HOW THE KINDRED OF THE KIBBO KRIFT TRIED TO RE-MAKE THE WORLD
01 August 2016
Ahead of Maker Assembly Sheffield, Andrew Sleigh interviews Annebella Pollen, the author of 'Kindred of the Kibbo Kift', about the movement and its legacy.
If you had ventured out onto the downs of southern England during the 1920s, you might have crossed paths with a group of extravagantly-clad youngsters, bearing totems, and carrying on their backs hand-made tents and simple camping equipment. At their head, you might have seen their leader, White Fox, otherwise known as John Hargrave, who along with a group of like-minded pacifists, disgruntled ex-Scouts and woodcrafters set out to create a new social movement based on the principles of a healthy outdoor life, self-reliance, handcraft, and peaceful fraternity. They were the Kindred of the Kibbo Kift.
The movement was short-lived, and they never had more than a few hundred members, but their ambitions were global, and their extraordinary rituals, costumes and handcrafted objects, not to mention their charismatic front man, ensured their influence would continue on to today, and likely far beyond. A splinter group of the Kindred went on to become the Woodcraft Folk, an alternative scout-style organisation still operating today. By the late 1920s and 1930s, Hargrave had shifted his focus to campaigning for social credit, a theory of monetary reform which enjoys renewed interest today in the form of basic income. And thanks to Hargrave’s understanding of the power of images (he was an artist and an ad man by profession), we have a rich visual archive, which has inspired contemporary makers, students of fashion, woodcrafters and revolutionaries.
In 2015, the design historian and research Annebella Pollen wrote a beautiful, heavily-illustrated book The Kindred of the Kibbo Kift: Intellectual Barbarians, which tells the little-known story of Hargrave and Kibbo Kift, and brings to light, for the first time, the incredible archive of images and objects which they created during their brief existence. In August, she’s speaking at Maker Assembly in Sheffield. Ahead of that talk, I caught up with her to find out what makers today can learn from this remarkable, iconoclastic group.
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