Full circle

Gemma Ahearne receives award on stage from Professor Fiona Beveridge

Winning Lecturer of the Year (2022) at the University of Liverpool is my life going full circle. Thank you to my friends and colleagues Alex and Tan who accompanied me on the night. It was wonderful to see friends from across the university and I enjoyed celebrating your successes.

Picture by Gareth Jones, July 6th 2022, University of Liverpool

Twenty years ago I first came to the University of Liverpool aged 18 years old. I dropped out in second year for many reasons. My Alcoholic father died in August 2002, just before I was starting uni. I was living with chronic illness and was working as a dancer. Life is messy and offers so many paths and experiences.

I returned to uni aged 25 after a stint at different jobs and and a variety of educational experiences that I am eternally grateful for. These include Open Uni, local college and beauty college.

I would not be the teacher that I am if it were not for my life experiences. I do not shy away from disclosing my various lived experiences, and speaking from, and not merely to issues of social inequality. I maintain that these provide me with ‘rich pedagogical gifts’.

I am the kid who grew up on benefits in a violent household of addiction. I cannot peel that off when I talk about poverty and trauma.

I know the sneers and pity of working in the sex industry. I run a large third year module called Crime, Justice and the Sex Industry. I tackle stigma and issues of exploitation face on.

I explore spaces within my teaching because I know those spaces. I have blogged here about life going full circle, and how strange and powerful it is to facilitate my guided walk of sexual entertainment venues in Liverpool city centre.

It is brave and incredibly risky to be authentic in professional space. To receive this award from the British Society of Criminology Women, Crime and Criminal Justice Network in June 2022 was reassuring and validating. My writing is not to everyone’s taste, yet this is how I need to write. I thank the panel and all the wonderful women in the network. Criminology is such a supportive discipline.

The award was for the most vulnerable and raw paper I have written.

British Society of Criminology paper award for Gemma Ahearne, 2022

The paper draws from one of the worst times in my life. To think these events were in 2017/18, I honestly cannot believe the place I am in now. I am so thankful and grateful to God and to all those who have supported me and uplifted me.

During the pandemic I have been processing a cascade of grief. The only way forward is hope.

The storm is always calmed. Faith over fear.

As we head towards Lammas I am reminded of the cycle of the seasons and of life.

If you are currently going through hard times, eventually they pass and you will know joy again.

Gemma x