Discovering Brownie Archives…

Last weekend I got an e-mail from one of the leaders who does Guides in the same location as our Ranger/Senior Section unit to say that the church had discovered woodworm in the Guides cupboard, and could we please clear it out. One cupboard we didn’t even realise belonged to us. There was no Ranger meeting that week, so I went down to meet her and one of the church elders to see what the deal was with no idea that we were about to discover a lot of junk plus a lot of archive treasures!

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IMG_4471Most of what we found was Brownie stuff, and it just happened that day I was wearing my ‘I was a Brownie’ t-shirt. I was squealing with excitement to find the two Brownie handbooks I’d been given when I joined Brownies to help me learn the Brownie story, promise, law and motto. I came into Brownies just as the new “Jeff Banks” uniform was introduced so I was sad I wouldn’t get to wear the brown dress I’d seen all the Brownies I looked up to wear, but this jumper that one of the other Guide leaders found after we managed to break open a Patrol box no one has a key for…

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We also found wooden boxes with lamps and morse code for Guides to practise signalling. Even an old telephone for when Brownies would practise how to make emergency calls. There were Brownie cut out dolls, old First Aid manuals, books with flags and pictures of Girlguiding uniforms from all over the world. We even found the very first Look Wider folder from the 90s! It was wonderful to find a scrapbook from one of the Brownie Packs logging their adventures from 1992-95 that actually featured one of our Guide leaders, and we had a giggle at seeing pictures of her on a Pack holiday. We found old annual reports and county registers – one reporting a girl I knew from high school gaining her Baden-Powell Award. IMG_4475

The most special thing we found was a certificate from The Guide Association, signed by Olave Baden-Powell from when a third Brownie Pack was opened at the hall in 1974. I’m guessing they don’t give certificates for the opening of new units any more, as we didn’t get one when we opened the Ranger unit in 2012.

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It seems such a shame that these things, which gave us so much excitement, and I’m sure would be fascinating to others who were part of Guiding when they were little too, just collect dust in cupboards. So we’re now thinking of investigating the possibility of setting up a temporary ‘museum’ for a weekend for the local area of all the archives we have from the different units. We are already aware that other units also have archives in church cupboards and under stages.

What happens with the archives in your area, and how do we preserve the history of Girlguiding for future generations to rediscover?

I was a Brownie…

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It’s been quiet around these here blog parts since the Scottish summer holidays began (we’re already half way through them in Edinburgh – eek!) but I thought I’d make a brief return to mention the photo I posted on Twitter and Instagram yesterday!

I was amongst the first batch of Rainbows, but waiting lists were such that my friend Katrina and I were probably about 6 when we joined. I don’t remember being there too long before I got to move up to the Brownie Pack which met in a church hall just down the street from my Nana & Grandad’s house in Edinburgh. I LOVED being a Brownie. I learned to cook (though I have a memory of Katrina getting food poisoning after from the sausage, bacon and egg we cooked but I didn’t eat…hmm…let’s forget about that). I remember learning about the Brownie story and being so excited to find stories in the local library about Brownies (like this one) and even more excited when I discovered that Maisie the Cat was a Brownie (who ended up meeting Nessie while at Brownie Camp). I loved singing all the songs, and the traditions of dancing round the toadstool singing ‘We’re brownie guides, we’re brownie guides…‘ and then with my fellow Pixies singing our special Pixie song. I remember the honour when you were chosen to take the subs from each Brownie and turning the coins (was it 20ps or 50ps? I can’t remember) into a shape of some sort. Sometimes an owl, or the trefoil, or letters. I remember going to a barbecue with lots of other Brownies, and huge Edinburgh Thinking Day events. I remember practising for my athletes and agility badges in a car park across the road. And I remember how seriously I took my role of Sixer of the Pixies. I loved making sure new Brownies were welcomed. Oh yeah, and I loved getting badges. My favourite being my Booklover and Writer badges. It was lovely how there was so many different badges – some that taught us important life skills (cook, house orderly, first aid), some that helped the crafty folks (artist, toymaker) and those for the sporty Brownies (athlete, agility, swimmer).

We didn’t get to do Brownie Camp at my Brownies, but I think the knowledge that this was something the older girls did in Guides was the main reason I was keen to move up as soon as I turned 10…even though I was somewhat terrified of the Guide leader (!).

When it came to doing my ‘Service Flash’ as a Guide, I chose to volunteer as a Young Leader of the Brownies with one of my friends and we had a blast. In fact, I think the two of us were so in touch with our ‘inner Brownies’ that perhaps the Brownies were more mature than us. I realise now it’s rare for teens to be willing to be silly – but we had no problem and would happily join in the games to encourage Brownies!

