I met Bob King this week. Bob is a retired solicitor from Shropshire. He was a prisoner of war in WW2 held in Oflag 79. I met him at the Brunswick Youth and Community Centre-known locally as the Brunny. If you don’t know the story of the Brunny you may be wondering why an elderly gentleman made a special trip to Bootle. Let me explain. On a cold February night in 1945 the POWs met together. They had understood what living in boring, depressing conditions had done to their morale and realised that this was the same for young people at home. Boys without purpose, with too much time on their hands, were wasting their youth. They had nowhere to go, and nothing to do to channel their energies. Together they resolved that when they returned home they would establish a network of Boys’ Clubs.
In Oflag 79 along with Bob were three POWs: Michael Marshall, Philip Evans, and Harry Mounsey, it was they who started the Brunny. I was asked to open the birthday celebrations where all three were represented by their sons.
Today the centre flourishes providing a home for numerous groups including Sefton Veterans, The Army Cadet Corps, Brownies, Toddler groups, Pensioners and Jamie Carragher’s Academy.
One aspect of their youth work that particularly appealed to me was their international links. Many in Britain today fear that as a nation we may become inward looking and forgetting the lessons about the warping influence of nationalism we learnt at such a great cost WW2. The Brunny has established exchange programmes with people from Germany and Norway.
In contrast to the Brunny’s party I attended a much more formal event at St George’s Hall when the county’s new High Sherriff, Stephen Burrows, was installed. Then it was off to the Bootle Beer Festival at Safe Regeneration followed by a visit to St Faith’s church to hear the excellent Crosby Symphony Orchestra.
On Friday night I was at a reception to launch a mental health programme aimed at supporting staff from our ‘Blue Light’ services. It is a testament of how far public attitudes towards mental ill health have moved that people from all walks of life can talk openly about mental health issues. I have worked in this field for close on 40 years and the change in public attitude is long overdue.