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Durham University

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Olechnowicz, A. (2005). Unemployed workers, 'enforced leisure' and education for 'the right use of leisure' in Britain in the 1930s. Labour History Review 70(1): 27-52.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

This article examines the views of those who regarded the unemployment of the 1930s not solely as a disaster, but as a liberating new form of leisure for workers, provided that they could make the 'right use' of this leisure. This was an urgent challenge for more and more workers would soon be faced by 'a vast surplus of leisure time' made possible by technological change. The solution was to use the voluntary adult education movement to guide workers towards this 'right use'. The problem was that the grants which the government and charitable trusts made available to the voluntary sector were too small for the task and, more fundamentally, the analysis was misconceived and contradictory. But these opinions did serve to reinforce the case against public works, and legitimised a continuing desire to supervise working-class life on the part of the state and its partners in the voluntary sector.

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77 Ibid., p. 187.
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Director of Education, Wigan

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103 NCSS, Unemployment and Community Service, p. 7.
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164.
105 B. A. Yeaxlee, Lifelong Education: A Sketch of the Range and Significance of the Adult Education
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108 J. R. MacDonald to A. D. Lindsay, 22 May 1933, National Council of Voluntary Organisations
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109 ‘The voluntary movement in Great Britain in 1937’, NCVO, Box 4, D11/421, p. 1.
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111 Hayburn, ‘Responses to unemployment’, p. 151.
112 Ibid., pp. 144, 147, 153–8; Newsom, Out of the Pit, pp. 82–9.
113 T. Kelly, A History of Adult Education in Great Britain, Liverpool, Liverpool University Press, 1970,
p. 267.
114 S. Webb, The Story of the Durham Miners, London, The Fabian Society, 1921, p. 139.
115 Captain Lionel Ellis was both general secretary of the NCSS and honorary secretary of the
Federation of Residential Settlements.
116 Kelly, History of Adult Education, pp. 268, 277–9, 287–8, 296.
117 The Guildhouse, p. 17. For a complete list of institutions in 1928: British Institute of Adult Education,
The Handbook and Directory of Adult Education, ed. by B. A. Yeaxlee, London, 1928.
118 Men Without Work, pp. 371, 275; Educational Facilities for the Unemployed, pp. 3–26; Mais, S.O.S.
Talks on Unemployment, pp. 165–76; A. M. Cameron, Civilisation and the Unemployed, London, 1934, chs
6 and 7; ‘The Lincoln Club for unemployed men. Its remarkable feature is that its unemployed
members render unpaid service to the community’, Public Opinion, 20 July 1934, p. 56; ‘Archbishop
Temple on “the wage-less” as a social asset’, Public Opinion, 22 February 1935, p. 175.
119 Cameron, Civilisation and the Unemployed, p. 19.
120 Maes-Yr-Haf — After Seven Years, 1926–1933: Maes-Yr-Haf Educational Settlement, Trealaw, 1933,
pp. 3ff.; L. M. Hawkins, ‘Maes yr haf’, The Common Room, No. 18, 1929, pp. 1–4.
121 N. Cornish, quoted in K. Armstrong (ed.), Homespun: The Story of Spennymoor and its Famous Settlement
told by Local People, North Shields, Northern Voices, 1992, pp. 35, 25, 43 [The artist Norman
Cornish had started painting in the sketching club]; ‘The Spennymoor Settlement Annual Report
1933–1934. Typescript’, Spennymoor Settlement Papers (SSP), University of Durham Library, Durham,
Box 1/3, p. 7; 1/3, ‘The Spennymoor Settlement. [4th.] Annual Report 1934–35. Typescript’, SSP,
1/3, p. 7; The First Seven Years at The Spennymoor Settlement: A Historical Sketch and an Appeal,
Spennymoor, 1938; M. Pickering and K. Robins, ‘The making of a working-class writer: an interview
with Sid Chaplin’, in J. Hawthorn (ed.), The British Working-Class Novel in the Twentieth Century,
London, Arnold, 1984, pp. 141–2 [The novelist Sid Chaplin had been introduced to world literature
in the settlement, which housed a county library branch]; Obituary: Countess Elisabeth von der
Schulenburg, The Guardian, 8 February 2001.
122 W. Feaver, Pitmen Painters: The Ashington Group, 1934–1984, Ashington, Carcanet Press, 1993, pp. 20,
27, 31, 50.
123 Appeal for the Dowlais Social Centre, Dowlais, August 1939, n.p.
124 Educational Facilities for the Unemployed, pp. 28–38.
125 The Common Room, No. 28, 1932, pp. 24–32.
126 ‘The work of the Pioneer Health Centre’, The Social Science Review, 13, 1932, pp. 44–6; E.
Macadam, The New Philanthropy: A Study of the Relations between the Statutory and Voluntary Social
Services, London, Allen and Unwin, 1934, p. 135; ‘The brave new world at Peckham’, New Statesman
and Nation, 30 March 1935, p. 43; ‘The Pioneer Health Centre, Peckham’, The Flowing Tide, 1, 1938,
p. 107; J. Lewis, ‘The Peckham Health Centre: an inquiry into the nature of living’, Bulletin of the
Society for the Social History of Medicine, 1982; K. Barlow, ‘The Peckham Experiment’, Medical History, 29,
1985.
