Teacher, social worker and psychotherapist John Cross played a major role in the life and history of the Planned Environment Therapy Trust from his appointment as a Trustee in 1976 until an acute illness forced his withdrawal at the end of 2015.
His retirement from the role of Director of the Planned Environment Therapy Trust in 2011 was marked by two separate well-attended celebrations of his life and work, and the Meeting for Worship held in celebration of his life at Cheltenham's Society of Friends on August 7th 2017 filled the meeting hall with friends and colleagues across his range of many involvements, and especially former children who stood and spoke deeply of the impact he'd made as co-founder and principal of New Barns School on their lives there and after. £300 was raised for PETT, for which the Trust is very grateful.
During a critical period in the 1990s and early 2000s John Cross was simultaneously Chair and Director of the Planned Environment Therapy Trust, handing on the role of Chair to his sister Cynthia in 2005; and even though the Trust was ten years old when he became a Trustee, his influence was such that many came to think of him as one of the Trust's founders. The richness of his contribution to the field is indicated in the Appreciation by fellow Trustee Alan Fox, below (re-printed, with thanks).
A date for your diaries: April 14, 2018
To mark this richness, and to celebrate both the richness and its roots, PETT will be hosting a gathering for celebration on April 14, 2018. More details will follow, but please put the date in your diaries, and prepare to join us in Toddington to learn, reflect, and contribute.
John Cross: An Appreciation - Personal Reflections.
By Alan Fox
Former Vice President SEBDA (AWMC)
(Please note: A copy of this Appreciation has appeared on the SEBDA website, and was lodged by the author in the Archive. We are grateful to Alaln Fox for permission to re-publish it here).
John’s support in times of stress was given from a person who had the ability to recognise the needs of others. There are many of us who have felt that reassurance, which was given in a gentle manner without the need of an acknowledgement. Throughout his life John’s sisters, Sybil and Cynthia, gave him critical support which has been a welcome glimpse into his private and personal life.
I heard of John’s death when I returned home from watching a cricket match at Arundel – it was a Twenty 20 Thrash, a game somewhat indicative of the speed at which everybody expects solutions to the problems of today. John thought of the long game – rather like a 5 day Test Match – where the skills of batting, bowling and fielding play an integral part towards reaching a result or not as the case may be.
There are many vignettes surrounding John – some are happy, some are challenging and thought-provoking. Many are centred in and round the pioneers in the field of therapeutic communities, as well as the young people he worked for in a team of caring adults at New Barns, and in recent years ensuring that, through the Planned Environment Therapy Trust (PETT) Archive and Study Centre, support and education was still available to other ‘homeless’ and living therapeutic communities as well. This was achieved for the adults and young people at New Barns in recent times when, as fellow Trustees of PETT, he asked me to have a sensitive hand on the tiller of the emerging Friends of Barns House. We started with residential Gatherings in May and September with the primary purpose of working and living together to maintain the fabric of the buildings and to care for the grounds.
Most of the pioneers have preceded him. Names that come to mind are David Wills, Otto Shaw, George Lyward, Fred Lennhoff, Father Owen, Kenneth Barnes, Leila Rendel, Marjorie Franklin, Donald Winnicott, A.S. Neill, Portia Holman, Marie Roe, Robert Laslett and “Pip” Dockar-Drysdale, to name a few.
John was born in 1931 and was considered to be very bright at his elementary school. He passed his 11+ and went to King Edward School in Birmingham. It was wartime and, after the Blitz on London and the destruction of Coventry, city children were evacuated and King Edward School went to Monmouth where, to quote, he ”was not unhappy”. After eighteen months he returned to a rump of a school in Birmingham and started to take days off and spend more and more time in the local library.
He was interested particularly in Politics, Psychology and Philosophy. There was one occasion when a particular master asked if there was anybody from the school who would act as their representative on the Anglo-Soviet Society – his peers immediately replied, “Cross will do that!”
He left school at 15 and his interests led him into Politics and Volunteering, and at 16 he became Secretary of the Moseley Branch of the Labour Party. It was here that he met Hilda Rees who was a ward secretary. He was 18 when he became an attender at a Quaker Meeting and later became a Quaker by Convincement – a path I was to follow later and share his thoughts of “speaking truth to power “.
