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The Woodcraft Folk

From Academic Kids

Image:Woodcraft1.png

The Woodcraft Folk is a UK-based educational movement for children and young people, considered the youth arm of the co-operative movement. The aims of this youth organisation are to develop self-confidence and activity in society, with the intention of working towards "a world based on equality, peace, social justice and co-operation". 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 Scout's 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 Brockleything" 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 twentieth 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.

Woodcraft Folk groups operate in England, Scotland and Wales, generally meeting weekly, and their activities include co-operative games, drama, camping trips, craftwork, singing and dancing, as well as following an educational programme based on the organisation's aims and principles. Group nights last between one and two hours, depending on the age of the children or young people. Groups are divided by age:

  • Under sixes are known as 'Woodchips'
  • Six to nine year olds are known as 'Elfins'
  • Ten to twelve year olds are 'Pioneers'
  • Thirteen to fifteen year olds are 'Venturers'
  • Older teenagers and young adults aged sixteen to twenty one are known as District Fellows and organise their own activities.

The Woodcraft Folk is a democratic organisation. Policies are decided at annual conference, attended by delegates from groups and local districts. Between annual conferences, responsibility for running the organisation falls on the members of the General Council. The organisation states that they "are proud of the fact that about half of our current General Council are young people under 25 years of age".

The official slogan of the Woodcraft Folk is Span the world with friendship. Although a British organisation, it has sister organisations throughout the world, by being a part of the Brussels-based federation of progressive youth organisations, the International Falcon Movement (IFM-SEI). International camps where similar organisations can meet up and network are held every six years or so.

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