Youth on streets and bob-a-job week: urban geographies of masculinity, risk, and home in postwar Britain

2014-05-13T13:28:18Z (GMT) by Sarah Mills
After World War Two, youth in Britain was constructed as unruly, troublesome, and deviant, particularly in public urban space and streets. However, not all children and young people were discouraged from entering these environments or engaging with the general public. Drawing from literature published by the Boy Scout Association and a case study of Bob-a-Job Week in Britain launched in 1949, I examine the institutional geographies of responsibility, risk, and reward embedded in this youth activity, orchestrated by the most popular youth organisation in Britain. This fundraising scheme involved Boy Scouts completing domestic tasks for householders and encouraged uniformed youth to be visible, proficient, and useful. Significantly, this also took place in largely urban areas- complicating our understanding of scouting as an idealised 'rural' practice with camping as its central activity. Furthermore, this paper explores how this fundraising spectacle also functioned as a hybrid space that permitted 'feminine' domestic tasks as appropriate for 'British boyhood' until the scheme's eventual demise in the 1990s. Overall, the complex geographies of Bob-a-Job Week reveal how this organisation negotiated the boundaries between domestic and public space, providing an insight into broader constructions of youth and gender in the postwar period.