2002: Archivist/Director’s annual Report

 

Craig Fees, “Archivists/Director’s Report”, Joint Newsletter 5 (2002), pp. 23-27

You can tell, by the gentle burr of the air conditioners as you walk up to the Centre, that something has changed. It’s not all complete – there are still two more air conditioning units to be installed, and the consequent clean-up, and the erection of the final sets of shelves, and then moving of archives in. But a corner finally has been turned. For the first time in almost three years, it is possible to go into the main archive store, look for a box of materials, walk directly to it without climbing on the shelves, and examine the contents in situ. After three years on hold, in the midst of construction and its delays, we have space in the Archive again. The machine – this tool for memory – is nearing some kind of completion.

We have not, of course, been on hold in other ways. Already this year there have been over fifty new archive accessions, small and large; growth in the library; growth in the oral history programme; growth in the various web-sites; and growth in the Centre’s information and support work. Against the background of the opening of the new accommodation and conference Centre, it is another very exciting time.

It has also been a busy time. Our Assistant Archivist, having joined us fresh from the archives course at Bangor University two and a half years ago, set out in March on the next stage in her career – a major computing and cataloguing project to bring the dispersed British Waterways’ archives together into one virtual space. After nearly three years of two full-time archivists and no prospect (financial constraints – crazy stock market; opening of conference centre in lee of construction delays and cost overruns) of a replacement in sight, it is interesting to re-discover certain archival muscles, some of which had almost been forgotten. With the pull of the new conference and accommodation facilities, we have also lost the better part of the services of Maureen Ward, our part-time archive assistant, to cooking and cleaning and hosting. And there were the computer problems, the attending to which wiped out in aggregate about two weeks of working time, throwing up the inevitable voids and confusions, some of which are still being discovered.

But trustee Helen Frye continues each Friday to bring her psychotherapeutic touch to the Research Library, helped by friends such as Derek Mapstone; and Specialist Curator (for Progressive/Alternative/ Democratic Education) Albert Lamb – when he can tear himself from celebrating the successes of his homeschooled/ alternative schooled children – brings his Summerhill-touched, New England-bred, depth and inspiration. And then there are the people in this field – retired and practicing, practitioners and practiced-upon; whose experience, past and future, gives the work of the archivist its particular thrill. Like the visit from Fay Crofts (author of the book on Hollymoor) bringing materials saved and gathered by Mary Harding relating to Hollymoor, including photographs and the Hollymoor bell, which used to call patients in from working in the fields, and lived for many years under Mrs. Harding’s chair.

Among the photographs and other Hollymoor-related items was a copy of “Everybody’s” magazine from October 9, 1948, inside which was an article on Paul Field, founder of the Children’s Families Trust, and on Lynwode Manor, in Lincolnshire, where he and his wife first started their family-for-life fostering after the war. As it turns out, Lynwode Manor is about five minutes from Acacia Hall therapeutic community, in Friesthorpe. It was also the home of a pacifist-run war-time farm/ hostel for refugee children, where therapeutic community pioneer Arthur Barron and his wife Margaret met, before setting out on the long and arduous career of pioneers, which included snow drifting through a broken window at Hawkspur Camp for Boys onto their baby in its cot, and the Home Office blacklisting, which blocked his obvious work and diverted Arthur Barron into the Anna Freud training which transformed the trajectory of his career.

It was to see Lynwode Manor that I left particularly early in the van – getting up at 5 – for an archival visit to Acacia Hall just before the latter closed in June. When I finally arrived home that night around 1, AA truck lights flashing and the crash of the ramp to the road echoing around the village (where we don’t even have street lights), I thought of the intrepid researcher who will never come, who will correlate the reliability of personal vehicles with the Archive’s fieldwork and oral history activity. The drop-off of visits and recordings after the old VW blew up in a spray of water outside Cambridge, returning from a visit with David Clark; the dear old Micra, which was hale enough at first to haul the whole family up to find the Grith Fyrd camping land at Shining Cliff in Derbyshire; the Renault, big and comfortable enough to chauffeur Josephine Lomax-Simpson on visits through her London, whose inability to clear frost from the windscreen in the end was symptomatic of a much deeper electrical problem. All of which will read like a kind of literary self-indulgence, but is actually by way of explanation and apology. I begin each report knowing that we have done a great deal, but far more intensely aware that there is a great deal more which needs to be done, and which ought to have been done. I am intensely aware of the apologies due.