127 R. F. Scott, ‘A remarkable club’, The Spectator, 18 March 1938, p. 460; ‘Slough Social Centre —
what a community centre can be’, The Flowing Tide, 1, 1938, p. 91; ‘Physical fitness — a national duty’,
The Listener, 23 February 1938, p. 393.
128 ‘The National Book Appeal for the unemployed’, Social Science Review, 17, 1936, pp. 7–9.
129 Newsom, Out of the Pit, pp. 84–5.
130 Priestley, English Journey, pp. 304, 324, 326.
131 Men Without Work, p. 282.
132 Beales and Lambert, Memoirs of the Unemployed, p. 145. See also ‘Unemployment from the point
of view of the unemployed’, Social Science Review, 15, 1934, pp. 183–9; ‘Unemployment: by an
unemployed miner’s wife’, Social Science Review, 16, 1935, pp. 40–3.
133 Bledisloe, ‘Unemployment and the community’, p. 3. See also ‘The Occupational Centre. Some of
its problems. By a social worker’, Manchester Guardian, 7 August 1934.
134 First Seven Years at The Spennymoor Settlement, n.p.
135 NCSS, Unemployment and Community Service, p. 14.
136 B. L. Q. Henriques, The Indiscretions of A Warden, London, 1937, pp. 2, 23.
137 Priestley, English Journey, p. 325.
138 A. Philpott, ‘The inert mass’, Adult Education, 9, 1937, pp. 278, 280.
139 ‘Report 15/2/32 ms. rough draft’, SSP, 1/2, pp. 2–5
140 First Seven Years at The Spennymoor Settlement, n.p.
141 ‘Voluntary schemes for the unemployed’, The Social Science Review, 14, 1933, pp. 82–3.
142 Cameron, Civilisation and the Unemployed, p. 144.
143 Middleton, ‘Unemployment in the North East’, pp. 35, 39.
144 Mais, England’s Character, p. 111.
145 J. J. Astor et al., The Third Winter Of Unemployment, London, P. S. King, 1923, p. 12; Newsom, Out
of the Pit, p. 15.
146 Hutt, The Condition of the Working Class, pp. 241, 242.
147 Hannington, The Problem of the Distressed Areas, pp. 194–5, 197.
148 Ibid., p. 213.
149 Philpott, ‘The inert mass’, p. 280.
150 Hannington, The Problem of the Distressed Areas, pp. 203, 200, 253.
151 J. Hanley, Grey Children: A Study in Humbug and Misery, London, Methuen, 1937, p. 14.
152 House of Commons, Debates, 25 July 1934, col. 1842. See also House of Commons, Debates, 1 March
1935, col. 1490; House of Commons, Debates, 23 March 1936, col. 870, inquiring about the administrative
costs per year of the NCSS.
153 Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier, pp. 76–7.
154 Men Without Work, p. 148.
155 Beales and Lambert, Memoirs of the Unemployed, pp. 32–3.
156 Oakley, ‘Some psychological problems of a depressed area’, pp. 393, 399.
157 Philpott, ‘The inert mass’, p. 282.
158 Unemployed, ‘Letter to the editor: work centres for the unemployed’, The Spectator, 3 March 1933,
p. 287 (italics in original).
159 L. F. Ellis, ‘Letter to the editor: work centres for the unemployed’, p. 378.
160 Hanley, Grey Children, p. 4.
161 ‘Unemployment from the point of view of the unemployed’, p. 189.
162 ‘Unemployment: by an unemployed miner’s wife’, p. 43.
163 ‘Jobless “hardened” in labour camps. A brutal experiment involving 200,000 men which ran for
10 years before the second world war’, The Guardian, 12 August 1998; ‘A forgotten scheme for
unemployed Durham miners in the 1930s’, Northern Echo, 12 January 2000.
164 TUC Annual Report, 1931, p. 337.
165 TUC Annual Report, 1928, p. 113. The NUWM was also ineligible for affiliation to the Labour
Party: Labour Party Annual Conference Report, 1930, pp. 34–7; Labour Party Annual Conference Report, 1933,
p. 30.
166 TUC Annual Report, 1928, pp. 111, 311, 313; TUC Annual Report, 1929, p. 99; TUC Annual Report,
1932, p. 122, on the adoption of unemployed associations; TUC Annual Report, 1933, p. 120, on the
formation of 120 unemployed associations.
167 TUC Annual Report, 1933, p. 120. But see also ‘Trade unions and social service’, Labour Research, 22,
1933, pp. 159–61.
168 Even in Spennymoor, with an unemployment rate of 75 per cent of the insured population in 1934,
full adult membership of the settlement was open to ‘all persons over 18 years of age, men and women,
employed and unemployed’: The First Seven Years at The Spennymoor Settlement, n.p.
169 ‘Prince of Wales’s Message’, The Times, 28 Jan. 1932.
