plots a brief history of when red-haired men and women have been in and out of vogue and gradually attempts to move towards a more positive conclusion. Now, she suggests, in the 21st Century ‘red-heads are in fashion’  (just as Cooper did in 1971)…although this time I found, rather disappointingly, some of this ‘fashion’ appears to be attributed to the all-powerful Taylor Swift saying she would ‘do a ginger’ and Ed Sheeran believing ‘he has helped ginger men to have more sex “we’re finally getting laid”’. So is the suggestion here that when red heads are in fashion it’s all about attractiveness and sex? Maybe it would have been even better if Williams had, instead, acknowledged, say, Greg Rutherford’s recent sporting achievements or the fact that at this year’s Glastonbury festival, Florence and the Machine’s Florence Welch was the first British female headliner this century! Come on Williams – surely red-headed achievements and role models win over Swift ‘doing’ one?!

I was more encouraged by the news that the Australian Red and Nearly Ginger Association (RANGA) are attacking stereotypes and by all accounts attacking prejudices too. And the good news that in 2011, when the world’s biggest sperm bank announced it was to stop accepting donations from ginger men, there was a huge backlash and ‘a surge in requests’ for ginger donors.

Maybe I’ve missed something here, but for me it’s not about ginger being fashionable or not. I think Smith had it right when she suggested we ‘reclaim red hair from bigots and bullies’ and ‘simply celebrate its varied hues’. This got me thinking about my own red headed friends and their many and varied hues (from strawberry blonde to dark auburn)…and their many and varied talents – VP and General Counsel, Development Manager, BAFTA Award Winning TV Producer, Oxford University Student, Musician, Academic, Solicitor, Creative, Personal Trainer, Vintage Clothing Business Owner. So, if I had had a red-headed daughter, I’m sure she would have embraced her hair, been proud of her locks and had some pretty great role models along the way!

P.S. Thanks to my friend Owen for his Facebook post the other day: Gingers Rejoice! Redhead Day UK is coming! A special event that celebrates red-head power, including arts, music and entertainment…and the MOGO Awards (Music of Ginger Origin!!). 12th September 2015, Angel, London www.redheaddayuk.co.uk