Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Biographical notes : Jan Loxley Blount



Biography. Jan Loxley Blount (draft)

Janet Christine Loxley (Jan) was born in 1950 in suburban Sheffield. Her father was a PhD student and lecturer at Sheffield University, applying aircraft metals technology, developed whilst on wartime secondment, to the design of roof bars for coal mines. Her sisters were born in 1954 and 1956 by which time her father *(01) was working for Safety in Mines Research Establishment *(02) and the family had moved outwards to Orchard Cottage, built c1600, where her mother still lives. Her father died during pioneering open heart surgery in early 1964 when the girls were 13, 9 and 7. Only at his death did the family fully realise the importance of his work when telegrams arrived from Whitehall and abroad. Hundreds or maybe thousands of lives were saved in the UK, South Africa and elsewhere.

After their fathers death their mother went out to work and Jan became to some extent a surrogate parent or carer. Thankfully,  All Saints Church, Aston,*(03) influenced both by the Founding Fathers of Kelham Theological College *(04) and by inspirational theologian and Communist Vicar of nearby Darnall, the Revd Alan Ecclestone*(05), provided groups and projects which nurtured Jan and her peers and challenged them to think politically and beyond village horizons.

Jan trained to be a teacher at Kingston upon Hull College of Education during which time she was active within the University of Hull and nationally in the Student Christian Movement *(06). Through SCM's Europe Africa Project, she met many exiled South African and Zimbabwean journalists *(07) and future political leaders.

Whilst studying in Hull she attended a lecture about children's play *(08) by Drummond Abernethy OBE *(09) which changed the course of her life. After qualifying as a teacher she worked on Tentown Adventure Playground Sheffield during which time she was able to participate in parish meetings at Alan Ecclestone's Holy Trinity, Darnall - although he was now retired. For economic reasons she moved to London for a terms supply teaching in Hackney, became involved in exciting projects and never returned. For several years she worked on Saturdays for I.L.E.A. at the Cockpit Theatre *(10) as part of their innovative Outreach team with children and young people. Jan loved using drama and art in this way. It was her first attempt to integrate children with disabilities into groups alongside their able bodied peers. She was especially fond of Joanna, who had Downs Syndrome and was the youngest daughter of cricket commentator Brian Johnston*(11).

She worked a couple of evenings a week at Archway Methodist Central Hall Youth Club, Mondays with the biggest, noisiest, most vibrant gathering of Afro Caribbean youth for miles around and Thursdays with a fragile small group of local and disabled white kids, what a contrast! Jan taught, ran holiday play schemes and did youth work in Islington until moving in 1974 to London Adventure Playground Association*(12,13) as Arts Worker, quickly being promoted to Training Officer where she spearheaded a much replicated play leaders training course. Drummond Abernethy worked downstairs for N.P.F.A. Jan met and adored Marjory, Lady Allen of Hurtwood*(14,15), pioneer of Adventure Playgrounds, especially for those with disabilities. Regular visitors  at the L.A.P.A. & N.P.F.A. offices included Elton John*(16), Jimmy Hill and Prince Philip*(17).

As L.A.P.A. Training Officer she invited Margaret J Roberts, World President of O.M.E.P. and at that time head of Susan Isaacs' prestigious Post Graduate Diploma Course in Child Development at London University Institute of Education, to lecture to her trainee play leaders - only the best would do! Miss Roberts was due to retire shortly and invited Jan to apply to join the course in 1978 for her final year. Jan's research and dissertation concerned the after school and school holiday activities and interests of primary age children in a very mixed area of central London. She discovered to her horror that many of these children were letting themselves into empty houses at the end of the school day, or hiding quietly in the holidays, so the neighbours didn't realise that they were home alone.

Whilst studying and for the next few years, Jan supplemented her income by three fostering teenagers (in succession) for London Borough of Barnet.

