The Adult Learning Project in the Age of Austerity

Established in the Gorgie area of Edinburgh (Scotland) in 1979, the Adult Learning Project (A.L.P.) is an ‘attempt to translate the philosophy and pedagogy of Brazilian educator Paulo Freire to the context of a Scottish inner city area’ (Galloway, 1999). Despite its success in promoting democratic adult education in this urban setting (Kirkwood and Kirkwood, 1989; 2011a; Galloway, 1999), cuts to core funding mean that A.L.P. currently faces, arguably, the greatest threat to its survival since its formation forty years ago. In an era when adult education bodies throughout Europe endure ever increasing government pressure to provide qualifications to participants in recognition of their learning experience and newly developed skills (see e.g. Forrester and Garratt, 2012; Finnegan, 2013, and O’Brien, 2018), A.L.P. remains a space where learners can explore themselves artistically and intellectually through groups including Art Space, Fayre for Women, Aye Write, and The Democracy Group. Part case study; part action research and biographical account, this paper provides an intimate and grounded reflection on the current state and the future of A.L.P.