Protecting The Magic With Linzi Ticehurst

Lucy Moseley, Visitor Attraction and Resort Management Student


On Friday the 26th of November 2021, Year 2 of the Visitor Attractions and Resort Management (VARM) students attended an in-person guest lecture with Linzi Ticehurst (Health and Safety Manager at Alton Towers Resort) on the importance of Safety in the workplace.  

Linzi has been working within Health and Safety at Alton Towers for 15 years as part of a close-knit team of 5 and worked on the ‘Protecting the Magic for Managers’ training with a collective team from numerous Merlin Entertainments UK Theme parks and Legoland Resorts. This interactive training session taught us that safety at Merlin is a whirlwind; it spans from rides, hotels, and restaurants, to the work-shops, contractors and events of every attraction.  As Linzi detailed the responsibilities of the HSE, EHO, and ORR at the park, she included relevant guidance documents and legislative works that must be abided by within each corner of every department – relevant to our own Law and Legislation module that we’re currently studying at Staffordshire University.

Safety should always be a moving target  – it is never complete.”

Linzi Ticehurst, 2021

During the session, the one-and-only Francis Jackson (Alton Towers Resort Operations Director) stopped by for a couple of minutes to offer a few words on the topic – “the ability to foresee; therein lies the challenge.” (Francis Jackson, 2021). Agreeing with what Francis has said, protecting our guests and staff is the primary focus of our safety department. The responsibilities lie not only in rectifying an incident, but to prepare and take away the hazard in order to maintain the magic for our guests.

I, myself (Lucy Moseley) have been a part of the Health and Safety team at Alton Towers for 2 months up to this publication and working close with the rides department as a fresh pair of eyes on the resort has been an incredible, and rare, opportunity. It is my responsibility to complete administrative work, inspect the rides on resort and bring forward solutions to any arising issues – it’s the kind of role where no two days are the same.

Finally, I would once again like to thank Linzi for taking the time to come and speak with us and share her knowledge on the significance of keeping safe at all times whilst working at the resort. The session that she provided was incredibly informative and well structured, so thank you, Linzi.


The FdA Visitor Attraction and Resort Management course is taught in partnership with Alton Towers Resort, part of the World renowned Merlin Group. It includes 20 weeks paid work experience, and the opportunity to top up to a BA (Hons) degree in your third year.

Flying high with Drew

I started my journey at Staffordshire University studying a foundation degree in Visitor Attraction and Resort Management, a unique, bespoke course with Alton Towers Resort. I learnt a lot during my time studying at Staffordshire University, some standout modules for me were business development and hotel and hospitality. I was able to transfer knowledge learnt in the classroom to my placements at Alton Towers. While studying, and since I’ve graduated, I‘ve worked in a wide range of departments such as the Resort Box Office, Sea Life and Guest Excellence as well as working on large events such as Scarefest and Santa Sleepover. I loved working with customers and using my customer service skills to make sure guests had a magical visit at the Resort.

Once I completed my Foundation degree, I then decided to gain the full degree and studied for another year to gain a BA in Events Management. This was a step up and again a huge experience, with stand out memories such as when I got to plan and host my own virtual event to a live audience. We hosted the Staffordshire University Film Night, which streamed over Facebook and had a lot of viewers while raising money for our chosen charity Macmillan Cancer Support. Once I completed my full degree I started to apply for jobs. It has always been a dream to become a member of cabin crew. I used my academic and customer service skills from university and my placements to gain a place at the Ryanair training course. This was an intense training course which included both exams and practical training. After completing the training and becoming qualified to fly, I have now been to a wide range of destinations in Europe, and I really can’t wait to see where my future takes off now. This has been my dream for a long time, I am hugely proud to be flying with Ryanair, as well as being hugely grateful for the opportunities and experiences I have gained while working for Merlin Entertainments as well as studying with Staffordshire University.