Jan competed her Diploma course but still had to write up her research, however she spent the summer working for the pioneering museums education officer Angela Cox at the National Portrait Gallery, encouraging children to bring the paintings of John Singer Sergeant to life through masks, costumes and drama. Jan was very tempted to join the world of arts education. However 1979 was the UN International Year of the Child. One of the priorities identified by the great and the good who, headed by Churchill's daughter Lady Mary Soames, were running the UK operation, was Latchkey Children. They advertised for someone to research the extent of the hidden latchkey problem and identify possible solutions. Jan couldn't resist applying as this brought together her work in children's play with her research for her Diploma in Child Development. She was duly appointed and for almost a year had an office at 85 Whitehall, close to the Cenotaph - she had to pinch herself to see if the view was real, as she was so far from her village roots.

Together with Gerald Conyngham of Save the Children Fund and a finance officer from UK I.Y.C., Jan  toured the UK, visiting projects aiming to cater for children's out of school and school holiday needs. They fell in love with a group of English and Asian mums in a mainly Gujarati area of out-workers for the shoe and clothing trades, living in tiny houses in inner city Leicester. Everything revolved around sewing to keep the bills paid, so children were left to their own devices or told to keep quietly out of the way. Sue Ranger had a vision of turning a disused coal merchants shop, compete with stables, into a safe, warm and welcoming Playhouse! Sue persuaded Leicester City Council to buy the premises and Jan proposed that UK I.Y.C. provide start up monies from publicly donated funds. Belgrave Playhouse has recently celebrated its first thirty glorious years and goes from strength to strength although government cuts imposed on Leicester may threaten its future. Other publicly donated I.Y.C. funds supported less ambitious projects in Bristol and Thamesmead and provided equipment grants to dozens of other groups.

UK I.Y.C. wound up in the summer of 1980 and Jan headed off to the Commonwealth Institute where she worked alongside Zandra Rhodes and others on the groundbreaking interactive exhibition MASK!  There were tentative, tantalisingly tempting offers of freelance work in theatre and arts education, but Clive Jordan of the British Association of Settlements and Social Action Centres was determined that the work started by the UK I.Y.C. Latchkey Project wouldn't die. He obtained  core funds from the Baring Foundation and project monies from Marks and Spencer's. Jan moved to Exton Street to head the B.A.S.S.A.C. Out of School Project.

Woman's Own magazine got involved and put Jan on the front page as 'The Girl Who Cares for Latchkey Kids'. Jointly with the Baring Foundation, they funded a conference in London on Saturday 3rd April 1982 which was attended by women from all over the UK who'd never previously been to London or a conference. This was the day Parliament was recalled to launch the Falklands Armada, so unusually the Government's intentions were announced by an opposition MP - Alf Dubs. Core funding was obtained to launch the National Out of School Alliance for a minimum three year term. Offices were set up at Oxford House in Bethnal Green. Jan worked for N.O.O.S.A. until 1986 by which time she was tired of travelling to Scotland, Northern Ireland, Bristol and elsewhere, she longed for a local base to her life. After she left N.O.O.S.A. became Kids Club Network and has now become 4Children, although Jan fears that it may have abandoned much of the vision and ideology on which it was founded.

Jan worked briefly for various children's and disability arts projects in and around the London Borough of Barnet until economic necessity sent her back to primary teaching in Islington where she ended up working to integrate deaf children into a mainstream primary school. The Methodist Church in the UK advertised for a Connexional Secretary for Children's Work and Jan was appointed, but this coincided with her unexpected decision to marry Malcolm Blount. Their ages meant that having children was an urgent priority and this wasn't practical in a job which required extensive travelling and weekend work. Jan left to marry and rehab an Edwardian house. They exchanged contracts not knowing she was pregnant.

The rest of Jan's biography is intended to be detailed in her book IT COULD HAPPEN TO ANY OF US, Reflections on a Child Protection System in Crisis.  (c) Jan Loxley

Her children David (1989) and Helen (1994) are both highly intelligent, gifted and talented but both have complex debilitating health concerns and neurological differences / learning disabilities including: ME / CFS, Aspergers Syndrome, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, ADD/ADHD, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, Hypermobile Joint Syndrome, Mast Cell Activation Disorder, Asthma, Eczema and multiple allergies.

