- Hits: 128
STATUS: Previously Unpublished.
CAVEAT: Has not been subjected to peer review. Comments and sourced revisions welcomed.
The author prefers to remain anonymous, but was a former student at Red Hill School. To comment or propose revisions, please contact the PETT archivist, Craig Fees: craig (at) pettrust.org.uk
The Library of the late Otto Leslie Shaw
Christie’s of South Kensington held sale BK/776/5 on Friday, June 10th, 1977 at 11.00 am and 2.00 pm. This note looks at the background to books, Shaw’s auction sales catalogue and Shaw’s interest in books generally.
The Background to Books
Books and book collecting have a long history. The history of books in the west is fairly well known and documentedi but becomes rather more fragmentary as time recedes. In China and the East, book history is less well known at least in western circles. Cuneiform clay tablets in Mesopotamia and inscriptions cut into stone in Egypt and elsewhere are not generally regarded as books, but early manuscripts usually are.
The origins of the novel have been traced back by literary archaeologists to the classic world; they give as examples Apuleius’s The Golden Ass and Petronius’s Satyriconii. Early manuscripts were copied by scribes, either as an additional text or as the original became worn and difficult to read. Copying damaged manuscripts lead to texts differing in minor aspects. Some manuscripts became lost, as in the fire at the library in Alexandria and others disappeared for reasons unknown, although the previous existence of the manuscript is recorded. The Order of St. Benedict, founded in AD 529, had rules governing the monastery and included an order requiring a certain number of hours each day to be spent in the scriptorium. It is thanks to the Benedictine monks and their scriptoria that many early manuscripts survived. Their manuscript copies of decaying originals became texts for the early printersiii.
The invention of moveable type in the middle of the fifteenth century made it possible for multiple copies of books to be produced and distributed. Early typefaces mimicked hand script. Nevertheless, books were still very expensive and not accessible to many people. University, Cathedral and Collegiate libraries could be well supplied. Multiple other factors also limited the production of books, including the lack of paper mills producing paperiv in adequate quantities, banning of certain books for religious reasons and difficulties with the wear on, and the production of, typefaces and the time taken to bind works
To own books was a sign of wealth and as well as increasing numbers of new books being published a second-hand market grew, which gave rise to the opportunity for individuals to own and collect a few books and later large quantities of books. Many of the bookcases of books visible in stately homes open to the public today are filled with early and late nineteenth century books bound individually by craft bookbinders from specialised binderiesv. Their owners were aristocrats and rich industrialists with money to spare, who wished to demonstrate their wealth and give the impression of erudition.
From the beginning of the twentieth century onwards, book collectors fall very broadly into two categories viz. poseurs and researchers. Otto Leslie Shaw falls into the first category.
The catalogue for the ”Sale of Books from the Library of the late Otto Leslie Shaw” on Friday, June 10, 1977 is rather low-key in comparison with the Christies’ sales catalogues generally. It is octavo in format and printed in monotone albeit with 8 illustrated plates. The catalogue may have been put together in a hurry. Collation was not included in the descriptions, but if any item was found defective within seven days of the sale, it could be returned with the defect stated in writing. There was also a long list of exceptions to the right of returnvi, which surely made it desirable for potential purchasers to inspect books at the public viewing before a bid was placed. Also, there is no statement as to what happens on a valid return, but presumably the sale price was refunded. Proofreading was not as good as we have come to expect of Christie’s catalogues in recent years.
Christie’s categorised the three hundred and twenty-four lots as follows: Topography, Natural History and Coloured Plate books (lots 1 -101), English Illustrated and Children’s Books (lots 102-172), Private Presses (10 private presses get their own sections, lots 173-232) and Bibliography and Art Reference books (lots 233-324) make up the total sale.
Three works date from the eighteenth century, an 1841 History and Antiquities of Maidstone, the County Town of Kent with a repaired frontispiece and a detached front cover: a two volume New Dictionary of Natural History dated 1785 with repairs to the binding of the first volume and a 12 volume History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent with a few tears and cracks to the extremities of the binding dated 1797-1801 (lots 15, 10 and 6 respectively). 103 lots are books published before 1900, 136 published from 1900 to 1950 and the remainder published in 1951 and after.
The total lots were expected to bring between £11,916, lower estimate and £17,378, upper estimate. Updated for price inflationvii, the amounts would now be about £65,000 to £95,000, which is a substantial sum. The total number of books included in the catalogue is unclear, but it is more than 1,800 including multiple books in lots where the numbers are stated. Lot 46 consists of 36 volumes of illustrated books “together with a stack of books in three tea chests. (A lot)”. Who knows the subject matters of these works valued by Shaw but treated as little more than trash by the auctioneers?