Business Innovation and Entrepreneurship


Dr Bharati Singh, Course Leader, Business Innovation and Entrepreneurship


The Business Innovation and Entrepreneurship course is not only about being an entrepreneur or setting up your own business but it is actually understanding how innovation and entrepreneurship should really be at the heart of any business decision. Successful businesses today are the ones who have been really innovative, they have fresh thinking with an entrepreneurial mindset. In today’s dynamic business setting, both small and large companies harness entrepreneurial streaks.  

Business photo created by rawpixel.com – www.freepik.com

Entrepreneurship and innovation play a very important role within businesses of all shapes and sizes. Employees are expected to think outside the box which can only happen if employees can think innovatively. Today’s world is rather dynamic with the speed of innovation becoming faster, a shorter product life cycle, ever-changing consumer taste, technological advancement, competitor threat, changing government and legal landscape and other external factors not in the control of businesses.

In the face of the current pandemic, it becomes ever so important to be aware of the surrounding economic conditions and the political climate. To explore the ethical and unethical anomalies in the contemporary global political and global economic systems. Such systems can provide both challenges and opportunities.  

Sustainability has become a buzz word today. It is not only about shareholders and profitability anymore. Consumers, suppliers, governments and many other stakeholders now question the practices of businesses. Companies are expected to run their businesses with a social responsibility. The triple bottom line (Elkington 2018); which translates to people, profit and planet, need to be considered.  

Social vector created by freepik – www.freepik.com

Creative Destruction (Schumpeter, 1942) has taken a different meaning altogether in todays business environment. We are in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution and ‘disruption’ is at the heart of it. Companies go through continuous organisational change and hence, have to assess how to leverage innovative business models to remain competitive.   

Of course, to innovate or have an entrepreneurial streak and to sustain a competitive edge, it is imperative for individuals and companies to have a strategy. Strategy is key in business planning and entrepreneurial success. 

Thus, to gauge global challenges and opportunities, understand about the social enterprise, develop an entrepreneurial mindset, to be creative and innovative, develop sustainable business practices, leverage change management and have a strategy to maintain competitive advantage, reading for a degree in Business Innovation and Entrepreneurship will enable students to hit the ground running. 


References: 

Elkington, J. (2018). 25 Years Ago I Coined the Phrase “Triple Bottom Line.” Here’s Why It’s Time to Rethink It. Harvard Business Review, June 25, 2018  

Schumpeter, J. 1942. Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy. New York: Harper & Bros.  

University Life as a Mature Student

Storm Barratt, Course Director, Staffordshire Business School


Most new students view their impending studies as a challenge, feeling nervous and excited in equal parts. For students leaving home for the first time or moving from the cocoon of sixth form and further education, the prospect of independence beckons and can be either a boon or a burden.

Everybody worries about fitting in but for the mature student, the thought that you might be a fair few years older than those fresh out of school with, in some cases, little or no academic background, only adds to the feelings of nervousness.

I was nervous about being older and not fitting in and the hardest part was fitting the work around my family. “ Ella, 36

“I always thought students were there for a jolly – but it’s harder than it looks. At first I did struggle a bit with essays but my tutors explained it to me and after that the whole university experience became enjoyable – the learning, the lecturers, interacting with younger people. Stephen, 66

I wish I had been braver and done this sooner. The hardest part of the course was how much technology I had to get to grips with. Kathy, 51

I attended Staffs Uni at the grand old age of 53 to study Accounting & Finance. I had had a few false starts with Higher Education earlier in my life when a young family, illness and money worries meant that it was nigh on impossible to continue with my studies but at 53 I figured it was now or never.

I chose a subject that I was interested in and with which I had a fair bit of experience, however my ultimate goal was to be a teacher. I opted for an accelerated degree programme as, like many mature students, taking three or four years out of my working life wasn’t feasible.

I admit, in spite of having the motivation to come to university, that on walking into a room full of young students on the first day, I did feel intimidated and for the first few days, it was like being on a different planet. However, the mature students naturally gravitated towards one another recognising common ground in life experience and it soon became clear that it was the perfect environment for us. Over the coming weeks and months, we laughed and cried together and supported each other through studying, building a bond of friendship which is still with us today.

