The two-day festival marked BASW over 50 years and was a unique opportunity to explore social work past and present and look to the future.

550 registered for the event with over 360 joining us live for at least one of the BASW 50th Anniversary festival sessions in June 2020, raising £3640 for three important charities/campaigns - the Social Workers Benevolent TrustChild Poverty Action Group and ATD Fourth World. 

We were delighted to be joined by special guests from across the social work landscape, including author and poet Lemn Sissay, David Brindle from the Guardian newspaper, plus music and a host of contributors from practice, leadership, lived experience of services, education, research, writing and activism. 

Storyteller Katrice Horsley provided thought provoking links between each session, which included reflections on social work during Covid 19 and what it means over coming months and years.  Inequality, discrimination, injustice and poverty were also vital areas explored across all sessions.

BASW was also honoured to receive birthday wishes extended from individuals across social work and beyond (including famous supporters), including Jo Brand, Kriss Akabusi, social work leaders, social work friends and colleagues from across the sector.

BASW’s 50th year celebration was marked with thought pieces by BASW CEO Ruth Allen in the Guardian newspaper and Community Care exploring the future of social work and plans for developing the organisation as practitioners' voice and source of support and development.

We are pleased to share filmed highlights to watch the virtual event again or view here for the first time.

Session 1

Protecting rights, helping people flourish: is this social work yet?   

Special guest: Lemn Sissay

Protecting rights, helping people flourish: is this social work yet?   


  • Gerry Nosowska, BASW Chair (Session host)
  • Lyn Romeo (Chief Social Worker for Adults in England on sabbatical)
  • Tricia Pereira (previous Chair of PSW network England and Head of Adults Services, LB Merton)
  • Fiona Macleod, Neath Port Talbot County Council, Wales
  • David Gillen, Children and Families Social Worker of 30 years and  with lived experience of care, Northern Ireland
  • Professor Brid Featherstone, University of Hull

Themes: How far has social work come in listening to, co-producing and being in solidarity with people using services? How has political and economic context affected our practice over the years?  How can social work live up to its stated aims of being both relational, structural and political? And how has Covid and recent outrage over health inequalities and racism affected social work?

Session 2

Social work research then, now and next  

Social work research then, now and next  

Launch of British Journal of Social Work 50th Virtual Edition (free to access).  Hear about this special collection of 50 selected articles from 50 years from the editorial group and next editors of the journal. Followed by a discussion about the future of social work research across the UK with other contributors.

  • Emeritus Professor Margaret Holloway, University of Hull, Co-Editor of BJSW
  • Professor Malcolm Golightly, University of Lincoln, Co-Editor of BJSW
  • Dr Reima Ana Maglajlic, Sussex University, incoming Co-Editor of BJSW
  • Professor Vasilios Iokamidis, University of Essex, incoming Co-Editor of BJSW
  • Dr Grant Scott, Glasgow Caledonian University, BJSW Board member
  • Gerry Nosowska, BASW Chair
  • Dr Ruth Allen, BASW CEO
  • Professor Jim Campbell, University College Dublin, former editor of BJSW
  • Other members of the Virtual Edition Editorial Board

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Session 3

Better workplaces, better wellbeing

Better workplaces, better wellbeing

Launch and presentations of a crucial new resources for social workers everywhere – the Bath Spa, SWU and BASW Working Conditions and Wellbeing Toolkit Resource.  Good practice examples and discussion of the future imperatives of worker wellbeing.

  • Dr Jermaine Ravalier, Bath Spa University                                           
  • John McGowan, General Secretary of the Social Workers Union
  • Dr Ruth Allen, CEO, BASW
  • Leire Agirre, Principal Social Worker, Central Bedfordshire
  • Jon Dudley (Host), BASW Treasurer
  • Wayne Reid, Professional Officer, BASW England

Session 4

Book launch with the authors: Social work: past, present and future  

Book launch with the authors: Social work: past, present and future  

Edited by Keith Bilton and the dearly missed Terry Bamford, this important book on 50 years of social work created to coincide with BASW’s 50th will be presented and discussed by the authors including Peter Beresford, Hilary Tompsett, June Thoburn, Jane Tunstill, David Jones, Guy Shennan, Malcolm Jordan.

Session 5

The future of social work:  bright, confident, diverse?

David Brindle from the Guardian newspaper, social workers, students, educators, researchers and people with lived experience of services will explore what we want and need for the future – and how to get there.

The future of social work:  bright, confident, diverse? 
  • Gerry Nosowska (Host) BASW Chair
  • Emma Grady, chair of the BASW England Student and NQSW group and the global Social Work Students Hub – and other students from around the UK
  • Professor Lena Dominelli, University of Sterling
  • Other contributors

The 50 year playlist for social work

  • Specially curated for BASW by a national radio DJ Mary Anne Hobbs, to listen at any time from Spotify.