We have to register with great sadness the news that Peter Duke, a pioneer of post-Albemarle youth work, died recently.
As a result of the Albemarle Report’s 1960 recommendations to expand youth provision and the need for an increase in the youth service’s full-time staffing an ’emergency’ college offering a one year course was set up. Peter Duke became the Vice-Principal of the National College for the Training of Youth Leaders (NCYTL), welcoming 90 students as its first intake at the adapted civil defence premises in Leicester. He took over as Principal when Ted Sidebottom left in 1964. When the college was closed in 1970 he moved to become the Course Leader of the Leicester Polytechnic Youth & Community course, which was housed on the Scraptoft campus. We are not sure of the date of Peter’s retirement from this pivotal post.
Sue Atkins, still going strong and a student at the NCYTL, remembers Peter.
Without Peter Duke, I wouldn’t be doing the job I do, or have done the jobs I’ve done as a Youth Worker for the last fifty years
I first met Peter when I got involved with Oxford House, through my sister who with friends from University were community service volunteers there and among other things took groups of kids on a regular Summer Camp to Goudhurst in Kent. I spent two weeks at that camp when I was 16. Two years later when I got a job in London I volunteered to run some activities with the youth club; and would go once a week when we chatted and did some ‘Drama’.
Peter, was ‘The Man Upstairs’ at Oxford House; the group I worked with was all boys and we had a very ‘interesting’ version of the Workman’s play from Midsummer Nights Dream that we adapted and brought up to date with our very own ‘Duke’. It never got to full production though but I remember we had a great time making it up, ‘rewriting’ or reimagIning Shakespeare. I wish I’d kept the ‘script’, such as it was.
At the time I recall Peter as being an overall benign presence in the House who was suitably impressed and amused by being ‘The Duke’ of our Play, and probably quite relieved we didn’t get to the performance . By the way, working with this group I learnt a valuable lesson; it is not all about The Play and performing it, but chatting, improvising and just playing with it was great too. (Another by the way, this all took place in Bethnal Green and Whitechapel at the time of ‘Call the Midwife’, making me realise that my life experience is other people’s history!)
For the next ten years I continued on my path of ( what I later found out was ) chronic job changing. Basically I auditioned for Theatre School, ( got places and didn’t take them) worked in Bookshops , wandered through dole offices, delivered the post, and soap coupons etc. ………all the while working with a Youth Theatre Group in Hillingdon and teaching drama in a dancing school.
Ten years later I took the plunge and applied to and was accepted at the National College for Training Youth Leaders. I was placed in the tutorial group of a certain Bernard Davies (who left after my first term choosing that year to go to the United States). Of course, I renewed my acquaintance with Peter who was the Principal and once again I saw how he brought his ‘presence’ to that enterprise on Humberstone Drive
There were 148 students at Leicester that year, and if I recall only 17 were women . There was a disproportionate fall out rate of the women students and I was nearly one of them.
You didn’t ‘Fail’ at Leicester. It was ‘put to you’ that you might like to consider your position, you reflected with your tutor on the feedback, and came to the ‘right’ decision and withdrew. I had lasted to the end of the second fieldwork practice in Huddersfield. The Club Leader I worked for, decided I wasn’t suitable so with my tutor ( NOT Bernard who was still in the US) put this decision to me, pointing out all the negative feedback from other tutors, including my ‘scores’ on the ‘tends To X tends to Y questionnaire, which apparently were extremely unbalanced, not forgetting the fact that I wore blue woollen stockings! So I was invited to consider my position over the weekend . . . .
If I drank, that would have been the night I drowned my sorrows and got very drunk ~ but fortunately I didn’t drink ~ so after a long weekend wallowing in despair and feeling sorry for myself, feeling angry and conned by said Youth Leader/Supervisor, ranting about those bloody men, whilst drinking copious cups of tea and coffee and yes crying a lot ~ I got to OK I’ve considered my position and I don’t want to go , so I am going to stay. If ‘they’ disagree then ‘they’ will have to change their policy and ‘Fail or Sack me’. That’s what I told my tutor, who then asked Peter to come and talk to me, presumably to sort me out. Peter came. He didn’t ‘talk’ to me, he asked questions, he listened, he asked more questions, and listened some more and the upshot was he agreed with me that I should stay.
So Thank you, Peter Duke, you really were the Instrument of my completion of the Course (albeit by the skin of teeth) at NCTYL . A wee while back I found my certificate, a copy of which I’ve pinned on the wall behind my desk at Youth Association South Yorkshire, where I still lend a hand. It is, of course, signed by Peter Duke and so as ever I have his backing , his presence as ever inspiring, caring and believing the best in people always.
We’ll leave the final word to Malcolm Ball, a Scraptoft student in the mid-1980’s, a member of the IDYW steering group and Adviser to Lewisham’s Young Mayor.
Indeed Peter was a lovely man. It seems to me he was the epitome of what is to be defended in the Albermarle legacy, a belief in the values of the enlightenment and a commitment to holistic, liberal education. He warned against the dangers ‘of doing irreparable good’ in the name of ideology and warned always of the dangers of working on rather than with young people – a measure of his deep knowledge and subtlety.