Youth Clubs

Youth Clubs

In the first half of the 20th century, there were large numbers of youth clubs in working-class areas of London. At a time when most families lived in cramped accommodation with little or no outside space, the clubs offered an opportunity for young people to relax in comfort, and to take part in a variety of sports and activities.

As well as recreation, many clubs offered evening classes. These were especially valuable for young people who had left school at an early age. In fact, some clubs were intended specifically for working boys or girls, who could come in for the evening after a long day at a workshop or factory.

Another common activity provided by the clubs was rambling or camping in the country. This gave city children a rare opportunity to enjoy the fresh air, and to see the countryside or even the sea. Often, the club summer camps were the only holiday they had, and so a week or two in Kent, in Sussex or on the Isle of Wight were real luxury.

The early clubs were often run by religious organisations. For example, various churches and synagogues ran recreational and educational clubs in the poor areas of the East End. Many of these clubs were part of larger institutions called settlements or missions, which included facilities for adults such as libraries, advice centres and places of worship.

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