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Journal ArticleDOI

Youth on streets and bob-a-job week: urban geographies of masculinity, risk, and home in postwar Britain

01 Jan 2014-Environment and Planning A (SAGE Publications)-Vol. 46, Iss: 1, pp 112-128
TL;DR: This paper examined the institutional geographies of responsibility, risk, and reward embedded in this youth activity, orchestrated by the most popular youth organisation in Britain, and explored how this fundraising spectacle also functioned as a hybrid space that permitted "feminin...
Abstract: After World War Two, youth in Britain was constructed as unruly, troublesome, and deviant, particularly in public urban space and streets. However, not all children and young people were discouraged from entering these environments or engaging with the general public. Drawing from literature published by the Boy Scout Association and a case study of Bob-a-Job Week in Britain launched in 1949, I examine the institutional geographies of responsibility, risk, and reward embedded in this youth activity, orchestrated by the most popular youth organisation in Britain. This fundraising scheme involved Boy Scouts completing domestic tasks for householders and encouraged uniformed youth to be visible, proficient, and useful. Significantly, this also took place in largely urban areas—complicating our understanding of scouting as an idealised ‘rural’ practice with camping as its central activity. Furthermore, this paper explores how this fundraising spectacle also functioned as a hybrid space that permitted ‘feminin...

Summary (1 min read)

The Time-Spaces of Youth Movements

  • Third, and finally, this paper contributes a re-thinking of youth movement spaces by explicitly focusing on non-rural settings and the neglected activities of uniformed youth in cities and towns.
  • Scout groups in villages, towns and cities perhaps camped only once or twice a year.
  • In other research, I have been keen to highlight young people’s ‘voices’ from the archive of the Scout Association (Mills 2012) as a specific methodological strategy.
  • In analysing how the organisation encouraged its adult leaders to frame and articulate its central message for Bob-a-Job Week, the authors can see the broader attitudes of scouting authorities towards youth in Britain and the perceived value of the organisation.

Streetscapes, Spectacle and Safety

  • And Scouts went looking for jobs in their local neighbourhoods – whether rural villages, suburban estates or inner cities – it is a clear example of Scouts being encouraged to be visible on the streets, rather than secluded campsites or expansive fields of rural Britain.
  • The authors may be wrong but they will have a thought for the lad’s parents should anything happen to him.
  • Prior to the re-launch, Scouts were encouraged to travel in groups of two or three, then to only visit homes they knew, and then to finally restrict their jobs to friends and family.
  • The language used to describe ‘old’ Bob-a-Job week changed, with the Scout Job Week publicity bulletin from 1971 exclaiming that it was “most undesirable” that Cub Scouts should “seek jobs from strangers”.

Conclusion

  • This paper has contributed a study of one fundraising scheme that mobilised youth in the second half of the twentieth century across the streets and neighbourhoods of Britain.
  • In many ways, there was a suspension of the ordinary time-spaces of youth in the city and the authors can see how a more positive counter-narrative of the street was crafted in sharp opposition to wider fears over urban youth in post-war Britain.
  • Examples in this paper regarding Scouts’ behaviour, parental attitudes and abuse, as well as other tensions over the scheme, demonstrate the diverse and complex engagements with this annual fundraiser – and significantly – reveal how the organisation attempted to map and navigate the boundaries between its young people on the street, in uniform, and at home.
  • These notions remain at their most powerful in urban areas.
  • This could further contribute to recent debates in geography and across the social and political sciences on governance, identity and citizenship (Pykett 2010; Mycock and Tonge 2011).

