Catherine Smith, Reader Services Assistant, writes:
As well as looking after our readers in the Reading Rooms either in person or when we offer a visualiser appointment, one of the pleasures of our role in the Reader Engagement team is the chance to help the curators with collection-based work when time allows. Recently time has most certainly allowed this and I’ve been lucky enough to work on a collection that is housed in the University Archives at the Main Library on campus, where I work alongside James Peters in the Reading Rooms there.
The Richard Goulden Collection came to us in the early 1990s. It is a collection of material covering organizations for the Deaf community from the 1960s until the 1980s. Included in the Goulden collection are drama groups, associations, school alumni societies and campaigning groups and it comprises over one thousand items. It was meticulously collected by Richard Goulden, a librarian and archivist who was involved with these groups at the time. The collection covers regional groups (of which Greater Manchester is covered from 1976-1979), and comprises the Breakthrough Trust, the British Deaf Association, Central Bureau for Educational Visits and Exchanges, National Union of the Deaf, the Old Hamiltonians Association, the Sixty Six Club for Young Deaf Adults and miscellaneous newsletters and documents of other Deaf-related groups.
It consisted of many A4 old-style folders and a handlist which needed to be transcribed into a Word document which could then be put onto ELGAR. I started off with checking everything in the folders against the handlist to make sure nothing was missing. This was really interesting and I had a hard job resisting the temptation to read everything in each folder! Starting with the Breakthrough Trust, which covered many folders and is a large part of the archive, this was a registered charity with advice services for the Deaf and it supported projects to advance the inclusion of Deaf people including Text phones. The archive includes planning meetings and group area reports covering Birmingham, Norwich, London, Kent and Surrey.
There were many fundraising events organised by the Breakthrough Trust which are included in the files, jumble sales, barbeques and ‘At Home Evenings’. There was an overseas section for the purposes of making contact with people, families and individuals. It was also set up to initiate a scheme to allow travel from the UK to any part of the world for any person if they wished to travel abroad to ‘present an authentic view of their true capabilities’. The Trust, now known as deafPlus, continues its work to this day.
The Breakthrough Trust also needed an informal centre for social activities and weekend breaks. They were able to lease a building in Swindon from the local council which provided a much needed base. This was called the Roughmoor Centre (formerly Roughmoor Farm) and was actively well used from 1973-1989. It was refurbished by volunteers and all the local community chipped in providing equipment and helping to build up the centre. It was a great success and hosted mums and toddlers groups, weekend activities and it had its own adventure playground. Bedrooms were built and it became a residential centre which was very well used and frequently booked up. It was used until 1989 when unfortunately the land it was on was sold for housing development and this sadly saw the closure of the centre.
One of the most interesting folders in the collection is the Sixty Six Club for Young Deaf Adults. The Sixty Six Club was founded in April 1966, hence the title of the club. We have the papers of this club from 1966-1979. Its primary purpose was to be a club for young Deaf adults under the age of 35. It was a wholly independent club run by young Deaf adults themselves. The purpose of the organization was to offer social and sports facilities so that these young adults had opportunities to develop friendships and also develop new skills. Specific activities included dinner dances, sporting events, rambles, games nights, drama groups, discos and visits to industrial concerns (such as The Times printing section). During the years of the Sixty Six Club’s existence it faced many ups and downs, but this was only to be expected when trying to start a club from nothing. There was also a large number of other clubs in existence at the time. The Sixty Six Club survived and thrived and income was healthy due to fundraising efforts by members. There were trips abroad including a day trip to Holland in 1971 to see the bulb fields for £11.25 including insurance!
Information on the club was sent to many Deaf schools and establishments and also the club was mentioned in Talk, British Deaf News and Hearing to attract more members. The club needed new premises, a new club house as they had just been using temporary premises for a while. Prince Charles was approached and also the BBC in order to ask for help with funding.
There was also a very successful drama section of the Sixty Six Club in which members performed plays including Doctor Faustus (which was the 1978 winner of Federation of London Deaf Clubs Drama Competition), Blithe Spirit, Oedipus Rex, Canterbury Tales and many others. The drama group made all their own costumes and performed at various theatres around the country. The drama group members were professionally trained and directed and it was in continuous existence from 1977. The file we hold for the drama group ends in early 1982.
Hopefully this has been an interesting snapshot of the Sixty Six Club and the Breakthrough Trust as part of the Richard Goulden collection. This collection has now been catalogued and is available to view here. It’s a fascinating history of the time during the 1960s and 1970s, which marked the beginnings of a period of great change of attitudes to and within the Deaf community. It has been a pleasure to be able to work with such collections and appreciate how they have been so well documented for the benefit of researchers in the future.
Images reproduced with the permission of The John Rylands University Librarian and Director of the University of Manchester Library. With thanks to the Imaging Team. All images used on this page are licenced via CC-BY-NC-SA.