Celebrating 90 years of the Woodcraft Folk

The Woodcraft Folk is marking its 90th anniversary with a heritage project which will lead to a permanent oral history collection at the British Library. There will also...

The Woodcraft Folk is marking its 90th anniversary with a heritage project which will lead to a permanent oral history collection at the British Library. There will also be an interactive heritage website, a touring exhibition, a film, a book and a CD of Woodcraft Folk songs.

Woodcraft districts have been celebrating throughout the year with birthday cakes at events including a picnic in Cambridge, a ceilidh in Glasgow and a pageant in London attended by supporter Jeremy Corbyn MP, whose children were Woodcraft Folk members.

Image from a Woodcraft Folk camp in 1928
Image from a Woodcraft Folk camp in 1928

Now Woodcraft is launching a photographic exhibition at London’s City Hall, the home of the Greater London Authority. Open from 1-17 December, the exhibition represents Woodcraft’s aims and principles of co-operation, international friendship and education for social change.

The focus is on equality, working and playing together and arts and crafts. ‘Span the World with Friendship’ depicts Woodcraft’s international links, its work in the peace movement and young people’s involvement in the democratic process and building a sustainable future.

The photos were taken throughout Woodcraft’s 90-year history. They tell of its beginnings, its close association with the co-operative movement and its founding principles, which remain fundamental to the organisation today. Next year, parts of the collection will go on display at the Rochdale Pioneers Museum and the People’s History Museum, Manchester.

A group go for a hike at a Woodcraft Folk camp in 1928
A group go for a hike at a Woodcraft Folk camp in 1928

The exhibition is only part of a 14-month heritage project supported by £80,100 of Heritage Lottery Funding, match-funded by Woodcraft groups country-wide. One of the lasting legacies will be a permanent Woodcraft Folk oral history collection, housed in the British Library Sound Archive and on a new heritage website developed by the Woodcraft Folk. The website will enable people to add memories and stories, follow heritage trails and find old friends.

Volunteer members have trained in oral history, learning how to conduct and record the life story interviews which will comprise the oral history collection. They are interviewing members ranging in age from 16 to 92 years to gain a broad representation of Woodcraft experience. They will pass on their newfound skills to other members, especially children, who will be able to conduct their own interviews to add to the website.

A guide to the organisation's trail signs
A guide to the organisation’s trail signs

Other activities include an archiving project led by volunteers who are collecting and sorting Woodcraft memorabilia. Boxes of artefacts, photos and resources collected over the past nine decades will be placed in Woodcraft residential centres for children to explore, and Woodcraft groups are sending 90th ‘birthday swap’ presents to each other to inspire fellow members about their heritage.

Young members will soon be able to work towards a heritage badge and learn more about the organisation’s past from four leaflets on its early years, its links with the co-operative movement, its involvement in the peace movement and its work on children’s rights. A pictorial book, a film and CD of Woodcraft Folk songs are also planned.

Nicola Samson, an oral historian who was Woodcraft Folk member as a child, is co-ordinating the heritage project.

“It’s been fascinating to come back,” she said. “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.”

General Secretary Jon Nott added: “Looking back over nine decades and seeing how our founding principles of co-operation, peace and equality were lived out by generations of children and young people has been really inspiring. Seeing those values in practice in our groups today gives me great confidence that this next generation of co-operators will continue to play a vital role in Woodcraft Folk and the wider co-operative movement as we look towards the next 90 years.”

Another image from 1928
Another image from 1928
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