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1
Youth on streets and Bob-a-Job Week: Urban geographies of masculinity,
risk and home in post-war Britain
Sarah Mills, Department of Geography, Loughborough University
To cite this paper:
Mills, S. (2014) Youth on Streets and Bob-a-Job Week: Urban geographies of masculinity,
risk and constructions of home in post-war Britain, Environment and Planning A 46 (1): 112-
128.
After World War Two, youth in Britain was constructed as unruly, troublesome and deviant,
particularly in public urban space and streets. However, not all children and young people
were discouraged from entering these environments or engaging with the general public.
Drawing from literature published by the Boy Scout Association and a case study of Bob-a-
Job Week in Britain launched in 1949, I examine the institutional geographies of
responsibility, risk and reward embedded in this youth activity, orchestrated by the most
popular youth organisation in Britain. This fundraising scheme involved Boy Scouts
completing domestic tasks for householders and encouraged uniformed youth to be visible,
proficient and useful. Significantly, this also took place in largely urban areas
complicating our understanding of scouting as an idealised ‘rural’ practice with camping as
its central activity. Furthermore, this paper explores how this fundraising spectacle also
functioned as a hybrid space that permitted ‘feminine’ domestic tasks as appropriate for
‘British boyhood’ until the schemes eventual demise in the 1990s. Overall, the complex
geographies of Bob-a-Job Week reveal how this organisation negotiated the boundaries
between domestic and public space, providing an insight into broader constructions of youth
and gender in the post-war period.
Keywords
Youth, urban geographies, street, masculinity, Scouts, Britain
Introduction
Historians have described how youth in post-war Britain was constructed as deviant,
troublesome and problematic as a wave of new social and economic freedoms altered the
experiences and position of young people (Bugge 2004; Osgerby 1998). Youth culture, and
in particular emerging sub-cultures of the 1960s and 1970s, were used by scholars in cultural
studies to understand broader class-based ‘moral panics’ in urban space (Cohen 1973; Hall
and Jefferson 1976; for a summary of this work and critiques of subculture, see Nayak 2003),

2
arguments which still resonate today in contemporary discourse surrounding children and
young people in the UK and beyond (Massey 1998; Nayak 2003; Rogers 2004). Both these
sets of literature however, represent the extreme (yet still pervasive) representations of youth
during this time. Here, I want to focus on the everyday, perhaps mundane, encounters young
people had with urban space during the post-war period through exploring how the Boy Scout
Association a popular organisation active before, during and after the emergence of ‘youth
culture’ used the street as a fundraising spectacle to mobilise its vast youth membership.
Whilst geographers have engaged with a range of ideas about youth, the street and urban
space in a variety of contexts in the Global North and South (Herrera, Jones and Thomas de
Benitez 2009; Skelton 2000; Valentine 1996a; van Blerk 2005), this historical focus is unique
in examining the past life worlds of children, their relationship with the street, and critical
geographies of young people’s spaces and activities over time.
I have argued elsewhere that scouting in the UK functioned as a youth citizenship
project (Mills 2013) that has been negotiated over time by adults and young people in terms
of its policies and practices (Mills 2011). Here, I want to argue that the regular activities of
the organisation such as Bob-a-Job Week were a vital part of that training in ‘good
citizenship’ with youthdoing their duty’ at a local scale, but that furthermore, these activities
also reveal wider attitudes towards youth in post-war Britain and their engagements with
public urban space (if ‘public’ is indeed an appropriate term to describe streets and suburbs,
see Valentine 1996a). Through looking at one practice of Scout groups their involvement
in this fundraising event this paper also highlights how gendered ideas about domestic
responsibilities and masculinities were played out and understood during this period.
Launched in 1949 as an annual fundraising scheme to raise money for the Boy Scout
Association, Bob-a-Job Week involved young people sourcing and completing small
domestic tasks in their local neighbourhoods over the course of a week. The scheme became

3
one of the most familiar catchphrases of the organisation and ran successfully until 1964
when it became a voluntary option for Scout groups. By 1970, and with impending
decimalisation, the name changed to Scout Job Week and the focus switched to sponsorship
events that ran annually until the late 1990s. However in May 2012, the UK Scout
Association undertook its inaugural ‘Scout Community Week’, a nationwide fundraiser that
encouraged similar domestic, gardening or conservation tasks but through group-based
community projects to help “Scouts ‘do 1 thing’ to have an impact on their community”
(Scout Association 2012). These contemporary connections are interesting, not least because
they reflect wider state-led policies about participation, youth, and the current coalition
government’s ‘Big Society’ agenda. This study therefore usefully traces the emergence of
some of these ideas through a focus on the original Bob-a-Job Week and its explicit
institutional geographies in Britain during the second half of the twentieth century. This
paper makes three explicit contributions to geographical literature and academic debates and
each will now be taken in turn to provide the contextual and academic rationale for this
paper.
‘The art of making the city work’: Young people’s urban geographies
Building on work by historians about the post-war ‘age of affluence’ and its identifiable
youth culture (Bugge 2004; Osgerby 1998), encapsulated by the advent of the ‘teenager’
exported from the United States (Abrams 1959; Marwick 1990), this paper analyses the
performance of Bob-a-Job Week in terms of debates on the geographies of youth, public
urban space and the street (Fyfe 2003; Matthews, Limb and Taylor 1999; Skelton, 2000). In
doing so, its central contribution lies in providing a more nuanced and historically informed
understanding of adults’ constructions of everyday experiences of youth in post-war Britain.
Whilst youth culture remains a contested concept, variously described and located by

