Sunday, September 16, 2007

Organised Chaos

The organisation for ex-students at Coleg Harlech is known as the Coleg Harlech Association of Old Students (CHAOS).

Never has chaos been so well planned.

A week ago my wife and I spent a fine week-end at the CHAOS annual re-union at the College. I was there to talk about the Iraqi Trade Union Movement.

It is 40 years since my only previous visit to Coleg Harlech. Along with other lecturers from the Sheffield University Extramural Department, I was present for a fortnight's Summer Schools in 1967.

Ann and I have the good fortune to live near Geoff Bratley-Kendall who is the Secretary of CHAOS. He not only gave us a lift to and from the College, but he also toured us around telling sites at Portmeiron, Criccieth and Portmadog. He then took us to (and from) the CHAOS-organised walk around Harlech.

We were blessed with a week-end of fine weather and had a breathtaking view from our room at the top of an eleven storey residential block. We looked out upon Snowden, Harlech Castle, a fine Golf Course, the Bay, a single line railway and the College itself.

Spreading Chaos

An important feature of the week-end was that the ex-students of Coleg Harlech, the Northern College and Ruskin College built an important link for the future. Ten ex-students from the Northern College were in attendance, whilst the Secretary of Ruskin College's equivalent body arrived to attend CHAOS's own AGM.

The new interconnection is one I indentify with closely. As an ex-Ruskin Student, I am a member of its ex-student body - the Ruskin Fellowship. Whilst I organised an annual short-course at the Northern College for nine years following its opening in 1978.

On top of this, I had a small hand in facilitating the new links by passing on a couple of key e-mail addresses to the right person at the right time - Geoff.

Geoff Bratley-Kendall

Geoff was an electrician at Markham pit when I first met him. This was only a month after I had first visited Coleg Harlech. He was a student on an Industrial Day Release Class run for Derbyshire Miners and I was the politics tutor. Afterwards, he moved from day-release studies to two year's full-time studies at the Coleg Harlech Adult Education College.

He then moved on to my old University at Hull, College Lecturing and firm voluntary commitments with his Trade Union NATFHE (National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education). On retirement, he has had the good sense to return to his original electrician's work, but now in a self-employed capacity.

In the days when Geoff and I attended Adult Education Colleges, these were part of an important (if limited) provision of full-time study for mainly working-class adults who had few or no formal qualifications. Geoff and I benefitted from this. Today this avenue is largely replaced by wider forms of opening for educational advancement. But for late developers like Geoff and myself, this tends to require a slog to obtain acreditations - a stage at a time. I am convinced that it is an access route to higher education which we both would never have had the determination, self-belief and planning to follow. For it is an avenue in which ambition tends to replace an interest in study for its own sake. Yet the chance to pursue new interests and develop fresh horizans, seems to some of us to have had invaluable spin-offs both for the individuals who participated in such studies and the wider society.

Hopefully, the new links forged through CHAOS will help keep a belief in the earlier formats of Adult Education at College's such as Coleg Harlech, Ruskin, and the Northern College alive. A good sign at Harlech is that the College is now known as "Coleg Harlech WEA". The Worker's Education Association were, of course, amongst the original propounders of the educational values I have stressed. And they were the organisers' of that first Summer School I attended at Coleg Harlech 40 years ago.


mlanderso said...

I am trying to establish contact with an ex Coleg Harlech student Dai Jones who studied there around 1965/6. Dai was married to Hazel and they lived directly up the hill off the town centre and overlooking the castle. He was Welsh and an ex-miner. He was a writer and had a play broadcast by BBC Radio 3.

Ffotolady said...

Dai came to Harlech in 1961 and Hazel in 1962 - if my memory still serves me!!

Glenys said...

It is Dai and Hazel Richards you are enquiring about. I did stay in Dai's house many years ago with another former CH student. I think it was Queen St but can't be sure. Dai became a Cardiff City Councillor and hazel did a degree in Cardiff and I think became a teacher. I am Allan Parfitt, I was a a student at CH in 1962-4 and met Glenys Thomas whom I married 1965.
There is a reunion of former 1962/4 students in Cheltenham this March organised by Keith Heale.

MalcolmH said...

Is that the Allan Parfitt who was not only a Coleg Harlech former student but tutor too.
I was a student at CH in 1976-78 and Allan was my IR tutor and lived in Harlech [was it Ty Canol?].
I went on to Stirling University and now live back in Manchester.

Ray H said...

I too was a student of Alan P's in 1968 -1971.
I am looking for news of Winston Thomas A Harlech contemporary and good friend (of Trinidad & Notting hill before it became gentryfied.

Ian H said...

Ray H,

I bumped into Winston in Birmingham in the 70's. He was working with educationally disadvantaged kids. He'd just been bitten by one, but I don't think he would let a little thing like that take him out of his chosen stride - unless the kid had rabies, that is!?

Wow! Coleg Harlech to be closed, because nearly a million in the red! Amazing, given that professional fund-raiser raiser John said at the time we were there that there was sufficient funding to keep the college going for a hundred years or more!?

Bullock! said...

A million in the red ! Does that mean that GB UK has to close! Huh!

Bullock! said...

A million in the red! Does that mean that GB UK will also have to close! Huh!

Bullock! said...

A million in the red ! Does that mean that GB UK has to close! Huh!

graham allport said...

i am trying to locate dorothy chambers who was a student in coleg harlech in early 1960s. anyone help

graham allport

graham allport said...

re dorothy chambers email me at

graham allport

graham allport said...

no sorry

graham allport

graham allport said...

i am trying to locate dorothy chambers who was a student in coleg harlech in early 1960s. anyone help

graham allport