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The Kindred of the Kibbo Kift was the first of three youth movements led by the British artist, John Hargrave (1894–1982). The Kindred was founded in 1920. In the early 1930s Hargrave renamed the group The Green Shirt Movement for Social Credit. In 1935 the Green Shirts evolved into The Social Credit Party of Great Britain which wound up in 1951.
All three movements were driven by Hargrave's energy and Utopian ideals. He saw the Kindred as leading the next stage of human evolution. Kinsfolk were 'the human instrument' of change: the first of a new generation - healthier, fitter and morally stronger than the discredited older generation which had led the world into war. Hargrave was a fierce individualist: he believed that the 'resolute imagination' of the creative individual was the key to a better world.
The Kindred began as a break-away group from the Boy Scouts. Unlike the Scouts, it had a pacifist and co-educational character (girls were admitted). Members had to sign a 'declaration':
I wish to be Kibbo Kift and to:
1. Camp out and keep fit
2. Help others
3. Learn how to make things
4. Work for world peace and brotherhood
The Kindred's main annual event was the Althing, or weekend camp, where Kinsfolk exhibited their hand-made totems, discussed the state of the world, put on mumming performances and took part in ceremonies and rituals. Hargrave’s interest in the occult and 'symbology' found expression in the Kindred’s fondness for visually striking dress, symbols and artefacts. He also combined a belief in magic with a belief in science, believing that both were ways of harnessing the unseen forces of Nature.
Politically, Hargrave rejected the ideologies of both left and right: 'Red imperialism and 'Red Revolution' were equally hopeless. Instead, the Kibbo Kift ideology was Social Credit, which Hargrave associated with the colour green. Social Credit was an economic theory that blamed the banking system for the existence of poverty, unemployment and war. It attracted a number of artists and writers during the 1920s and 1930s, but none more passionately than John Hargrave, who saw himself as the theory's public prophet. He re-branded the Kindred as the Green Shirt Movement, a People's Army dressed in quasi-military uniform and spreading the word on urban streets. As the Social Credit Party, the Green Shirts held public meetings, organized propaganda stunts and clashed with the Black Shirts (Fascists) and the Red Shirts (Communists).
By the time the Social Credit Party was wound up in 1951, Hargrave had returned to his earlier interests. In the late 1940s he became a healer, creating 'Therapuetic Psychographs' for his clients. During the 1950s he worked as a cartoonist. He also invented an aeronautical moving map and sued the British Government in the 1970s for using the device in Concorde, without acknowledgement.
Find out more: Designing Utopia: John Hargrave and the Kibbo Kift by Cathy Ross and Oliver Bennett. ISBN 978 1 78, is available from the Museum online shop.