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historians and writers (Fowler 2005; Savage 2007), it is undeniable that this period marked a
shift-change in the ways in which young people were understood and their place in
contemporary British society. And yet, geographers have been relatively silent on debates
surrounding post-war youth culture(s), despite the growth of children’s geographies as a sub-
discipline over the last decade (Holloway and Valentine 2000; Skelton 2009). This paper
therefore firstly makes an important contribution to work in children’s geographies on these
themes and addresses the lack of geographical research on this important time-period and the
historical geographies of childhood, education and youth spaces more broadly (although, for
exceptions, see Gagen 2000, 2004; Ploszasjka 1994; Mills 2013).
The dominant focus and perceived ‘site’ for youth culture was cities: urban centres of
activity, freedom, emergent identities, experiences and tensions brilliantly captured in Colin
MacInnes’ 1959 novel Absolute Beginners set in a dynamic and youthful London. Historical
geographers David Gilbert (2006, with Breward and Lister) and Richard Hornsey (2010)
have both examined London in the immediate post-war era and its associated diverse cultural
identities, although studies of the geographies of young people and children at this time are
still limited. Colin Ward’s classic account of youth and urban space The Child in the City
briefly mentions youth movements, alongside other hobbies, as influential in “cultivating the
art of making the city work” (1990 [1978]: 108). In this respect, and throughout this paper, I
define youth movements as voluntary uniformed organisations that emerged in Britain in the
late nineteenth and early twentieth century, most commonly mobilised around a particular set
of ideological, political or religious moral values and activities. Ward’s description of these
spaces as “cultivating the art of making the city work” provides one of the starting points for
examining the urban geographies of scouting, hitherto neglected, through a direct focus on
children and young people (aged 8-18) that took part in Bob-a-Job Week and tracing their
place in the wider urban cultural geographies of Britain.

Citations
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Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: In this article, the authors use the example of the Jewish Lads' Brigade and Club in Manchester, UK to make a series of wider arguments about the emotional labour of paid/unpaid work, faith-based identities and the spatialities of informal education.
Abstract: This paper brings together current geographical debates on volunteering and employment through a unique focus on post-war youth work. I use the example of the Jewish Lads' Brigade and Club in Manchester, UK to make a series of wider arguments about the emotional labour of paid/unpaid work, faith-based identities and the spatialities of informal education. Through conceptualising youth work as a series of localised and inherently spatial practices, the paper explores how the identities of employed volunteers and youth workers shape – and are shaped by – the contexts through which they ‘work’ with young people. I draw on archival materials to show how the Club operated in practice at one site in Manchester, and place this experience in the context of the national organisation's post-war reconstruction efforts. I show how the Club navigated a path through the post-war moral landscape of childhood, shaped by the wider Anglo-Jewish community, and I illustrate the dynamic relationships between paid and unpaid helpers in the performance of youth work. The paper concludes by drawing connections between the historical record and contemporary youth work practice. The professionalisation of youth work that emerged in the post-war era is currently being dismantled via new geographies of voluntarism in austere times and, now as then, questions around the role of faith-based youth organisations and the religious identities of their volunteers and employees remain politically charged.

20 citations


Cites background from "Youth on streets and bob-a-job week..."

  • ...…of the JLB (Kadish 1995) and significantly, it adds a religious dimension to academic debates on the emergence of youth sub-culture in post-war Britain (Hall and Jefferson 1976; Cohen 1973; see also Nayak 2008, Mills 2014) through excavating alternative accounts of post-war (religious) youth....

    [...]