Lot 268 by Eduard Fuchs is Illustrierte Sittengeschichteviii (Illustrated customs, but is translated by some as Sexual Customs Illustrated) in three volumes with 3 volumes of supplements 1909-1912. It is currently available for purchase on the internet at US$ 458, with multiple coloured and black and white plates, illustrations and photographs totalling more than 2,000ix in all. The following lot, number 269, by the same author has two more erotic volumes, one on women in caricature (Die Frau in Karikatur) and the other on erotic art (Erotischen Kunst), and also one on the Jews in caricature (Die Juden in Karikatur…). These are also available currently for purchase on the internet at about the same price as the earlier lotx. I forget who it was who said that rich man’s pornography is called art, but perhaps Shaw’s interest was in the typography or the processes to create (possibly lithographic or collotypes for the plates) the coloured illustrations.
There is a good number of books illustrated by Walter Crane, Kate Greenaway. Beatrix Potter and Randolf Caldecott, inter alia, are representedxi. Intellectual stimulation is provided by thirty-one volumes of The Library, the journal of the Bibliographical Societyxii and British Museum catalogues.
Viewed as a whole and by the standards of the day, Shaw’s books are representative of what an educated man might collect then and are a credit to Mr Guntrip, a provincial bookseller of Maidstone, who gave advice on potential purchases to Shaw.
What of Shaw’s books on child psychology the study of which gave Shaw his living? Lot 82 is “about 30 vol.” on psychology and child development and none are worth a separate mention. They are priced as a single lot at between £10 and £15. If Shaw had seen the market’s view of his working books, he may have found it cruel.
Through today’s eyes
Book collecting goes in fashions, like antiques, and yesterday’s expensive treasures are sometimes today’s commonplace, not sought after and are correspondingly inexpensive. The introduction of internet search engines and the ready availability of some complete texts on websites are changing the situation, which currently is in a state of flux. Nevertheless, there is much in the collection that would have held its worth today, particularly some of the children’s illustrators and private press books. The Kelmscott Chaucer printed by William Morris is believed by some to be the finest book since the revival of printing, and possibly going right back to the Gutenberg Biblexiii. Lamentably, Shaw’s Kelmscott Press books do not include this volume. He did have as two lots, however, the Kelmscott printing of Rossetti’s Ballads and Poems (1893) and Sonnets and Lyrical Poems (1894), which can be found in two volumes for sale today at US $8,838, bound by Rivière in the Doves stylexiv.
Without an inordinate amount of trouble, it is not possible to get a good idea of what it would cost to purchase this collection at current prices, but my impression is that the collection has held its own in real price terms.
As mentioned earlier, Shaw’s collection contains only three antiquarian works, if the year 1800 is regarded as the dividing line. One of these is on Kent (Hasted in 12 volumes), one about Maidstone (William Newton of 1741) and the other Martyn’s A New Dictionary of Natural History of 1785.
What happened to the small illuminated manuscript volume for which he told one of his pupils he paid £300 in the late 1940s? Could it have been a facsimilexv of no particular value included in a tea chest in the sale? If it was the real thing, did Shaw sell it at a later time or was it removed from the library for retention by his heirs?
What happened to first edition of Eikon Basilike, which it was reported a pupil tried to remove from Shaw’s study and reacted on being unsuccessful by putting Shaw’s photograph into a toilet seat and leaving the seat outside the study doorxvi? Was this a worthless facsimile too?
Note by E. Sutton-Hill (pseudonym)
Since writing this piece, further research has shown that O L Shaw owned at one time a copy of Vita et processus Sancti Thomae Cantuariensis (translates roughly as “Life and work of Thomas à Becket”) printed by Johann Phillipi (Paris) 27 March 1495. Shaw submitted a letter to the Editor of The Book Collector for publication in the September 1963 edition on a bibliographical point in respect of this book. A copy of this book, with another work bound in, was offered for sale by Bernard Quaritch Ltd. at the 47th California Book Fair in Pasadena in February 2014. At this time, the two works together were priced at US $30,600 (£18,000).
i# Putnam, Geo.Haven Putnam’s Books and their Makers during the Middle Ages, GP Putnam’s Sons, The Knickerbocker Press, New York and London, second edition 1896, volume 1 476-1600 and volume 2 1500-1700 is a good general detailed source, although it is possible that later research has uncovered other material.
ii# Sutherland, John in The Times Saturday April 16th 2016 page 26.
iii# Putnam loc cit volume 1 page 12.
iv# The first paper mill “in Christendom” was at Fabriano in Italy about the year 1270. Source: Seán Jennett, The Making of Books, Faber and Faber, fourth edition, 1967 page 157.
v# Middleton, Bernard, A History of English Craft Bookbinding Technique, Holland Press, 1963 and later editions give information on the growth of wholesale binderies in Appendix iii pp 263-268. Brade, Ludwig and Winkler, Emil Das Illustrierte Buchbinderbuch (The illustrated Bookbinding Book), Otto Spamer publisher, Leipzig, 1860 give illustrations of craft bookbinding machines and tools used in industrialised factory bookbinding and on the first page illustration there are workers engaged in their own specialised part of the processes.
