Honouring BALID founding member, Dr Juliet McCaffery


Dr Juliet McCaffery, a founding member of BALID and respected specialist in literacy, gender and development, died in June 2024.

Juliet was an active member of the BALID committee. Along with Brian Street, Alan Rogers and others in BALID, Juliet saw literacy as social practice, intimately linked with people’s lives and livelihoods. She was involved in many of the core activities of BALID over the years, including teaching on the Easter Vacation Courses for overseas literacy facilitators, contributing to the Department for International Development (DFID) literacy consultation (2008) and the Global Monitoring Report (GMR 2010), participating in the conferences in Sierra Leone (2010) and South Africa (2011), co-editing Theory and Practice in Literacy and Development: Papers from the BALID Informal Literacy Discussions with Brian Street (2017),  and serving for many years as BALID secretary.

Ian Cheffy, Balid treasurer writes:

I first met Juliet nearly 25 years ago when, coming back from several years working in literacy in Cameroon, I joined BALID. I very much respected her for the breadth of her experience internationally and for her long standing commitment to the marginalised, expressed in her political involvement both locally in Brighton and nationally as a founding member of BALID, who had shaped its ethos as a body promoting literacy and lobbying for greater efforts to be directed towards improving literacy and education worldwide. BALID was very close to her heart.

Teaching courses in literacy at the SIL training centre in the UK as I was, I valued her book “Developing Adult Literacy” (Oxfam, 2007), written with Juliet Merrifield and Juliet Millican – the “three Juliets” – which was an ideal introduction and resource book for my students preparing for work in other countries. I was grateful to her also as a visiting speaker, sharing her experience with the students.

Juliet was a significant figure in the literacy community in the UK. In her passion and commitment, she will remain as an example to us all.

Katy Newell-Jones, former BALID chair writes:

I got to know Juliet 25 years ago, as a member of Education for Development when we worked together with community-based organisations in Sierra Leone and later South Sudan on Literacy and peacebuilding: a guide for trainers and facilitators. She encouraged me to join BALID and later we worked together on Learning together across generations: guidelines for family literacy and learning programmes.

I remember Juliet fondly as someone who was active in both academic and community settings, drawing from her experiences in each to inform debate in the other. She was a committed supporter of the BALID informal literacy discussion (ILD) programme, presenting and participating whenever she could over the years. Just as importantly, she actively encouraged others to share their work, often for the first time.

Juliet was passionately committed to the on-going support and development of literacy facilitators and generous in sharing her knowledge and experiences. When facilitating she took time to get to know every participant, encouraging each person to tell their story, enabling them to feel a valued participant in the group.  She is warmly remembered by those with whom she worked.

Chris Millora, BALID Chair writes:

Juliet has always been a supportive colleague and mentor, especially for early career literacy researchers such as myself. As a scholar who works with concepts such as literacy as social practice, I have been influenced by Juliet’s earlier work and writing. When I first took on the role of BALID Chair, Juliet was always so generous with her ideas and statements of support. I remember she would send me personal emails congratulating me for chairing a meeting so skillfully or expressing that she enjoyed our discussion. This meant a lot and has made my experience with BALID extremely positive. Juliet will be missed, and we will remember her warmth, influential scholarship, and collegiality.

Mary Anderson, former BALID secretary writes:

Juliet was incredibly generous, loyal and passionate. She was an inspiration for all of us. In the last few years she developed an endearing quirkiness. She is already sorely missed.