Skip to main content
Kent Academic Repository

Youth Cultures in the Mixed Economy of Welfare: Youth Clubs and Voluntary Associations in South London and Liverpool 1958-1985

Clements, Charlotte (2016) Youth Cultures in the Mixed Economy of Welfare: Youth Clubs and Voluntary Associations in South London and Liverpool 1958-1985. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (KAR id:54856)

Language: English
Download this file
[thumbnail of 134Clements Thesis 2016.pdf]


Young people in post-war Britain have grown up in a context of fast-paced change and constant attention; from transformation in state welfare in the 1940s and 1950s, concern about delinquent and subcultural youth in the 1960s and 1970s, and the consequences of recession and youth unemployment in the 1980s. Youth clubs at this time provided a space where young people could figure out myriad influences on their lives and emerging identities.

To date, these significant organisations have been woefully under-examined by historians who have largely failed to look at youth groups except in uniformed or religious contexts, or as part of the solution to youth crime. Much practitioner research remains ahistorical in its approach. Early histories of youth movements such as John Springhall’s are being built upon by exciting new interdisciplinary research, for example by Sarah Mills. This thesis contributes to this emerging body of work and restores the place of the youth club in our understandings of youth in the post-war period.

This research set out to establish the full range of roles that youth clubs and their membership associations had in the post-war period and how they linked with other forms of voluntarism, welfare and youth provision. Additionally, this research wanted to look at how youth clubs fitted into the lives of young people at a time when their leisure and cultural pursuits were the subject of much scrutiny.

In uncovering the complexity and distinctiveness of youth voluntary organisations, local case studies are essential. They allow this research to demonstrate the local factors at work in shaping young lives and youth cultures and provide much-needed evidence about how voluntary service-providing organisations have contributed to the history of voluntarism and welfare in contemporary British history. Papers of clubs and associations held privately and in archives have been complemented by oral history interviews and a range of other sources to examine fully the voluntary youth club in South London and Liverpool. These sources show that clubs were shaped by unique mixes of geography, welfare politics, social issues, international influences, and young people themselves to create spaces for fluid youth cultures and clubs which could blend roles and relationships in order to adapt to local needs and experiences.

Youth voluntary organisations were central to networks of youth welfare in London and Liverpool. By looking at how these organisations operated and their relationship with the state, this thesis establishes that voluntary youth clubs were on the frontier of the mixed economy of welfare. They were dynamic in the face of social change and effective in accommodating and responding to the cultural needs of the young consumer in the post-war period.

The evidence presented here shows that youth clubs and associations had a pivotal role in helping young people navigate myriad problems. Furthermore, this thesis argues that the category ‘youth’ has concealed the way in which a wide variety of factors such as class, gender, race, and locality have shaped the experiences of young people. Finally, this thesis reveals the crucial role played by a new generation of youth workers, who challenged traditions rooted in uniformed organisations and older youth movements, in embedding permissive and radical approaches in to youth clubs. Ultimately, this thesis argues that the unfixed and contested identity of the youth club could react, respond and adapt to changing welfare, social and cultural pressures. This has given them an undefinable but central status on the very borders of local mixed economies of welfare in South London and Liverpool where the state, voluntary, consumer and cultural were all interconnected to create not only uniquely situated organisations but also micro-local youth cultures.

The research presented here contributes to debates about civil society and the making of citizens. It aids understanding of how the category of youth has been constructed and used in wider society in the post-war period. It also adds to our understanding of what welfare provision has looked like and the boundaries between different types of provision. This in turn informs contemporary discussion of who should provide youth and wider welfare services and what forms this should take.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Bradley, Kate
Thesis advisor: Hubbard, Philip
Thesis advisor: Kendall, Jeremy
Uncontrolled keywords: youth young person teenager youth club boys' club girls' club mixed club' voluntary association London Federation of Boys' Clubs London Union of Youth Clubs Liverpool Boys' Association Liverpool Union of Youth Clubs Merseyside Youth Association welfare mixed economy of welfare welfare state urban youth culture subculture consumer juvenile delinquent working class post war twentieth century Britain contemporary British history youth movement community activism youth work youth worker professionalisation professionalization informal education social history social policy black youth girls' work unemployment 1960s 1980s 1970s
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research
Funders: Organisations -1 not found.
Depositing User: Users 1 not found.
Date Deposited: 08 Apr 2016 11:00 UTC
Last Modified: 09 Dec 2022 16:56 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Clements, Charlotte.

Creator's ORCID:
CReDIT Contributor Roles:
  • Depositors only (login required):

Total unique views for this document in KAR since July 2020. For more details click on the image.