vi#These exceptions to the right to return are expressed as follows: ”This proviso shall not apply to defects stated in the catalogue, nor to absence of blanks, half-titles or advertisements, damage in respect of bindings, stains, spotting, marginal tears, or other defects not affecting completeness of text and illustration; not to periodicals, autographs letters and manuscripts, music, map, and drawings; not to lots sold for less than £30.”
vii# The Retail Price Index was 47.8 for 1977 and 260.6 for 2015, giving a multiplier of about 5.5. Using the Consumer Prices Index, the mathematical basis of which is controversial, would give a lower figure. Book prices may actually have increased at a different rate but I have not found an appropriate index.
viii# Shaw had only very limited French language skills but no German language capability at all as far as I recall.
ix# Total illustrations are 430+429+500+265+280+367=2271 in total.
x# Many old books with booksellers’ descriptions can be found amongst the millions of books in many languages for sale on the Addall.com website in the section devoted to out of print books.
xi# As are Chaucer, Casanova, A Conan Doyle, James Joyce, R L Stevenson, Aubrey Beardsley, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Siegfried Sassoon, Salvador Dali and Francis Meynell and others.
xii# The Society’s website (www.bibsoc.org.uk) describes its activities as “The Bibliographical Society was founded in 1892 to promote and encourage study and research in historical, analytical, descriptive and textual bibliography. Since then its scope has widened to include the making and use of manuscripts, the history of printing, publishing and illustration, the study of bookbinding, and the history of the book, as well as the history of libraries and the study of provenance, readership, and book collecting. Members’ interests extend to every part of the world and to all periods.” Its Journal is written in easy to understand English, but sometimes the admirable attention to minute detail can be tedious for laymen without experience or special interest in the field being discussed.
xiii# Copies of the Kelmscott Chaucer are currently for sale on the internet from US $80,000 downwards.
xiv# Bromer Booksellers of Boston, MA, USA.
xv# It would have been hardly possible for a boy of little experience in books to recognise a facsimile for what it was.
xvi# Page 11 of Otto L Shaw’s A Brief Study of Re-educational Factors in a Progressive Boarding School for Delinquent Children and Adolescents. 1945.
[Editor's note: Back in 2014, David Trudgian generously wrote about his thoughts and experiences as a volunteer and sent them off to archivist Craig Fees, for inclusion in the PETT eNewsletter. And then nothing. No acknowledgement; no thanks; and no appearance in the Newsletter. When he mentioned this recently (in June 2016, over two years later) Craig followed up his apology by scouring his emails and hard-drives, to no effect. David kindly sent it again, with permission to print: And here it is. With further apologies, as well as thanks. It is as true and relevant now as it was two years ago]
It was a beautiful spring morning as I criss crossed the field at PETT Archive & Barns House, Study & Conference Centre (referred to from here on as the Centre), riding on that "big green tractor mower" Craig referred to in the recently published newsletter, under heading 6, "Present Friends". Craig, having waved me down, had stopped me to ask if I would write a passage about being a volunteer at the Centre. Immediately, my mind started to try and construct the words to fit the subject to be written about, as I again returned to mulching the field and to enjoy basking in that glorious bright sunlight in the process! At least it was easy to know why I was volunteering that morning.
It was during our brief chat about volunteering, interwoven with current topics of the day, that Craig's words re the importance of recording History struck a chord with me and gave me a focus for thinking about the topic of volunteering and the small part I play in helping to maintain the Centre, and why of course I choose to do it. So, on the face of it, it would seem my task here is a relatively simple one! Give an account of my Joy Riding exploits on that green tractor mower for the Newsletter! Except of course, there is little point in preaching to the converted, especially where the converted already put more time and effort into the Centre than I do. The point I think Craig and others would like me to help get across to readers is how essential the volunteers are to the upkeep of the Centre in the hope of enticing more people to volunteer their time. As a charitable organisation, PETT’s resources are finite and it therefore continues to struggle for its survival and to emerge from this long recession intact. Its funds have been greatly depleted during this time and in order to survive, the Centre is now even more dependent upon its existing volunteers but needs to attract more volunteers also if it is to cope with the ongoing amount of work required to maintain it.
Housing as it does a small but significant collection of historic artefacts recording the conceptualisation, birth and growth of the Therapeutic Concept, the communities themselves and of course the pioneers who founded them, we the volunteers offer our time willingly to ensure that the existence of such a valuable resource is maintained and not diminished. My own personal reason for wanting to give my time to the Centre is solely because it is situated in the grounds of what was New Barns School. This is where History has a significance for me. Having been a child at New Barns for almost 5 years, but more significantly having been a benefactor of its therapeutic principles, it left an indelible mark upon my life that has not faded in the 44 years since I reached my 16th birthday and was compelled to leave. From then till now this former site of New Barns has been a Haven for me and a part of my past I choose to cling onto. Likewise, those who volunteer their time to the Centre, for the most part, have or share an equally strong conviction about therapeutic communities in some way, albeit derived from a different perspectives, a different therapeutic environment or from different periods in its history perhaps. There are those who have simply come to the Centre, more recently, as a part of their academic research and found themselves wanting to offer a donation of their own time back to a facility that had offered them so much more than the study they had initially sought and the knowledge they had simply hoped to obtain.
