After a year’s break due to the Covid pandemic, the annual University of Leeds lecture honouring Yorkshire’s first female MP Alice Bacon is returning in an online format next week with a very special guest - Baroness Doreen Lawrence.
The anti-racism campaigner and Labour peer will speak on the evening of Thursday June 24 in the Alice Bacon Lecture, which celebrates the achievements of pioneering women and is named after the Labour MP who led a crusade to improve the education of working class girls and boys.
Lawrence came to prominence following the death of her son Stephen, a black British teenager who was murdered in a racist attack in South East London in 1993. Incompetence, alleged corruption and racism in the police meant that it took nearly 20 years to convict two of his killers, while the remaining three have never been brought to justice.
Baroness Lawrence founded the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, which campaigned for a fairer society. She was appointed an OBE for services to community relations in 2003, and joined the House of Lords as a life peer in 2013.
The inaugural Alice Bacon Lecture was given in 2018 by Harriet Harman – the House of Commons’ longest continuously serving female MP – followed in 2019 by Baroness Hale of Richmond, who was the first female President of the Supreme Court and the country’s most senior judge until her retirement from the role in December that year.
Baroness Lawrence says: “It is an honour to take part in the annual Alice Bacon Lecture on June 24, following in the footsteps of the women that have gone before me. I look forward to engaging with the attendees on the day and discussing important issues and experiences for women.”
Baroness Lawrence will be introduced by Leeds Vice Chancellor Professor Simone Buitendijk, who says: “It is a privilege to announce that Baroness Lawrence will give this year’s Alice Bacon Lecture and we are proud to add her name to the list of deeply respected women that have gone before her.”
Alice Bacon was elected to represent Leeds North East in 1945 and served her city constituents continuously until her retirement a quarter of a century later, when she took up a seat in the House of Lords as a Baroness. Leeds did not return another woman to the Commons until the election in 2010 of Leeds West MP and Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves, who is also Baroness Bacon’s biographer.
Ms Reeves partnered with the School of Politics and International Studies at the University to establish the lecture series. She says: “It’s wonderful to see the Alice Bacon lecture go ahead, and it’s an honour to welcome Baroness Lawrence as this year’s speaker. Doreen Lawrence has spent decades campaigning against injustice. Her achievements are the very essence of Labour’s values, and our mission to create a fairer, more equal society.
“As Race Relations Adviser to the Labour Party, she is leading the review into Covid’s impact on Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, and advances a crucial cause, also championed by Alice Bacon who helped bring in the 1968 Race Relations Act.”
Cristina Leston-Bandeira, Professor of Politics at the University of Leeds, says: “We are very pleased to welcome Baroness Lawrence and to hear about her experiences as a campaigner and a woman politician. How these roles affect women in particular links well with key research areas in the Centre for Democratic Engagement, as well as teaching offered within the School of Politics and International Studies.”
Book tickets via the Eventbrite webpage for the 2021 free public lecture, which starts at 7pm on June 24.
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