Archives

For reasons indicated above, there are about a dozen recent accessions which have not been fully processed, and will be discussed in a future Newsletter. These include, for example, a heavily used and marked address book of David Wills, dating from the early 1970s, given by his niece and executor Margaret Barling; and material generated by the recent Cassel Hospital review, given by Kevin Healy.

Of the other fifty or so accessions, one of the most extensive was brought by Eleanor Barnes in a suitcase and several boxes, and related to her late husband Kenneth Barnes and to Wennington School, which he and first wife Frances founded in 1940. Much of the material consists of photographs – a 1930s album from Bedales, where Kenneth Barnes taught before Wennington; several hundred photographs relating to Wennington; over a hundred colour photographs, at postcard size and mounted for sale-exhibition, of paintings by Kenneth Barnes. But there are also “A Proposal for a New School” by Kenneth and Frances Barnes (1936), accounts and ledgers from the 1940s, Wennington Bulletins 1940-1959, school magazines (an under-used resource) from the 1940s through the late 1960s, records of the School Senate meetings from 1958 – 1975, and many other things. A very rich collection, underpinning a very interesting and important school.

But rich material also comes in small packages.

At his last Management Committee meeting here, about two weeks before the stroke from which he never recovered, trustee Robert Laslett brought in a little book which had belonged to David Wills. Indeed, is signed and dated “W.David Wills, 11.xii.35” with the additional note “H.M.B.I. Rochester, Kent” – that brief period as a Borstal housemaster (which led to his immortalisation in a subsequent novel by one of the lads) before going to Hawkspur as Camp Chief in the Spring of 1936. Wills was one of Britain’s first psychiatric social workers. The book, entitled “Migraine and Other Common Neuroses“, by F.G. Crookshank, would have sat comfortably on his professional bookshelf. Would we like it for the Archive? Certainly. It gives us a date, it gives us a signature, it gives us a place, and it shows us an aspect of his concern at that particular time. Idly opened, there is a piece of paper folded in the back: A typed note. Signed A.M. MacLachlainn, House Physician, The Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh, 17.iv.44. Addressed to “Mr: W.D. Wills, Barns House; Manor: Peebles” – the famous Barns Experiment. “I still think that you would be the better of a holiday” Dr. MacLachlainn writes, “but, after reading about your work I can appreciate some of the difficulties involved….As regards ergotamine tartrate (the specific for migraine), there is no reason why you should not keep a supply and take it as early as possible when you have reason to suspect that an attack is likely to come on…”

Robert, who had known David Wills from the early 1950s, was astounded. Neither he nor John Cross, who had known David even longer, had any inkling that he had ever suffered from something so debilitating as migraine. Nor, as far as I am aware, does a reference to it appear anywhere in his writing, nor in his archives nor in those of Barns or Hawkspur. Dr. MacLachlainn goes on to say, “I am sorry that we could not keep you a little longer and investigate your case more fully: I am not at all sure that it may not contain psychological elements. But you know how we are situated here for beds”.

That David Wills owned the book – and presumably kept it with him, folding the note in – over a nine year period from the end of 1935 (taking in the whole of the Hawkspur Experiment, as well as Barns!), suggests a long-standing problem. Which he then overcame? And then the book, and its note, passed quietly to Robert, and could so easily have disappeared, taking this otherwise unknown and irrecoverable biographical fact with it.

