HOT OFF THE SHARED PRESS: This Leader Can... Make a Difference on Equalities


Powerful and personal tales about the battle to achieve equality in leadership are at the heart of our latest book, book launched with Solace, the organisation for senior managers working in the public sector.

“This Leader Can…make a difference on equalities” includes true stories, told by senior leaders working in local government, highlighting how leaders are making a difference in their organisations – and where mindsets need to shift to deliver a step change on equalities and diversity.

The stories are about: *senior leaders coming out about disabilities and sexuality, *diversity and the bottom line, *the serious challenge on race diversity, *dealing with political pressure, *unconscious bias, *gendered attitudes and bullying, *serving diverse communities and managing conflict.

These stories pack a real punch. There are tips on how leaders are using their influence to make change in really complex situations and insight into the benefits that equality can bring in organisations that are really committed.

What make the stories so compelling is that they’re told by people who have been there, done that and know how it feels – these people are putting their heads above the parapet to make real change happen faster.

Jo Miller, Chief Executive of Doncaster Council and ex-President of Solace – the inspiration for the book said: “Great leaders know the importance of building truly diverse organisations where people trust and understand each other.

“This Leader Can is full of stories about people who are doing just that. Some of the stories also show how difficult it can be and how far we still have to go. But by sharing our stories and experiences in the way we’ve done in the book is an important first step in delivering change.”

Agilisys, who sponsored the publication said: “ It’s long past time for us all to recognise that diversity in leadership will help build stronger and more resilient public services. Together we can all help challenge the norm in local government and encourage under-represented groups to aim for the top.”

This Leader Can also includes practical advice and tips from experts on delivering equalities in organisations.


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On the final page of our recent book Town Hall: Buildings, people and power, we asked readers to share their town hall stories, to continue the conversation. Here is one of those stories, sent by John Schultz, one of the country’s longest-serving council chief executives. He retired from Stockport Town Hall in 2010 after 16 years of service.

“Arriving as I did from jobs with three county councils, I couldn’t fail to be struck by how integral local people were to Stockport Town Hall, claiming it – and especially the ballroom – as their own space.

Wednesday afternoons were for tea dances. Coachloads of pensioners came from all over, including from across the Pennines; and woe betide any newcomers who accidentally ousted regulars from their favourite tables. The arrival of the Wurlitzer from the soon-to-be-demolished Free Trade Hall led to hugely popular lunchtime organ concerts; but there was an initial flurry of disapproval from the tea dance crowd when the upstart new instrument sometimes took over from the modest electronic keyboard they knew and loved.

One of the things I enjoyed about having a powerful organ in the ballroom (apart, that is, from the opportunity to play it!) was the reminder of the role that had been played in the nineteenth century by many of the town halls older than Stockport’s. In the days before sound recordings and radio, live performances were the only way people could get to hear both the classics and new compositions. There were local orchestras, of course; but how much more accessible for the local organist to play an arrangement of a symphony on the king of instruments – one that could mimic all others.

Every bit as rewarding for me was the annual beer and cider festival. As chief executive, I considered it my solemn duty to check that the sprung dance floor was being properly protected! It was a sad day when I had to cancel the festival’s booking in favour of a general election count, called at short notice (as was the practice before the Fixed Term Parliament Act). Understandably, but most regrettably, the festival has stayed away.

Yet there was always something special about election counts. They represented the very heart of what we were about. Three parliamentary constituencies were all counted together in the same room; or – at local elections – a large number of wards, with others counted in far-flung rooms in little-known recesses of the building. Including in the splendid art deco ‘ladies’ withdrawing room’.

Of particular satisfaction for me was to see the broad range of people who used the ballroom to the full. As by far the largest classy room in the borough, it was unrivalled as a venue for the huge wedding and other parties thrown by families from Stockport’s Jewish and Muslim communities. How apt that the building had traditionally been known as ‘the wedding cake on the A6’, courtesy of Alfred Brumwell Thomas’s baroque revival design – the architect of Belfast City Hall and Woolwich Town Hall as well.

But my understanding of what the public expected from their town hall remained woefully incomplete until Princess Diana died one Sunday. I planned to have a book of remembrance for the mayor and councillors to sign at the council meeting on the Tuesday evening, with the book available to the public from the Wednesday morning. How naïve I was. In no time, the sheer pressure of public demand had the book made available by the Monday lunchtime. And the bank of flowers all along the town hall’s frontage was wondrous to behold. Only the town hall would do.