I was one of the lucky ones in that I didn’t have children living at home (in fact my youngest son was at university at the same time), nor did I have to work full-time but the commitment of my peers who had young families to look after, working and studying, I was blown away by their dedication even when times got tough.

As the weeks moved on, in spite of a 35-year age difference, it became obvious that I could learn as much from the school-leavers as they could from me. Two particular students dragged me kicking and screaming through the Economics module by helping me in their spare time, and in return, I proofread their written assignments.

There are so many benefits to being a mature student. As one of our 2021 graduates, Anthony, explains

I came to University completely lacking in confidence but over the months my confidence grew, not only because of the friendships made but also the excellent support from the University – from academic tutors to library staff to well-being counsellors. I couldn’t have asked for more. I will be returning to Staffs to study for a Masters in Sep, something I didn’t even dare dream of when I first started.”

Yes, university study is hard and very challenging at times but the immense sense of pride when graduation finally beckons, particularly if it hasn’t been plain sailing, is a great feeling.

Graduates from my course have gone onto become teachers (higher education lecturers!!), accountants, business owners and more, so join us for an adventure of discovery – who knows where it might take you.

Finance and Business Enterprise

Dr Syed Zaidi, Course Leader, Finance and Business Enterprise


Our World is changing rapidly and becoming a global village. In this rapidly changing world, businesses have also evolved how they operate. The need for the employees who are ‘Jack of all trades’ has become a significant necessity for the businesses. Top management of businesses realises the importance of a dynamic workforce. The executives are aware that the rapidly changing business needs demand employees who can give them an edge due to their dynamic capabilities. In recent times this ‘Jack of all trades’ has been often regarded as an insult, but the full phrase isa jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one. It was a compliment. This perceived Jack of all trades was in reality, William Shakespeare. The continuously challenging business world has now begun to realise this, and now looking for multi-skilled, multi-talented employees.

Woman vector created by freepik – www.freepik.com

The higher education sector has also realised that the conventional approach of teaching and learning is becoming outdated. The students need to be trained and equipped with a range of skills to be able to succeed in the fast-moving challenging business environment.

The higher education sector should listen to the employers and tweak their way of teaching and learning. Staffordshire University has consulted a range of employers to understand the latest challenges and altered the teaching method and courses. The conventional approach to the delivery of full-time course of study comprising 15 weeks of student learning and assessment needs revision. The style of delivery needs to be updated in light of the employer demands. Staffordshire Business School has adopted the block teaching style to suit the dynamic business world. Block teaching is a style of teaching where lectures, seminars and learning are provided in intensive blocks. The university has adopted five-week blocks in which students will be studying one module with full concentration. This style of teaching offers deep-dive immersive learning. Block teaching focuses on individual skills and will develop your expertise as an independent learner and problem solver, preparing you for a fast-paced, focused career in finance and business.

Finance and accounting are no longer just about taxation and the management of financial capital. Finance and Business Enterprise will offer contemporary modules in the field of Accounting, Finance and Business enterprise. The course includes dynamic modules to understand the future of work, understanding the concept of Risk and Reward and the need to study the balance of power. The course also offers topics in sustainability accounting, corporate finance, audit and forensic accounting and financial narrative and reporting.  Looking forward to solving yesterday’s problems. Fintech and digitisation module will analyse how Financial Technology (FinTech) is revolutionising finance. The module will gain an appreciation for the role of digitisation in business by exploring concepts such as automation, artificial intelligence and data mining and the challenges and opportunities these concepts present. The award provides a deeper understanding of the crucial role of finance in organisational decision making and the pursuit of competitive advantage. The students will graduate with an entrepreneurial mindset and the contemporary financial and accounting skills required to survive and thrive in uncertain business environments.

With this award, students may find themselves pursuing a career as a Fintech Manager, Investment Analyst, Financial Manager, Finance Engineer, Data Analyst, Sustainable Wealth Manager, Trust officer, Financial Advisor, or Forensic Accountant.