Having been designated the formal place of deposit for its archives, the newly-constituted Friends of PETT and Barns House placed the groups’s founding documents in our care. Photographs of a former Hawkspur Camp for Boys boy were given by the man into which he grew, as well as some correspondence. In two separate accessions, Bryn Purdy gave material relating to Homer Lane and the Little Commonwealth, to the late Rowen House School (which he founded) as well as the book – “Girls will be Grils” – which came out of it – and materials related to Utopia and (and vs.) Eutopia. John Cross gave a series of photographs on CD relating largely to the new Barns House accommodation. Dorothy Hamilton popped in and gave us some material related to George Lyward. Pauline Weinstein gave copies of the reviews of the pre-war novel written by her late husband, Judah Weinstein – “Borstal Lives” – in which David Wills features. Ralph Gee – the former Red Hill boy who set standards as a librarian which, translated into archives, we might hope to glimpse with a telescope – gave a further wealth of material relating to Red Hill, and his life and career after Red Hill.

Research Library

The Research Library grows, of course, through the purchase of materials both secondhand and new. But its real depth is a consequence of friends and colleagues who send copies of their work, or give materials. Anthony Rodway, for example, has recently given 20 books and monographs from his personal/professional library, along with journals and articles. Joe Berke has sent a copy of the new edition of “Mary Barnes – Two Accounts of a Journey Through Madness” just published in New York by Other Press. Gudrun Bjorck sent a copy of the “Journal of the [Arbours] Crisis Centre” ( No.12 “Beginnings and Endings”). And Anita Bracey sent an offprint of her “Group Analysis” paper (see Lorraine Barr’s commentary elsewhere in this issue) “Finding the Patient Within”.

There is published material which it would otherwise be difficult for us to find – such as the offprint of his article “Summerhill School and the Inspectors”, published by John Potter in the Kogakkan University Journal of the Faculty of Social Welfare earlier this year; the issue of the German-based magazine “finger” (no. 10. May 2002) co-edited by Luke Fowler, with a substantial section on the Laing/Arbours/Philadelphia Association complex; and Swedish-language material related to Varpen Therapeutic Community sent by Varpen-founder Gudrun Bjorck.

There is also unpublished material: How else could it be made available, so readily, to other researchers? Riccardo Piscopo’s thesis “Le Percezione della Comunita Terapeutica Da Parte di Operatori e Residenti“, sent by the author. A series of manuscript chapters on the history of Toddington (site of the Centre), given by author Chris Ennis. The typescript of his conference paper “Utopia is as Eutopy Does: Robert Owen and New Lanark”, given by Bryn Purdy. An unpublished paper in Swedish – “Terapeutisk Kultur” – by Gudrun Bjorck, who currently works for Arbours.

“Terapeutisk Kultur” – “Therapeutic Culture” – is a very interesting paper. I only know this – apart from the feel of Gudrun Bjorck in person – because of Axel Kuhn, one of our earliest researchers, who is in the process of submitting his thesis in Germany on A.S. Neill. Axel speaks both German and Swedish, and very kindly agreed to translate Gudrun’s paper, doing so – especially given his family and academic commitments – astonishingly quickly. One can’t repay this kind of generosity, which seems characteristic of people in this field. I reworked his English-language thesis-summary, but given his command of English, that was mere tokenism.

Oral History Recordings

Perhaps the personally most demanding set of recordings carried out during this period was with members of the staff of Acacia Hall therapeutic community, recorded during two visits – one just before the community closed, with three residents still on campus, and one just after. The pain of closing was palpable; and yet the over-riding revelation among all the difficulties and complexities was the very real creative, innovative, and inspiring work that had been realised. I kept having to remind myself that Acacia Hall had only had three years. The recordings themselves must be confidential; I hope the members of the staff team will find ways to crystallise and share their individual and group achievements with the wider field. It will compound the loss to lose the knowledge of all of that as well.

And then there is that wonderfully unique experience of talking with someone who was a boy in one of these places – Hawkspur Camp for Boys – towards the end of the war, and of tracing the weave of the ethos and lessons learned there through an adventurous and productive, family-filled life and career. We have permission to publish this interview (with anonymising amendments), and hope to get it up on the web-site before the next Newsletter. We were also contacted – through a search leading to our web-site – by a man who had been a young boy at Ledston Hall under Dr. Fitch just after the war. His experiences, set down in two letters rather than on tape, were more mixed. The memories are rich, and include details of the war-disturbed childhood prior to the referral, and the experience of travelling from London to the North by train, to go to this unknown place, at the age of six.

