Lost Photos From The UK's First Jewish Youth Club

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 17 months ago
Lost Photos From The UK's First Jewish Youth Club
Young, well dressed men gather around a wireless set
The Brady Boys' Music Club, 1940s.

For over 70 years, thousands of Jewish youngsters from London's East End were members of the Brady Clubs.

Taking part in everything from motorbike repair workshops to photography lessons to camping expeditions, some of the poorest, most underprivileged children in the country were given the opportunity to learn vital life skills, forge life-long friendships, and pave the way to achieve the careers and lives they coveted.

Young men and boys pose as pirates on a small, handmade ship float
Playing pirates at Camp Dymchurch, 1951.

The clubs started life in 1896, when Lady Rothschild formed the Brady Club for Working Lads, on Durward Street, Whitechapel. Many of those who lived in this then-impoverished area of London were young Jewish refugees fleeing the violent pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe — and so it was that the Brady Club became, in essence, the UK's first Jewish youth club (though membership wasn't limited to the Jewish community).

Young women twirling on the dancefloor
The Girls' Club enjoy a dance.

A Brady Girls' Club was subsequently started up by the philanthropist Miriam Moses in 1925, later getting a purpose-built clubhouse on Hanbury Street in the East End. The Boys' Club moved into the building in 1960, with the two clubs amalgamating (although activities often stayed separate between the sexes).

A group of boys balancing on a beam held up by two ladders
The club started life in 1896, when Lady Rothschild formed the Brady Club for Working Lads.

By this time, the Brady Clubs were at the forefront of the exciting youth movement that was taking off in the UK; this was the place where the Duke of Edinburgh's Award was trialled, and a certain Jimi Hendrix even performed here once (wonder what the boys from the 1940s music club in the top image — by the 60s, grown men — would have made of that).

A boy being thrown into the air by a giant canvas, held by other boys
Brady Boys' Club at Charmouth Summer Camp, circa 1963.

A trove of photographs of the Brady Clubs, from the 1940s through to the 1970s, was stored in an attic by journalist Hannah Charlton, who collected them while researching material for a project. They remained forgotten about for 35 years, when Charlton rediscovered them.

The Duke of Edinburgh's Award was trialled at the Brady Clubs.

Off the back of this discovery, a small exhibition, Nostalgia is Not Enough, was hosted, which spurred a group of old 'Bradians' to create a committee, re-establish connections with former Brady Club members, and set up a website, containing old photos and memories.

A netball defence leaps to stop a shot
A Brady Girls' Club was established in 1925.

Many of the 'lost' photos will now go on show at the Brady Arts & Community Centre this September, alongside oral histories from former members. The Community Centre is based in the clubs' former address on Hanbury Street.

As the East End's Jewish population reduced in the 1970s, dwindling club members meant that the Brady Club moved to Edgware, where it became the Brady Maccabi. This itself closed in 2012.

Boys in a workshop, working on a motorbike
Bicycle maintenance at the Brady Boys' Club.

Meanwhile, the Brady Photographic Archive Team encourages former club members to get in touch with their memories (and photos) from their time at the clubs.

Girls sit at a table drinking sodas
The Brady Girls were the first to have a purpose-built club, which the boys then moved into in 1960.

The exhibition runs from 1-28 September 2022 (Mon-Sat) at the Brady Arts & Community Centre, Whitechapel. Entry is free.

Three young men pointing cameras back at the camera
Brady Club Photography Group, late 1950s.

All images © Official Brady Photographic Archive

Last Updated 20 September 2022

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