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TL;DR: The authors examined a series of anxieties about mixing at the Jewish Lads' Brigade and Club (JLB & C) in Manchester, UK during the 1950s and 1960s, primarily focused on inter-faith activities, rela...
Abstract: This paper examines a series of anxieties about mixing at the Jewish Lads’ Brigade and Club (JLB & C) in Manchester, UK during the 1950s and 1960s, primarily focused on inter-faith activities, rela...

14 citations


Cites background from "Youth on streets and bob-a-job week..."

  • ...First, the article contributes an in-depth and sustained focus on the moral geographies of the post-war city in relation to young people (Bugge, 2004; Mills, 2014; Stainton Rogers, 2004)....

    [...]

  • ...…Britain, these ideas were arguably at their most powerful in the post-war period following the emergence of various youth sub-cultures and the advent of the ‘teenager’ – a figure usually associated with the urban cityscape (Bugge, 2004; Cohen, 1973; Hall and Jefferson, 1976; see also Mills, 2014)....

    [...]

  • ...…work, I have explored how moral geographies were embedded in the contours of British uniformed youth movements, primarily through their ideological construction of duty-bound ‘good citizens’ to unify and distinguish between different groups of young people and their behaviour (Mills, 2014)....

    [...]

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TL;DR: In this article, the authors explore the advice given by the British Girl Guides Association, a popular girls' youth organization, to urban members in the period from 1930 to 1960, based on an analysis of the Girlguiding publications The Guide and The Guider in 30 years spanning 1930-1960.
Abstract: To explore the advice given by the British Girl Guides Association, a popular girls' youth organisation, to urban members in the period from 1930 to 1960.,This article is based on an analysis of the Girlguiding publications The Guide and The Guider in 30 years spanning 1930–1960.,The article shows that, although rural spaces maintained symbolic position in the education and training of the British Girl Guides Association throughout the mid-twentieth century, the use of urban spaces were central in ensuring that girls embodied Guiding principles on a day-to-day basis. While rural spaces, and especially the camp, have been conceptualised by scholars as ‘extraordinary’ spaces, this article argues that by encouraging girls to undertake nature study in their urban locality the organisation stressed the ordinariness of Guiding activity. In doing so, they encouraged girls to be an active presence in urban public space throughout the period, despite the fact that, as scholars have identified, the post-war period saw the increased regulation of children's presence in public spaces. Such findings suggest that the organisation allowed girls a modicum of freedom in town Guiding activities, although ultimately these were limited by expectations regarding the behaviour and conduct of members.,The article builds upon existing understandings of the Girl Guide organisation and mid-twentieth century youth movements. A number of scholars have recently argued for a more complex understanding of the relationship between urban and rural, outdoor and indoor spaces, within youth organisations in the 20th century. Yet the place of urban spaces in Girlguiding remains under-explored.

1 citations

References
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TL;DR: A developing debate within the growing theoretical literature on men and masculinity concerns the relationship of gender systems to the social formation as discussed by the authors, and the question of the autonomy of the gender order.
Abstract: A developing debate within the growing theoretical literature on men and masculinity concerns the relationship of gender systems to the social formation. Crucially at issue is the question of the autonomy of the gender order. Some, in particular Waters, are of the opinion that change in masculine gender systems historically has been caused exogenously and that, without those external factors, the systems would stably reproduce. 1 For Hochschild, the "motor" of this social change is the economy, particularly and currently, the decline in the purchasing power of the male wage, the decline in the number and proportion of "male" skilled and unskilled jobs, and the rise in "female" jobs in the growing services sector. 2 1 have argued that gender relations themselves are bisected by class relations and vice-versa, and that the salient moment for analysis is the relation between the two. 3

953 citations

Journal ArticleDOI
01 Jan 1997-Antipode
TL;DR: This article explored how adults define whether their children are competent to negotiate public space unsupervised and how they control and manage their children's use of space, and explored how children subvert restrictions placed on them by parents and defined their parents' levels of competence to make decisions about their spatial ranges.
Abstract: Children's safety is an issue high on the public agenda in both the UK and North America. In particular, the “stranger-danger” discourse plays an important part in constructing children as “vulnerable” and “at risk” in public space. This paper begins by exploring how adults define whether their children are competent to negotiate public space unsupervised and how they control and manage their children's use of space. It then goes on to consider children's own understandings of their ability to negotiate public space safely, exploring how they subvert restrictions placed on them by parents and how they define their parents' levels of competence to make decisions about their spatial ranges. In doing so the paper demonstrates the instability and contested meanings of the binary concepts —”adult” and “child.” KW: SR2S

