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HomeAdult EducationEntertaining the unemployed: a musical revue in a British work camp 1938

Entertaining the unemployed: a musical revue in a British work camp 1938


Aerial photograph of Haldon Tutorial Centre (from Haldon’s Hidden Heritage)

Haldon Tutorial Centre was the one authorities work camp to open in south-west England. Opened in December 1936 with a capability of 200 locations, and positioned on the Haldon Hills half manner between Exeter and Dawlish, the camp was constructed to take unemployed males from Wales and the south west and north west of England.

As with the opposite 26 Ministry of Labour camps, the first function was to ‘recondition’ males who had supposedly gone ‘mushy’ by means of unemployment by exposing them to laborious handbook labour. Circumstances The boys lived in Nissen huts and labored to clear tough land and construct roads in order that the property wad prepared for planting by the Forestry Fee. In keeping with a report within the Every day Employee in 1937, the boys had been “subjected, from 8 am to 4 pm, to an especially extreme self-discipline”.

However there was additionally one other facet to camp life. Early expertise had taught the Ministry of Labour that isolating 200 younger males in a forest camp was a recipe for hassle; it additionally found that many younger unemployed males had hassle studying or writing, or had been held again by poor underlying well being, in order that the camps grew to become a type of laboratory for grownup training and free dental, medical or eyesight care.

As for misbehaviour, the Ministry concluded that the issue lay in boredom. By the thirties it more and more accredited provision for organised leisure, from movie showings to sports activities groups. And it agreed to permit well-meaning locals to carry out in entrance of the boys – a call that from the Ministry’s standpoint introduced a number of advantages: it entertained the trainees whereas additionally displaying that others cared for them; and it gave a optimistic public impression of the camp to guests and extra broadly.

Devon and Exeter Gazette, 11 February 1938

Like the opposite Ministry of Labour camps, Haldon closed shortly earlier than the outbreak of struggle in September 1939. The camp live performance was removed from distinctive – comparable occasions passed off at different work camps, however at all times with the approval of the camp authorities, who had their very own causes for entertaining the unemployed. You possibly can learn extra a few vary of British work camp schemes in my guide, Working Males’s Our bodies: Work camps in Britain 1880-1940.

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