Hastings gets steam television at camp

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A rather wet start to my weekend as Guernsey Cubs' tradition of always experiencing rain for their annual Island Camp came true again with their opening ceremony having to move into the large activity centre at the Island’s Scout and Guide centre.

I was visiting the site at the invitation of some Devon Scout Network members who were camping there for the week. Four of them also run a Scout Troop and had contacted me earlier as they felt frustrated in their efforts to run the Troop because of a variety of local issues and some related to the age ranges. Never one to duck a challenge, I was pleased to be able to meet with them and chat over the changes made to age ranges between Scouts and Explorer Scouts – as I have explained before, I do believe these are one of the significant reasons for the exceptional growth in teenagers that we are currently enjoying.

As so often, many of their problems are in fact of a local nature including personality clashes and we were able to discuss some constructive ways in which they may be able to work with their District and County to overcome these. I'm always interested to discuss firsthand some of the issues that get in the way of local Scouting – invariably most can be resolved with some pragmatic talking, rather than email exchanges!

Inflatable fun

An early start on Saturday morning and I arrived in Kent in time to join their Beaver Scouts, 2,000 of whom were taking part over the two days. In addition to the Beavers, 200 Cubs had been invited as part of a strategy to encourage greater linking between sections and the event itself was run with the help of a large number of Explorer Scouts, who were themselves looking forward to the Saturday evening and being able to use all of the large inflatables and other exciting equipment that had been brought in for the weekend. Definitely a win win.

I was met on arrival by the organiser, Kath, and two of the Explorer Scouts, Steph and Josh who looked after me for the morning and ensured that I got to see everything – and was in the right place at the right time. Kent Scouts recently purchased a Kentish Barn  and have engaged proactively with a large number of young people to ensure that the facilities meet their needs, and not how others may perceive the County should be using such an exciting facility. Josh and Steph had been part of a bid team that have recently secured a commitment of £155,000 from Kent County Council towards the development costs, including a climbing tower that will be built in the barn.

The Kent Scouts Facebook page already has more than 1,700 members and is used extensively by the County to engage the views of 14-25 year olds, as well as communicating other ideas and activities.

Heading north

A short drive north, and I was just in time to see more inflatables, this time for the It’s-a-Knockout competition being held as part of Harlow District's Centenary Camp. It was also the day that their new District Commissioner, Ann, received her appointment certificate – certainly an exciting way to get started, Ann.

A meeting in the evening to catch up with Dean, Regional Commissioner for London and an opportunity to discuss a number of our development and other initiatives within the Greater London Region.

An early morning detour to Heathrow Airport on Sunday when I met Francesca from her flight back from South Africa where she has spent the last 3 months coaching cricket – like so many caring Scouting parents, having picked her up at the crack of dawn from an overnight flight, and found her somewhere to shower and change I then took her on a Scout trip with me! We were lucky however that we were joining the 1st Brede Scouts during their Centenary camp weekend and taking the opportunity to open an extension to their headquarters building. We were also joined by leaders from many of the Groups within the Hastings and Rye Districts, and the District Commissioner. For her part, Francesca had more than enough fun helping out with many of the activities and backwoods cooking in particular that she forgot the jet lag until we were back in the car!

The village of Brede, in Sussex, is not alone in having an ageing population which has resulted in the halving of the size of the school in the past year, now down to just 60 pupils in three classes. This clearly presents significant challenges for the leaders to continue to offer an exciting programme against such changing demographics. Also a salient reminder for me that whilst we continually talk about the opportunities we face as evidenced by our continued growth, we need to be mindful of local communities and how they are moving and ensuring that Scouting remains nimble enough to respond to these. Clearly, if the energy and enthusiasm of the leaders and young people I encountered is anything to go by we are more than up for this challenge.

In other news...

Another two exciting news stories have caught my eye in the past week or so. First the Ayers Explorer Scout Unit in Cumbria, where members took place in a number of initiatives including the Carlisle Scout Day and ITV Fixers - Everyday Adventure Fix where they have successfully got the message out that 21st Century Scouting is very different than many teenagers may perceive.

I was also interested in a news story about the 3rd Daventry Scout Group who have been thinking differently about finding a local meeting place, located where the young people are, and conscious that not everybody finds paying even a minimal membership subscription easy in the current climate. By thinking a little more creatively about a meeting facility they have come up with a great solution with benefits all around.

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