So imagine my delight when, on my retirement after 16 years, a member of staff – in an act of extraordinary thoughtfulness – presented me with a medal (found on eBay, I believe) that had been struck to commemorate the opening of the town hall by the Prince and Princess of Wales 102 years earlier.”



Town Hall - Buildings, people and power shines light on the beauty, guts and glory of our civic buildings.

Some of the country’s most beautiful civic buildings could be under threat following a decade of austerity. Our stunning new coffee table book highlights 32 of the country’s municipal town halls and civic centres in a series of stories told by local government experts and employees, politicians, architects and historians.

The buildings include architectural Victorian gems like Todmorden Town Hall – sometimes called the most beautiful town hall in the country, bold art deco buildings like Waltham Forest and modern civic centres of concrete and red brick.

Author and Editor of Town Hall, Dawn Reeves said: “These stories are fascinating because they’re told by the people who work in our municipal buildings, care about them or understand their importance in our towns and cities. But increasingly these buildings are taken for granted and can become symbols of a bureaucracy that doesn’t work.

“That means when councils are wrestling with making difficult decisions about cuts to frontline services after a decade of austerity, they have to look at the cost of maintaining and preserving their civic headquarters – they’re often old, expensive and in need of repair – and ask themselves if they can still afford them.

“And yet so many important stories about local government happen inside these amazing, beautiful, ugly, impractical and sometimes contested buildings that are the civic heart of a place. This is where local democracy lives.”

Sir Michael Quicke, of CCLA, who sponsored the book said: “This book celebrates our great municipal buildings - the good, the bad and the ugly - and invites people to look at them and their councils afresh.”

TOWN HALL Book Talk at Todmorden Book Festival

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We'll be launching our beautiful coffee table book Town Hall - Buildings, people and power at Todmorden Book Festival this Sunday 18th November! Town Hall co-editor Dawn Reeves will be speaking about the book following a tour of the Town Hall by volunteers at 2pm, and a talk by Dr Emma Stafford, author of the Todmorden Town Hall guidebook. Advance copies of the book will be available, and there will be cake...join us!

If you can’t make it on Sunday, you can pre order your copy of the book (our at the end of the month) here

The Big TOWN HALL Quiz

How well do know your civic buildings? Try your hand at our Town Hall Quiz…

Q1. Name the town halls?
1 point each


Q2. Name the tv show or film
(1 point for the name and bonus points for which town hall it was filmed in)


Q3. Where are these beautiful… beasts…
1 point each


The home of the damned united


……the ocean city

Q4. Which town hall has been in both Yorkshire and Lancashire?


Q.5 Carved into the portland stone of this gorgeous London Borough is this quote…
“Fellowship is life…”

Which arts and crafts master said it?

Q6. Which town hall has been compared to a:
misshapen egg, an onion, a motorcycle helmet,  and a glass testicle…?

Scroll down for answers…


˙spǝǝ˥ – ʇɥƃᴉɹ ɯoʇʇoq ˙ǝɹᴉɥsɯɐɥƃuᴉʇʇoN – ɹǝuᴉɯ ɟo ǝnʇɐʇs llɐɯs ǝɹʇuǝƆ ˙ʇsǝɹoℲ ɯɐɥʇlɐM – ʇɟǝ˥ ɯoʇʇoq ˙ʇuǝɹq – ʇɥƃᴉɹ do┴ ˙ɹǝʇsǝɥɔuɐW – ʇɟǝl do┴ ˙ƖQ

˙ʇɹodʞɔoʇS uᴉ pǝɯlᴉɟ sɹɐW uo ǝɟᴉ˥ – ʇɥƃᴉɹ ɯoʇʇoq ˙ʎǝsuɹoH uᴉ pǝɯlᴉɟ ǝʌƎ ƃuᴉllᴉʞ – ʇɟǝ˥ ɯoʇʇoq ˙ɯɐɥuǝƃɐp uᴉ pǝɯlᴉɟ suᴉƃǝq uɐɯʇɐq – ʇɥƃᴉɹ do┴ ˙llɐH ʎʇᴉƆ pɹoɟpɐɹq uᴉ pǝɯlᴉɟ sɹǝpuᴉlq ʎʞɐǝԀ - ʇɟǝl do┴ ˙ᄅ˙Q

˙ɥʇnoɯʎlԀ puɐ spǝǝ˥ ˙Ɛ˙Q


sᴉɹɹoW ɯɐᴉllᴉM ˙ϛ˙Q

uopuo˥ 'llɐH ʎʇᴉƆ ˙9˙Q

Tweet us your favourite town hall @shared_press.

