Film ID: YFA 2179 Video of YFA 2179 I'm a Member of a Family 1968 I'M A MEMBER OF A FAMILY 1968 Visitor TabsDescription Originally organized in the 1920s, the Woodcraft Folk is an educational movement for young people. Its aim is to develop self-confidence and activity in society through equality, friendship, peace, and co-operation. This documentary focuses on the organization, its history and values, and specifically children from around the world who have gathered at the international camp at Normanby Hall, located near Scunthorpe, South Humberside. Opening Credit: ‘A Woodcraft Folk Film’ The film opens with a boy in an army uniform, lying on the ground and pointing a canon at the camera. The boy gets attacked by another and they have a mock fight. The narration states the need to learn the lesson of Cain who asked, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The Morning Circle, symbol of democracy. Title: ‘I'm A Member of a Family’ Dozens of tents are in a clearing in a wood where many children from all over the world have gathered, according to the narrator, for the good of the human race. A band plays ‘The family of Man’ (by Fred 'Karl' Dallas) in front of a large audience of adults and children. There is a banner with ‘Friendship’ written on it, and flags from many nations are flying on display. Underneath the flags, a group of young people stand in a circle taking it in turns to bring greetings from their countries. A group of boys and girls gather around a young woman playing a guitar to sing a song together. Then some young children look into the camera, and the narrator explains the three age groups of Elfin (6-9), Pioneer (10-13) and Venturer (14-17). The leaders are either parents or ex-Woodcraft Folk. The narrator then explains the history of the group dating back to 1924 as a breakaway from the single-sex Scouts and the Kibbo Kift Movements to a co-educational group. An article by Leslie Paul is shown, Greensward: A Woodcraft Log, from Comradeship and Wheatsheaf, March 1925, as well as an old advertising poster for the Woodcraft fellowship, an article on the Leyton Woodcraft Folk form The Pioneer, February 1927, and several other early publications. The narration explains the emphasis on building international friendship. Returning to the camp, a group of girls sing “A New Day” on a stage in front of a large audience. In front of the stage, children walk in procession dressed in traditional ethnic costumes. In a sports stadium, the children take part in track races and other athletic events. Parents come and join in with dancing. Food is prepared for the next day’s hike, and children help to serve the food. In the evening, they sit and eat under canvas as it pours down with rain outside. Basil Rawson, President of the WCF, exchanges tokens of friendship with the delegates from abroad. Outside children gather around a fire, and a girl recites the Woodfolk creed, a proclamation of international peace and friendship. As a group sing songs, Youth and Maiden, a ceremonial fire has lightened slogans of ‘amité’ and ‘friendship.’ Inside the tents, children are asleep as a boy makes a declaration beginning "I declare that I will do my utmost to camp out and keep fit in mind and body" and ending, “that when I am older I may take my place as an intelligent and useful member of mankind.” The End Closing Credit: ‘A Woodcraft Folk Film’ ‘13 Ritherdon Road, Upper Tooting, London, SW17 01 672:6031’ Context This film is something of a rarity in the YFA, being the only one to feature the Woodcraft Folk. In fact there probably aren’t that many films of the group, although Film Archive South East has a couple of films, including one of the Woodcraft’s Brighton International Children's Camp of 1946. On the other hand, the YFA does have a lot of film of the Scouts – although usually just on parades. This film presents a fascinating comparison with the many films featuring the Scouting Movement. It provides an opportunity to see in action the work and values of a group that has always been in the shadow of the much bigger Scouts Movement and the Boys Brigade – for more on these two organisations see the Context for New Horizons (1952). The Woodcraft Folk originated as a schism of a schism. The original schism was by a leading Scout member John Hargrave, who left the Scouts in 1920 to form the ‘Kibbo Kift, the Woodcraft Kindred’, along with other dissidents, unhappy with the military and nationalist elements of the Scouts. The Kibbo Kift had exotic costumes and ceremonies, and was influenced by Stanley Hall’s recapitulation theory of child’s development. This theory postulated that the child’s development corresponded with the stages of the evolution of human society, from primitive to civilization (a theory that remains influential today, especially in relation to adolescence). Even before this split, there had been another breakaway from the Scouts: the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry, modelled on Ernest Seton’s Woodcraft Indians in the US, broke away in 1916. The more pacifist stance of Quakerism was partly influential in promoting these divisions. The important organisational support for the Kibbo Kift – which remained for some time – was the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society (RACS), which lasted until it merged with the Co-operative Wholesale Society in 1985. The RAC was rather more left leaning than many other Co-operative societies, and played a progressive role in many spheres – unlike the football team of the same name which had a similar origin but very different trajectory. With its slogan, ‘Each for All and All for Each’ – recalling Marx’s famous slogan calling for an, “association in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all” – this was a very influential organisation in education, social welfare and politics. It was the RACS that also provided the pivotal support for the breakaway from the Kibbo Kift led by the young youth leader Leslie Paul, who developed his ideas in their journal Comradeship and Wheatsheaf. Paul set up the Woodcraft Folk in 1925, still heavily influenced by ideas of escaping to the country and the importance of the outdoors, having the American Indian as their example, and adopting names and ceremonies inspired by them: ‘Treetop’, ‘Woodpecker’, ‘Brown Squirrel’ etc.. But this self-determining youth group was more concerned than similar groups to ensure that working class children were