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50 years on and holiday club is still helping local children
3:00pm Monday 7th October 2013 in News
PLAYING A KEY ROLE: Colony organises holidays everhwhere from the Scottish Highlands to the New Forest every year.
FOR 50 years, Colony Holidays and its present-day successor ATE has been providing educational residential holidays for children during the school holidays.
And Malvern – and in particular resident Chris Green, who received the MBE for services to education in 2011 – has played a key role in that long-running success story.
Colony – officially the Council for Colony Holidays for Schoolchildren (CCHS) – was first established in a London meeting room in the autumn of 1963 with the aim of introducing Britain to the successful French system of residential children’s holidays “colonies de vacances”.
Letters went out to local authority education officers the following year asking for ideas where Colony might set up a headquarters and that led to the not-for-profit organisation setting up at Shepherd House, a former children’s home in Hanley Swan.
It was then that Colony first began to really thrive, with numbers taking part in holidays held everywhere from the Scottish Highlands to the New Forest growing from a couple of hundred to more than 3,000 every year.
“One of Colony’s slogans was ‘give your children some real childhood’,” Mr Green recalls. “Children gained in confidence, enthusiasm, and new social skills.
“It brought together young people from a wide variety of schools, parts of Britain, and family backgrounds to give them a happy, imaginative and creative holiday in the countryside, away from TV, computers and the commercial world.
“No one knew each other at the start, no one had the labels of ‘posh school kid’ or ‘slum school kid’, so they could relax and be themselves.
“They made friends with others from all walks of life, and had a great holiday together, with tracking games in the woods, stories round the fire at night, and running about in green fields.”
By 1969 Shepherd House had become too small for the ever-expanding organisation, prompting a move to Linden Manor in Upper Colwall.
“This needed some adaptation, since its previous use had been as a rather sleazy nightclub,” said Mr Green.
“It was converted to give a residential centre for 60 and a separate office block for a dozen or more staff.
“Numbers continued to grow, and soon more than 5,000 children were taking part annually.”
An offshoot started in Northern Ireland and Colony also expanded to run holidays for organisations including the Puffin Club and National Trust.
At the start of the 1980s, some of those involved with Colony since the start began to move on to other things.
This included Mr Green, who had just started what was to become a 12-year stint at the Chase School in Malvern teaching languages.
Numbers fell and the organisation eventually closed in 1985.
However, its work was kept going in different parts of the country by small groups of volunteers, who did not want the ideas to be lost.
And in 1995, Mr Green launched ATE as an official successor to Colony Holidays.
It initially operated “very much off the kitchen table”, with the basement flat at Mr Green’s home doubling up as the organisation’s office.
Nowadays it is based at a small office in St Ann’s Road, where a small team of staff manage holidays for about 500 children every year.
Mr Green has now taken a step back from the day-today running of ATE, but continues to champion its cause by launching the Campaign for Summer Camps.
He feels that in the modern day it is much harder to sell youngsters and their parents on the summer camp idea, despite it being a time when “the approach to life they offer is more needed than ever before”.
“In our present world, not many parents ever think of summer camps for their children, and some are actively scared to let children out of their sight.
“Recruitment is much harder today, as it is for every organisation running residential summer camps in Britain, despite the fact that feedback from those who do take part, and from their parents and schools, is positive, often ecstatic.”
And anyone who does sign up to the summer camp ideal will be following in the footsteps of more than 100,000 youngsters who have attended Colony or ATE holidays over the last 50 years.
Many of those people, and the 10,000 or so people trained as leaders over the decades, recently enjoyed a celebratory anniversary gathering at Moor Park, near Ludlow.
“They came from all over Britain and they all spoke fondly of Malvern as a special part of their youth, and somewhere they had been really happy,” said Mr Green.
For more information about ATE visit ate.org.uk and to find out more about Mr Green’s campaign visit campaignforsummercamps.
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