Marketing Campaigns that hit the mark


Angela Lawrence, Chartered Marketer, Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and Associate Dean in Staffordshire Business School


I’ve always been a lover of clever marketing campaigns and frequently pondered on what makes a campaign so successful. Having identified some really smart campaigns over the years, I decided that four things matter and I developed my own model. There are already a couple of well-known marketing models with four-letter acronyms, to support marketing communications planning – Chris Fill’s DRIP model and Elmo Lewis’ classic, long-established AIDA model. I’d like to propose a third, MIMI. Here’s how it goes:


The first M stands for MEMORABLE. If you remember a marketing campaign then you probably talk to your friends and family about it. Word of mouth is like a bush fire – it spreads! Getting people to talk about your marketing campaign is a sure way to drive engagement and acquisition.

One of the most memorable campaigns of my lifetime was probably the 1971 Coca Cola advert which was absolute genius in its time and one of my first early memories of colour TV. “It’s the Real Thing”, the famous Coca Cola tagline will forever ring out to the tune of “I’d like to teach the world to sing” for me – most definitely memorable!


The I is for IMPACTFUL. If a campaign doesn’t make an impact, doesn’t drive a call to action, doesn’t change anything, then its probably a wasted investment. We invest in marketing campaigns because we want something to happen, whether that be purchase of a product or service, driving awareness or encouragement to sign up for further communications.

My favourite campaign in terms of the impact that it had, was the 2004 Dove Real Beauty campaign by the then Ogilvy and Mather. In terms of impact, this campaign

  • displaced 171 million banners with negative impact
  • reached 5.5 million unique women
  • drove 50% of the women who visited the Dove Ad Makeover site to create a message

The campaign extended beyond promoting a vision for beauty equality, by increasing sales of Dove from $2.5 to $4 billion in the campaigns’ first ten years. Dove soap bars became Unilever’s best-selling product company wide. That’s what I call impact!

The second M of my model stands for MEASUREABLE. Marketing costs money and every good finance officer will demand to know what the ROI will be before agreeing to your budget request. In todays world of digital marketing this is so much easier, with metrics such as Cost Per Click (CPC), Cost per Impression (CPI), Click Through Rate (CTR), conversion rate, number of visitors, post engagement, interactions, page views and many, many more. The hashtag has become a strong indicator of success – #MeToo, #BeKind, #LikeaGirl, #BlackLivesMatter and #NeverAgain resonate with me and illustrate the power of the online environment.

A truly measurable campaign that I think was just brilliant in its time was the EPICA award-winning Mini Getaway campaign in 2010. iPhones had only been around for 3 years, so a campaign developed around an app, to engage and encourage involvement was truly genius. I would hazard a guess that not many readers of this blog have ever seen this campaign, watch the video at the link above and I think you’ll agree that it’s Memorable, Impactful and Measurable without a doubt.


Finally, there is another I, this time for IDENTIFIABLE. It’s imperative that receivers of any campaign messaging need to be able to identify the product or brand. Some brands are identifiable purely by their colour – did you know that RAC orange is a unique colour? What colour are the McDonald arches? If I mention Cadburys, what colour would you associate with the brand?

Other brands are identifiable by a tune containing the tag line or even the brand name – think of Go Compare and you will no doubt sing it. The monotone, single note tune for We Buy Any Car still ring in my head, and as I’ve already said, Coca Cola is the Real Thing in the song from the 70’s ad. Other brands are identifiable by a character, such as the Compare the Market meercats, the Michelin Man, the Jolly Green Giant providing your sweetcorn, the Pillsbury Doughboy and my personal favourite, Captain Birdseye.

Memorable, Impactful, Measurable and Identifiable – I challenge you to apply my MIMI model to your favourite marketing campaign. In fact, why not come and study a marketing qualification with us at Staffordshire Business School, to learn for yourself how to develop and deliver marketing campaigns that truly hit the mark.