404 citations


"Youth on streets and bob-a-job week..." refers background in this paper

  • ...Social and parental anxieties about children in urban space are therefore not just a contemporary phenomenon (Pain, 2006; Valentine, 1997) but can be identified as part of much longer standing ideas about risks for children over time and across diverse socioeconomic conditions (Cunningham, 1992;…...

    [...]

  • ...…countered a number of negative perceptions and stereotypes about young people on the street, it was, for some, a risky space that had to be carefully managed—hinting at contemporary relationships and parent’s understandings of children’s ability to negotiate public space safely (Valentine, 1997)....

    [...]

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: The dominant Western construction of childhood has oscillated between representing children as the bearers of original sin and deviating from the traditional view of childhood as a time of innocence.
Abstract: What it means to be a child varies over space and time. Historically, the dominant Western construction of childhood has oscillated between representing children as the bearers of original sin—devi...

391 citations


"Youth on streets and bob-a-job week..." refers background in this paper

  • ...…a range of ideas about youth, the street and urban space in a variety of contexts in the Global North and South (Herrera et al, 2009; Skelton, 2000; Valentine, 1996a; van Blerk, 2005), this historical focus is unique in examining the past life worlds of children, their relationship with the…...

    [...]

  • ...In examining this fundraising scheme, I argue that some of the pervasive ideas surrounding the ‘moral landscape of childhood’ (Valentine, 1996b) at this time were challenged, or temporarily suspended, during Bob-a-Job Week through a counternarrative of the street....

    [...]

  • ...…with youth ‘doing their duty’ at a local scale, but that, furthermore, these activities also reveal wider attitudes towards youth in postwar Britain and their engagements with public urban space [if ‘public’ is indeed an appropriate term to describe streets and suburbs (see Valentine, 1996a)]....

    [...]

  • ...Indeed, whilst the street is seen as a space that is ‘normally’ or ‘naturally’ an adult space (Valentine 1996a), for this week each year Boy Scouts were encouraged to see streets and homes in Britain as their own, and indeed, as their space to ‘do their duty’....

    [...]

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TL;DR: The Child in the Country [1990, Bedford Square Press, London (2nd Edn)] is discussed in this article, and it is suggested that Ward provides an intriguing window on the geographies of rural children both as structured "from without" and as experienced "from within" in his book.

372 citations


"Youth on streets and bob-a-job week..." refers background in this paper

  • ...…of childhood and the idealised care-free environments in which children are seen to play, inhabit, and shape (Jones, 1999; Matthews et al, 2000a; Philo, 1992), this paper seeks to complicate the pervasive images of scouting, and indeed other youth organisations, by explicitly focusing on their…...

    [...]

  • ...The imagined and idealised geographies of scouting (and indeed youth) are overwhelmingly rural (Jones, 1999; Matless, 1995; Philo, 1992), with camping ‘in the wild’ often framed as a central scouting activity (Cupers, 2008)....

    [...]

  • ...The imagined and idealised geographies of scouting (and indeed youth) are overwhelmingly rural (Jones 1999; Matless 1995; Philo 1992), with camping ‘in the wild’ often framed as a central scouting activity (Cupers 2008)....

    [...]

  • ...As geographers have exposed and grappled with the rural constructions of childhood and the idealised care-free environments in which children are seen to play, inhabit and shape (Jones 1999; Philo 1992; Matthews et al 2000b), this paper seeks to complicate the pervasive images of scouting, and indeed other youth organisations, by explicitly focusing on their use of, and engagements with, urban space....

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TL;DR: This paper put young people in their place, from the ground up, natural developments, learning through the body, and hanging outside in and inside out: Embodying sex and race.
Abstract: 1: Putting young people in their place 2: From the ground up: Natural developments 3: Learning through the body 4: Draped outside in and hung inside out: Embodying sex and race 5: Material transformations: Local children in global places 6: Destined to suffer the most 7: A space to play and a time for justice

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Frequently Asked Questions (16)
Q1. What contributions have the authors mentioned in the paper "Youth on streets and bob-a-job week: urban geographies of masculinity, risk and home in post-war britain" ?

