16 NOVEMBER 1907, Page 32



SIR,—It may be claimed that Lady Bell, whose book, "At the Works," was reviewed in the Spectator when it appeared, has not shirked action in the name of thought. In the book, it will be remembered, an attempt was made—successfully, as has been cordially admitted—to express the Middlesbrough

iron trade in terms of human beings.

Whether you are dealing with causes or with effects, an

investigation of the conditions shows Middlesbrough to be a town which fairly bristles with problems, and therefore an object of interest, not only to those who :are giving attention to civics as a sociological study, but also to those who are engaged in social work. One of these problems is concerned with the right use of leisure by the workmen and their women- kind. Waste of "leisure" is a specific evil of town life, and Lady Bell is meeting it by the method of voluntary organisa- tion and personal effort. In the chapter in "At the Works" on recreation Lady Bell refers to the out-of-door amusement of watching football matches, "a comfortless thing enough to do in a North of England winter," and asks : "Where else has the workman to go ? He obviously, during most of the year in the climate of the North, wants a place of cover; he wants a place which is warm and light and bright and cheerful. Where is he to find it ?" There are in the town about a dozen workmen's clubs opened by certain firms for persons in their employment, one hundred and sixty-eight premises for the sale of in- toxicating liquor, two theatres, two music-halls, a free library, and a museum. Lady Bell is thus brought to the statement of the particular problem:— "Those who do not know enough to enjoy the free library or the museum—and these are many—who do not wish to spend their money on the theatres and music-halls, and who are not entitled to go to any private clubs, have nowhere to go for change of thought and diversion but the streets, unless they turn into the ever present, ever accessible public-house, where they find society, conviviality, amusement, where they can enjoy themselves looking on at various games or taking part in them themselves."

The "place which is warm and light and bright and cheer- ful" which—as Lady Bell herself said at the opening—was once a dream, then a possibility, and then a growing hope, is now an accomplished fact. The first People's Winter Garden —not bedecked for the occasion, but in its workaday attire— was opened to the public of Middlesbrough one fine, sun- shiny day recently, and is meeting with remarkable success. The building, which is centrally situated, consists of a com- modious hall, well lighted and ventilated, and roofed entirely with thick ground-glass. The hall is ninety feet long and sixty feet wide. It is decorated mainly with palms and other plants and hanging baskets of ferns. There are also several small rooms and a catering department, at which no alcoholic liquors are sold. The body of the ball is furnished with chairs and small tables, various games, newspapers, and magazines being provided. A band plays each night from 8 to 9.30 o'clock, and it says something for the public spirit of Middlesbrough that six local bands have offered to provide the music from now till next March at merely nominal fees to cover expenses. The Winter Garden is open on Sunday. The expense of clearing the site and erecting the building has been borne by Sir Hugh Bell, and a sum of 2690 a year for three years has been subscribed locally and handed to Lady Bell to use in such manner as she may desire. A charge of one penny is made for admission, and it is intended to make the scheme financially self-supporting. The manage- ment of the scheme is vested entirely in Lady Bell's hands.

By means of her book, her Winter Garden scheme, and her public and social work in the town, Lady Bell has shown

her consciousness of the high calling of the citizen, and is literally—what Professor Geddes would like us all to be—not only a strenuous worker, or a competent organiser, or a

thinking being, or a generous soul, but in some measure all these in one.

The inaugural ceremony of the People's Winter Garden was distinguished by a notable speech from Sir Hugh Bell, who upheld the nobler idealism of industrial activity in a way 'that could not fail to encourage and inspire those of the younger generation of ironmasters who were present in the hall, and declared the inner meaning of the Winter Garden experiment. He was not afraid to speak of "the poetry" of labour—doubtless thereby indicating its finer spirit, its impassioned struggle to find expression—and the sen- tences which followed may be introduced here with due relevance :—

" There is no position in the world I would rather hold than that of being a fellow-worker, a captain of industry of such an army as that which I command. Those of you who have any feeling for their fellow-workers in the great enterprises of the country are anxious to introduce into their lives, often grave, often tragic, some gleam of passing light, and I hope that the enterprise, in which, thanks to the imaginative power of my wife, I have been permitted to take some part, will be the means of making the lives of the workers brighter and better."

Sir Hugh Bell concluded by saying that he should be sorry to believe that the people of Middlesbrough have not the intelligence to see that here—i.e., in the Winter Garden scheme—lay a solution of many a difficulty with which they were oppressed.

May the occasion be made to mark the dawn of a new and less distressful era in the history of Middlesbrough, an era of social consciousness and civic achievement ! The inspiration is here. All that is now necessary is to bring the thinkers and the social workers together and the task will be well begun.—I am, Sir, &c., Civic.