Celebrating youth

At 4pm yesterday I started cataloguing a new box of material – this was doubly exciting. Firstly it was my first box off the next bay of shelving – it’s great to see the concrete results of the cataloguing progressing, physically seeing how much I’m getting done rather than just looking at my cataloguing on the database.  Secondly, and hopefully of more interest to you than me meeting my cataloguing targets, the box contains correspondence with, and papers of, the Central Council of Physical Recreation.  Even better for last thing in the afternoon… the first folder contained lots of brightly coloured pamphlets and brochures!

National Festival of Youth, London 1946, NUWT Collection ref UWT/D/80/1 ©Institute of Education Archive

The Central Council of Physical Recreation was founded in 1935 by the Ling Physical Education Association and the National Association of Organisers of Physical Education to foster cooperation between all the organisations concerned with physical recreation. One of their main tasks was to train men and women in the leadership of outdoor and indoor physical recreation.   They still exist today and are now known as the Sport and Recreation Alliance.

In conjunction with Wembley Stadium Limited they organised the National Festival of Youth in 1946.  The event seemed to have been to promote physical recreation in general but also to promote the teaching of it, and also to build links with other countries.  This includes a section where different countries, including Russia and Czechoslovakia, demonstrated their traditional dances.  The grand finale of the festival is billed as ‘An ensemble of 4,000 performers in a tableau symbolic of Youth’s Destiny in the future of the United Nations’.  I’ve noticed through the cataloguing I’ve been doing that after the second world war there seemed to be a tremendous burst of enthusiasm and hope that the youth of today would being peace and prosperity for the future.  The last few pages fo the brochure are very topical for London right now – an advertisement for the 1948 Olympic Games to be held at Wembley Stadium.

Another pamphlet ‘Physical Recreation Equipment – notes on its maintenance and improvisation during wartime’ doesn’t have the same visual appeal but has lots of interesting snippets of information.  The premise of the pamphlet is that because of shortages of equipment as a result of the war it is imperative that equipment is well cared for to get the longest use out of it.  For example under Hockey there is a section ‘posts and nets’ where reference is made to the scarcity of wood.  Advice is given that periodically paining them will help preserve them and that nets should be repaired immediately after they break, even if only a temporary repair, so as to ensure the break doesn’t get any worse.  A shortage of rubber is also relevant and is mentioned in relation to rubber bathing caps for swimming.  The advice given is to try them and keep them open after use to prolong their life.  Substitutes for the beans put in bean bags – as of course due to food shortages beans could no longer be used – are listed as sand, sawdust, acorns, beech nuts or small smooth pebbles! I can’t quite imagine a beanbag out of small pebbles being particularly comfortable though!


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