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The Beginnings of Ragged by Will Bentinck

Grant and Jess introduced me to Al, because Al wanted to start organising some events, inspired by the Ragged Schools, and Grant thought I might like to help. I was hugely interested – I think education is the single most important thing – so joining a small team of friends on an exciting journey of experimenting with new ways of taking pleasure in learning and in teaching sounded like an opportunity I couldn’t miss.

Al, having planted the seed in our fertile minds, promptly left for Glasgow to continue inspiring others in to action. The three of us had many delicious long meetings in pubs, discussing the philosophy behind the idea and how we might deliver it. We decided on a local bar, The Palatine in Dalston, newly opened with a downstairs room we could use.

will bentinck

I had built a very basic website, opened up some social media channels and I continued to manage the digital side of our activity, handing out email addresses all over the place as Al’s inspiration spread further and further, and more and more were recruited to the cause.

We delivered the first ever Ragged Talks event at the Palatine, 24 August 2010, where Grant and I gave talks on politics and philosophy to a room full of friends and family. The next event was slightly better attended (i.e. there were people we didn’t know in the audience); Grant spoke again, alongside John Underwood, who taught us about the social dynamics of super-heroism.

We continued our pub discussions and experimented with different ideas about how to deliver Al’s vision. Everyone we spoke to about the idea was fascinated, either wanting to give a talk or support the project in some way. Unfortunately, my freedom as a student was fast being constrained by the need to find an income, now that I had graduated, and Grant was taking on the added pressure of beginning university while still in work.

We very regretfully had to dissolve the short-lived London chapter of the Ragged University (as it was then called) in April 2011, just as the incredible successes of the Glasgow, Edinburgh and Manchester chapters were blossoming.

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