Talking TOWN HALL at Solace Summit

As always, there is an exceptional line-up of guest speakers and exhibitors for you to enjoy at the 2018 Solace Summit. The theme of this year’s Solace Summit is Future Horizons, and will focus on how local government leaders can maximise the opportunities that lie ahead while successfully managing the risks to local communities as change accelerates.

Shared Press writer and Director Dawn Reeves will be speaking about our latest book, Town Hall, in the Innovation Zone on Thursday. Town Hall is due to be published in November, but you will be able to see an exclusive preview at Solace Summit.

8.30 - 9.30am
18 October 2018
Innovation Zone
Hilton Brighton Metropole

Coming in November 2018: TOWN HALL

Stories about buildings, people and power

Town halls, council houses and civic centres are the most visible symbol of local democracy in our towns and cities. Whether they’re grand Victorian edifices or brash 70s redbrick blocks, they occupy a unique position in the fabric of a place. This book explores these buildings and their past, present and possible futures – told by the people who work in them, care about them or understand the importance of significant buildings in towns and cities.

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We want to change the way people see local government and public services through compelling stories told in creative ways. In this book we’re focusing on our civic buildings because their role, history and the work that goes on inside them make for fascinating tales that aren’t told widely enough.

Local government, stuck in the grip of dominant negative narratives, often finds it difficult to get its case across. The complexities of local government leave people cold and our civic buildings become, to some, simply symbols of a bureaucracy that doesn’t work. And yet many important stories about local government happen inside these amazing, beautiful, ugly, impractical and sometimes contested buildings that are the civic heart of a place.

In tough times it’s tempting to batten down the hatches, keep our heads down and hope that no-one takes yet another shot at us. But these stories about our civic places and spaces show that it’s when we’re bold, brave and daring in local government we’re at our best. That’s when we design our most breath-taking buildings, when we create spaces that work for communities as well as politicians, when we make bold statements about the places we serve. And that’s when people appreciate best how necessary our town halls are to our histories and our futures.

We need residents to be engaged with their town hall, keep an eye on it and what goes on in it. We want them to see it for what it is, appreciate and connect with it and all it stands for. That’s a serious challenge.

Our chapters reflect the big themes that emerged from our contributors’ town hall tales.

In Purpose stories focus on the role of town halls in transforming society, examining the buildings that make statements of intent about their place, as the focal point for discussions and decisions about the vision and ambitions of the people who live and work there. We celebrate municipal reformers and recognise those living the values and ideals of community and service - officers who understand that making a difference must be concrete. It must have an impact.

People celebrates and highlights the connections a town hall has with its place; what makes it unique, how a town or city’s people react to the physical presence of a civic building and that deep emotional connection so many of us have with our town hall that – most of the time – we don’t even realise we have.

Power takes us to the political heart of our town halls and the decisions made there, looking at the connections between a place and its people and how, sometimes, these can be broken.

In Future our storytellers explore the town halls that feel like they’re working today, explore the challenges some of them are facing and speculate on how they could work in the future.

All these stories are united by a common thread. They all show the distinctiveness and beauty, the guts and the occasional glory. There are so many more stories to tell.

This is where local democracy lives.

Town Hall will be published in November 2018.

Walk Tall – new book launched!

Walk Tall: Being a 21st Century Public Servant was launched in Birmingham on Friday. It’s a great creative step for me and our fourth Shared Press book. We’re really chuffed. Over the last 4 months I’ve been working with Fran Collingham and Lisa Hughes – on this fantastic commission for the Local Government Association, SOLACE – the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and the PPMA (the HR and OD people managers association for the public sector). We’ve also commissioned photography for the first time from Maurice Keogh, and worked again with designer Kate Ferrucci.

Download the ebook for free at the Local Government Association Website:

Our challenge was to write and facilitate compelling stories that illustrate the experience of being a 21st century public servant and that inspire people working in or with the public sector to develop the characteristics of this new breed. The stories are a positive reminder that, in the post-Brexit world, that the sector employs people who are already creating original solutions to complex issues. Their deeply held values, positivity, flexibility, progressive attitudes and fresh thinking jump off the page. The book illustrates why I’m proud of public service in the UK and why I continue to support and write about it.

Each chapter of the book focuses on one of the characteristics identified in the research on the 21st century public servant carried out by Birmingham University. Each story brings a characteristic to life, shining a light on what it means in practice, in real workplaces across the country. The contents are an intriguing mix of personal narratives, profiles, opinions and short fiction. We wanted to reflect the diversity of what is happening across the sector and invited as many storytellers as we could into print, encouraging people to write their own stories.

