Justine’s story: starting a new Woodcraft group in the Midlands

Justine, Lucy and Jessica started Bournville Elfins after Jessica completed Forest Schools training and wanted to do something complementary. Justine says:

“Although we had never heard of Woodcraft Folk, we jumped at the chance! We all came from different areas and so sat down with a map and looked at where we could all get to by 5.45pm on a Wednesday and Bournville came out tops!

To prepare, we visited the Kings Heath Woodcraft group and the Acocks Green Woodcraft group. With the support of Kate from Acocks Green and Debs from the Woodcraft staff, we completed the paper work, found a venue, (the Quaker meeting house) and set a date for an open day. We flyered the area and spoke with people we knew and hoped for the best! We signed up 16 children, with only 18 spaces to fill. We prioritise siblings on our waiting list, but at one point where Jessica and Lucy were taking time away from the group, I made the difficult decision of giving priority to a child whose mother was keen to help out, as I needed another group leader for the group to survive.

Parents have commented on the quality of our sessions and the variety of different activities and visitors. We started our term with National Gardening Week, looking at air miles and growing your own, and have also done country, Morris and street dance, Samba, African and trash drumming, and we’re planning Tai Chi and film-making. A local couple had their granddaughter staying from Namibia and brought her to Woodcraft, which led to the grandparents leading sessions about the country, traditions etc.

Links with other Woodcraft groups have helped us, particularly Kinver Woodcraft,
who we met at the annual swim party, and offered us the chance to camp with them. Pete and Jim from Kinver have joined our group for a number of sessions, teaching us songs and games. I really enjoyed the Midlands skill-sharing weekend, which gave me an opportunity to meet leaders of other groups and find out how they run. Meeting other leaders on at least an annual basis would be great as I sometimes need reassurance that I’m doing things the 'Woodcraft way'!

Our main problems are the need for many more spaces and more helpers! Initially we'd hoped to set up a Pioneer group but with a lack of volunteers this hasn’t happened - instead we give children the option to stay on the group. Some activities we do together, for other activities we look at age-appropriate changes to make. I’m also looking at hiring an extra space at our meeting house so we can take on a few more. I can then speak to the parents of the new children joining about the possibility of helping on a more regular basis.

My advice for those starting a group would be to ensure your parents are willing to step in both on rotas and in an emergency, as if you have the enthusiasm to set up a group, lack of helpers can be the only thing that holds you back. It’s a huge commitment to take on a group and even though it’s only one and a half hours a week, it can take up lots more time as you plan, prepare and gather resources.

I love my group and even when I’m shattered and thinking I can't go on, the enthusiasm of the children makes me realise why I do it!"

If you're starting a new Woodcraft Folk group, have a look at the Frequently Asked Qustions for New Groups