BA (Hons) Digital and Social Media Marketing

Masters in Digital Marketing Management

CIM Certificate or Diploma in Professional Digital Marketing

What we learn becomes part of who we are

Tonia Barrett, Lecturer, Staffordshire Business School


Most students decide to go to University as they want to learn, experience university life, meet friends, improve chances in their career, and gain more independence. Our Foundation Degree in Visitor Attraction and Resort Management (VARM) students achieve all of this and so much more. They leave with memorable and life changing experiences, broader knowledge, in depth understanding, increased determination, the skills to overcome challenges, an improved level of responsibility and time management skills. Are these skills you want to improve? Are you ready for a new challenge? Fancy meeting friends that that overtime become family? What we learn becomes part of who we are, check us out.

Past and present VARMers who currently work at Alton Towers Resort. May 2021. [Department’s expedience include: – marketing, conference and banqueting, Scarefest, security and control, SeaLife, rides, product excellence, admission, finance, Food and Beverage, Health and safety, entertainments to name a few.]

I have the great pleasure to be part of a growing programme full of enthusiastic, energetic, innovative, creative, humorous, and imaginative learners. This educational experience isn’t going to be easy, but after 2 years of studying, and gaining employment at Alton Towers resort there will be no doubt in your mind that it will all be worth it. Our VARM course looks for quality over quantity, so you won’t be in a room with hundreds of other learners, just liked minded people like you. We don’t strive for perfection at every entrance gate, we train, teach, stretch, and individually challenge you to develop as for us we are looking for progression not perfection in both your academic studies and your employment experiences. While studying you will take part in debates, discussions, individual and group assessments, you will design your own Visitor Attraction business, you will investigate, read, research, and analyse current practices. This course is a unique and bespoke opportunity for you to grow personally and professional in a friendly orientated environment that is supportive and inclusive to all learners.  You will gain support from University specialists from a wide field of organisational areas to include Tourism, Events and Hospitality.

Tonia Barrett, dedicated lecturer, and author of the blog with Harry Peek who graduated VARM 2018 and then gradated with a Top up in June 2019.

The VARM adventure includes 10-weeks paid placement in the UK’s leading theme park, Alton Towers Resort. The greatest showman once wrote ‘The noblest art is to make others happy’ (P. T. Barnum) and through your employment opportunities in the resort you will find yourself engrossed in delivering outstanding customer service, you will be able to build your communication skills, problem solving techniques, teambuilding as well as your own personnel management skills. While on your rollercoaster adventure, you will have the opportunity to gain access in student lead meetings with the Senior Leadership Team at the resort as well other unique opportunities. The exposure to these career driven individuals, not only helps with the writing of your assessments but also helps with your own career, motivation, networking, and drive to achieve your own dreams.  

We are so much more than an educational establishment, we know through hard work, reflection, determination, motivation, and our support and guidance we can help turn your dreams into reality. As my favourite professor once said, ‘It’s not our abilities, but our choices that make us who we are.’ Dumbledore, Harry Potter.  Throughout the success of VARM, it has been evidenced that the more you put in, the more you get out. Read the testimonials below from current and previous students, and then ‘make the right choice’.

Year 1 students on placement May 2021. [Departments include: – rides areas, product excellence, retail, Food and Beverage, Human Resources, admissions, SeaLife, gardens, housekeeping, and water park.]

Testimonials

Matt. Street Performer/Dungeon Attraction Manager. Graduated from VARM June 2021, moving into BA Business Management in September 2021. ‘Staffordshire University has given me the freedom to independently gain skills and understanding of the leisure industry, supported by teaching of theories and processes which can be applied throughout my job robes at Alton Towers Resort.’


Cameron. Animal Information Host at Shark Bait Reef by Sea Life. Graduated VARM June 2021, Business Top Up planned for September 2021.

Varm has been Fun, Friends and Fulfilment in myself. I’ve gained independence whilst being at Staffs both in my studies and work life. Grateful for all the opportunities and have really pushed and developed myself.  A Clearer idea of where I want to work in the future thanks to the placements and working I’ve widened my network at Alton Towers.


Nick. Guest Relations Manager. Distinction achieved in Fda Visitor Attraction & Resort Management, graduated June 2020. Currently studying Business management BA top-up. ‘VARM provides students with the chance to learn, gain experience and make unforgettable memories. Personally for me delivering a wealth of knowledge, after six enticing placements around the resort.’


