Geographies of youth work, volunteering and employment: the Jewish Lads' Brigade and Club in post-war Manchester

2015-08-04T12:46:09Z (GMT) by Sarah Mills
This paper brings together current geographical debates on volunteering and employment through a unique focus on post-war youth work. I use the example of the Jewish Lads' Brigade and Club in Manchester, UK to make a series of wider arguments about the emotional labour of paid/unpaid work, faith-based identities and the spatialities of informal education. Through conceptualising youth work as a series of localised and inherently spatial practices, the paper explores how the identities of employed volunteers and youth workers shape - and are shaped by - the contexts through which they 'work' with young people. I draw on archival materials to show how the Club operated in practice at one site in Manchester, and place this experience in the context of the national organisation's post-war reconstruction efforts. I show how the Club navigated a path through the post-war moral landscape of childhood, shaped by the wider Anglo-Jewish community, and I illustrate the dynamic relationships between paid and unpaid helpers in the performance of youth work. The paper concludes by drawing connections between the historical record and contemporary youth work practice. The professionalisation of youth work that emerged in the post-war era is currently being dismantled via new geographies of voluntarism in austere times and, now as then, questions around the role of faith-based youth organisations and the religious identities of their volunteers and employees remain politically charged.