170 ‘Unemployment and voluntary service by H.R.H. The Prince of Wales’, Social Science Review, 15,
1934, p. 21; ‘A new spirit of fellowship’, The Times, 29 Jan.1934.
171 Society of Friends, Unemployment Is Beating Us, p. 45.
172 Oakley, ‘Some psychological problems of a depressed area’, p. 399.
173 Unemployment and the Child, p. 25.
174 ‘The Spennymoor Settlement 9th. Annual Report 1940. Typescript’, SSP, 1/4, pp. 1, 4. In 1946 the
industrial situation in Spennymoor did not improve, and low unemployment was not achieved until
1947: ‘15th. Annual Report 1946’, p. 3; ‘16th. Annual Report 1947’, SSP, 1/5, p. 1.
175 M. Nicholson, Clubs for Citizens: A Wartime Experiment, London, 1945, pp. 12–15, 22–3.
176 J. Parker, Labour Marches On, Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1947, p. 90. On the Army Bureau of
Current Affairs, which became the Bureau of Current Affairs in 1946 with assistance from the Carnegie
United Kingdom Trust, and the British Way and Purpose: Kelly, History of Adult Education, pp. 326–32;
Directorate of Army Education, The British Way and Purpose: Consolidated Edition of BWP Booklets 1–18,
London, 1944; Bureau of Current Affairs, Current Affairs, Vol. I, Nos. 1 to 26, London, 1947.
177 ‘The Spennymoor Settlement 13th. Annual Report 1944. Typescript’, SSP, 1/4, p. 4.
178 A. J. Lush, The Young Adult in South Wales, London, 1941, p. 53.
179 For the TUC’s approach to ‘The problem of leisure’ in the 1940s, J. Hill, ‘“When work Is over”:
labour, leisure and culture in wartime Britain’, in N. Hayes and J. Hill (eds), ‘Millions Like Us’? British
Culture in the Second World War, Liverpool, Liverpool University Press, 1999, pp. 245–9. For the postwar
Labour Party and the ‘problem of leisure’, S. Fielding, P. Thompson and N. Tiratsoo, ‘England
Arise!’: The Labour Party and Popular Politics in 1940s Britain, Manchester, Manchester University Press,
1995, pp. 137–8, 152–4.
180 F. Clarke, Education and Social Change: An English Interpretation, London, 1940, pp. 58, 59.
181 Adult Education After the War: A Report of an Enquiry Made for the British Institute of Adult Education,
London, 1945, pp. vii, 6.
182 R. Livingstone, Some Tasks For Education, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1946, pp. 51, 52, 64;
R. Livingstone, Education For A World Adrift, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1943, p. x,
charging the working class with wanting more education; but not asking what it was to teach. See
also R. Livingstone, ‘Preface’, in M. Forster, Schools for Life: A Study of the People’s Colleges in Sweden,
London, Faber, 1944, p. 5, for his admiration of the People’s Colleges in Sweden and Denmark.
183 Kelly, History of Adult Education, p. 337.
184 Ibid., p. 338. The White Paper on Educational Reconstruction in 1943 and the Ministry of Education
pamphlet on Further Education in 1947 also recommended the expansion of community centres.
185 Parker, Labour Marches On, p. 90.
186 ‘The Spennymoor Settlement 13th Annual Report 1944. Typescript’, SSP, 1/4, p. 4; ‘14th Annual
Report 1945’, SSP, 1/4, p. 4.
187 Kelly, History of Adult Education, p. 338.
188 ‘The Spennymoor Settlement 21st Annual Report 1952’, SSP, 1/5, p. 13; W. G. Farrell to J. J.
Mallon, 12 March 1952, SSP, 3/1/3; W. G. Farrell to The Director of Education, Durham County
Council, 30 December 1953, SSP, 3/2; Assistant Director of Education to W. G. Farrell, 28 January
1954, SSP, 3/2.
189 W. Woodruff, The Road to Nab End: A Lancashire Childhood, London, Eland, 2000, p. 42. See also
Jones, Workers at Play, pp. 114–15 on the ‘work ethic’; and Davies, Leisure, Gender and Poverty, p. 31 on
male pride in being a ‘breadwinner’ and ‘good provider’.
190 D. King, In the Name of Liberalism: Illiberal Social Policy in the United States and Britain, Oxford,
Oxford University Press, 1999, pp. 178–9, demonstrated a comparable lack of rigour behind the
decision to establish work camps in Britain. King concludes that views about the need to ‘toughen up’
the unemployed ‘rested more on anecdotal sources than systematic data collection’, while the work
camps were ‘pragmatic experiments, implemented with strikingly little knowledge.’
191 ‘Great Britain against leisure’, New Statesman and Nation, 19 May 1934, p. 755.
192 B. Russell, In Praise of Idleness and Other Essays, London, Allen and Unwin, 1935, pp. 18, 17. For
like-minded contemporaries, see Jones, Workers at Play, p. 131.
193 Russell, In Praise of Idleness, pp. 136, 137.
194 K. Clark, Another Part of the Wood, London, Coronet, 1986, p. 9, for his celebrated remark about his
parents.