Bid to re-create 1930s social experiment

NBEN 16-07-12 BE 3 Shining cliff woods, Ambergate.
NBEN 16-07-12 BE 3 Shining cliff woods, Ambergate.

BBC Inside Out in the East Midlands is looking for contributors for a film about a social experiment that took place in Ambergate more than 80 years ago.

Back in the 1930s, at the time of the Great Depression, an educational movement called Gryth Fyrd purchased part of an ancient woodland and advertised for unemployed men to form a near self-sufficient community.

That woodland was Shining Cliff on the banks of the River Derwent – one of two such work camps set up in the UK, the other being at Godshill in Hampshire.

It brought together Grith Fyrd campers, or “Pioneers “, a mixture of young unemployed men, who were able to continue to draw benefit, and idealists who mostly came from middle class backgrounds.

The Pioneers built the camp buildings and furniture themselves, and produced their own food.

Now, BBC prodcuers are re-creating the Ambergate camp with local people to see if it captures the imagination of hard-pressed families.

BBC broadcast journalist, Rebecca Brice who is producing the documentary, said: “The camps were deemed a success in developing the men’s skills and resourcefulness.

“Now, at a time when once again the jobs market looks grim, the BBC is making a documentary exploring if a similar idea could work today.

“If you’re over 18, currently unemployed and want to develop your social skills, and initiative, by spending a couple of days living in the wild then contact me on 0115 9021890 or email”

Relatively small in scale, with between 30 and 50 people apiece, the camps had effectively died out as a living experiment by the late 1930s

However, a handful of veterans gathered in the late 1940s to plan the Braziers Park community - a residential adult college - which was the childhood home of the singer Marianne Faithfull.