Josephine Klein obituaries

Pebble beach in Brighton – Photo by Tim Easley on Unsplash

Many of our supporters were sad to hear of the death of Josephine Klein, who set up the Archway project in Brighton and later the Goldsmiths Youth and Community Work course. We are glad to be able to publish two obituaries below, by David Woodger and Bernard Davies, and you may also wish to read the obituary in the Guardian.

David Woodger writes:

I never met Josephine but soon after starting at Goldsmiths, I was introduced to her spirit through deepening my understanding of the founding of the BA Community and Youth work programme, its philosophy and the central significance of Group Work.

Josephine established the BA programme at Goldsmiths 48 years ago in 1970 establishing Group Work approach at the heart of the course and central to the learning and teaching which we maintain to this day. She set up this programme with a focus on access for local South East London people involved in community and youth work at a time when such courses were very rare and people from deprived communities did not access HE. The Group Work to this day is seen by students’ year after year as the place where they engage with their learning that becomes a significant part of themselves. We as staff over the years have had to maintain a strong resistance to HE culture to minimise such spaces and we are proud that it continues to be the heart of the programme and the Goldsmiths experience in training in community and youth work.

I owe a debt of gratitude to Josephine as the joy of working on this programme primarily because of Group Work has provided me with the motivation, excitement and satisfaction and privilege of experiencing and seeing students grow and develop beyond what we could have all imagined. I have developed my own research and approaches to learning focused around Group Work which I have established on post graduate programmes and the approach is increasingly being sought across the University.

Late last year I was in process of getting one of her close friends to arrange for me to meet her to hear about the challenges she had in setting up the course preparing for our 50th Anniversary but sadly her health deteriorated and she passed away.

Bernard Davies writes:

I only actually met Josephine Klein once, and it’s so long ago that (of course) I had to be reminded of it by my wife Sally. It was in 1963 or 1964 at the height of the seaside bank holiday ‘battles’ between mods and rockers. We’d volunteered over the Easter weekend to work with the Archway project in Brighton and were sitting in a railway arch reading the paper and awaiting some action when – as one of the founders of the project – Josephine Klein appeared in the doorway. With a response which, I think looking back, demonstrated her wider approach, she said something like: ‘What are you doing just sitting around in here? You need to get out there with the young people.’ (or did she say ‘kids’?)

After that, my contacts with her, though entirely through her writing, were much more influential. I still have on my shelves her pamphlet ‘Human Behaviour and Personal Relations’, published in 1963 by the National Association of Youth Clubs while she was a Research Fellow at Nuffield College in Oxford. Illustrating her commitment to making her academic insights work for practice, this reproduced the ten lectures she had given on an NAYC ‘club leadership’ course for volunteer workers. As she herself put it in her Introduction, her aims were

… to keep the material simple and factual, the argument logical, moral exhortation out or obviously recognisable as personal view, and to provide as far as possible a basis of psychological theory on which it is possible to build further.    

The other Klein publication I still have is her book Working with Groups: The Social Psychology of Discussion and Decision, published in 1961 while she was a lecturer at Birmingham University. This appeared at a time when, as I recall, some youth workers – not without facing considerable resistance from the more traditional sections of the field – were accepting that ‘group work’ might be a way of conceptualising their practice and so make it more disciplined by giving it firmer theoretical underpinnings.

I have no evidence to offer on the book’s influence. What is surely indisputable, though, is that as founder and head of the youth work course at Goldsmith College in 1970 she, over the longer term, did much to help break down those traditionalist boundaries, not least through the diversity of the students recruited onto the course over the years.

I’m not sure how widely her name is now known in youth (and community) work circles – but it certainly should not be forgotten.

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