From my own personal experience growing up in a Therapeutic Community and from my experience as a psychiatric nurse for 34 years, I have seen the quality of care become impoverished as legislation distances the therapist from the client, adult from the child. Surely the madness that somehow believes that a child or person can be nurtured from a safe distance and their emotional needs can be mapped out and met on a schematic care plan that any agency staff or support worker can simply pickup and deliver ad hoc and in a sterile way must surely one day become exposed as the greater abuse and injustice of an individual in care. Therefore, having and protecting this treasure trove of History of Therapeutic Communities as a point of reference is essential if in future our professionals are to re-engage with people, adults and children and to have a framework for being able to do so.
Perhaps the inherent weakness of the volunteers setup at the Centre is: that there is no one coordinating the volunteer input overall. Whilst the Centre collects, co-ordinates the histories of many communities and individuals, its volunteers are largely isolated from each other (though not intentionally I'm sure) and therefore the pockets of time given by individuals can perhaps go unnoticed by others, or are so random as to be missed altogether. It may be that as individual volunteers, we are perhaps more focused and concerned with maintaining aspects of our own community's identity housed at the Centre, and rightly so, but we need to accept that their physical being has gone and what we are doing now is preserving their history. The Centre is the repository for safeguarding that history, for preserving it. Without the Centre, without that focus, without the concern, what would happen to all these records? Their Relevance? Their Importance? But whilst the Archive facility may be to many about the safe storage, preservation and availability of these historic records, its setting should be valued equally, as should its conference and accommodation facilities as being of equal relevance to the success of the Archive (I would say that, wouldn’t I).
But then, the Archive was born out of the Ashes of New Barns, and other such communities, and was itself originally known as the "New Building" (built by Roy Frye and volunteers) and therefore has far more relevance than a warehouse or storage building would have. Its location and tranquillity allows peaceful reflection to those who come to study and a retreat for those needing refortification from the rigors of today’s working environments, and of course its accommodation helps to fund the upkeep of the facilities. Surely if this was not the case, why house the Archive material in such a remote place, why not store it more centrally in a modern building fit for purpose, where cataloguing is the only requirement needing a volunteers input? Because of the significance of the location in itself, is it not a Archival treasure worth preserving? Hasn't the PETT Archive & Barns House, Study & Conference Centre in itself become an embodiment of Therapeutic Environment which preserves the ethos of our lost communities and keeps alive their spiritual aura as a tangible reality? I guess it is easy to take for granted both the Archive and Barns House being here, but I guess what we really need to do is, imagine them not being here! By offering a little time, by working together as a “team” hopefully we need never ask the question: What have we lost?
Whether cataloguing, mowing the field or decorating, each persons input is just as essential as any other if The Archive & Study Centre And Barns House Conference Centre is to survive. But as volunteers we need to use the concepts of the Therapeutic Community and come together in a more “Meaningful Way”: Perhaps by compiling a list of work to be done, by compiling a list of volunteers willing and able to offer their time to do the work, by providing the space, materials and opportunity to undertake the task, perhaps by planning further ahead so that individuals can come together as a part of a volunteer group rather than working in isolation to each other… Maybe just hoping someone will volunteer or by waiting for someone to volunteer is missing the opportunity to give someone the chance to volunteer! Why isn’t there a advert on PETT’s webpage, or an Appeal maybe, giving a current list of jobs needing volunteer input at the Centre? We may see a reference to some of the work volunteers have done, but less about what needs to be done.
This may not be what Craig envisaged when he asked me to write something for the Newsletter but it's what came out of my attempt to do so. I hope it will do!
‘When a university becomes a business the whole of student life is transformed. When a university is more concerned with its image, its marketability and the ‘added value’ of its degrees, the student is no longer a student – they become a commodity and education becomes a service.’ (Guardian March 2015)
At Braziers Park (Braziers Park School of Integrative Social Research), a community and adult college in south Oxfordshire, we are convening a weekend (Friday 10 – Sunday 12 April) to explore the potential for an independent response to the seedbed of dissatisfaction increasingly prevalent in higher education, over what is seen as the corporate takeover of university, following the Jarratt report of 1985 (Ball & Wilkinson 1994).
We are clearly not alone in seeing cracks in the neoliberal agenda. However, our recent excursions into the work of Trocchi et al, ‘sigma’ and 1967 Dialectics of Liberation explored in a weekend in October 2013 entitled ‘A Million Minds’, discussion on anti-university feeling within art education (HE) at Supernormal 2013, a festival that Braziers hosts, and our own development work on the receptiveness of new ideas and self-expression in our Sigma July 2014 weekend has bought us to an investigation of the symbiosis of independent university (understood as a ‘oneness’ without strings attached) and integrative social research. We plan to consider if Braziers might be uniquely placed to push a knife into those cracks and become co-architects of a design for higher education and self-development that could be of wider influence.