involved; and it also had more socialist leanings, recommending, for example, the books of H G Wells. Leslie Paul, writing as The Headman ("Little Otter"), in his 1926 book, Who's For the Folk, states that: 'The Woodcraft Folk seek to establish a new social order. They believe that when the worker achieves freedom from wage slavery and the fruits of soil are garnered by the toilers, then will a new stage of development open out to man. A new epoch, rich in promise of a finer social life and a greater awakening of intellect.” This association of the outdoors with progressive left wing ideas links in with the socialist naturalist romanticism of William Morris and on to the re-emergence of this in the 1920s, through to the alternative culture of the 1960s, and onto the new age movements of more recent times. An association that could also be seen with the Ramblers' Association formed a decade later. However, the period between the wars was one of ideological tumult, and a great many movements and ideas emerged that mixed together many different sources. Many of these are now almost buried aspects of British history – a neglect that doesn’t stop them periodically re-emerging. Thus the group that Leslie Paul broke from, John Hargrave’s Kibbo Kifts, went on to adopt the ideas of Major Douglas of social credit and to form the Green Shirt Movement in 1932 and the Social Credit Party in 1935 – it stood in South Leeds in the 1935 General Election, gaining nearly 4,000 votes (11% of the total). This was seen as a third way between capitalism and socialism – something that many are still trying to find. However, some have pointed out the dangers of stressing the value of simply being outdoors, fit and healthy: this could just as easily be taken up by those with less noble motives, just as the Nazis Youth did, explicitly taking ideas of nature and paganism shared by the Woodcraft Folk – via the outlawed Wandervogel (Adkins traces some of the shared sources, References). In fact the Green Shirts were very reminiscent of the fascist Black Shirts (Oswald Mosely was associated with them in his early days), and they too got outlawed by the Public Order Act of 1936 which banned uniformed political organisations. But in 1935 the Woodcraft Folk joined the Socialist Education International, and by 1937 the International Children’s Republic in Brighton attracted over 2,000 children from ten countries. And, unlike the more orthodox groups, it tended to attract younger children, for the Elfins and Pioneers, and so was less of a youth movement. At this time, in the 1930s, it was very active in the anti-war movement, and was supported by both the Co-operative Wholesale Society and the Co-operative Union. Yet this support was far less than that being given to the Boy Scouts and the Girl Guides (the Woodcraft Folk were, and are, a mixed group). The leftward nature of the group led to both the Co-operative and the Labour Movement distancing themselves from them. However, the Woodcraft Folk never became a large movement. Although Leslie Paul thought that his adventurous activities would be much more fun than the drabness of traditional working class organisations, for working class children this wasn’t as inspirational as hoped: they tended to shy away from the American Indian and Anglo-Saxon customs that so informed its dress and activities. All of this may well have all seemed a world away from their urban experience. As Bruce Leslie puts it: “Pantheistic vegetarians with a mystical faith in the redemptive power of nature alienated many potential recruits and their families.” Whatever the truth is with these observations, the Woodcraft Folk have survived. They became less overtly political after the Second World War, whilst retaining their fundamental principles and still becoming involved in wider political struggles, such as over justice, the climate and racism. Over the decades the Woodcraft Folk have worked with many organisations to promote their values, especially of international harmony, for example with the Sheffield branch of the United Nations Association and the Council for Education in World Citizenship (formed in 1939). The film shows Basil Rawson who had close associations with the Sheffield group (his article on ‘Here is the Story of Shefstanthing’ – one of many historical artefacts on the Woodcraft Heritage website – makes for fascinating reading). At the time of writing (May 2010), the Woodcraft Folk still with some support from the Department for Education and Employment – although this was cut off for a while in 2005 – and they continue their work of organising international camps to encourage friendships across nations and cultures – with 450 groups worldwide, open to all faiths or none. Many of their campaigns are brought together in their current Global Village project, as part of the International Falcon Movement - Socialist Education International (IFM-SEI) – these are supplemented with a range of Pioneer educational resources. Given the idealism on display in the camp in this film, the year it took place, 1968, is particularly significant. It was the year that many consider to be the summit of the counter cultural movements that developed in the 1960s. It was the year of the Prague Spring for political liberalisation in Czechoslovakia, of the mass protests in Paris in May, and of escalating conflict over the Vietnam War in the US (and indeed there were major protests in many places across the world – see David Caute). It was a time when idealism was very much in the air – perhaps now, fifty years later, still ‘blowing in the wind’. The idealism of the Woodcraft Folk in evidence here, and which it still very much retains, has come under plenty of criticism for being naïve. But, as Elvis Costello sings, “What's so funny about peace, love and understanding?” References David Caute, Sixty-Eight: The year of the barricades, Hamish Hamilton, London, 1988. Bruce Leslie, ‘Creating a socialist scout movement: The Woodcraft Folk, 1924-42’, in History of Education, 1884, Vol. 13, No. 4, pp. 299-311. Jon Savage, Teenage: The Creation of Youth 1875-1945, Chatto & Windus, 2007. Woodcraft Folk The Kindred of the Kibbo Kift Chopped down: The Woodcraft Folk, The Independent Woodcraft Heritage website Woodcraft Folk on Absolute Astronomy Kibbo Kift S. M. Adkins, Following Arrows Further information Documents relating to the woodcraft can be found at the Youth Movement Archive at the British Library.