Great Yarmouth’s youth service kept children busy and active
PUBLISHED: 13:38 14 April 2017 | UPDATED: 13:38 14 April 2017
There’s nothing to do! How often have we heard those words from sullen teenagers, usually mumbled while avoiding eye contact.
Mind you, in the past decade or two they have been better off than ever, incessantly thumbing the keys of expensive mobile phones or locked in their bedrooms playing XBox games with online chums.
In my post-war youth I probably uttered similar sentiments – ignored by my parents - about my alleged boredom when I was not doing homework, reading Biggles books, at the pictures or roller-skating, cycling around meeting pals, chatting up girls, drinking hot chocolate in Vettese’s in Regent Road in Great Yarmouth...
Almost certainly, most young people in Yarmouth and Gorleston in 1960 were just as disenchanted with their lot as are today’s teenagers, yet there was a wealth of opportunities available to them had they so desired. Perhaps they did not want to be organised, and it required some mechanism to bring them together, as it does today.
Regular correspondent Mike King, a Gorlestonian long resident in Lowestoft, has sent me the 1960 Youth Hand Book, Yarmouth education committee’s 36-page comprehensive “guide to youth organisations and provisions for leisure hours for youth” hereabouts.
It listed the best part of a hundred possibilities, including pre-service cadet units; uniformed organisations like Boys Brigade, Scouts and Guides, Girls Life Brigade, Red Cross and St John; church groups; clubs for sports, activities like drama, physical culture, roller-skating, canoeing; outdoor and indoor activities, ex-pupil associations...you name them, the publication included them.
Their leaders, venues, meeting times and contact details were provided.
Chief education officer Donald Farrow explained in a foreword: “The youth service is one of the most important, as it is one of the most neglected parts of our educational system. It has been the victim of every cut in expenditure, and for years now has been entirely without the benefit of a national policy.
“In Yarmouth, the service of youth has happily not suffered from the indifference of the education committee. The basic principles lying behind the committee’s policy have been maintained – they have continued to encourage and support voluntary youth clubs of every kind while maintaining their own centre at Shrublands for young people as well as adults.”
Donald Farrow emphasised: “It is important that the youth service as a whole should not be directed towards what may be a duplication of the work being done by schools. The prime job of the youth service is to bring in the boys and girls who have left school – above all, those aged 15 to 20.
“These are the young people who are making the difficult adjustment from school to work. They are the ones who may regard a youth club as something childish. They are easily bored, easily led into leisure pursuits which at best are aimless and, at worst, may be harmful.
“To attract them, the older person must be able to enter into their psychology. It is not enough to know what ought to attract them - one must know what will attract them!”
Borough youth officer Edgar Stanley added: “This booklet is for the use of teachers, school leavers, parents, youth leaders, officials and members of youth clubs and all concerned with the care and welfare of young people.
“The purpose is to give information of the facilities available in youth clubs and other educational establishments in the area, enabling young folk to spend their leisure time in the best environment possible during the period immediately following their school life.”
The publication also stated: “The youth committee are anxious to help all voluntary youth groups and the authority provides free use of school premises and playing fields, the loan of lighting equipment for dramatic work, together with books for play-reading, the use of 16mm sound projector, 35mm strip projector and a tape recorder.”