This paper will use the case study of the Hoxton Cafe Project, a voluntary organisation for young people which operated in East London between 1962 and 1970, as a means of exploring how working class young people experienced the efforts of voluntary and state organisations in the 1960s. Hoxton, an area in North East London, was a predominantly working class area that was popularly associated with poverty and criminality, and, by the 1950s, was deemed to be resistant to the supposed benefits of the welfare state. The cafe built on other experiments in detached youth work – such as the Barge Boys’ Club – that aimed to capture the imaginations of those young people who did not fit the mould of ‘traditional’ youth clubs. It also tapped into existing traditions of youth and community work in the East End, including the university settlement movement and the juvenile court magistracy, along with an emerging body of sociological, criminological, psychological and psychiatric research into subcultural behaviours. This paper will consider the motivations for and aims of the cafe project, and the nature of its work on the ground; it will also examine what the cafe meant for the young people who used it, and what functions it had for them. The cafe is a means by which to explore the ways in which young people from working class areas like Hoxton were defined by their neighbourhood, and how they negotiated their personal and working lives with interventions from family, community, the welfare state and the police.
Hoxton Cafe Project website