He was accepted to read Politics, Psychology and Philosophy at Durham University, and in the meantime, Hilda Rees, who was also Secretary of the Birmingham Society for the Care of Invalid and Nervous Children which had been founded by Frank Mathews, suggested that he should spend two or three weeks with David Wills, who was the warden at Bodenham Manor, which was the Society’s therapeutic community in Herefordshire. Within a week at Bodenham John had decided that this was the path to follow for the rest of his life. So, he never went to Durham University.
His contact with David Wills opened up new vistas and they became founder members of the Association of Workers FOR Maladjusted Children. Otto Shaw was Secretary, David was Treasurer (on Otto Shaw’s insistence, because “Wills is a Quaker and he won’t run off with the money!”). John was asked to audit the first accounts and soon became Membership Secretary. In the early 1960s he formed the Liverpool / Merseyside / Manchester Branch. In the creation of the Constitution, the ethos was that the National Council made the decisions and the Executive carried out those decisions.
My initial contact with John was at the 1966 AWMC Conference at Keele University. That meeting was the start of the many times our paths crossed until his recent illness. It was also the year when the Planned Environment Therapy Trust (PETT) was founded “To investigate and study, publish results and expositions and train workers and carry out in practice methods of treatment of emotionally disturbed, maladjusted or delinquent children, young persons or adults, by means of a Planned Environment Therapy especially in association with specialist psycho-therapy”. Those were the days when it was financially possible to run five day conferences during which there was time to develop a sense of community and where workers, whatever their profession, could unwind and unburden themselves in a caring atmosphere of trust and shared responsibility. In the October of the previous year New Barns had started with two boys, and the AWMC conferences were an integral part of team building.
By 1971 our paths had begun to cross more frequently. John was Secretary of the AWMC, and at the Edinburgh Conference I became Treasurer. For six years we met and worked behind the scenes with David Wills, who was Editor of the Journal of the AWMC. One of our tasks was to stimulate interest in the regions and branches. There was one memorable time when John’s enjoyment in and ownership of cars played a vital role. He drove the two of us in his Allard to Darlington to meet Hugh Davies at Red House School. During the journey he took evasive action by taking to the central reservation of the A1 - the speedometer was registering over 100 mph. We arrived in time for a N.E. Branch meeting and lunch, after which he drove us over the Pennines to attend a meeting of the N.W. Branch in Lancaster that evening. By the time we returned to Toddington we had travelled nearly 600 miles.
We were involved in the amalgamation of the AWMC and the Association of Teachers of Maladjusted Children (ATMC) – which had been founded by former students of Dr Edna Oakeshott, who was the director of the Advanced Diploma Course in the Education of Maladjusted Children at the Institute of Education in the University of London. Just before the amalgamation took place the ATMC changed its name to the Association for Therapeutic Education (ATE).
He had a keen interest in penal affairs and sat on the Friends Penal Affairs Committee. It was at this time that, with David Wills and four others, he contributed to the publication, ’Six Quakers Look at Crime and Punishment’ - a testament against punishment. He became a magistrate and chaired the Magistrates’ Juvenile and Family Courts, and was Vice Chairman of the Gloucestershire Probation Committee.
On two separate years we were elected by our peers to chair the Special Educational Needs National Advisory Council (SENNAC) and together with Ronald Davie and others, including John Visser who played a leading role, we eventually helped with the formation of NASEN (National Association for Special Educational Needs). The two of us with Tony Lonton administered the closure of the Leo McDonald Fund which had been used to set up the forerunner of SENNAC, namely the Joint Council for the Education of Handicapped Children. We distributed the funds to students on university Special Education training courses. John was also a founder member of the Charterhouse Group as well as Young Minds, where he spent six years on the first Management Committee working closely with Marion Bennathan.
The words that others will express in tribute to John are but fresh windows opened to let in the light from which many young people have benefitted. Indeed, many adults have also gained insight into the events surrounding them personally or their profession. Will we ever know how successful he has been? Otto Shaw was once asked, “How do you know you are successful with a young person in your care?” The answer was, “Show me the grandchildren of the children I have taught and then I will know”. So too with those of us who have known John.