Harry. Retail Team Leader. Level 4 VARM student, progressing to level 5 in September 2021. “Throughout my first year on the VARM course at Staffordshire University I have gained skills within a professional, safe, academic environment which I have been able to display through my work placements at Alton Towers Resort



Student Placements

2nd placement for year 1 students in December 2019. Christmas event at Alton Towers Resort Hotel.
Tom, current student. Galactica’s ride area in the portal
VARM takeover in the product excellence team. VARM year 1s, 2s, BA top up students from Business and Events.

Does innovation determine how happy we are?

Ema Talam, Lecturer, Staffordshire Business School


Innovation is of great importance for economies, firms, but also us as individuals. In this blog, we are going to briefly discuss how innovation is impacting our everyday life.

Broadly speaking, innovation refers to new or improved products, processes or methods. Innovative products and services have greatly shaped our lives – the way we perform simplest of daily tasks, study, work or spend our leisure time. Think about how many of your daily tasks would be performed in the same way or differently a decade or a century ago. Would you prepare your food, keep up with your friends and family, undertake your studies or perform any part your job in the same way? It is likely that the answer to (at least some of) these questions is no! The extent of the importance of various innovative products and services (think about smartphones, computers, various apps, etc.) has been, even more than ever, apparent during the pandemic.

Innovation – e.g. development of the vaccine and availability of different technologies – has affected significantly how we coped with the pandemic and our way out of the pandemic. Economists suggest that our ability to work from home has prevented more catastrophic consequences of the pandemic on the economy (Bloom, 2021). In my previous blog, I wrote about how the pandemic has affected firms and in particular, how it affected innovation undertaken by firms. To be able to survive, large number of firms relied on innovation. For example, firms decided to sell their products online as they were unable to sell their products in any other way, or to introduce completely new products. These innovations may even have prevented some firms from closing and employees were able to keep their jobs.

Why does it matter for us if the firms operating around us are more or less innovative? Besides the obvious reason – availability of certain and potentially superior products and services – the research has shown that innovative firms pay higher wages to their employees (Bleaney and Wakelin, 2002). Being employed in an innovative firm can benefit workers performing jobs that require different ranges of skills. Using the data for the United Kingdom for the period 2004-2016, Aghion et al. (2019) show that employees in some of the low skilled occupations employed in innovative firms earn more compared to their counterparts employed in firms that do not innovate.

Finally, does innovation have any impact on our quality of life or well-being? The answer seems to be yes! There are number of anecdotal evidences that might support this. Again, think about different technologies that we relied on during the pandemic. Additionally, the research has shown the existence of the link between innovation and our subjective well-being (Dolan and Metcalfe, 2012).

Steve Jobs once said that it is innovation that distinguishes between leaders and followers and this applies to many areas of life – not just business. Innovation is an ingredient without which the world would not be able to thrive and as we have seen, innovation impacts all of us and all spheres of life, including our well-being and quality of our lives.


References:

Aghion, P., Bergeaud, A., Blundell, R., and Griffith, R. (2019) ‘The innovation premium for soft skills in low skilled occupations’, CEP Discussion Paper. Available at: https://cep.lse.ac.uk/_NEW/PUBLICATIONS/abstract.asp?index=6763 (Accessed: 19 June 2021)

Bleaney, M., and Wakelin, K. (2002) ‘Efficiency, innovation and exports’, Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, 64(3), pp. 3-15. doi: https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-0084.00001

Bloom, N. (2021) Working from home is working. What it will look like post-pandemic?. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bUByJJgPlAo (Accessed: 19 June 2021)

Dolan, P., and Metcalfe, R. (2012) ‘The relationship between innovation and subjective wellbeing’, Research Policy, 41, pp. 1489-1498. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.respol.2012.04.001

Digital Entrepreneurship in the Wake of Covid-19

As part of Staffordshire University’s Innovation Enterprise Zone webinar series, Professor Fang Zhao – Associate Dean Research and Enterprise and Julia Roberts, Entrepreneur in Residence of Staffordshire Business School presented a webinar titled ‘Digital Entrepreneurship in the wake of Covid-19’ on 5th May 2021. The presentation explored and discussed a range of opportunities of the digital transformation accelerated by Covid-19 for digital entrepreneurship from both research and practice perspectives. (https://www.staffs.ac.uk/events/2021/05/digital-entrepreneurship-in-the-wake-of-covid-19)

Please email fang.zhao@staffs.ac.uk should you wish to know more.

