I would visit Stuart at his home on a weekly basis. As well as working on revised drafts and edits of the book, I would also help on the last few articles Stuart wrote for Soundings (particularly the Kilburn Manifesto) and more widely (largely for the Guardian, but interviews for the BBC and researchers), critically assessing the coalition and the new turns within the Labour party. The period also marked the re-issue of Policing the Crisis, a book which Stuart often indicated remained central to all his work. Finally, I would help Stuart maintain his correspondence. I am very pleased that I learnt how to touch type during my doctoral studies! It meant that I could enjoy listening direct to Stuart’s always thoughtful, always considered response to the many e-mails he received from friends, colleagues, ex-students, journalists, politicos and others. Due to his illness, Stuart had to turn down nearly all invitations – from honorary professorships to requests for commentaries or articles. Even in this quite distressing process, Stuart put in so much effort to respond as best he could. I would often tease him that his lengthy refusals ended up providing more material than many people’s positive engagement!
I have spent the time since Stuart’s passing, scouring the papers and the internet for obituaries and reflections on Stuart and his work. As for so many, I’m sure, Stuart constituted part of a constellation of intellectual stars for me. From my time as an undergraduate his name took place alongside Barthes, Benjamin and all the other ‘names’ of cultural studies and critical theory. That I might spend my Friday mornings each week with him, discussing politics, theoretical positions, readings of Marx and Gramsci, was a gift I never thought I might receive, and that I will hold dear beyond measure.
Reading the obituaries to Stuart has been a great reminder of how I once saw him and they bring a little respite from my feelings. For I suffer from a great sadness that springs from losing a friend who I joked with and who would make me laugh, who would tease me and patiently, so gently but so assuredly test my political imagination. I often felt like a little bird beside a great bear, gently lifting me and pushing me on. I know I’m not alone in that experience. He was such a strong and respectful man.
I continue to seek out recordings of his voice – something I will miss a very great deal. I do hope that the archive under construction at Birmingham is able to digitise the audio visual material that Stuart produced so that more people may access it than those (I’m sure it will be very many) who go to explore the stacks.
Readers may also be interested in the following:
– Stuart Hall and his legacy, from Sociologists at Goldsmiths, published in Open Democracy
– for a more comprehensive and regularly updated list of obituaries and tributes for Stuart Hall, go here
– for other pieces on Stuart Hall on the TCS Website, go here