Braziers houses a resident community and a wider membership of Members, associates and volunteers. Founded in 1950 in an atmosphere of post-war wishfulness, Braziers is the longest-running secular intentional community in the UK and practises a particular form of consensual self-management, the sensory/executive process, something which proves to be both a trial and a boon. Understandably, a community such as Braziers attracts folk who find themselves at odds with mainstream society, but at its best this ‘magnet’ can bring together an eclectic ferment of independent thinkers and those prepared to look at society through different lenses.
This forms one of the tenets of our independent university ‘idea’; that we consider a diversity of opinion, not for its rightness or wrongness, but for its inherent value (if any).
Value is becoming a buzzword for those who seek to divert the trend of a box-ticking culture. Nansi Ellis of the Association of Teachers and Lectures (ATL) has recently posted on their website:
‘We need a coherent curriculum and assessment system that values what is valuable, and not just what is measurable.’ (Ellis 2015)
…eloquently drawing attention to the trap of the measurable that has seeped into all levels of education from early years to higher education. I am reminded of this cartoon and how we create failures by our measurements.
(from 4.bp.blogspot 2015)
So what will we be looking for on that second weekend in April? To ask some questions and pose some answers. Where is the value in education? How can we give education back to the learner? How can we create an alternative model, one that hoards its independence and fashions a way that supersedes the knowledge economy in such a way that the knowledge is preserved and new economy is supported?
Braziers’s people are not a group that can be easily led, and Braziers’s education has always been ideologically progressive, even when progressivism wanes in mainstream culture, and essentially humanist – to the point that words spoken at recent lecture at the British Library resonate with us:
‘Faith in the value of a humanist education is beginning to look like an antique romance.’ (Warner 2015)
Perhaps Braziers Park School of Integrative Social Research is a last remnant of this romance, though it often seems quite unromantic. Even here a battle smoulders between those who feel driven by financial necessity towards higher income raising initiatives and those who feel that the human should be central to everything we do.
We are not, in the main, highbrow academics, though some sport letters after their names. We are attracted to the practical as well as the cerebral. It might be seen as pompous to be fashioning our ‘school’ as a ‘university’; giving ourselves airs! Our mission is to create a new paradigm of affordable, learner-centred learning for life, whatever we end up calling it.
If you believe that education is not just something children do, if you rail against the proposed funding cuts in the lifelong learning sector (Guardian March 2015) and believe that education should not be solely to meet the needs of potential employers. If you like the idea of university of oneness that can encompass academically profane pursuits (say, knitting!) and the sweaty toil of work on the land alongside a philosophy of learning consciousness, then please join us in our debate.
4.bp.blogspot.com, (2015) [on line] Available from http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-SwE2n7GGfcY/TcKv0AXBcbI/AAAAAAAAAHQ/OJsurB4FWSM/s1600/Fair+test.JPG [Accessed 31/03/2015]
Ball, R. & Wilkinson, R. (1994) The use and abuse of performance indicators in UK higher education. Higher Education, 27:417-427. Available at http://www2.facso.uchile.cl/psicologia/epe/_documentos/GT_cultura_escolar_politica_educativa/recursos%20bibliograficos/articulos%20relacionados/ballywilkinson(1994)theuseandabuseofperformanceindicatorsinukhighereducation.pdf [Accessed 14/03/2015]
Ellis, N. (2015) Value what is valuable – not just what is measurable. [blog entry] February 4th 2015. ATL Speak Out!: Association of Teachers and Lecturers. Available from
http://www.atlspeakout.com/2015/02/04/values-what-is-valuable-not-just-what-is-measurable/ [Accessed 14/03/2015]
Khomami, N. (2015) LSE students stage occupation in protest at 'profit-driven education, The Guardian, 18th March 2015, [on line] Available from http://www.theguardian.com/education/2015/mar/18/lse-students-occupation-protest-education [Accessed 31/03/2015]
Okolosie, L. (2015) Adult education is being slashed and burned – this is too important to ignore, The Guardian, Further Education, Comment is Free, 26th March 2015, [on line] Available from http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/mar/26/adult-education-funding-cuts [Accessed 31/03/2015]
Warner, M. (2015) Learning my Lesson, London Review of Books, Vol. 37 No. 6 · 19 March 2015
pages 8-14 [Transcript of Lecture] Available from, http://www.lrb.co.uk/v37/n06/marina-warner/learning-my-lesson [Accessed 31/03/2015]
Note: The views of Guest bloggers are their own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Planned Environment Therapy Trust, its Trustees, staff, or others associated with it.
