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the following article is an extract from "Unofficial Aspects Of A Life In Policy Research" by Leslie T Wilkins, Research Professor, State University of New York (publ posth 2000)

Eel Pie and Arthur. Inoculation against evil influences?

"While my work at the Survey attracted various persons to contact me on a variety of issues, these were mainly statistical. The Home Office brought a different set of persons who wished to make contact for their own reasons. Many were routine concerns. One, however, was far from routine. This was 'Arthur' whose name I dropped earlier. Unlike Blacklock, Arthur was driven by intuition rather than logic. Nonetheless he was more realistic and much more concerned with real life and equally as innovative. His focus of concern was the disapproved behaviour and problems of some young people. His last name was Chisnell [ * ], but Arthur to all. I do not know why he should have sought me out. The connection was through Gordon Pask who probably became involved with Arthur by reason of living in Richmond.

Arthur would have been accepted today as an imaginative 'outworker' and probably also accepted by legitimate social work authorities. He was ahead of his time, outworkers had not been invented, or perhaps they were his invention. His formula for helping youth who were probably going the wrong way was not that of 'street worker'. Arthur did not go out to find his problem kids, he wanted to attract them to him. His clientele would identify themselves if he provided the appropriate kind of 'bait'. This had to be such as that it would be taken only or mainly by the kinds of youth who needed help which he was able to organise. First he had to create (rather than find) an environment which could be given an image attractive to his target clients. To this end he set up Eel Pie Island Jazz Club. He provided a stage where bands which were popular with the 'youth culture' could play, and the current popular dance styles could be expressed, or indeed, developed. He also had to provide alcoholic drinks, but limited this to beers. Some bands which later achieved international recognition were provided with early support by Arthur on Eel Pie Island. Arthur (he might not agree) went out of his way to give Eel Pie Island a bad name with the 'establishment', though he had some associations with the Establishment' night club. He wanted it to be the kind of place where a teenage girl who had just had a row with Mum would think of going for a bit of real sin. But the 'fly trap' for potentially wayward youth was not quite what (he hoped) it seemed to those who attended.

Arthur had developed his own youth culture; kids who were prepared to 'go so far' and no further. He also had a back-up of 'contacts'. The lone girl arriving would have to join the club and give a name and address. As she was passed into the dance hall, Arthur would signal unobtrusively to one of his selected young folks. The person so signalled was to keep an eye on the new entrant and ensure that no real harm came to her, but certainly to stay out of the way unless occasion to act should occur. These helpers were not obviously trying to be helpful but rather to act as guardians of extreme boundaries of harm. Most were young men or women who had first come to Eel Pie Island for quite different reasons.

It was Arthur's strategy (for which he had developed a theory as well as practice) to try to introduce those who had similarities. Most of his team were probably 'students' (with a heavy preponderance of 'art' students) who could mix well and who enjoyed the with-it environment of the Island. He would often introduce persons with a phrase such as, "I think you will find ... fun to be with.. He/she is, like you, interested in ..." However the introductions would involve one of his 'workers'.

Contacts were Arthur's stock-in-trade. In addition to mixing and matching the participants in the Club he made a point of getting to know people in authority who could help the young people who showed up at the Island. He persuaded as many as he could to visit the Island and meet some of those who used to hang around the 'membership desk'. When the situation was right he would introduce the facilitating contact to the individual. He contacted me at the Home Office. So far as I know I was able to help at least one young man, who had left home and was in difficulties with an academic father; it transpired that he wrote well. He was interested in journalism so I was able to facilitate his obtaining a scholarship to Chicago. He is now a broadcaster. He may not wish the disclosure of his background, so he had better remain anonymous.

Arthur knew many members of Parliament and took a strong emotional interest in the Home Office Research Unit and the difficulties it sometimes had with politicians. For example he knew of my experiences with the car-parking generation study and the approved school project. But he also took a poor view of my attraction to the U.S.A. and my desire to find somewhere where research was less shackled than in the HORU. He feared that I might emigrate. Eventually, of course, he proved correct, but that was many years later and after my stint in Japan. He exploited my 'sore point' and managed to extract a promise from me that I would not consider leaving the Home Office if the conditions of service could be changed so that the scientific civil service was more removed from political interests.

It was expected that a Labour government would be elected. Arthur arranged for me to meet several MPs. Austin Albu I recall was one. But it was the meeting he arranged with Peter Shore which was to determine the outcome. I recall our discussion in a taxi near Downing Street. Shore was at least honest. He pointed out, somewhat lacking in originality, that information was power. When they were in office, they had their hands on that power and it was too bad that, when they were not in office, they had to make do as best they could. So politics is a power game no matter who plays it. I left on my second leave-without-pay sabbatical in the United States soon after this disappointing outcome of my top-level lobbying. I suppose that even this discussion would have been out-of-order. If I had stayed around and it came to the notice of 'establishments' I would have been reprimanded. I lost touch with Arthur when I took up my overseas appointment. It seems that he 'vanished' fairly soon after the enforced closure of the Eel Pie Island club. [ ** ]

*  thought to be spelt "Arthur Chisnall", not "Arthur Chisnell"

**  Arthur continued being active in community politics, becoming involved with housing associations, squatters and community support groups

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revised 9 February 2012