Brownies for me was the real beginning of my life in Girlguiding – both becoming a Brownie, and later becoming a leader. When I was living in university halls I helped with a Brownie Pack in Aberdeen and given the title of ‘Snowy Owl’ chosen by the Brownies. I loved working with those two Brownie Units in Edinburgh and Aberdeen (though I prefer working with Guides & Senior Section).

This year, the Brownies turned 100. Girlguiding designed a t shirt that is being sold by Debenhams this summer in celebration of 100 years of Brownies. I picked one up on Saturday and my friend (who also used to be a Brownie) snapped me wearing it on a trip to Edinburgh Zoo. A whole group of Guides from North East England were sitting right by us too which was great to see.

I wear it proudly, knowing I’m part of a movement that has been empowering girls since 1914. 

Free to be me

A few weeks ago, we began a discussion at Senior Section (this is a Girlguiding unit I run with girls aged 14-25) and body image came up. I can’t remember where the discussion had begun – it may have been talking about gender equality from one of the challenges in the Commonwealth Games ‘Ready, Steady, Glasgow‘ pack. I think we showed this video

We discussed how girls were concerned about being judged by other girls on how big their breasts were or their body size or what they were wearing.

You want to say it doesn’t matter.

And then you remember what you saw fill your twitter feed the morning after any film or television awards ceremony. And you realise that most of it is to do with what the women wore to the event more than how amazing their art work was that they were being nominated for an award for. I can’t help but cheer on Sarah Millican (who incidentally I think looks lovely in her dress from John Lewis that she wore to the BAFTAs in 2013) when I read this article she wrote in the Radio Times. And be raging at shows like Lorraine who spent time slagging off her outfit the next day.

When will this change?

I still remember a day sitting in a church office chatting the wife of one of our pastors. I ended up helping her with some simple admin stuff while I was in there and I loved having that opportunity to speak with a woman who had a bit more life experience than I. It was lovely to chat until a moment where she said out of the blue ‘Oh, you know if you did X, Y, Z with your hair it would look so much better’.

I smiled and nodded. But inside I felt so disappointed. Yep, I know my hair is mental and messy. Sure, if I got up an hour earlier every morning I could probably do something to make it look slightly more presentable. But really? Does it really matter what my hair looks like? Does my worth come from how good my hair looks? How clear my skin is? How put together my outfit is?

Quite frankly, my hope is that people look past my mismatched hoodie that I’ve shoved on over my outfit to keep warm or the messy tangle of frizz that I’ve tried to get out my face by pulling back into a bun or ponytail that has started falling out while I ran for the bus…I want people to care about the levels of wisdom, intelligence, kindness or compassion I show over how good my wardrobe looks.

I want to be able to do exercise to feel healthy and socialise with my friends rather than to look like an airbrushed photo in a magazine.

And I never want to be one of those people buying magazines or watching television which is just tearing apart my fellow women.

The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts has teamed up with Dove to run a programme and challenge badge for Brownies and Guides called Free Being Me. As I watch some of my Guides walk in with their face hidden in heavy make up and telling me they think they’re fat – I’m seriously considering suggest to my fellow leaders that we should put it on the programme after the summer.

I feel sad that my old pastor’s wife felt the need to comment on my looks that she couldn’t see past them very far to what really counted. I like making the effort to make my nails more colourful, or my hair more tamed and enjoy wearing some crazy shoes every once in a while. But the majority of the time – sleep and comfort have a higher priority, and the highest priority is how beautiful I can make my character over how beautiful the package my character comes in…

I want to be free to be me, and I want my fellow Guides – adults, young leaders, rangers, Girl Guides, Brownies and rainbows to feel they can be free to be themselves too.

I want to be part of creating a world where that can happen…who’s with me?

 

Growing Guiding with Easter Bunnies

At the moment, we have five out of seven of our Rangers who are also young leaders working on leadership qualifications. All of them are also working their way through the Look Wider programme with the aim of trying to earn their Chief Guide Challenge award.

As we plan our programme, we’ve been trying to arrange things which they can count towards various octants. With the aim of accomplishing something on Module 1 of the LQ, they decided they wanted to organise an easter egg hunt for a Brownie Unit a few of the girls volunteer with. This unit is smaller than most of the units in the area, so we suggested that we could get each of the Brownies to invite a friend along. The Brownie leaders also arranged it so some of the about to be graduating Rainbows had that night as their Brownie visit.

The first stage was the planning.

The girls decided they wanted to have an easter egg hunt, sing songs, have some games and maybe get the girls to colour in easter pictures. They also decided all of us should dress up as easter bunnies.

(They know how much I don’t like to dress up)

Each of the Rangers was then tasked with something to do – researching costs on easter eggs that would meet dietary requirements, finding out about where we could procure bunny ears, locating suitable pictures to colour in and so on.

Two weeks before the event the girls made invitations themselves to give to the Brownies to pass onto one friend each…

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And then two weeks later we turned up with hats, wellies, buckets, plastic cups to hide easter eggs and chicks in, colouring pictures and…our bunny ears…

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Jenny had even made some pom pom bunny tails for us!