We are sad to share with Friends and supporters of the Planned Environment Therapy Trust the news that John Cross, long-time Trustee and former Director and Chair of PETT, has died after a long illness. Details of the Qauker Meeting for Worship can be found below. He would have been 86 on the 23rd of this month (July 2017)
A Meeting for Worship will take place at
The Friends Meeting House
Cheltenham GL52 2NP
At 2.30 pm on Monday the 7th August 2017
This will be a Quaker Meeting for Worship and those attending will be able to participate in the ceremony
Light refreshments will be available afterwards
There will be no flowers but donations to the Planned Environment Therapy Trust will be welcome on the day
There is a pay and display car park in Portland Place, very near the Meeting House and places for disabled badge holders in Warwick Place
If you are intending to come to the Funeral please get in touch so that we can let the family know:
Click Here or Phone: 01242 621200
Thursday May 18th to Tuesday May 23rd
Always an adventure, the Wennington Archive Weekend is several weeks in the preparation, and a week or two in the decompression. With a 24 hour conference built into the pivot point of Saturday to Sunday afternoon, it was even more lively than usual.
There was so much going on that we took surprisingly few pictures of the working element of the Weekend itself, and have had to rely on one or two others for some of the photographs below (thanks particularly to Sam Doncaster). It was very busy.
The week begins: Richard Pemble fixes the Donald Garrod clock.
Okay, here are some stats:
Volunteer Debra Lyons, Richard Pemble, and assistant Archivist Jen Galloway gather together
to make discoveries and solve problems.
Discovery or problem?: Richard with himself.
But it is not all problem-solving, self-discovery, scanning and repairing
The beating heart of any Wennington Archive Weekend: The kitchen:
Vicky and Arlene changing the world a smile, a meal, and a cake at a time
Andy Brighton and archivist Craig Fees (honouring late Wenningtonian Tom James
with the inevitable Wennington Archive Weekend shorts), at serious play.
With project roots in the 2013 Wennington Archive Weekend, Len and Will of the Early Pestalozzi Children Project
bring Wenningtonians up to date, and grow the project further with feedback and insights.
Preparing for a transatlantic - indeed, a transcontinental! - linkage.
Tomorrow: The Common Roots 2017 conference.
Therapeutic community pioneers and depth educators Dennie Briggs and Rod Odgers
join us inspirationally from the San Francisco Bay area.
During the 2017 Wennington Archive Weekend, artist Jonathan Adamson developed the art installation he had begun in 2013, with the planting of the Kaki Tree, by erecting a new sculpture. The kaki tree came from Japan, from a parent which survived the atomic bomb blast over Nagasaki in 1945, and is part of a worldwide project for peace which brings together artists, children and communities. For more on the Kaki Tree project, see here.
At the end of the Weekend, assistant archivist Jen Galloway interviewed Jonathan about the background to the new sculpture, about its conceptualisation and fabrication, about the responses people had had to it so far, and about his own second thoughts.
Jen Galloway interviewing Jonathan Adamson
Background to the tree and to the worldwide Kaki Tree Project
Jonathan early in the installation, Thursday May 23, 2017.
The ideas in the sculpture
The components of the sculpture, and how the elements of the installation work and mean
Responses to and interpretations of the sculpture
A first after-thought: the modesty of the piece....
A second after-thought: the embodiment of absence
One of the joys around Barns House at the moment is the creative take-over by Bobbin & Twine workshops, and the transformations of our spaces into colourful dens and work/play places for creative children and adults.
"We love making things by hand ...So we love to teach these skills in a practical and hands on way, while working alongside people we care about and respect to build a bespoke world, for us and our families."
And we love the colour and design that re-shape Barns Centre on workshop days. We love the scents, and baked chocolate chip cookies (other kinds of biscuits available!), and the colours of different squashes in cold glass pitchers. We love the sounds of children flying kites they've just made. We love the ice creams in hand. We love the manual skill and visual imagery on show.
The tutors are experienced and skilled mums from the local community; the liveliness and enthusiasm are infectious.
"We love to host groups for collective learning, or projects. These can be at our peaceful and stimulating venue with residential accommodation [talking about Barns House and grounds!], or at a venue of your choice. They are usually practical based, learning new skills to deliver a collective end result. It is possible to run a group event for an hour or 2 days depending on what you would like to achieve.
So if it's a WI group who would like to learn more about felting, a hen who would like a weekend party with a difference, or a significant birthday for someone who deserves a craft retreat please don't hesitate to get in touch to find out more about what we have to offer."
Or if you are a member of the PETT community...what could be better?
Spot the kites!
Bobbin & Twine Website, Facebook Page, and Instagram.
