Some years ago Johnnie Jack set up the Federation of Teddy Boys in the hope it would bring teds together. If I remember correctly, some dissent was expressed from the ranks of teddy boys who visited the internet and Johnnie didn’t continue with the idea (one which I liked, especially as Johnnie has never badmouthed 70s teds like some sectarians did in other contemporary ted organisations). Although the Federation died a still birth, Johnnie continued to do good work for the same ideal under the title of The Great British Teddy Boy (whose web address, by the way, is still www.teddyboyfederation.co.uk). The logo he had designed for the Federation of Teddy Boys was actually pretty damn good, its scope pretty wide with a globe symbolising (I suppose) the spread of teddy-boydom to other countries as well as the motto “By the Teds, For the Teds” encapsulating all the ideology which such an organisation needs.
Personally I would favour some kind of association for teds which one could join, but with the minimum of fuss and minimum of conditions, and one which reflected what a loosely associated bunch we really are …
In the light of this attempt to ‘organise’ teds I was really interested to come across this article from the then Manchester Guardian from Friday 31 of October 1958 recently posted on the Guardian’s archive site (www.theguardian.com/society/2014/oct/31/teddy-boys-association-charter-birmingham-archive-1958). So there we have it, Johnnie’s was not the first attempt to organise teddy boys, but some people were thinking of this back in 1958. I’ve got to admit, yet again, this aspect of teddy boy activity came as a total surprise to me, wonders in the teddy boy world never cease!
‘The inaugural meeting of the National Association advocates no victimisation or violence, but attracts few actual Teddy boys’
BIRMINGHAM, THURSDAY. [30 October 1958]
The idea of a National Association of Teddy Boys captured the imagination of quite a few people in Birmingham tonight – but it did not attract many Teddy boys. Scarcely more than a couple of dozen turned up for the inaugural meeting.
At the time that the meeting was due to begin, not a single narrow trouser, “sideburn,” or eccentricity of dress was visible in the large hall of the Friends’ Institute in Mosley. Ten minutes later, the first arrived: two solemn young men, one in stark black and another in electric blue. They sat down sheepishly and there was a muttered “If this is going to be a sermon, let’s go.” When they did return, it was with a small, respectable body of supporters, and in this staid manner the new age of official Teddy boy unionism was ushered in.
The association is the idea of Mr Trevor Williams, a youth club leader in the city, and Mr Tom Gauntlet, a local Teddy boy. It had advertised tonight’s first step boldly: “Calling all Teds! Are you fed up with being criticised? Are you tired of being called hooligans when you know that the majority of you are decent working lads ?” If the N.A.T.B. could be formed, it would establish centres for Teddy boys run by Teddy boys, where there would be recreation and sports facilities; additional inducements mentioned were holiday camps and free legal advice.
Mr Gauntlet has prepared a Teddy boys’ charter, which states that a determined stand will be made against hooliganism and acts of violence. But “let it not be thought that victimisation of boys who wear Teddy boy clothes will in any way be tolerated.” Where definite evidence existed that a boy had been victimised in any way because he chose to wear that kind of dress, legal advice would be sought and free legal defence provided where the circumstances warranted.
One part of the charter suggests that there is a more tolerant official attitude to acts of hooliganism by students than to those committed by so-called Teddy boys. It says: “We find a percentage of hooligans and vandals among university students. This does not, of course, give us the right to say that because every university has an ample quota of louts and hooligans, all students follow this pattern. But to illustrate the point more fully we need only mention the bombardment of Mr Butler with flour, eggs and tomatoes in Scotland, the wrecking of a show given by Tommy Steele by Liverpool students, and the recent damage caused by students at Malvern in their annual rag.”
Certainly there could not have been a better advertisement for Teddy boy behaviour than the attention with which the small audience listened to the speakers last night. The chairman, Mr Henry Whittaker, a 76-year-old Quaker, wore a grey tweed suit with short trousers. He said that he was not disappointed by the smallness of the numbers who attended. “I came prepared for either six or six hundred. A start has to be made somewhere.”
Less prejudice needed
Mr Whittaker appealed to boys’ clubs to be a little less prejudiced against the idea of a Teddy boys’ association, and he asked the police to show discretion, goodwill, and helpfulness towards teddy boys. “It will make such a difference,” he said.
The meeting elected eight members of the audience to serve on an association management committee. They agreed that the organisation should be open to all Teddy boys regardless of race, creed or political beliefs – other than communism.
Here are a few of my comments.
This makes for fascinating reading following the previous post on ‘Teds, violence and racism’ which discussed the reality or degree of reality of repeated reports of the violence of teds in the 1950s. It’s probably no coincidence that this National Association of Teddy Boys (NATB) was set up after the racial riots of Notting Hill and Nottingham (which last occurred a week before its London counterpart). What happened to the Association? It’s likely that it didn’t last long, although I don’t know that for sure. If it faltered and never took off it is probably a sign that the backlash against teds was getting stronger and many were opting out of identifying with the style in the wake of the riots of that summer. Even if it died a stillbirth, it is proof that teds were far from all being a bad sort and that some were challenging the stereotypes pushed so relentlessly by the press of the day and doing it well. Good for them! I, for one, am proud that they stood up for common sense.
The leading part taken by a youth club leader and a Quaker church member remind us of the close connection between the youth clubs (often run by local churches) which catered for the age group in which many if not most teds found themselves.
The article is often amusing: somewhat disengaged teds who get fed up easily; “eccentricity of dress” being a sure-fire way to identify teddy boys; and one can only wonder how the “centres for Teddy boys run by Teddy boys” with “recreation and sports facilities” and adducements of “holiday camps and free legal advice” would have worked out; and why on earth did they pick out communism as incompatible with being a teddy boy? Were there the equivalents of Socialist Workers’ Party and Derek Hatton figures infiltrating the movement at the time? Had the authorities and the media been painting teds as traitors to the nation in the pay of the Soviet Union? I know it was the Cold War, but its relevance to the teds of the time seems to show a certain paranoia rather than sense.
POSTED October 2015.