17 May 2009

Stroud Woodies at Levellers Day

Woodcraft Folk members from various Elfin, Pioneer and Venturer groups across Stroud, joined other Gloucestershire Woodcraft groups, Greens, socialists, Cooperative groups and more for the Levellers Day yesterday in Burford.

Below is a bit more about that plus my article saying more about Woodies from The Citizen's blog - reproduced here as some have said they couldn't find it and wanted to know more about Folk.

On route to Burford we also happened to glimpse Elizabeth Hurley in Barnsley near where she lives - they had an Open Garden day - would have loved to stop and talk about her organic pigs and how her move has led to good press coverage about improved farming methods - but that her support for fur is just not on - see my previous comments here.

Oh dear I am getting side tracked...

I am a 'Woodcraft Folk Willow Elfin Leader' - that's a mouthful - anyhow I set off with my step-granddaughterwith and a group of other Woodies to Burford. For those unfamiliar the Levellers were radical idealists with strong beliefs in civil rights and religious tolerance - they have been called early socialists although of course they had no concept then of capitalism. They fought for their ideals and over 300 of them were captured by Cromwell’s troops and locked in Burford church.

On 17 May 1649 three were shot as ringleaders. This is the 35th annual Levellers' Day in remembrance of these three Levellers - it is about reclaiming a piece of history that seems to be missing from school books."

Photos: various pics from Levellers Day march including the local Indian restaurant waiters looking on at us all. Below is the commemoration at the Church and the Church yard plus a big circle of Woodies saying goodbye to each other.

The day was full of speeches, debate, stalls, and a procession through Burford which ended with a ceremony in the churchyard music and more.

The theme of the day was 'Energy Poverty Crisis: What's the solution and can we afford to ignore it?' The wonderful Tony Benn was among the speakers but sadly I missed him as Woodcraft had some games planned for a playing field - dozens of children running every which way in a complicated version of tag.

Anyhow this day was a great and ever more important reminder of the Levellers and the importance of holding on to ideals of justice and democracy. The sun shone and our large group of Woodies made plenty of noise singing with their colourful banners in the procession. Infact I had some many queries re the banner we had that I've put a blog entry on how to make one - see here.

I must also note that we got there and back with the wonderful Gloucestershire Minibus Scheme which allows organisation's to share minibuses with not-for-profit organisations. I would strongly urge others to consider joining it as it is a great way to have access to minibuses without all the hassle. Anyway here is that article saying more about Woodcraft Folk.

Woodcraft Folk in the Five Valleys

The Five Valleys are alive with various groups for children. Perhaps amongst the best known are the Scouts, Girlguiding, The Door and Sea and Royal Marine Cadets. Transition Stroud also have plans for a new Youth group and of course there are those groups linked to Churches, sports and music.

However in this blog I want to cover one group that has not had so many mentions locally: the Woodcraft Folk. There are now about 12 local Woodcraft Folk groups for various aged children in the Stroud District. I help run the Willow Elfin group that meets in Uplands Hall on Thursdays for 6 to 9 year olds and despite the name we do not under normal circumstances, hug trees or craft wood.

Photos: raft making last summer, Woodcraft Folk logo, Chalford, Sausage Sizzle, World peace Flag ceremony and Den Making

The Woodcraft Folk was started in 1925 by Leslie Paul who was disillusioned with the militaristic approach of many other youth groups at the time - the name 'woodcraft' can be traced to the influential writer, naturalist and pioneering youth worker Ernest Thompson Seton who at the turn of the twentieth century used the term to mean the skill of living in the open air, close to nature.

In Stroud, Woodcraft Folk started some 12 years ago and as our website describes we are "a unique progressive educational movement for children and young people designed to develop self-confidence and activity in society, with the aim of building a world based on equality, peace, social justice and co-operation....through its activities, Woodcraft Folk tries to give its members an understanding of important issues such as the environment, world debt and global conflict, with a key focus in recent years being sustainable development."

Indeed the official slogan of The Woodcraft Folk is "Span the world with friendship", although it also uses "Education for Social Change" in its publicity. The group is not based upon any particular religious belief or national identity, but has from its start received substantial support from the Cooperative Movement and is part of Cooperatives UK.

So what do we do?

Well as mentioned, there are a number of Stroud District Woodcraft Folk groups who meet weekly or fortnightly with varied programmes including games, projects, crafts, singing and educational stuff. Most of the groups like to be outside as much as possible.

To give examples of what we do in the last year our Willow Elfin group has helped with a radio show on Stroud FM, joined the Stroud Goodwill Evening Carnival procession, been to the Gloucester climbing centre, made rafts (see photo above) and tried to float them down the Chalford brook, had various nature walks, done litter pick-ups, made dens in Standish Woods (see photo below), presented nearly 200 flags at the World Peace Flag ceremony in Stroud (see photo left) on the International Day of Peace and more.

There are also various regular activities through the year where we have come together with other Woodcraft groups like the bonfire night, Conker walk, Levellers Day, Sausage Sizzle on Selsey Common (see photo above) and the hugely popular annual camp where all the groups come together for a big camp locally every May. All great fun indeed.

Who runs the groups?

We don't have regular leaders who run the group but rather all parents participate and help to varying degrees. Locally we usually have a minimum requirementfor parents to help with two sessions a term. All adult members are CRB checked.

Interested in finding out more?

The official telephone number for Stroud Woodies membership enquiries is 07504 349199. There are some spaces available in some groups but sometimes there can be long waiting lists.
At my local group, the Willow Elfins, due to a number of children going up last month into older groups, we do have some spaces. This Thursday we have some potential members coming along to see whether they want to join us regularly: if you read this before then do call me on 01453 755451 for further info. There is also lots more about the philosophy, international activities, history etc at: www.woodcraft.org.uk

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