I was just once in the company of Colin Ward, one of the leading anarchist writers in post-war Britain. Although I was on the outer edges of the group to which he was chatting, I remember thinking, ‘ what a lovely and fascinating bloke’. Sadly he died a week or so ago. He is perhaps best remembered for his writing on housing, his support for the squatters movement in the 1940′s, his advocacy of ‘anarchy in action’, direct, mutual and cooperative self-help.
However his great book from a Youth Work point of view is ‘The Child in the City’. Sadly I lent my copy, never to be returned long ago, but I’ve still got a note reflecting the blurb on its cover.
In an evocative and panoramic account of urban childhood, Colin Ward brings to life the myriad and subtle ways in which the child has used the street in the past and still does today. Against this background he asks whether it is true, as very many people believe, that something has been lost in the way children experience their urban surroundings; why some children show endless ingenuity in exploiting what the city offers while others are isolated and predatory; and what can be done, at a time when a significant proportion of the city’s children have come to be at war with their environment, to make the links between the city and child more fruitful and enjoyable for both.
He wrote in this vein over thirty years ago. And as long as we struggle to ask the questions of and proffer the alternatives to the ‘policing of the child in the city’, his legacy will live on.