(The bracelet and kite-flying pictures are from the Bobbin & Twine Facebook page. The rest are by PETT)
A warm greeting to all our friends and supporters in what has long been celebrated as a season of peace and good will. May there be much of these for each of you this year, along with love and play.
These qualities and experiences will be all the more needed at this time when in the world at large there are so many strains and strong movements towards getting away and keeping [or increasing] distances, when not seeking outright confrontation and conflict on the ground or from on high – more often “a hard rain fallin’” than the “heavenly hosts” of carols fame - filling the sky with songs and salutations.
At the same time there is Hope – as across the globe, sometimes in small but important ways, groups practice and offer an alternative to such fracturing and strident posturing. And on that small scale for balancing we at PETT have worked with many of you and others, our extended and valued community of friends and supporters, to grow and keep ever closer in touch, in tune, broadening and deepening our sense and living reality of interconnectedness. This year that connectedness reached a new peak in July at our Gathering to both mark our 50th year of active existence, and anticipate how we shall continue into and through the next half century. Touching for us was the physical and engaged presence of all those who could join us in Toddington; uplifting too were the communications from many more, of their presence with us in spirit and mind on the day, as at other times. Such a Holding in Mind on-site and from afar we all know is not to be regarded lightly or appreciated only casually. The state of being together not just in a group, but as a group, is a truly powerful thing that transcends time and physical distances. Little wonder such a state of togetherness is a fundamental foundation of planned environments and their potential for living therapy in such human and humane environments
Hence, the regular communications from and via us to you all over the year through the Archive - whether Newsletters [complete with photos], letters and messages from PETT Fellows, Patrons and Supporters or other contacts that offer updates and new information, or that ask questions posed to us by people and groups interested and/or experienced in planned environments or Therapeutic Communities. And these are not just quanta/packets of data; they are all the actual and symbolic expressions of our ever growing network of interest, care and concern for all those, past, present and future, in need of being and belonging. In some respects PETT offers a refuge and repository for these “Lite Ages”, perhaps a bit like early medieval monasteries, which kept the light safely burning in the Dark Ages when much of human knowledge and compassion risked being lost forever. I don’t want to stretch the analogy too far, but it came to my mind in July again, when David Millard declared how much he valued PETT as a “Safe Deposit or Storage” for so much of value from the TC tradition, and experiences that could easily be lost.
So, Light there is in an era when dark clouds of ignorance, suspicion - hate, even - don’t just loom on the horizon, but are advancing from several directions. We at PETT, as many of you, don’t just remain stalwart in promoting planned environments, preserving their legacies and contributions and supporting/encouraging groups committed to offering the potential life changing experiences a planned environment approach embodies. We know we too must grow, and that means changing in important ways - or there will be no future for us. Therefore, we were delighted this autumn to yet again be awarded a Heritage Lottery Fund grant, this time a Transitional Grant to assist us in our task of making ourselves a Trust fit to meet the challenges that will take us forward to 2066 (and all that!). On our website you can see the details of the Project for which we have received funding, a not small part of which involves volunteer engagement in various areas, including creating a Heritage Garden on our grounds. This Grant, on top of others we have received, encourages us greatly to see and feel that we are recognised and can well have a future that will equal or surpass our first 50 years of service.
As always, along with the hope and growth that change brings, there is Loss as well. We have lost several supporters along the way this year through death or serious illness. One whom I trust you will understand that I single out is our PETT Trustee and former Executive Director, John Cross. Last year, having had many years of excellent health [“so far as I know”, he was wont to observe], John suffered a series of strokes. Despite being stabilised physically, he has lost his hitherto sharp mental capacity. And we have now lost him from our Trustee group, although we are comforted to know that he is being well looked after at home by those who have long loved him dearly. And he remains in our hearts and minds as we continue on with much of what we know John would approve.
So some lights might be going out across the globe but not all of them. Some are fiercely burning still, PETT amongst them, with your support. And from within this light we wish you, our friends and supporters, and all those living and working with and as groups, health and happiness over this Christmas season and throughout 2017. And to paraphrase the philosopher/polymath Wilhelm Leibniz, “If we get closer and stay together wisely, we shall not go far wrong”.
Richard and the Trustees and team at PETT
All photographs are from the grounds of PETT: Daffodils planted by our friends from the Caldecott Association bloom behind the Kaki Tree, a sapling from a Japanese persimmon tree that survived the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki in 1945; daffodils and blooms.