A New Year Indulgence
To Aid An Experiment Which Bids Fair to Make History
ALL the way up the valley the little towns were full of men standing about in the streets or squatting, as Welsh miners do, at corners. So they have stood about for years, so they will stand about for the rest of their lives, unless . . .
Unless they die ? Well, that is, in time, a certainty. Unless they move away ? That is just possible. Unless the coal mines and steel works which once employed them are reopened ! That, alas ! is little likely.
UnlesS what, then ?
Unless by some agency, public or private, these men are set to work again, are given assurance once more that they are of some value to the nation, and so have lifted froni them the bitter feeling that they arc of no use and are not wanted. . , You ask how can that be. You remind me that for ten years politicians, faced by the knowledge that unemployment on a vast scale was bound . to be per- manent and to go on increasing, have done next to nothing in the -way of providing work. No Party, you -say, has any idea but to continue payment for being idle.' Is there any chance of a new idea entering their heads Possibly not. Not, at all events, until someone has put it there. But there remains private effort, you know. And in order to remove from your face that scornful look which the words " private effort " have brought to it, I insist upon your going with me to the head of the valley and visiting the little town of Brynmawr.
You will see men standing about in Brynmawr, but not so many as elsewhere. And you will see olore than a hundred, who a short while ago were unemployed and unhappy, now hard at work, contented, better both in body and in brain. Some earn n. decent living in the new workshops, where boots, tweeds:and furniture arc .made. Some give their labour to, make their town a better-looking place. Among other benefits brought by the Friends to Brynmawr is the opening of malty eyes to beauty—in nature and in art. " I never enjoy cti the colours .on the trees in autumn untilthey came.- . . a man born there said to me. Sothehow that thrilled me almost as much. as the, sight of those workshop, and the new park substituted for refuse heaps. it is thrilling, the work that this handful of Friends, all youpg,,141 eager, have done. Apart from its human value, in restoring self-respect, it is an experiment of immense worth., If .a few keen people, drawing merely maintenance pay and finding their reward in what they are .able to achieve, can help a derelict town to net on ,to _its feet, why . should not their example be widely followed ? Why should we not attack unem- ployment vigorously and sanely instead of sitting down under. it feebly, as we have done so far ?
The most hopeful, encouraging feature of the saving of Brynmawr is that the townspeople are themselves doing the rescue work. It is self-help. It is a refreshing change . from the attitude, far too common to-day, of waiting to have something done for one. They carried out the. Survey which has yielded such useful and such interesting results (one fact discovered was that the average _income per household is 28s. a week, and that miners still in work get only 28s. !) They are engaged now on a -plan which will carry the work on for a period of years and, of course, extend it if . .. .
wen, to be quite frank about it, if you do your part.
A fortnight ago Peter Scott and his staff needed £2,000 to carry them over the next twelve months : after that the workshops will be secure. Readers of the Spectator have already subscribed £595 towards that amount. Now only £1,405 is required. If even a small sum is sent by everyone who feels sympathy with these genuinely " bright young people " (they need no cocktails to warm them up !), and with the fdrabitants of this unfortunate town who are themselves taking a voluntary levy towards finding boots for little eet and warm clothes for shivering little bodies (both teing made. in the place), and with the splendid, truly Christian comradeship which is their motive force, the need would be met, the Plan could be put into operation.
Even with income-tax to pay, and all the difficulties of the hour diminishing spare cash, most of us can spare something for a little New Year indulgence. It is hard to think of any which would give more real satisfaction than sending a cheque to the Editor of the Spectator, 99 Gower Street, London, W.C. 1, for this admirable and, as I believe—in the real sense of a word much abused—" epoeb-making " enterprise. H. F.