- Hits: 611
This article originally appeared in 2004 in the last issue of the trimesterly newsletter published jointly by the Association of Therapeutic Communities, the Charterhouse Group of Therapeutic Communities, the Planned Environment Therapy Trust, and ultimately, the Community of Communities. The appropriately named Joint Newsletter was published between 2001 and 2004, and briefly afterwards under a less transitional name. The article was a farewell editorial, and in it PETT archivist Craig Fees crystallised the philosophy and purpose as he understood it not only of the aptly named Joint Newsletter, but the later RadioTC International; and the passion and purpose underpinning the work of PETT's Archive and Study Centre:
"where else will you find a magazine in which service users, workers, administrators, family members, retired people, exes (ex-clients, ex-staff members...), friends, children, young people, adults, poetry, prose, articulate, less articulate, academic, high culture, low culture, comedy, tragedy, polemic, evocative, dry, passionate, reflective, progressive, democratic, drug-free -- What haven’t we had, that it is possible to have -- are joined together as if they belonged together, with no big deal being made about it? As if we were all part of the same community?"
The editorial quietly anticipates the demise of the collaboration, as did the front cover cartoons on the last three issues of the Joint Newsletter. One of the uses of history is seeing what is likely to happen. Strangely, a field rooted in the understanding and intentional use of community processes is not averse to acquiring the future the hard way, by ignoring what it knows.
Hello, I must be going (from the November 2004 issue of the Joint Newsletter)
When I was a folklorist(1) it always took me by surprise: As a field we never applied the lessons of our own research to the securing and developing of the work, and continually paid the price: If you’re British, what is the first thing you think of when you hear the word “folklorist”? Probably not student of group and community processes, nor “ethnographer”. And what do people ‘out there’ think when they hear the term “therapeutic community” or, god forbid, “residential worker”? Or what do you think of your self, if you are somehow involved in an intentional therapeutic environment? Do you wear the latter because you have to, and then get down to the real work of making each day the best possible for the containers of endless need and possibility which nature and our way of living continuously throw up for us? Are you content with that?
I certainly was. During my time within a therapeutic community for children all I needed was time to sleep, food, my own room, and the privilege of taking part in the most amazingly beautiful and difficult world I had ever come across, secure in the knowledge that ‘out there’ it was being taken care of – valued, secured, protected, made possible. It was a surprise when it was all stripped away, and I found out not only that the work I was doing as a short-term loan from academia had not been secured ‘out there’, but in fact had been suffering similar disasters and annihilations for the whole of the 20th century. What had our forbears in the field been doing all that time?
As it turns out, pretty much what we had been doing: getting on with the work, and trusting in tomorrow; influencing as best they could the legislation, policy and practice of the day, putting the past out of mind, healing the wounds or getting out of the work if the wounds were too deep, and if not blown away, drawing on the bottomless optimism that is available to people who have engaged with the deepest human disaster and seen it transfigured through the tenacity and wealth of human being: Children - consigned to a lifetime of failure, incarceration, medication, and the replication of their emptiness and pain in the world around them - held in their pain and emptiness long enough and well enough for the immense re-creative power of being human to begin to replace the emptiness with a foundation in which the pain, and the experience behind it, become incorporated into its strength: who bloom; who become healers; who become parents of happy children, or simply strong and devoted partners in marriages, or businesses, or professions, or communities. Or simply more than the loss they would have otherwise become. But not, by and large, drawing on the lessons of the work and providing comparable holding and healing mechanisms for the field itself.
“But the roof doesn’t leak when it stops raining”.
For the past four years I have edited the Joint Newsletter -- twelve issues. A good Jungian time to stop. While I would like to say that I am giving it up now primarily through strength of character, or because I feel I have achieved what I can, or because of a rare wisdom to give up something you love to allow it to flourish in new ways in other hands, the prosaic reality is that the production of the Newsletter is getting in the way of the fundraising which has now become necessary as part of my job as Archivist and Director of the Archive and Study Centre; which, indeed, now depends on it. Editing – which has meant everything from OCRing and re-typing, to tickling material from the roaring river of the field (the way we used to do to fish in the quieter mountain streams of Colorado), to laboriously laying out and Desk Top Publishing, and then picking them up from the printer and stuffing and posting – takes too much time. Sigh.
It was never intended to have an Editor. The original plan was to rotate the Newsletter from organisation to organisation, a bit like the Presidency of the European Union – this issue the Planned Environment Therapy Trust, the next issue the Charterhouse Group, the issue after that the Association of Therapeutic Communities (hence the three issues a year); and in many ways that would have been better. But against the background of challenges continually facing both the ATC and Charterhouse Group over the past four years, the relative continuity and availability of resources within the Archive and Study Centre during much of that period, and PETT’s chosen role as a support organisation for the field as a whole, the de facto role of executive Editor (to use the term adopted by Kevin Healy) has simply happened. Add to that the tremendous fun and the privilege involved in making purposeful contact with so many good and exciting people, and the privilege of learning, and Voila: a willing Editor. I hope – there’s no guarantee – but I hope that someone else is given this privilege; or that the three editors are given the support required to enable them to do their day jobs while also committing the necessary time to the Newsletters.
