Meeting the Woodcraft Folk

While we’re working in the design for Newtown Community Centre we’ve been trying to talk with as many of the users as we can and I was lucky to be invited to present to the Woodcraft Fold District meeting yesterday to present our scheme.

I have to admit Woodcraft Folk is not a group I had come across before, but I thought I should do a bit more research as they use the hut more than any other organisation.

So for those of  you like me that don’t know much about them they are a movement for children and young people, open to everyone from birth to adult. We offer a place where children will grow in confidence, learn about the world and start to understand how to value our planet and each other.

Woodcraft Folk runs on the passion and energy of thousands of volunteers, most of whom help at a local Woodcraft Folk group and who may have been in Woodcraft Folk as children, or whose own children may attend a group. With the support of regional and central resources, local Woodcraft groups decide their own programme and co-ordinate their own events and camps. Young people take an increasingly active role in planning and leading their own activities, and helping with District co-ordination. 

Whilst sharing many of the same historical roots as the Scouting movement, The Woodcraft Folk’s direct antecedent was the Kindred of the Kibbo Kift, an organisation led by ex-Scout Commissioner for Woodcraft and Camping John Hargrave, who had broken with what he considered to be the Scouts’ militaristic approach in the years immediately after the First World War. The Woodcraft Folk was established by Leslie Paul in 1925 after the south London co-operative groups challenged Hargrave’s authoritarian tendencies over his refusal to recognise a local group called “The Brockley Thing” and broke away from the Kindred. In its early days it was very similar to the Kibbo Kift, with a strong pagan and anti-capitalist emphasis, but gradually developed its own distinct ethos.

The name ‘Woodcraft‘ was used by the influential writer and naturalist Ernest Thompson Seton at the turn of the 20th century when setting up the American proto-Scouting organisation Woodcraft Indians, and in this context meant the skill of living in the open air, close to nature.

I was pleased to meet the Exeter Woodcraft Folk and hear their views about what we had designed so far.  They were really positive about the project and gave me some helpful sugestions about how they might use the space.  I hadn’t considered all of the implications of running a club with 20 11 year olds running around the centre one day and 20 3 year olds the next!  Design is definitely a process and it’s a lot easier when you get to talk to the people that will actually use your building.

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