Early in my PhD I had a conversation with my supervisors about locating the relevant sources for my research. We knew it would be a challenge and it was a significant factor in how I chose my case studies. While the main youth associations in London and Liverpool had both deposited significant amounts of material in the London Metropolitan Archive and Liverpool Record Office respectively, until the bulk of the research began it was hard to know what individual club archives would be found, and indeed what state they would be in. Finding the stories of individual clubs, members and workers was one of the reasons I wanted to do this research and so I also chose to do oral history, but I hoped that some clubs would still have documents from the last few decades. Continue reading
I have just got back from an exhausting but excellent research trip to Liverpool where I have been immersing myself in the history of youth clubs and youth work as well as getting to know the city a little better. On the second day, while visiting a club whose papers I have read, I was reminded of Lucie Matthews Jones Blog ‘A Walking Historian’ in which she describes the connection that walking can give her to her research. Having spent time this week exploring the spaces in and around some youth clubs in Liverpool I have felt a little of what Lucie describes in her blog. I understand better how the spaces clubs occupy shape and have been shaped by the City, its history and its people. This in turn gives me a different appreciation of these places when I see them discussed in documents. They are not passive, static buildings and streets. They have an active, dynamic role to play in shaping the young people and youth work histories of Liverpool. Continue reading
This post originally appeared on the VAHS Blog in March 2013
I’ve been watching the Channel 4 programme ‘Secret Millions’. The programme is a step on from the popular C4 format ‘Secret Millionaire’ where wealthy people give some of their money away to shocked recipients and the good causes they have been working with. The new show is about the distribution of Big Lottery Fund funding to voluntary organisations for ‘innovative and ground-breaking projects’. It uses a line-up of well-known C4 personalities looking to tackle some of Britain’s most pressing issues, working on pilot projects with voluntary organisations, with the prospect of the Lottery windfall hidden until the end.
The first episode featured C4 regular George Clarke tacking the issue of youth unemployment and empty homes. He worked with a local London youth club and the organisation London Youth getting young unemployed people involved in renovating a disused house with the help of retired mentors from the building trade. The programme followed the young people on trips, highlighted some of the social problems they face and showed them working on a house to get it renovated within two weeks. At the end the big announcement was made that they had been awarded funding by the Big Lottery Fund, £1.7 million over two years, aiming to help 1500 young people into work. I really enjoyed the show. It was an interesting way to look at the work of small voluntary organisations, raises several social issues and came with a big feel-good factor at the end.
However, the historian and critic in me was not quite sure how new, big and bold, the innovative idea being tested was. Surely this was just reality television gloss? Then today in the archives while researching London youth clubs I discovered the London Federation of Boys’ Clubs working with the Manpower Services Commission and the Job Creation Programme on a scheme where unemployed youth were trained up in the trades, in 1974. Admittedly these youngsters were renovating youth facilities and George Clarke has long campaigned about empty homes, but I was still struck by the similarities in the scheme: Both used youth clubs to target vulnerable youths, both looked at practical work experience, both projects took place during times of high youth unemployment where many young people lack opportunities to get into work and neither set of youngsters appear to have been paid for their work. Of course it is unlikely that C4 undertook extensive archival research prior to recording and I am sure all involved thought they were on to something new.
The innovation role of voluntary organisations has often been praised and it has been an important justification for their place in our contemporary welfare system. But how many other examples are out there of ‘innovations’ that have been forgotten and rediscovered? How new does an idea really have to be? And if it works, does it matter?
Today, 25th November 2013, I spoke on BBC Radio Merseyside about my oral history project. I appeared on the Sean Styles morning show, where he talked about the youth clubs he went to and got his listeners to phone in with their own stories. I discussed the people I am looking to interview for my oral histories of youth clubs in Liverpool and also asked people if they had any photos of their time at youth clubs that they would share with me. For the next few days, you can listen again by following this link. My part is about an hour and ten minutes in.
The BBC iPlayer link will not work any more so I have removed it. I am hoping at some point to get the segment uploaded as an audio file on the blog, with full credit to BBC Merseyside of course.
My research looks at youth clubs between 1958 and 1985. One of the things I am really struggling with so far is to get a visual idea of what many of these youth clubs looked like. I have an inkling that they came in all shapes and sizes but to really get an idea I would like to ask anyone who has any photos if they would submit them so that I can build an online gallery of youth clubs. I would like pictures of interiors, exteriors, activities, trips, conferences, even buildings which used to be youth clubs but have now closed or turned into something else.
If you have any photos I would be really grateful if you could send them to email@example.com so I can begin my gallery, including any details you know about the photo (when taken, location etc.). I will also need permission to upload the photo on the blog, so if the photo belongs to someone else I will need to to know that too, so that I can ask them if I can use it.
I hope you can help. Thanks!
I am looking for people to interview for my PhD research on youth clubs in South London (principally the present day boroughs of Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham) and Liverpool between 1958 and c.1985. If you had anything to do with youth clubs in these places, at these times, I would like to invite you to participate in my research. I am interested in the memories and experiences of people around youth clubs. What were the clubs like? Who went to them? How were they run? What did young people think of their local youth clubs? How did the people who worked or volunteered in clubs see young people?
While my research focuses on voluntary youth clubs I would like to hear from people involved in local authority clubs and church-run clubs as well.
The people I am looking to talk to might have been:
- youth club members
- youth leaders
- youth workers
- detached youth workers
- members of management committees
- office staff
If you think this might mean you and you may be willing to be interviewed you can find full details by downloading the Information Sheet. I can also arrange to call you to discuss the project. Making an enquiry does not commit you to an interview, but I sincerely hope you will consider sharing your experiences with me.
For further details of how to participate in the project, please contact:
Charlotte Clements: firstname.lastname@example.org