The book includes a reflective piece by Sue Hawkins, a psychologist in the Youth Offending team at Stockport Council, on fostering a shared humanity with the young people she works with; a gritty and immensely practical frontline view from Lindsay Saunders and Heather Brown, local government Key Workers based in a police station in Wigan, focusing on their relationship with their locality; and Ian Lloyd, Transformation Manager for the Isle of Wight Council, on how communicating change to citizens is central to his creative thinking in response to austerity. There is also a sideways take on pan-public sector leadership by Mark Rogers, Chief Executive of Birmingham City Council. In times of upheaval it can be tempting to fall back on traditional, hero-style leadership, but these stories show how collaborative and distributed leadership can make a significant difference.

Although we know the book doesn’t scratch the surface in terms of the range and depth of the contributions public servants make, we are delighted that 65 people from 25 organisations have taken part including colleagues in local government, the NHS and the Fire and Rescue Service, as well as – in today’s mixed economy of service provision – public servants working in voluntary and private sector providers. Serving communities and improving people’s lives is a driving force and clear motivator for all our contributors, and public service is at the heart of every story.

As the leader of the team that curated the book (and a former corporate director in local government), it’s been a creative and inspiring experience. In the same spirit, we hope that everyone who reads it will use the book creatively and – importantly – will pass it on to colleagues. We believe that by changing the story, you change the workforce, the organisation and the sector. This storybook is bold and the people in it are fantastic. They are the ones who will stitch the post-Brexit world together.

We asked all our contributors to take selfies of their shoes in keeping with the theme. There’s a fab guide dog in it too!


The most beautiful venue for a book launch!

Shared Press were delighted to launch “Making our Mark” at the Greenwich Book Festival on Friday 22nd May 2015.

Amongst the many famous literary names at the Festival, an energetic and inspiring book of student stories, creative conversations and designs was published. It’s hard to imagine a more glamorous and appropriate venue from which to send the book off into the world. Like the students on their journeys, book is now on its way. We hope it will be widely read, enjoyed and continue to have a significant impact on the University who commissioned it.

Making our mark – book launch!

The book will be launched on the 22nd May at the Greenwich Literary Festival!


How do you want to make your mark in the world of work? It’s the question at the heart of a new creative project I’ve been working on with the University of Greenwich, designed to explore student stories of work, their experiences and expectations. It’s a tricky question at any stage of your career – and I have to admit that when I started my working life I didn’t really have a clue – but the project has been a joy to work on. And I love the idea of making your mark as a theme because it’s so open, forward looking and can be answered in different ways. It invites speculation, gives space and opportunity to stretch your imagination, dream a bit.

The student experience is a serious issue for many universities and Greenwich were keen to hear how students felt. Rather than using traditional questionnaires, they commissioned us to facilitate the students to tell their own stories in different creative ways – either writing fiction or via creative conversations, or illustrating their ideas and talents through images or designs they’ve created. The book is beautiful, but also unlike any I’ve been involved in before.

We love facilitating people to write but this time we had to be innovative about the process and introduce new ways to tap into different types of creativity – particularly for those that are story-tellers not writers, for those who express themselves visually, and for those that think in 3d (and the one student who dreamed of a future in 5d!)  We found the most important thing was making a connection, individually and personally with the participants, understanding their thinking, preferences, talents and supporting them into a new place, the future they want.

So, the stories and conversations are rich, engaging and honest in a way that no case study could ever be. And the story structure adds meaning and clarifies where the real rub is terms of getting started in a career. Aspiration and anxiety jump off the pages in equal measures. The stories are as much about making a mark in terms of being a valued person and supporting the greater good, as they are about becoming world renowned.

The students themselves confound any stereotypes that are in the mainstream. Most of them are juggling work in non-graduate jobs, hard-working and focused (which sort of reflects the self-selecting nature of the project) and there are contributions from maths, computing, English, graphics, 3d design, animation, business information systems.  The University are delighted and have gained some useful insights into how they can enhance their support for students in their work journey.

Let me know if you are interested in coming and I’m keen to hear how you’ll make your mark? I’ve made some definite marks in recent years – writing a thriller and curating a book of fiction, and as a result of this project, also some tentative marks in charcoal and paint. I’ve been inspired by the students and it’s made me think about what I want to do for the next ten years, a compelling question isn’t it.