The Woodcraft Folk’s 90th anniversary Our Future, Our Past exhibition, which was on display at London’s City Hall in December, has now opened at the Rochdale Pioneers Museum.
The exhibition looks back at the first 90 years of the children and young people’s organisation, and celebrates its heritage and the co-operative principles that underpin it.
There are three themes running through the exhibition. Co-operation looks at equality, working and playing together as well as arts and crafts. Span the world with friendship depicts the Woodcraft Folk’s international links. And Education for social change reflects the involvement of young people in the democratic process, care for the natural world and building a sustainable future.
The exhibition stays in Rochdale until 16 April, before moving to the People’s History Museum in Manchester (23 April – 29 May 2016).
Some of the images and exhibits on display:
Large photo displays run throughout the exhibition, which also includes artefacts such as a china plaque from the 1951 Festival of Britain international camp, badges and scarves, a 1930s totem carved from a wooden chair seat, and various Folk costumes from the 1930s to the modern day.
The exhibition aims to be inclusive to all – providing an insight for those familiar with the organisation, as well as first-timers.
There is an exhibition board dedicated to a ‘Who’s who’ of Woodcraft Folk through the decades. Another looks at Leslie Paul, the 19-year old who formed the Woodcraft Folk as a breakaway group from the Kindred of Kibbo Kift in 1924, itself a breakaway from the Scouting movement. Both the Kibbo Kift and the Woodcraft Folk disapproved of the perceived militaristic approach of the Scouts, embraced the concept of open-air pursuits, and, crucially, were open to both genders.
Other displays focus on arts and crafts, and explore how the concept of the circle is important to the Folk – allowing every person to have an equal voice, and giving young people the experience of expressing their views to their peers, as well as listening to others.
Nicola Samson, project co-ordinator and a former member of the Woodcraft Folk herself, said: “It’s been fascinating to come back. It’s exciting to see how members of all ages are interested in finding out about the past, how they can actively engage, share their knowledge within and beyond the organisation, and use that knowledge to think about its future.
“The exhibition is aimed both at Woodcraft members, and at the wider public as a largely pictorial means of explaining who the Woodcraft Folk are, and what it does. Members have been delighted to have such an exhibition which offers a different means of thinking and talking about the purpose and aims of the Folk with younger members – and indeed older ones.”
The exhibition is supported by £80,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund and by Woodcraft Folk groups from all over the country. As well as the exhibition, there will be a permanent Woodcraft Folk oral history collection at the British Library Sound Archive, and a new heritage website – heritage.woodcraft.org.uk – developed by the Woodcraft Folk to allow people to share stories, find old friends, and provide education activities for young members.
- The Rochdale Pioneers Museum is open Tuesday to Saturday, 10am – 5pm and admission is free. Group bookings and school trips are welcomed. More information can be found at www.rochdalepioneersmusueum.coop.