Waking up from a Pandemic: Some personal reflections and questions

Dr Jenny Gale – Senior LEcturer, STaffordshire Business SChool


One of the initial objectives of the incoming Conservative government in 1979 was to reduce the size (cost) of the public sector through a major privatisation programme.  This included British Telecom in 1984, British Gas in 1986, British Steel in 1988, Water in 1989, and Electricity in 1990 to 1991.  However, reducing the size and cost of the public services presented a more difficult challenge. As well as contributing to social stability, public services that are free at the point of delivery are politically sensitive, due to their value and importance in the eyes of the British electorate. Disposing of a free public good through wholesale privatisation would evoke too much hostility, risking serious social and political consequences. Furthermore, unlike other tangible products, public services cannot be stored, making the prospect of disruption of services highly undesirable. Consequently, attention turned to neo-liberalism including the ‘marketisation’ of the public services, as a way of  reducing their cost and drain on the UK economy.

The above is an abridged excerpt from my PhD, completed in 2008.  I revisited it recently during my personal reflections after a year of social restrictions and unprecedented government intervention to shore up businesses and peoples’ working lives.  At the time I wrote my thesis I harboured that familiar feeling of unease that something was lurking in our future.  Something that would force a re-think of these ideas and about how we should work and live particularly with regards to climate change and our provisions for managing future health crises. 

The debates relating to the value of public services-vs-being a drain on the economy, particularly with regard to health has been thrust back into the spotlight in a way that was, actually, not hard to imagine and was in fact predicted (but not really acted on).  Sure, there was always the possibility of a pandemic, after all they have happened before and during a time when the NHS didn’t even exist.  However, the 21st century, characterised by a complex technological and geographical inter-connectedness has intensified the pursuit of economic wealth accompanied by the sheer speed of capital, people (and viruses) moving around the globe. The pursuit of wealth and its continuing concentration into fewer, ever more powerful hands, was already argued to be a glaring betrayal of the needs of humanity – ‘Profit over People’ to quote the title of a publication by Noam Chomsky.   

Dame Vivienne Westwood and actor Ralf Little joined a march in London in protest at NHS underfunding. Photograph: Szymanowicz/REX/Shutterstock

In the UK, the media, public service employees and their unions have highlighted the lack of investment (often disputed by government ministers) in the NHS – OK, whatever.  However, neither austerity nor any supposed investment prepared us for COVID.  Like many people, I am now reflecting on certain questions.  Will the investment in scientific endeavour as a way of improving human health, equality and the planet increasingly morph into meaningful international cooperation on a grand scale?  Are governments going to press on with neo-liberal, free-market policies and consumerism despite their inability to build a prosperous and fair global society for most people?  Or, will we see a return to the Big State long-term and if so, what other problems would that create and for who?

Alternatively, are we heading towards a ‘Great Reset’ of capitalism (circa 2030) where, apparently, ‘you will own nothing and you will be happy’, because you will rent everything from those who do? Note that the wealthy and powerful proposing this ‘alternative’ at the World Economic Forum did not say ‘we will have nothing, and we will be happy’.  Such a ‘Great Reset’ could further increase dependency on fewer but bigger and more powerful players providing our commodities – is this a solution, or a magnification of the existing problem?  

Anyway, our current political spectrum is unlikely to produce the necessary vision for business, health or the environment particularly while those with vested interests in the status quo keep calling the shots.  If the combined crises of a pandemic and global warming are not enough for us all to really ‘wake up’ and work collaboratively towards a new vision, nothing ever will be (apart from maybe an alien invasion or a very large meteorite!).