Teddy Gold obituary

Other lives: Community activist who introduced revolutionary new ideas in youth work

As leader of the Harold House youth club in Liverpool from 1952, my friend Teddy Gold, who has died aged 92, introduced revolutionary new ideas in youth work.

He split the club into three age groups, encouraging teenage members to take the younger ones under their wings, setting examples of citizenship and comradeship. Teddy trained members to run their own programmes and events and thus gave them their first experiences of democracy, self-help and fundraising.

Teddy would take club members to visit youth organisations in London, stopping off at Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park, and on their return they would learn public speaking skills and build up their confidence. The club catered for all ages and interests, with acrobatics in the gymnasium and track sports. At the time of Merseybeat, local bands on their way to stardom played at club dances. Teddy was quick to enlist one of Liverpool’s most popular singers, Rory Storm, as a voluntary swimming instructor in between his gigs with the Hurricanes.

One of seven children of Rachel Baker and Samuel Gold, who both worked in tailoring, Teddy was born into a Jewish family in the East End of London. He did national service in the Royal Army Medical Corps and went to Israel in 1948, joining a mobile medical team in the Negev desert assisting displaced Bedouin tribes.

On his return to London he worked at the Bernhard Baron Settlement, where he was encouraged to become one of the UK’s first professional youth leaders, and soon he was recruited to run Harold House, which had been founded in the 1920s as the headquarters of the Liverpool battalion of the Jewish Lads’ Brigade. My father was one of those on the management committee who appointed him, and from the age of 10 I was a club member myself.

In 1962 Teddy married his second wife, Florence Bernstein, who became his assistant and leader of the Harold House girls’ club. In 1963 as part of the redevelopment of the University of Liverpool, Harold House’s Chatham Street building was to be demolished.

The club’s management committee, influenced by the 1960 Albemarle Report on youth work, drew up specifications for a new building in the suburbs as well as aspirations for a new style of leadership. Teddy, unwilling to conform, resigned and moved into other spheres of community work in Liverpool.

In 1965 Liverpool council encouraged Teddy to help tackle problems in the troubled St Andrew’s Gardens tenement building (known as the Bullring). He developed the Bronte Neighbourhood council, a street-elected community responsible for its own centre, which opened in 1966. Several more neighbourhood councils, including Southern Neighbourhood council and Rialto Neighbourhood council, both in Toxteth, received government funding.

Teddy wanted children to have a greater say over matters affecting them in their schools. Following the success of pilot schemes in Liverpool, Teddy founded School Councils UK in 1993. A few years later, the operation moved to London under the direction of his daughter, Jessica, serving around half of UK schools with a significant influence over education policy.

Teddy is survived by Florence and their children, Micah, Jessica, Benjamin and Matthew, by a son, Danny, from his first marriage, to Clare Fredman, which ended in divorce, and 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Michael Swerdlow

The GuardianTramp

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