The purpose of this multi-part blog is to tell some of the story of an amazing campsite in Essex that for around seventy years was the surprising home to an important part of the British Labour and Communist Movement.
Thousands of Young Communists, and others on the left of British politics, travelled to Kelvedon Hatch in Essex and over the decades they enjoyed life camping in the clean open air close to nature.
The place was Coppice Camp at Kelvedon Hatch near Brentwood Essex. For much of its history it was known as the Harry Pollitt memorial youth camp, taking its name from perhaps the most famous British communist Harry Pollitt (pictured below) who headed the Communist Party in Britain through some of its most successful years.
The people who came to the camp were involved in the great political events, and arguments, of the day. We put the world to rights, with deep discussions about war and peace, popular, and not so popular, culture, Socialism, dialectical materialism, fashion, and even sex and drugs and rock and roll.
Here at the camp they would chew over the experiences of their lives, these included mass unemployment; the defeat of Moseley and the battle of Cable Street; The International Brigades who went to fight in Spain; The twists and turns of the Second World War; Immigration and the rascism it fostered; The post war ban-the-bomb and wider peace movement; The huge demonstrations against the Vietnam War; The anti-Apartheid struggle; Apprentice strikes; Tenants battles; Trades Union issues: the emergence of feminism and a whole lot more.
They were heady times indeed.
All these issues were discussed late into the night, round camp fires or on rambles in the Essex countryside. We argued as we lay out on the grassy lawn in the summer sun or even, whisper it quietly, over a pint or two in the bar of the local pub – the Eagle.
I hope this writing will bring back fond and happy memories for those who were lucky enough to experience the same fun, comradeship and political education I did in my many visits to Coppice Camp.
Peter Frost has started to produced this history, not as a definitive work of reference, rather to communicate the fun, inspiration and comradeship that Coppice engenders in those who remember camping there.
There are still some big holes, but the rich history is starting to come together.
Peter’s main aim in starting to tell the story is to try to bring alive the important place this field in Essex had for the Labour and Communist Movement over some sixty years.
The whole project is very much work in progress, If you can help with any information or just personal memories or particularly any photographs I’d be delighted to hear from you and to add them to the history.
Watch out for further parts of the story that will be added over the next few weeks.