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The girls did a fabulous job of running the whole night. The Brownie leaders led the girls in some songs in a pretend campfire while we waited for some latecomers and then the games began! We had an easter egg hunt, where we decided the girls would give us what they found so it could be shared equally between all the girls – one older Brownie got very competitive but the Rangers were great at explaining about how we treat each other as Guides and share what we have (I’d also add it was the Rangers suggestion to collect and then share it all out – I was thinking it but they voiced it to me). I was so impressed with how the Rangers conducted themselves and had loads of fun with the Brownies.

Going back to my question about encouraging girls up through the Sections, I think events like this are great as the girls get to meet the ‘older ones’ – and they look up to them, and see the sorts of things that they might get to do if they stay in Guiding. Everyone had a great night, and the Brownie Leaders sent me a message saying how much they enjoyed having the Rangers along and ‘running Brownies for a night’.

We deliberately planned a pizza party for the Rangers after so they could chill out while planning their programme for next term – and I’d got some easter crackers I’d found in Poundland and each a little Lindt bunny (and a plastic egg filled with jellybeans for our dairy-free Ranger who can’t have chocolate). Trying to plan was  challenge as after a day of school and not much time before the Brownie Easter party in between meant they were super tired easter bunnies.

After the Easter holidays, all but one of the girls will be straight into their Nationals/Highers/Advanced Highers exams. Last year they all used our meetings as a goal for chilling and having a night off from studying. We’ll be working out how we can best support them through what is often a stressful period each year – and looking forward to May when they’ll be done!

Have your units done anything to help with growing guiding? Please do share…

Happy Birthday Brownies!

2014 is a big year for the Brownies, as it marks 100 years since the Rosebuds were started for younger Girl Guides. The name ‘Rosebuds’ didn’t last for long though – very quickly the name changed to ‘Brownies’.

I became a Brownie in 1991, with a lady called Isabel Downie as my Brown Owl. I remember being so excited when I turned 7 and going to Brownies as soon as I had my birthday. To be honest, I remember already being a bit bored of Rainbows the same as I was bored at school. I wanted more of a challenge and could not wait to join Brownies, have a uniform to wear and to earn as many badges as I could!

I have such fond memories of being a Brownie. I was a proud member of the Pixies. I got to meet girls from other primary schools in the area and made new friends. A couple I met again in later years when I ended up in the same dance school as them. I remember us all tramping out to a furniture store car park after it had closed to do our athlete and agility badges. I remember us learning how to make pots of tea and frying bacon, sausage and egg for our cooks badge. I remember serving tea and biscuits to my Nana for my Hostess badge when we invited parents to Brownies for an evening. I remember reading books (no problem) for my Booklover badge. Visiting the Fire station. Learning First Aid. Having to get my Mum to show me how to clean the bathroom as part of my House Orderly badge. I remember going to Thinking Day parties with Brownies from all over Edinburgh. I remembering singing and dancing around toadstools, and the excitement of being the person who collected subs and put all the 20 pences into the shape of an owl or trefoil next to the Toadstool.

I’m sure some of that sounds very ‘un feminist’ but actually, I would likely have never learned those skills until much later in life. Having gone to university since then and meeting 18 year olds who didn’t know how to cook, clean or do their own laundry, I’m so thankful for my time as a Brownie and Guide – because I did learn skills for life! As a child of a single parent, I’m pretty sure my Mum wouldn’t have taken the time to teach me some of these things had she not ‘had to’ for my Brownie badges!

I wish I had pictures from my time as a Brownie, but it was usually my grandparents that took me there as my Mum would be at work. There are no pictures of me in my yellow and fawn uniform or of me making my promise as a Rainbow, Brownie or Guide. 😦

I have fond memories of being a Young Leader with the 64th City of Edinburgh Brownies with my friend Fi. I think we were bigger kids than the Brownies were and we love them, and they loved us. In fact, the Brownies organised a surprise party for me when I turned 16. I still have a little cuddly toy dragon from Mulan one of them gave me as a present (they knew how much Fi and I loved Disney!). It was really sad that Pack eventually folded (and the reason why makes me so thankful our current Division Commissioner I volunteer under is so fantastic). The Brown Owl always included Fi and I with the planning of the programme, and gave us the chance to try out our leadership skills by leading games and activities from the first few weeks.

My friend’s daughter became a Brownie two years ago now. I got to be there to see her make her promise which was a real privilege, and a couple of months ago watched her perform in the Edinburgh Gang Show as part of the Junior Gang.

I almost wish I was a Brownie leader this year as I know that there are lots of fun celebrations for the Big Brownie Birthday planned!

Meanwhile, there is a great video on the BBC website with a lady called Ann Phillips remembering her involvement with the Brownies! Check it out here.