And then there is that generally over-looked group, the researchers. It is one of the Archive and Study Centre traditions – where it does not hamper the work they have come to do – to record interviews with visiting researchers about themselves and their research: proper life history stuff. Sometimes – if (to try to accommodate researchers who have limited free time, much less research time) we have been able to keep the Archive open late into a night, or on a weekend, there will come a moment when it is good simply to stop, and talk, and record the talk. Artist Luke Fowler, and practitioner Kevin Polley, have been through this recently, hopefully with no ill effects. There are a number of consequences. One is certainly a deepening of my respect. Another is a deeper understanding of their research and its underlying grammar, and this, with luck, conduces ultimately to their getting the best possible from the resources here.

And to top it all off, Alan Fox has deposited further recordings relating to the Peredur Trust, and the work of Siegfried and Joan Rudel. We need to get more people doing this kind of recording. We are fortunate in having a number of high-quality tape recorders which we can loan, and we are fortunate to be able to offer help and support in other ways. The field is too rich and underresearched for one or even two or three or half a dozen people to adequately record. It really needs more people.

Equipment out on loan:

A grant from the Oxford-based archival supplies company Conservation Resources to the Society of Archivists’ oral history project ( “Celebrating Memory – an oral history of the Society of Archivists and its members”), has made it possible to buy two sets of minidisk recorders and microphones, and to trade those for the Sony Walkman Professional tape recorder and Sony microphone which have been on loan to the project from the Centre over the past few years. The Sony is a beautiful machine, and though we have moved reluctantly into mini-disk ourselves, and still take the mini-disk with us as a matter of course, it is a pleasure to have the Sony back again. Of the other two Sonys, one is with Christopher Reeves, who is gathering material on Barbara Dockar-Drysdale and the Mulberry Bush School, and the other is with Lesley Caldwell of the Squiggle Foundation, to record Squiggle Foundation Lectures. Helen Spandler returned one of our Marantzes (another beautiful machine) as she concentrates on polishing off her PhD. The other Marantz is with Alan Fox, who is carrying out the recordings relating to Joan and Siegfried Rudel and the Peredur Trust mentioned above.

Information Services

Survey

Our ‘Survey’ lives in a hanging-file cabinet, and consists of files of published, Internet and other materials on people, places, organizations and issues related to the fields covered by the Centre. We use it in particular in responding to queries – from someone’s date of birth, to information on a particular therapeutic community – and its depth and consequently our ability to help others depends on friends and colleagues who channel material our way. This includes brochures and prospectuses – Sheila Gatiss sent “Friends Therapeutic Community Trust: Glebe House. An Account of work over the years“; Sarah Tucker sent Community Housing and Therapy’s Annual Report for 2001; Linda Frost sent the Cotswold Community’s newly launched brochure “The Cotswold Community: Education NCH“; Robert Laslett gave us a Swalcliffe Park brochure for 1991. And it also includes newspaper cuttings, such as an obituary of Prof. Israel Kolvin sent by Alan Fox; and a series of cuttings relating to C-FAR (a Young Offenders project) sent by Mary Jannaway, along with material relating to the Small School in Hartland.

EMANCIPATE Europe

Through the relationship with Axel Kuhn the Archive and Study Centre has associated itself with a European Union fund-seeking initiative originating from the Centre of Interdisciplinary Research on the Lives and Living-Circumstances of Disabled People of the University of Tubingen, in Germany. An Expression of has been submitted to the European Union in response to Call EOI.FP6. 2002, the aim being to create a cooperative network:

“The EMANCIPATE-Network will describe paths to a Europe without barriers for people with disabilities and by this means explore preconditions and chances of a changing society especially for those fringe groups. It is therefore necessary to facilitate access to sources of information and knowledge for these groups and to ensure that they can use them in order to participate fully in the life of society.

With this focused research and developmental work of this network consisting of many different faculties, European knowledge, expertise and competence will be concentrated and promote a breakthrough for a structurally disadvantaged group. Furthermore this will be a contribution to a necessary European discussion about justice, solidarity and manifolds.”