A book about the spirit of YHA

The Spirit of YHA is many things to many different people. For some in the 1950s the true spirit was the spirit of those who walked or cycled and who did not use motor cars. For others it meant participating in youth hostels, taking part in the work that gave them life.

For the authors of The Spirit of YHA it is the strong and often passionate desire to participate in voluntary activity. Their book though is much more than a history of volunteering in youth hostels.

It gives a detailed picture of the early years of youth hostels. Looking at the story of how youth hostels developed in a narrow time frame, between 1929 and 1935, and using a huge amount of original documents, the book reveals the speed with which youth hostels emerged from many very different sources and organisations.

The illustrations in the book tell the story as much as the words and they bring to life much better than anything else the look and feel of those times.

The authors were well qualified to tell the story. Helen Maurice-Jones‘ family home was the youth hostel at Colwyn Bay and she has been a volunteer and a member of YHA’s Board of Trustees. Lindsey Porter is also a former trustee, who has written many books including others about youth hostels.

Together they have produced in detail the story of youth hostels and particularly what was happening in Liverpool when the first youth hostel group set up there in 1929.

The group was ahead of everyone else. They were the first to use the term youth hostel to describe the new kind of accommodation. They opened the first hostel and even though there’s some debate about whether it was the first – it wasn’t really open to the public or members and wasn’t advertised and shut soon after it opened – the claim to be the first has stuck.

The book reveals the early youth hostels and describes what they were like. It covers the development of different regional groups between 1931 and 1935. Wardens at the first hostels were responsible for the success of many youth hostels and the book includes many of their stories.

If you want to find out more about those critical early years when youth hostels were just beginning this book is a marvellous source of information, an essential for that early story.

Published privately by the authors in 2008 – copies are available from YHA – contact me and I can supply details.

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