London-based Richard Hall has been doing some research on clubs for his MA at the University of Sussex.
He got in touch with Club Historians at the beginning of the year and had a few chats with Ruth. He’s uncovered some very interesting material for his dissertation, entitled: ‘Barometers of Working-Class Life’: Change and Continuity in Britain’s Working Men’s Clubs 1945-1960.’
We are hoping that he gets a distinction for this piece of work- we think he deserves it!
It’s always encouraging when students, whether they are undergraduates or at MA level like Richard, choose to look into some of the many fascinating and relatively neglected aspects of club history and club life.
Here is a summary of his work that he has kindly provided for us:
In this dissertation, I argue that the study of working men’s clubs is essential to our understanding of working-class life after the war. As austerity gave way to affluence, quality of home-life in Britain improved as the population shifted from urban to suburban areas, prompting many sociologists and historians to see the home as the predominant site of working-class leisure. Supporting this notion, pubs witnessed a sharp decline in custom as newly domesticated men chose privatised lifestyles and companionate marriages over social activities in public spaces. However, an increase in the number of working men’s clubs over the same period challenges these assumptions. Returning servicemen gained agency through the clubs as they sought familiarity and camaraderie amidst alienating cultural and familial structures; influence through membership encompassed everything from choice of beer and qualifications in club management to wider community involvement and even political office as Labour MPs. Despite the subordinate status of Lady Members, the clubs also gradually succeeded in fostering equitable family leisure behaviour where pubs failed, welcoming wives and children and expanding into large-scale concert venues. Such changes were neither linear nor uncomplicated though, and ultimately this story is about negotiations of change and continuity, as nostalgia for stability and tradition did battle with the materialism of the affluent society. Such themes are reflective of the broader political, social and cultural landscape in 1950s Britain, and with in excess of two million members by 1960, the Club Movement provides a crucial lens through which to view the changing identity of the ‘working man’ in this context.
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