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WATCH: Manchester lecturer wins inaugural Jo Cox Prize

06 Dec 2017

Dr Sarah Marie Hall honoured in tribute to campaigning MP while three colleagues receive special award

Sarah Marie Hall with Carl Austin-Behan, former Lord Mayor of Manchester

Human Geography lecturer Dr Sarah Marie Hall has won the inaugural Jo Cox Prize for Public Service and Active Citizenship, to recognise the positive impacts of her research.

The Political Studies Association’s Jo Cox Prize recognises early career academics who work closely with policymakers and/or wider society for the ‘public good’.

The judges at the awards ceremony commended Sarah for her “research into socio-economic issues, including the unique ‘Everyday Austerity’ project which moved beyond academia and the media to engage directly with the public and ultimately reflecting the values and ethos espoused by the late Jo Cox.”

Jo Cox was murdered in June 2016 in her constituency of Batley and Spen, doing the work she loved, as an MP committed to helping the public. A campaigner and an active member of her community, her maiden speech in the Houses of Parliament concluded: “We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”

Sarah’s research seeks to understand how socio-economic processes are shaped by gender relations, lived experience and social differences.

Her Everyday Austerity research project gathered first-hand, personal accounts of everyday life in austerity, with public sector cuts as the backdrop. This provided content for the Everyday Austerity Exhibition, which aimed to ‘lift the lid’ on austerity and took a year-long ten borough tour of Greater Manchester, visited by thousands of people across the region and beyond. This year she and North-West illustrator Claire Stringer turned her findings into a zine distributed across the country.

The key aim of both the exhibition and zine was to engage the public in the research in novel ways, beyond hefty reports, florid academic language, closed-door conferences and steep pay walls.

Sarah is also a member of the Management Committee of the Women's Budget Group and co-author of the Intersecting Inequalities research report (also with Runnymede and RECLAIM), the first study to evidence the disproportionate and devastating impact of austerity policies on BME women in the UK. Using these research expertise and findings, Sarah has worked with local and national organisations, including Citizens Advice, Shelter, LGBT Foundation and Manchester City Council, to advise, train and empower groups to tackle the injustices produced and perpetuated by the current economic system. 

“I am absolutely over the moon to have been awarded the inaugural Jo Cox Prize, and I'm so grateful to those who nominated me,” she said.

“Jo was well-known for her activities both in her community and Parliament for fostering solidarity and togetherness, and questioning prevailing injustices in society. To be given an award bearing her name for my research on the impacts of austerity in the UK gives me confidence in the value of this work, and the need to challenge such damaging and discriminatory ideology and policy from the ground up.”

In addition to Sarah’s award, three other Manchester academics were winners on the night. Rob Ford, Jonathan Mellon and Patrick English were part of the nine-strong team which projected the BBC/ITV/Sky exit poll for the 2017 General Election - they received the Special Recognition Award for their efforts.