Dr Alan Billings is the Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire. He was elected in 2014 following a by-election and was re-elected in 2016 for a four year term.
He has had the task of holding the South Yorkshire force to account during highly-publicised and difficult times including the aftermath of the Professor Alexis Jay and Louise Casey Reports into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham and the conclusion of the Hillsborough inquests into the death of 96 men, women and children at the Sheffield Wednesday Football club in 1989.
Previously, Dr Billings was a board member of the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales, which oversees the criminal justice system for the under 18s. He was a member of the England Committee of the Big Lottery Fund. He has been the Director of the Centre for Ethics and Religion at Lancaster University.
During the 1980s Dr Billings was Deputy Leader of Sheffield City Council and a councillor for Walkley Ward. He served as a Church of England Parish Priest in four parishes, including spells in inner-city Sheffield and in the mining community of Beighton. He has also trained clergy at two theological colleges - Ripon College, Cuddesdon, Oxford (Anglican), and The Queen's College, Birmingham (ecumenical), where he was the Principal.
Dr Billings has written several books including 'God and Community Cohesion: Help or Hindrance?' and 'The Dove, the Fig Leaf and the Sword: why Christianity changes its mind about war'.
The Archive and Social Justice
The Miners' Strike (1984-5) was a desperate and ultimately doomed attempt by the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) to prevent the wholesale closure of the nationalised coal industry and, as a consequence, save the communities that depended on the local colliery for their existence. The miners were bitterly opposed by the government who viewed the miners as 'the enemy within'. South Yorkshire, where the NUM headquarters were situated, was at the centre of the dispute. A pivotal moment in the strike was the so-called 'battle of Orgreave' in June 1984. Striking miners attempted to stop delivery of coal to the Orgreave coking plant near Sheffield and were met by hundreds of police officers from forces drawn from across the country in what seemed like a military operation. There was a pitched battle in which both miners and police were injured. One historian called it 'legalised state violence'. Afterwards, attempts to prosecute miners for 'riot' collapsed. Many suspected that the operation was an organised attempt to break the national strike. Since that time, the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign has sought to find out the truth. They have always hoped that there might be a public enquiry, but the Home Secretary has ruled that out. However, before the recent election, the Home Affairs Committee was looking at the possibility of some other form of enquiry. The Orgreave archives will play a crucial role in this. At the moment, the records are closed to the public. As Police and Crime Commissioner I have asked South Yorkshire Police to bring together all the material they hold – which is of many kinds - into one place, the Sheffield City Archives. I have also funded an archivist, Benjamin Longden, to catalogue the archive. This is essential work whatever happens not least because of the issues around data protection and redactions. Having a professionally catalogued archive will be crucial for responding to Freedom of Information requests and enabling researchers find what they are looking for efficiently. Above all, it will allow the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign to access crucial documents in their long search for truth and justice. It will also enable South Yorkshire Police to demonstrate that they are a very different force from the one that confronted the miners in 1984. In South Yorkshire there are still raw wounds that need healing and an archivist is playing a key role in enabling that to happen.
The Revd Canon Dr Alan Billings FRSA is the elected Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire.
Elizabeth Denham was appointed UK Information Commissioner in July 2016, having previously held the position of Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia, Canada and Assistant Privacy Commissioner of Canada.
Ms Denham is a strong voice for public access rights. While at the ICO, she has called for the Freedom of Information Act to be extended to private bodies doing work on behalf of the public, and proposed a review of legislation around the duty to document information.
In the data protection field, she has set out a commitment to increase the trust people have in what happens to their personal data. Ms Denham has also demonstrated a focus on the essential role data protection can play in innovation, and the importance of organisations understanding the growing impetus on companies to be accountable for what they do with personal data.
Ms Denham will deliver the keynote address – on the second morning of Conference - on 31 August. She will be among fellow professionals, as she has a BA in History and a Master’s degree in Archival and Information Science from the University of British Columbia.
At the conference, Ms Denham will set out her views on the importance of access to information, the duty to document and the opportunities and challenges digital presents to information management. There will be time for questions.
Dr Neil Brodie is a Senior Research Fellow on the Endangered Archaeology of the Middle East and North Africa (EAMENA) project at the University of Oxford. Dr Brodie will deliver the opening keynote on the final morning of Conference, 1 September.
Scholarly Engagement with Unprovenanced Ancient Manuscripts
There is increasing concern in the UK and Republic of Ireland about the risk of theft, destruction or illicit disposal of cultural heritage, though much of the focus to date has been in the antiquities space, not documentary heritage; at the same time, we see increasing collaboration between the archives, records-management and conservation professions with partners in other information-knowledge and heritage spaces, such as archaeology. Dr Brodie will suggest cultural appraisal ideas and novel regulatory and ethics approaches that we may be able to apply to our own professional and individual situations.
Dr Brodie is an archaeologist by training (PhD, Liverpool, 1991), and has held positions at the British School at Athens, the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research at the University of Cambridge, where he was Research Director of the Illicit Antiquities Research Centre, Stanford University’s Archaeology Center, and the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research at the University of Glasgow, where he investigated international trafficking in cultural objects.
Dr Brodie has been researching the illicit trade in cultural objects since 1997. He was co-author of the advisory report ‘Stealing History’, commissioned by the Museums Association and ICOM-UK on the illicit trade in cultural material. He also co-edited ‘Archaeology, Cultural Heritage, and the Antiquities Trade’ (2006), ‘Illicit Antiquities: The Theft of Culture and the Extinction of Archaeology’ (2002), and ‘Trade in Illicit Antiquities: The Destruction of the World’s Archaeological Heritage’ (2001). For examples of his work, take a look at his blog: www.marketmassdestruction.com
We are delighted that all three keynote speakers – Dr Alan Billings, Dr Neil Brodie and Ms Denham - have agreed to join us at Conference. Collectively, they offer a full-spectrum coverage of leading-edge challenges facing practitioners in the archives, records-management and conservation world; and they will complement what is already an impressive three-day programme.