Utopia Britannica - British Utopian Experiments 1325 - 1945

Q Camps - The emotional vortex

Gazetter entry

'There have been indications that a need exists for a camp community, that will especially cater for certain types of young men (camps for women may be started later) who, with a few exceptions, have been hitherto excluded. The category in mind is that of young men from 17 to 25 - that is, above the upper age limit for Juvenile Courts - who seem likely to respond to an unconventional but carefully thought out open air community life...............' Q Camps Memorandum July 1935

An invitation was sent out to a number of organisations and interested individuals to attend a meeting on May 3rd 1935 to discuss the proposal to set up Q Camps. The meeting was initiated by the council of Grith Pioneers, an organisation which offered camp life to young men at a time of massive unemployment and demoralisation. It was hoped that through living in a supportive community the men would regain their self-respect and experience 'improvement in self-control, social behaviour, physical health, mental alertness and general outlook.' The Q Camps Memorandum outlined the activities that would take place at the proposed camps; 'Gardening, elementary farm work, care of livestock and various handicrafts will be included. Among other activities within the scope of the camps will be games, folk dancing, drama, music, debates, reading and, when desired, instruction in academic subjects. The construction of the camp and much of the furnishing will be done by the campers themselves.'

Q Camp therputic community picture

Quaker David Wills had worked in a number of hostels for maladjusted boys and in the Settlement Houses sponsored by the Quakers in the Welsh Valleys. He was also the first British psychiatric social worker to have trained in America. Early in 1935 he wrote an article for The Friend calling for a bold experiment in the treatment of young offenders. He received a letter in response to his article from Dr Marjorie Franklin, a member of the Q Camps Committee inviting him to join them in setting up their first camp. Hawkspur Camp was established on a few acres of land on Hill Hall Common, near Great Bardfield, Essex in May1936 with David Wills as Camp Chief. Wills was an inspired choice; he knew of Homer Lane's work and became the lynchpin at the centre of the 'emotional vortex' that the camp became. The camp was set up on a self-governing basis with all decisions taken by a the Camp Committee. The camp consisted of an office; a two-storey wooden chalet-type building that stood at the top of the camp, the camp quad was further down the track, with cook and washhouses. At the bottom of the site was the accommodation with a long building used as the main bunkhouse and meeting/activities house. All of the buildings were built by the camp staff and residents, student helpers and Grith Fyrd volunteers.

'David Wills understood that the lads who came to the camp were profoundly dissatisfied with themselves; they were failures who hated themselves. Their protection was hating the world about them. On discovering that they were given freedom, not discipline, they had to begin to discipline themselves. ............ In him the boys sought the loving parent they had not had and with great skill and understanding he lived through the 'corrective emotional experience 'they sought. They attached themselves to him and to his wife. Time and time again the lads would test his capacity to go on loving in the face of delinquency and bad behaviour.’
Malcolm Pines Forgotten pioneers.

Q Camp therputic community picture

In the front of the 2nd Edition of his account of the camp, The Hawkspur Experiment, David Wills catalogues a series of thumbnail biographies of the young men who came through the camp nearly all of them a testimony to the success of the community. The camp came to an end at the onset of the war. David Wills went on to create therapeutic communities for disturbed children at Barns House, near Peebles in Scotland, and at Bodenham Manor, in Herefordshire. Dr. Denis Carroll the young camp psychiatrist did pioneering work in the rehabilitation of disturbed soldiers at the Northfield Military Hospital and Psychiatric Training Centre in Birmingham using the experience he had gained at Hawkspur. Dr. Norman Glaister who had been a member of the original Grith Pioneer committee that had initiated the camp and a leading light in the Code of Woodcraft Chivalry joined The Commonwealth Party during the war and after was instrumental in founding the School of Integrative Social Research at Braziers Park in Oxfordshire to 'study the art and science of living in practical ways and explore the advantages and problems of living in a group'.

Q Camps Links:
Q Camp Archives - http://www.pettarchiv.org.uk/fa3b.htm#MEMORANDUM
Braziers Park - http://www.braziers.org.uk/
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