Bev, who works at the School of History, Philosophy and Culture at Oxford Brookes University, joined 1st Witney Girls’ Brigade (GB) around the age of 8 until she was 18, gaining her Brigader Brooch along the way.
She says ‘I was a very shy little girl and although I tried some other clubs, they just didn’t fit with me. A family friend asked me to try GB and I enjoyed it because there were lots of reflective activities as well as active ones. I’m a Professor in the Philosophy of Religion now and have written books on feminism in this area so being in GB, where women were doing things together and I had space to just be with other girls, was significant for me.’
Bev has lots of memories from her time in GB, but 2 stick out – country dancing and reciting Shakespeare!
She says ‘I had a very good friend in GB, but she and I were like baby elephants. I vividly remember doing country dancing and she and I careering around the room really enjoying ourselves. For 1 badge we had to recite, from heart, a piece of poetry and I learnt a Shakespearean sonnet – even now I can remember it.’
Bev recently attended 1st Witney’s 60th anniversary celebrations. Afterwards, she tweeted about the event saying ‘Owe so much of what I do now to my time in it’ and says being in GB made a huge impact on her and what she went on to do, especially in terms of her confidence.
She says ‘There are 3 main ways in which GB helped form me as a person. Firstly, becoming a senior girl with the responsibilities that went with it – such as looking after the younger girls and being a role model. Being a role model has been significant for me and my career. I work in a philosophy department and it’s still a very male subject in terms of who teaches and writes it so being a role model for young women has been significant to my practice as a philosopher.
‘Secondly, both youth group at church and GB encouraged discussion and debate and I can see completely how that shaped me as someone who likes to talk about ideas and pick away at them, developing a critical attitude.
‘Thirdly, GB brought me out of myself and made me feel more confident about all kinds of things. If you’d said to 8-year-old me that one day I’d be standing up and giving lectures to 150 people or being an elected politician in local politics, I would have said what are you talking about?’
Before becoming an academic, Bev worked for the Royal Shakespeare Company in London. Working in academia for the past 32 years, Bev is a published author, with her latest book looking at the philosophy of failure, she is also a former Labour and Co-operative Party city councillor and is now training to be a Methodist local preacher.
She adds ‘I feel very lucky to have worked in so many areas that I’ve been in love with… theatre was exciting, dynamic, and creative. Being able to lecture, write and think, and be paid for it, has been fantastic, and politics has been so interesting. I go back to the fact that it was the confidence GB gave me that helped me do these things – telling me I had something of value to say and to offer. I’ve had a rich and full life, which I’m very grateful for.’