Being part of the Folk

Woodcraft Folk is a UK-wide movement, and while there is a lot of flexibility about how groups work to deliver our Aims & Principles, our volunteers and young members are supported by a structure and by ways of doing things that are common to the whole of Woodcraft Folk.

Membership

Anyone over the age of 16 who is a volunteer with Woodcraft Folk should join the organisation as a member. This ensures that they are covered by our insurance when participating in our activities, and that they can receive regular updates, usually by email, about our work and opportunities that may be of interest, e.g. training events, camps and campaigns.

There is an annual fee for adult membership, and a reduced unwaged/low waged rate. Your group or district’s membership secretary will also arrange for additional checks, including references and a DBS or PVG check, for volunteers who will be working regularly with children and young people, as part of our commitment to Safeguarding.

 n addition to our current volunteers (sometimes referred to as ‘active members’), former volunteers and those who wish to support the organisation financially and keep up to date with its activities are encouraged to join as supporter members, or ‘Friends of the Folk’. The membership fees are the same as for active members, but many supporters choose to make an additional regular contribution to support Woodcraft Folk by direct debit.

Children and young people who regularly attend our groups are also considered to be members of the organisation. If they wish to receive updates and information about our work, and especially if they are chosen to represent their group at Woodcraft Folk’s AGM, they will need to be registered on our membership database in the same way as an adult member (although there is no annual membership fee for under-16s).

Traditions & customs

Whilst no two groups are the same, there are some practices, activities and traditions that many groups choose to do during their group nights and other activities, which are part of the identity of Woodcraft Folk and help to make it unique.

Circles
Many groups will begin by calling a Circle. The circle is often used to play a game, share news, start a discussion or say the Envoi.

Symbolically, the circle has no beginning or end. It shows that everyone has an equal right to contribute and be heard. Practically, it makes it easy for everyone to see and hear each other.

At camps, a Council Circle is typically held each morning to make decisions and share information about the day’s activities.

Beginning and Ending
Woodcraft Folk doesn’t require its members to make any pledge or oath. However, the Envoi (sometimes called the Creed) is a statement of some of Woodcraft’s beliefs, which is often said or sung at the beginning or end of a group night:

This shall be for a bond between us 
That we are of one blood, you and I 
That we have cried peace to all 
And claimed kinship with every living thing 
That we hate war, and sloth, and greed 
And love fellowship 
And we shall go singing to the fashioning 
Of a new world
 
Some groups also sing Link Your Hands Together at the end of their session, or when closing a camp or other activity. Typically this is sung in a circle, holding hands crossed over the body. Usually, only the first verse is sung:
 
Link your hands together, a circle we’ll make 
This bond of our friendship no power can break 
Let’s all sing together in one mighty throng 
Should any be weary, we’ll help them along 
Should any be weary, we’ll help them along
 
This is a translation of a song written in German by Lola Landau, a Jewish socialist. She lived in London during the 1930s, having fled Nazi persecution in Germany – this may be how the song came to be sung by Woodcraft Folk. It is also found in the songbooks of Die Falken, our partner organisation in Germany.
 
Saying or singing the Envoi or singing Link Your Hands helps to make Woodcraft Folk groups look and feel different from other groups, and build the group’s identity, but there is no ‘right’ way of beginning or ending a group.
 
The Woodcraft Call
When a group leaders calls out ‘Woodcraft’ in a firm voice, young members rely with ‘Folk’, stop what they are doing and listen. Used appropriately it is a very effective method of gaining everyone’s attention to give an instruction or bring an activity to order.
 
Ish, Ash, Osh
This is a traditional way of starting off or counting in a song. It is also sometimes used to start saying the Envoi or Creed. Some groups follow the Envoi or Link Your Hands by saying ‘Ish, Ash, Osh, Peace’ to close their meetings.
 
Folk Costume
While we do not have a compulsory uniform like many youth organisations, members are encouraged to wear Folk Costume on appropriate occasions. This might include group nights and when representing the Folk, e.g. at a local festival. Traditionally ‘Folk Costume’ was a green shirt with an embroidered Woodcraft symbol, perhaps customised with embroidery or appliqué, and many groups still wear these. However, a wide range of t-shirts, sweatshirts and hoodies are now popular, and available from Folk Supply.
 
Signing Off
Many Woodcraft members sign off letters and emails with ‘Blue Skies’ or ‘In Friendship'.
 
Folk Names
 When Woodcraft Folk began, it was not the ‘done thing’ for a child to call adults by their first name – family and friends would be ‘Uncle’ and ‘Auntie’, and anyone else would be ‘Mr Brown’ or ‘Mrs Smith’. To get around this while showing that everyone was equal within Woodcraft Folk, members chose Folk Names by which they were known within the movement. These were often inspired by nature: Leslie Paul was ‘Little Otter’, Basil Rawson was ‘Brown Eagle’ and Henry Fair was ‘Koodo’. Folk Names were often chosen by a member’s peers, perhaps referring to some aspect of their character. The tradition of leaders in the Scouting and Girl Guiding movements being called things like ‘Akela’ and ‘Brown Owl’ arose for similar reasons.
 
Some groups still encourage their members to choose Folk Names – sometimes these are embroidered onto Folk Shirts, either in words or symbols.
 
Ceremonies
Ceremonies exist to mark many things that are important in Woodcraft Folk. Some, like the Firelighting Ceremony or the Morning Cry are still used frequently by many groups at camp, and can be found in the Woodcraft songbook.
 
 Others, like the Leave Take Ceremony and Initiation Ceremony, are no longer widely used – information on these can be found on the Heritage Website and in the Ceremonies booklet.
 
On camp, many groups refer to ‘Wapenshaw’. This is an old Anglo-Saxon word which literally means ‘weapon show’, but in Woodcraft Folk it refers to taking all your belongings out of your tent on a groundsheet, airing bedding and ensuring no vital items have been lost (which is an excellent idea after a couple of days at camp).
 
Songs for the Woodcraft Folk
Our songbooks contain songs which have been enjoyed by groups for many years – these come from a wide range of different sources. Some are traditional British folk songs (All Through the Night, The Gypsy Rover) or became popular in the Folk Revival of the 50s and 60s (Morningtown Ride, Stewball). Others came into the repertoire from the Peace Movement (Where Have All the Flowers Gone), the struggle for Civil Rights in the USA (Back of the Bus) and the Anti-Apartheid campaign of the 1980s (Children of Africa). We sing songs which Woodcraft members have learned through our links with progressive youth movements in other countries (Youth and Maiden), and songs which have come through the international Labour movement (Bandiera Rossa). And, of course, some of our songs (Worm Song) are just plain silly.