Our predecessor body, the Council for Colony Holidays for Schoolchildren (CCHS) was set up as an educational Trust in 1963, following initiatives by a number of young British people who had worked in the French national system of “colonies de vacances” (which catered for 5 million children a year) and who thought a similar system would have much to offer to children and young people in the UK. It was started with a launching grant from the then Ministry of Education, with a distinguished governing Council chaired by Sir John Wolfenden, and with Sir William Alexander as Secretary.
Sir John Wolfenden was succeeded as Chairman by Lord Hill of Luton, then by Lord Vaizey of Greenwich. Sir William Alexander was succeeded as Secretary by John Brooke, Director of Ed. for Worcestershire.
The Council consisted of representatives from all the main educational Associations, also HMI Assessors from the Department of Education and Science, the Welsh Education Department, the Scottish Education Department, and the Northern Ireland Education Department.
In recent years Chris Green, founder of CCHS, has been Convenor of the Summer Camps Trust, a meeting ground for all organisations which run any kind of Summer Camp in Britain.
Chris was awarded the MBE in 2011 for services to education through summer camps.
Between 1965 and 1985 around 80,000 children experienced a Colony Holiday, and around 12,000 17 to 25 year-olds were recruited and trained to look after them.
CCHS worked with local authorities and others to enable disadvantaged children to take part. It collaborated with organisations such as the Puffin Club, the National Trust, the WRVS, Manchester University Settlement and Birmingham Settlement, to run special Colony Holidays for them. It helped set up Discovery Holidays in Northern Ireland which ran holidays for 1,000 or more children from all backgrounds in the province each year. It worked with the Union Française des Centres de Vacances to run Anglo-French holidays. It published some books of children’s games, songs, and holiday activities.
Residential training courses were developed for Monitors, and later for the more experienced Monitors to become Assistant Directors then Directors. These courses were cited as “good practice” by D.E.S. Inspectors.
Now, thirty, forty and fifty years on, many hundreds of adults regularly get in touch to pay eloquent tribute to all that their times at Colony Holidays meant to them while they were children, and how much the experiences have helped to shape the kind of adults they have become, their career choices, the way they have brought up their families, and the way they see life. All of them agree, as does almost everyone who knew Colony Holidays, that the experience of a Summer Camp offers an opportunity unlike any other for fun, for learning, for growth, and for seeing more clearly through the commercial and other distractions which surround young people, to what really matters in life.
“I’ll always remember singing ‘Tongo’ from the deck of the ferry as we left Stornaway at the end of the holiday in 1971 – the director (Mike Gerrard) was standing on the quayside. The lines and echos really did fade as we moved away.”
“Last weekend I was with a friend I had first met as a fellow Monitor on a Colony in 1965. She started humming ‘Grows the yarrow in yonder grove’ and it took us back almost 50 years. We had a torchlight procession from the Malvern Hills back to Linden Manor – and sang it all the way home. We ended with a bonfire and hot chocolate and songs around the fire.”