The Boy Scouts ' Bob-a-Job Week ( BOW ) this paper was an annual fundraising scheme to raise money for the Boy Scout Association, where young people sourcing and completing small domestic tasks in their local neighbourhoods over the course of a week. 

In doing so, it has added to literature within children ’ s geographies on this neglected timeperiod, but beyond that, has given a wider focus to the everyday geographies of urban youth in post-war Britain, complimenting and extending work within historical studies as well as current debates in human geography on domesticity, masculinity, service and moral landscapes of childhood. Whilst this study has usefully traced some of the philosophical ideas about the perceived role of young people at both the local scale and through a sense of ‘ national ’ contribution and responsibility, there is great scope for further research on contemporaneous moves to reenvision the place of youth on the streets and in local neighbourhoods. Overall, there is a need for further work that places these philosophical and more general narratives about youth alongside the urban dynamics, temporalities and multiple realities of childhood, including how young people themselves understand and cultivate “ the art of making the city work ” ( Ward, 1990 [ 1978 ]: 108 ). In many ways, there was a suspension of the ordinary time-spaces of youth in the city and the authors can see how a more positive counter-narrative of the street was crafted in sharp opposition to wider fears over urban youth in post-war Britain. 

The dominant focus and perceived ‘site’ for youth culture was cities: urban centres ofactivity, freedom, emergent identities, experiences and tensions – brilliantly captured in Colin MacInnes’ 1959 novel Absolute Beginners set in a dynamic and youthful London. 

The post-war Scout’s tools were to be brooms, mops and lawn-mowers compared to the ambulance, signalling post and bicycle they used as part of their service in the war-years (Proctor 2002). 

the very nature of unpaid work challenges the stereotyped male identity of provider and protector that during this time period would have been the expected ‘norm’. 

Jobs recorded for the first Bob-a-Job week in 1949 were mainly domestic and gardenchores – cleaning, tidying, washing - but also included the rather unusual “two hours of slug catching” and “unpacking 1,400 eggs for a grocer without breaking one”. 

In considering the wider significance of this paper and its contribution to debates incontemporary human geography, it is perhaps pertinent to reflect on the broader, complex geographies of youth organisations and the ways in which these informal spaces of citizenship education negotiate relationships between civil society, families and young people. 

The shift to Job Week in 1970 aimed to completely alleviate the criticisms over safety by creating centralised local events and supervised activities such as mass car washes, shoe-shine stands and litter-picking operations. 

Source: SAA/TC/103/National Bob-a-Job Week 1949 Folder, Publicity Bulletin 1 Prior to decimalisation, there were 20 shillings to the pound. 

the post-war period and Bob-a-Job Week appear to have been a timewhen the organisation professed an alternative type of appropriate youthful masculinity – with Boy Scouts’ encouraged to be comfortable and competent in domestic tasks such as cleaning and babysitting. 

Launched in 1949 as an annual fundraising scheme to raise money for the Boy Scout Association, Bob-a-Job Week involved young people sourcing and completing small domestic tasks in their local neighbourhoods over the course of a week. 

Prior to the re-launch, Scouts were encouraged to travel in groups of two or three, then to only visit homes they knew, and then to finally restrict their jobs to friends and family. 

this paper explores how this fundraising spectacle also functioned as a hybrid space that permitted ‘feminine’ domestic tasks as appropriate for ‘British boyhood’ until the schemes eventual demise in the 1990s. 

Drawing from literature published by the Boy Scout Association and a case study of Bob-aJob Week in Britain launched in 1949, The authorexamine the institutional geographies of responsibility, risk and reward embedded in this youth activity, orchestrated by the most popular youth organisation in Britain. 

Colin Ward’s classic account of youth and urban space – The Child in the City – briefly mentions youth movements, alongside other hobbies, as influential in “cultivating the art of making the city work” (1990 [1978]: 108). 

in Bob-a-Job Week, particularly in the 1960s literature, this domesticity was seen to be an appropriate element in the construction of young masculinity by the organisation.