Dr. Steve D. Emery (b. 1962)

Photo:Dr. Steve Emery

Dr. Steve Emery

by the Emery family

Deaf academic on citizenship and group rights

By John Walker

A former resident of Brighton, a print setter, political activist, a cultural studies academic and a Ph.D. holder in 'Citizenship and the Deaf Community', Steve Emery was born hearing in 1962. He was raised in Brighton by his parents, his mother a sewing machinist at Hoffman's and his father an engineer at Wade Engineering. Steve became deaf at the age of 4 after a bout of meningitis.

Steve's mother and father were living in Brighton when they were married but his father's military service took them to Aylesbury in the early 1960's. In 1965 the family moved back to Brighton, where he grew up and remained until 1984. Prior to becoming deaf, they lived in a flat in Montpelier Road and Steve attended a nursery nearby.

Steve attended a full mainstream school, Carden Avenue infants, following deafness, but was soon found to be struggling there, so went to Bevendean Junior school, where there was a partially hearing unit (PHU).  Steve remembered, "I coped better there and so remained until moving to secondary education. During this time, the family moved to Carden Avenue, where I lived from 1969 until 1974."

The deaf children who lived a distance from the school were escorted in a mini van, driven by Mr Self. Steve attended the Partially Hearing Unit (PHU) with, amongst others, Keith, Leigh, Tracy and Andrew. The children were once visited by Dame Flora Robson and the short story reached the newspapers . But Steve remembers one particular peer, "I was best mates with Keith in all my time at Bevendean; his mother and father were the first Deaf adults I knew." Although he was raised by non-deaf parents, his mother used to take him to the annual children's Christmas parties at the Carlton Hill Deaf Centre.

In 1975, Steve attended Patcham Fawcett Annexe (PFA), in Hanover Terrace, which no longer remains.  The family had moved to Ewart Street, in the Hanover area, the previous year. PFA was a completely mainstream school. During the evenings his brother, who was two years younger than Steve, and local children, would play on the streets, football at the Level and also Queens Park. They regularly attended the Hanover Centre where they held youth events and a weekly disco.

Since an early age, Steve's father took his sons to watch Brighton and Hove Albion football club and, during his years at PFA, Steve became a passionate football supporter; a regular at the Goldstone Ground during Brighton's 'glory years' and still supports the club to this day. On Sundays, Steve and his brother played for E&A United: Dave Sexton, the Chelsea manager at the time, often brought his son down to play in the team.

In 1979, the year Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister, Steve left his school at the age of 16 with three 'O' Levels - Computer Science, Mathematics and History - but struggled to find a job. Many employers expected their employees to be able to use the telephone in the clerical posts, or they expected more qualifications in computing. Steve was even 'tested' to see if he might be able to hear on the telephone but found it impossible.

After his initial difficulties in securing a job, Steve attended Varndean Sixth Form College to try to achieve 5 additional 'O' levels in subjects he did not really want to do, so he left and managed to land a post as a cleaning and general assistant at Carmichael and Co Ltd, in Hollingdean Road, for a wage of £27 a week. This small printing company was managed by the late John Blackman, a former Lord Mayor of Brighton.

In 1980, the family moved once again, to Patcham, where they remain today. Steve was trained on the printing presses at Carmichael's and became a Typesetter, which was to remain his official trade until 1989. In 1982, he began work at Sussex Web Offset, in Burgess Hill, a well established printing company that published local newspapers.

During the same period, Steve became politically active in mainstream politics, taking part in demonstrations in Brighton, including CND (when they blocked the roads), anti-war, anti-nazi marches, and right to work marches. He took part in protests outside the Conservative Party conferences when they were held in Brighton and remembers seeing Tony Benn speak at a Labour Rally at the Level in 1982.

Steve eventually moved out of Brighton and worked for several small typesetting companies in London until 1989, and during these years, he travelled extensively, including a solo trip around the world. On his return, he studied Cultural Studies and achieved a 2:1 Hons degree at Sheffield Hallam University (Sheffield Polytechnic at the time). It was here he began 16 years of his life living in the north of England.

Some of the many roles he took included working as a Community Development Officer at Halifax, an unqualified Social Worker at Derby, an assistant Lecturer at Rampton Hospital, and then he became a qualified counsellor, working at Derby College and also at the John Denmark Unit in Manchester. 

Afterwards, he became a User Involvement Worker in Tameside, which led to his Ph.D. in Citizenship and the Deaf community from 2002 until 2006 at the University of Central Lancashire, in Preston. His research portfolio includes the history of BSL, genetics, mental health (Heriot Watt University from 2006 until 2008). He has now moved back south, to Bristol, for a post-doctorate fellowship.

Despite moving across the UK to further his career from the printing presses to academia, his family, including his brother, remains in Brighton and he visits them regularly.

This page was added on 17/07/2010.

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