The Special Section
Among the perks of leaving the role is a last wish, and my fellow editors have generously granted me the wish to try to put together a special section devoted to the children and adults of the Charterhouse Group. Freud memorably referred to the kind of work which goes on within Charterhouse Group communities, in his introduction to August Aichhorn’s classic Wayward Youth, as an ‘impossible profession’. It is internally ‘impossible’ for many reasons, which anyone who has done it knows, but which is hard to convey if you haven’t. It has been made more impossible by the external pressures of a State and a society which do not want children to be damaged in the first place, but are unwilling to take the consequences of actually understanding what it is all about themselves or trusting others, preferring instead a steel gloved distance and the hand of common sense. There are currently thirteen UK members of the Charterhouse Group. Each one I rang in follow-up to the letter I sent asking for material was in the midst of inspections or impending inspections, having recently been inspected and looking ahead to an inspection beyond that, from this or that body. My wish to put together a Special Section sprang from the difficulty Charterhouse Communities have had in contributing to the Newsletter over the past four years, and their radical under-representation generally; and the knowledge, which we all derive from our work with and experience of people overworked or under stress (including ourselves), that while communication is essential to mobilising the potential which exists within the external environment for support and understanding, communication itself becomes correspondingly more difficult as the work and stress increase. We have all been with children or adults whose ability to communicate has been reduced to destruction of themselves or something around them (or being destroyed), and know from experience what it takes to revive their ability to steam ahead. Apart from anything else, it requires contact. It requires belief. It requires experience (‘time’, pace Richard Crocket). It requires imagination. If a child can get a joke, then you are on your way to the integration of self and environment which allows the person eventually to flourish. In other words, we all know what building community is about.
Which is not quite the non-sequitor it may seem. Earlier this year we were sitting around the wood stove discussing the future of the Joint Newsletter, and the observation was made that “I can’t see who the target audience of the Newsletter is;” to which I heard myself reply that that was because it didn’t have a target audience, but a target task; which was building community. A key moment for me was the question several years ago in the ATC Steering Group, “Has anyone heard of Jane Pooley?”, when Jane was Director of the Charterhouse Group; and later, “Who is Rich Rollinson?”, who was then the Director of the Mulberry Bush, one of the oldest and best-known therapeutic communities for children and young people. No wonder the field has suffered recurrent tragedies over the past century. Those of us coming into the field, certainly at the lower levels but also higher up, have had little or no idea of who or what else was out there, how rich and deep the field was - seen historically, geographically, culturally, or simply in accumulated wisdom and experience; and, in the demands of the day-to-day work, there have not been many readily accessible ways of finding out, or even discovering that there was something to be found out: Living in the sufficiency of the bottomless present, like a disturbed child, without the supporting and guiding structures that we call “heritage” and community. All of that is what the Archive and Study Centre is about; and under its Presidency, and for better or worse, what the Joint Newsletter has been about. The field will be strongest when it knows itself best; and it will serve the people who come into the field best – both as staff and clients – when it is strongest.
Belief, heritage, creativity
A part of that strength will always reside in the belief that what many people - in government, media, or society generally - regard as impossible is, in fact, possible. Really impossible things are not made possible through belief; but disbelief (often through lack of experience and training), or the active and positive belief that something is not possible (often through contrary training or personal experience, or sometimes through personal or organisational need), can scupper even the best project or programme, much less squeeze the small light of possibility out of a difficult or pioneering enterprise - ensuring its failure, and then using that failure as proof of its impossibility. In the bottomless present there is no answer. The answer, insofar as there is an answer, lies in people who know from their own experience what is or may be possible, or who recognise the limits of their own training and experience and are therefore (critically and reflectively!) open to the experience and knowledge of others. It lies in communication and shared experience.
Where that experience resides in the past, it is called our heritage. Where it exists in the present, it is one of the tasks of the Joint Newsletter to tickle it into print, and to foster some degree of mutual recognition even across boundaries of language or profession. One of the greatest pools of support for workers in therapeutic communities, which remains largely untapped (and vice versa), consists of people who are or have been involved in ‘democratic’/alternative/ progressive education, whose belief is grounded in personal experience, if different language. But the potential is very wide indeed; and if I were to start listing my regrets in standing down, they would begin in never having done enough, here or in the Archive. It is the curse of the oral historian and archivist to see horizons of connection for which there is neither the time nor the resources to bring to the surface; and one prays for curious practitioners and enthusiastic researchers to come along.
