Article excerpt


I'VE never been sure about the term "soapbox". What's the derivation? Should it be hyphenated? Capitalised? And where does one get one? Sainsbury's? I don't have any answers for these questions right now, but you can be sure I shall take steps to find them. I'm going to need one, you see. Metaphorically, at least. Because I am going out protesting.

Which isn't really surprising from an anthropological standpoint. I recall seeing something on television once, in which a woman-of-a-certain-age observed that for many females, mothers in particular, life could lack a little drama once the middle years kicked in.

Kids independent, career strivings quietened, that sense of ennui creeping inexorably up. My solution? To rejuvenate by learning something new and challenging. Her solution? To go out and protest.

And, boy, do I have something to protest about. You may well have seen the recent media coverage about proposed budget cuts at Cardiff University. You may even have picked up on the terrifying percentage of courses they want to axe.

And so, as is generally the case here, to me. When I moved from London to Wales 15 years back, the first thing I did, after buying an umbrella, was to marvel at the breadth of public services here, from the jaw-dropping facilities in terms of leisure centres and libraries, to the incredible range of adult education courses offered, for anyone wishing to expand their mind.

One such - a weekly class on creative writing run by Cardiff Uni's Centre for Lifelong Learning - was a big influence on my subsequent career.

Fast forward 15 years to January 09, and you'll find listed, within an equally diverse spread of subjects, a class on novel writing, run by one Lynne Barrett-Lee. …