City Challenge

Every now and again, when I’m having a sort-out, I come across some photos and a report for a very memorable residential course I went on in the late 70s when I was still a student.

It was run by the Outward Bound Trust but it didn’t tax your muscles with hiking & trekking, instead it taxed your mind with social situations. The course lasted a couple of weeks and we spent a few days doing different things in the community. Our first stint in our group was in a geriatric hospital where most people were bed-ridden and many had also lost the will to live as well. The second stint was in an acute Ward of a Mental Hospital. We also spent time with the Salvation Army hostel, doing household jobs for the housebound with Social services and also a few unusual social events, including a Disco with the Mental patients and clearing up derelict common ground. I was also surprised to find that a garage-like structure I passed every day was a shelter for the particularly destitute in Coventry.

During the course I saw many things that upset me and made me think. One was a blatently racially motivated punishment by a rather twisted senior nurse. Another was the indifference of many of the care workers to their “customers”. A third was the utter futility of getting old when the body is clapped out, too old to rock & Roll, too young to die.

During the course, I also made some long lasting friends, many of them Girls, but I also earned the respect of a couple of Borstal lads. I received special praise for loaning my Disco to the course after the first week (it was held in a residential school over the Summer), & also got into a bit of a kerfuffle by taking the flirting of one of the tutors the wrong way. (I was young and impressionable, not realising she was what in impolite circles gets called a teaser, and not of firecats!)

I revisited the geriatric hospital as a volunteer for a couple of days that Summer and quickly realised that what I had gained the most was the shared experience with the staff and course members rather than the actual relating to the people which proved very difficult. I also found out that the hospital was a 2 mile walk to the bus so rain stopped play on day three! One of the Girls lived in Cheltenham and she had also been motivated to get involved, she was a visitor at a half-way house which she took me to on one occasion. It was a very happy place & she had certainly made a difference to their lives.

I did think that later in life I would have liked to participate in City Challenge again, this time as a tutor. However, it seems that City Challenge folded a number of years ago, although Outward Bound itself continues to flourish.

10 Replies to “City Challenge”

  1. I was a turor on three CC courses in 1975 (Rotherham) 1976 (Perth) and 1978 (Rotherham). One of the tresured times of my life. I would love to “chat” with you and share memories. I see this report was written some time ago so I hope you are still in touch with this page.
    Jerrie Arko
    piebillgrebe@gmail.com

  2. i too remember those fantastic experiences we had and still keep in touch with a guy who worked for BHFL and developed an interest in the Northern Ireland issues.
    i was a student in York and a tutor in Hull and Dundee.

  3. I believe I too was on the course that you talk about. It was held at Askham Bryham Agricultural college and was in July/August 1974. We visited souch places as a Mental Hospital and Homeless Shelter. It was one of the greatest experience of my life and I think about it often. Unfortunately I lost touch with many friends I made there but would love to hear from anyone who remembers me.

  4. I attended anCity Challenge in Sunderland in 1983 and agree it was a wonderfull and valuable experiance

  5. i also have very fond memory’s of london “83”. anyone else on the same course….. fi,di, raghead,and the northern ireland contingent!!!!put a post up and we’ll try and catch up on the last thirty years.

  6. I have many memories of City Challenge having tutored and directed courses in Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Hull, Coventry and even a mini CC in Scarborough!

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