Having said which, we have done pretty well, and by ‘we’ I mean all of those who have been involved so far with the Newsletter: The three Trusts which set it up and keep it going; and of course the editors – Nadia Al-Khudhairy at the inception and Jane Pooley, for ATC and CHG; and currently Kevin Healy and Chris Nicholson, along with myself. There is a lot of “I” and me in this particular editorial; but the Newsletter itself exists because of the belief that people - trustees, authors, readers, editors, secretaries - have put into it; and because of what I think all three of the current editors would regard as a close and almost indefinably mingled and productive working relationship. One of my reluctances in standing down has to do with losing that (and the fear that I may find out I wasn’t as important to it as I’d like to think). But where else will you find a magazine in which service users, workers, administrators, family members, retired people, exes (ex-clients, ex-staff members...), friends, children, young people, adults, poetry, prose, articulate, less articulate, academic, high culture, low culture, comedy, tragedy, polemic, evocative, dry, passionate, reflective, progressive, democratic, drug-free -- What haven’t we had, that it is possible to have -- are joined together as if they belonged together, with no big deal being made about it? As if we were all part of the same community? ‘An awfully big adventure’ to use Jane Pooley’s words.
Back to the Special Section:
In all my growing up, I never came across real unkindness to children; except the structural unkindness introduced into a family by war. It was a very deep shock to come to Britain and stumble into a therapeutic community for children: To discover in one moment how deeply children could be damaged, and how possible it was to do something about it. It was a gift to me, which I have struggled to repay in the work of the Archive and Study Centre; and hope in delving into the children, adults and places of the Charterhouse Group as we do here, and sharing it, and perhaps giving an indication of how much more is there, something of the debt is paid. So much more could be done and should be done. Perhaps the communities featured here, and those which found it impossible to contribute in the time available, will come together at next year’s Windsor Conference, which will be devoted to work with children and young people; and then take over an issue of the journal with their papers. Some gifts grow through sharing. The poetry published in this issue (and, of course, earlier) would be a good place to start. In the context of the Special Section it seemed very appropriate that David Lane should provide a Guest Editorial. Thanks to everybody. (Slips ring on finger )
(1) See, for example, Fees, C “Tourism and the Politics of Authenticity in a North Cotswold Town”, in Tom
Selwyn, ed., The Tourist Image: Myths and Myth Making in Tourism (John Wiley and Sons, Chichester), pp. 121-146.
Fees, C (1990) “Reflections of a Folklorist in a Residential Therapeutic Community for Emotionally Deprived and Disturbed Children”, Maladjustment and Therapeutic Education 8 (2), pp. 68-73. Reprinted in Folklore in Use 1 (1993), pp. 149-155.
- Hits: 1808
Reg Elliot, who was a significant figure in the TC movement during the late sixties and seventies, died in Galashiels in November 2014. He worked at Dingleton before, during and after Maxwell Jones’s time there, and was a controversial figure in ATC gatherings through that period.
Born in 1925, he was abandoned by his mother and spent his childhood in foster care. He joined the Navy during the War and served all over the world. After being invalided out, he trained as a psychiatric nurse at Dingleton. At first he was seen as a troublesome character by the very traditional nursing administration of the time, but he was identified as someone who could challenge authority effectively, and make good relationships with patients. Very soon, in about 1966, he was promoted to Charge Nurse of the male admission ward, working with an innovative American psychiatrist, Paul Polak. The hospital then moved quickly to merge the male and female wards, and Reg made a formidable partnership with the Ward Sister, running the combined unit and often fighting one another.
He had an instinctive grasp of what made people tick: he sensed how to get a disturbed patient to hand over a knife, or when to let someone threatening suicide walk off. He could relate to anyone in trouble, whether a drunken tramp, a depressed minister of the church, or a banker with a marriage on the rocks. He spoke truth to power, and demolished bullshit like a muckspreader. Some people saw him as a hero for this and modelled themselves on him (not always successfully if they lacked his skills); others continued to see him as a troublemaker. He had an unusual knack for stirring things up and making people think. In ‘sophisticated’ environments he could seem clumsy, but people ignored him at their peril, because he had their emotional measure.
When he decided to leave Dingleton, he went to Hertfordshire Social Services to set up a mental health hostel in Welwyn Garden City. He again established a special role for himself, and this was recognised by many there, including the Director, who set out to learn from him. He also made wider contacts, and eventually moved to work in residential care in Greenwich, and then with Richmond Fellowship.
In the 1980’s he was invited to run Trainer Self Development groups at the Civil Service College in Sunningdale. These were for trainers from all branches of the Civil Service, who wanted to look at themselves and the way they worked. He was highly regarded there, and became known throughout the Civil Service. He was invited to contribute to TC gatherings in Italy and elsewhere, and never failed to make his mark.
He was devoted to Mary, whom he married in 1952, and was devastated by her death in 2013.
They leave three children, George, Colin and Claire, and eight grandchildren.
Reg was a one-off, special person, to whom many people owe a large debt. He was just perfect for the therapeutic community movement, and, although his name may not be known in a hundred years, he is justly famous to people in countries all around the world and is recognised with affectionate and amused respect.
You can bet he is running a group among the angels, and will be trouble for anyone trying to act God.