A review of 2015; inspired by goodness

Its that time of the year when the cheap dodgy ‘filmed in November’ programmes fill the TV schedule, with reviews of the previous year, top moments, clips and footage, and so in the finest of cultural traditions, but probably with the audacity of the JLS greatest hits album, here are some of mine;

Top book I’ve read in 2015 – By a long way, ‘Faith, Speaking and Understanding By Kevin Vanhoozer, like refreshing water on a thirsty theological soul, just another glorious Vanhoozer read. second, on the same theme ‘Performing the Sacred’ by Johnson and Savage, a practical building on the role of the audience in the Theatre of the Drama of Redemption. Its funny, this year I have bought and read a lot less books than in 2014, though have read a considerable number since starting uni in October. However, Im about to start reading one of Hans Urs Von Balthasar’s ‘Theodrama’ Part IV, i imagine its the Theodramatic fans equivalent to the episodes of Star Wars. Hopefully starting at IV will make sense.

Top Film: Selma. By a long way. Well almost by a long way, that is until I watched Pride a few months ago. Both redemptive tales of goodness in societal and political struggles.

Favourite place; Seaham Beach – the alien one – Ive been there twice this year, and for a long walk over the top of it too.

Seaham Beach
Seaham Beach

Top Coffee Shop; The Italian one just off Sadler street in Durham, I’ve popped in there a few times and had some great meetings and conversations, and its where I’ve gone on the way in to St Johns on a Thursday, a good place to read for a few hours. Notable mentions also include Flat white, Durham, and Tea @ Hart in Hartlepool.

Top piece of free learning; a joint award in third place between the Nomad Podcast, and the Wittertainment podcast, both excellent, but getting the chance to have two extended coffees and meals with Allan Clyne beats both of them, especially as one of these came after a day of proudly seeing Malcolm Winch graduate from ICC and then have an evening walking through a summery hot Glasgow, it was one of my favourite days of the year.

Top people I’ve met for the first time; Meeting Mike Mather was also inspirational, and I thoroughly enjoyed a Beer with Thomas Bruar, back in Wetherspoons in Perth, and I have met other people known from a distance in person for the first time; such as Tony Taylor, Pete Ward and Jessie Joe Jacobs. Though just to mention new people does a disservice to all the great conversations with other people over the course of the year, essential support, guidance and wisdom along the youthwork journey. Also,  after 18 years, great to catch up with a few people from my first experiences in Hartlepool.

Favourite road – (this one for the cyclists) there’s been a few as I’ve managed to get out and ride a few thousand miles this year. When the sun is setting and deep red, the view over seal sands, and Salthome on Teeside were pretty amazing, and a flat sprint of about 10 miles from Port Clarence to Hartlepool. The other bit of road that i have liked has been the longish sprint from Sedgefield to Sadbergh. Hopefully Ill find some new ones in 2016.

Other highs this year have included the decorating of our dining room, the beginnings of some consultancy and youthwork training work locally, helping to support some new youth work with FYT in Middlesbrough, and thinking about where more might take place in 2016, starting of an MA at Durham Uni and being out on the streets in Durham to have some amazing conversations with young people on detached. Some highs also include extended celebrations for my wife’s birthday and a day at Alnwick Castle, and lots of walks around the north east coast, especially Crimdon, Seaton and spotting the Seals at Greatham.Seals at Greatham

Going to the Semi final play off win for Middlesbrough against Brentford was a sporting highlight, only tempered by my Sons sadness of the final result.

Middlesborough play off semi final 2nd leg
Middlesborough play off semi final 2nd leg


Other good youthwork moments this year have included some productive and creative conversations at the FYT/Streetspace conference, the IDYW conference, YWAF Conference, and the Cafe Leadership days- most of which I have written blogs about somewhere on this site already. These were some great opportunities to share practice, insights, learning, trials and joys. It was great also to participate in a 2 day Supervision course at Durham Uni, a really helpful time to get back into thinking about youthwork practice, and study further.

At the end of the year, I could reflect on the low points, or challenges, and these relate mostly to times of tension, of frustration or of uncertainty, and relate primarily to funding, vision and opportunities, but i am going to leave them at that, as i have also learned and been inspired by is the devout attention to thankfulness that Becca Dean describes regularly and eloquently, and so, whilst there has been difficulties this year and much to learn from, I will try and learn to be disciplined in contentment, however difficult that may sometimes be.


So this is less a review of the year, and become a moment to remember the goodness that I have had the privaledge of  receiving from a whole host of people, whether in person, via podcasts, or books and so thank you and  I hope that I have been able to contribute to your existence and world in a similar positive way during the year, and I hope for more of the same in 2016…. and so in thinking about 2016…where will this ongoing drama take us to next and how might goodness continue to lead us on…?


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