When Risinghill opened in 1960 I was Lynn Stockwell (now Brady) not to be confused with Linda Stockwell who was much younger. At that time I thought I was a 'dunce' because I had failed the 11+ and didn't even get into Barnsbury with some of my friends. Instead I went to Ritchie, the girls' only secondary modern in Liverpool Road. This was one of the four schools merged into the new Risinghill comprehensive. It was bigger, modern and it was better equipped - it also had boys!!
I have always known that Risinghill was an important school. I first read Leila Berg's book in the 1970's and at that time I didn't think much of it. I couldn't identify with the poor, rough kids she described. I was lucky because my childhood was happy. There were four children, I was the oldest and I had two sisters and a brother. What is interesting is that we all went to very different schools, but there is little difference in our academic abilities. My brother went to the London Nautical School, one sister went to Owens Grammar School, and the other to Starcross when it was in the Risinghill building.
We lived in Lloyd Baker Street (WC1) in the flats this was great but we only had a two bedroomed flat until I was 16. Like Isabel we had quite a lot of freedom, and our parents were also interested in what we did and where we were. Both of my parents worked, my dad full time and my mum had several part-time jobs to fit in with looking after us. Although people have referred to us as being 'deprived' I always felt sorry for the 'posh' kids who lived in the big houses in the other side of the Street. Their parents were never home and when it came to secondary school they were sent away to boarding school.
Everyone has different views about their school days, but I enjoyed mine. What I liked about Risinghill was having the chance to do lots of new things like trampolining, metalwork, typing and dancing in the gym at lunchtimes. More importantly, I realised I wasn't dumb because I was in the 'A' classes with Isabel and we became close friends. In the fourth year we went into the typing and commerce group together. But I have to be honest - at that age I wasn't really interested in education, I much preferred working. My first Saturday job was helping on a flower stall when I was still in primary school (there wasn't a lower age limit on working then) I also worked in several other local shops. Later on me and Isabel worked together in Curtis Shoes in Upper Street.
Like many teenagers then and now I didn't 'stay on' at school. I just wanted to get a job and earn some money so I left when I was 15. I didn't sit any exams, but this wasn't an issue like it is today - now you seem to need a 'qualification' for everything.
The good thing about the sixties was that jobs were plentiful and it was possible to get jobs on the basis of ability and not qualifications. Learning to type at school gave me a route into office work. I started out as an office junior and progressed up the secretarial ladder. My ambition at that time was 'to get married, have kids and live happily every after'. I was naive and didn't think I would want to work after my children were born. However, it was having children that led to a career change that has brought me where I am today. I started to work in childcare after opening a playgroup, and then went on to work with parents and children in education, training, community work, counselling and research.
I have always been interested in politics and some school friends still remember me as being a 'ban the bomber' I always wore my CND badge at school. Since then this interest has continued. I was one of the many women who visited Greenham Common to support the women protesters, and I have been active in local politics, through my work and as a local resident, but I have never joined any of the political parties.
I moved away from Islington for a short time when I got married in 1967, but I only went as far as Hackney. I came back in 1975 and we have lived just off Liverpool Road since then. A weird coincidence was that my children went to Penton Primary School (this was housed in the old Ritchie school building). On their first day at the school I bumped into an old friend who was in my class at Ritchie, not only were our kids in the same class, but they were also in our classroom. Needless to say, Penton school has now been closed down and its been converted into luxury homes!! Despite the gentrification, and the horror stories about crime, I still like Islington because I live close to most of my family and friends. It's a shame that so many people, including lots of our children have had to move away to get housing.
They say life begins at 40, and that is when I started my formal education. Despite my years of work experience, I was beginning to realise that without formal qualifications I wouldn't even be considered for jobs that I could do easily. I did a BA at the Polytechnic of Central London and was really pleased when I was one of the few people to get the highest award (a first). Since then, because of my work, I've acquired a lot more vocational qualifications.
In September 2005 I finally completed my PhD (not bad for someone who failed the 11+) and graduated in October 2005. The graduation party was great and on the website you will see the photo of Isabel and me taken at the party. The PhD is about how to improve the lives of adolescents in foster care. It has been a hard slog, but it is very relevant to the work I do now as an advocate for 'Voice for the Child in Care'. My job is to support the children and young people to get their voices heard when the professionals don't seem to be listening to their complaints. Young people do have views on issues that affect them, what has been noticeable in the Risinghill research is that no one listened to what the pupils wanted when the professionals decided to close school. How often do you see that amount of kids demonstrating and lobbying MPs to keep a school open?
The idea for the new Risinghill book came about in 2004 when I lent Leila Berg's book to Isabel. We both started wondering why they closed this new and expensive school down within 5 years - we didn't think it was that bad. As we started to talk about our experiences we also began to remember other pupils and teachers, and this started the ball rolling. As a starting point we went to interview Leila Berg and this was fascinating.
It has been great getting in touch with old friends and other pupils who went to the school; we have also made contact with some of the teachers. Lots of us still live locally, but others are spread all over the country, and abroad. What is interesting is that everyone has had such different experiences.
We think 'Risinghill Revisited' will make a good story. At the moment we are delving into the archives to uncover the political history, but the main focus will be on the school from the pupils' perspective and its impact on us. We hope you will want to take part because this will give it a wider viewpoint. Please complete the questionnaires and send us your memories - good, bad, funny and sad. It would also be great to have copies of photos and any other memorabilia of your time at the school and the closure campaign.