The late Consultant Paediatrician Dr Alan Franklin suggested that the children were able to function so well despite their problems, because their mother managed their conditions 'so close to the envelope'. A recent GP has made similar comments. However in 1999 assorted medics, educators and social workers misunderstood, misinterpreted and misrepresented the family situation. Jan was victimised and came close to losing both children to state care.

Her story has been told on radio 4 twice (Home Truths & Face the Facts) and spoken of by Earl Howe (who said that this case opened for him the parallel world of the falsely accused) Baroness Shirley Williams and others. It has been reported in the Sunday Times,  the Church Times, the London Evening Standard and various local newspapers in Barnet, Newcastle and elsewhere.

Jan launched and coordinates Parents Protecting Children UK online via its own website and on Facebook.  It has helped many many families, directly or indirectly. On behalf of Parents Protecting Children UK, Jan attends and speaks at various meetings and conferences concerning Autism Spectrum Differences & Difficulties and False Accusation of Child Abuse. She provides limited  telephone and email advice to families in difficulty and has submitted various papers to government and other enquiries etc - some of these have been published. Jan works closely with colleagues in Parents Against Injustice Network, False Accusations Support Organisation and other relevant agencies.

Jan is active in various local parent Carer networks and campaigns eg to save Friern Barnet Library. With Keith Martin of Chaville Press she is hoping to help Margaret J Roberts, now 95, to publish a book on child development which will show some of where UK primary education and child care.  has lost it's vision and direction in the last 30 or 40 years. Jan attends church regularly, writes and does a bit of art, but primarily she is a hands on parent Carer for David & Helen. David is an undergraduate music composition student, writing primarily for SATB choir with Church Organ, but also for woodwind and flute. He plays Sax and sings in several choirs. His compositions are beginning to win prizes and be noticed. Helen is an A level student with a classically trained voice and a massive political / social conscience - Jan teases that she could end up as anything from the new star of Covent Garden to UN Secretary General.

(C)JLB 02:01:2013 & 12:06:2013

*(01) Loxley, E. M. [WorldCat.org] http://www.worldcat.org/wcidentities/np-loxley,%20e%20m
*(02) A Century of Science - HSL - http://www.hsl.gov.uk/about-hsl/centenary.aspx
*(03) All Saints Aston-cum-Aughton » History http://www.allsaintsaston.com/history
*(04)  Society of the Sacred Mission http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Society_of_the_Sacred_Mission
*(05) The Rev Alan Ecclestone -
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/obituary-the-rev-alan-ecclestone-1563770.html
*(06) History of SCM | Student Christian Movement
http://www.movement.org.uk/about-us/history#.UOUhi3wgGK0
*(07) Chenhanho Chimutengwende - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chenhanho_Chimutengwende
*(08) Welcome to the Home of British Adventure Play: http://www.adventureplay.org.uk/history4.htm
*(09) Welcome to the Home of British Adventure Play: http://www.adventureplay.org.uk/wdabernethy.htm
*(10) Cockpit Theatre, Marylebone - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cockpit_Theatre,_Marylebone
*(11) Brian Johnston http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Johnston




*(12) Sunday Times 1977 - AP text reformatted.doc http://www.londonplay.org.uk/file/1140.pdf
*(13) London Adventure Playground Association -
http://www.londonplay.org.uk/document.php?document_id=1140
*(14) Welcome to the Home of British Adventure Play: http://www.adventureplay.org.uk/ladyallen.htm
*(15) The history of adventure playgrounds -
http://www.londonplay.org.uk/document.php?document_id=1627
*(16) Elton John Song Lyrics: The Goaldigger Song
http://www.eltonography.com/songs/the_goaldigger_song.html
*(17) NPFA 1998dec8.pdf http://archive.lib.msu.edu/tic/stnew/article/1998dec8.pdf

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