John Whitwell’s contribution to the Celebration of the Life and Work of Michael Jinks at Friends House, Euston Road, London
Tuesday, 11 March 1997
Michael Jinks, Mike as he was known to us before he became respectable, worked at the Cotswold Community for 12 years 1968 – 1980.
Mike enjoyed telling the story about how be came to work at the Cotswold Community.
During the year that he did the Advanced Residential Child Care course at Bristol University, Richard Balbernie came to speak to the student group. Mike said that Richard looked shattered and exhausted but was impressed by his quiet determination to transform the Cotswold Approved School into a therapeutic community. He was inspired by Richard and negotiated to do a short placement at the Cotswold Community and within a few months had joined the staff team.
Most people here probably know that Mike and Richard parted, not on the best of terms, when Mike left to join the Caldecott Community. This is, therefore, a welcome opportunity for me to put the record straight and by reading from their letters I hope to convey their mutual respect and admiration.
In July 1971 Richard wrote:
“Mike is really one of the most reliable colleagues I have had the good fortune to have as a member of a senior staff team in over 20 years of this game.
His task here was to build a therapeutic, educational workshop system from scratch. When I came here, and in the period 1967 – 68, before Mike came, I modified the “departmental” make-work system a little, but in fact brought to an end the “classroom” system, as I saw no way of changing or altering that, and it was quite clear that it was continuously doing an incredible amount of harm and no real learning through involvement and absorption was taking place.
Mike has built a very lively and imaginative “polytechnic” situation which is very much individual, child-centred, and has pulled together a very efficient and skilled team. This has been a most exciting part of the development here under his leadership. This is especially so as to begin with I wondered if in fact we could ever achieve a really child-centred situation in which boys grumbled if people were not available to them at the right time and in the right place for the right things. This has been a remarkable achievement from the holding, institutionalised and de-personalised educational baseline from which we started and in which the whole attitude was punitive and all controls were external and aimed at a systematic assault on minimal ego functioning, where there was any at all to destroy.”
In 1980, Mike’s last year at the Community, Richard wrote:
“Mike is a man of considerable experience, concern and investment in the field of the residential treatment of the young offender.
He joined the new management team here in 1968 and has been, as a member of that hard core team, part of the conversion task, from an approved school, given to us at the Cotswold Community. He has throughout that period been responsible for the special school evolvement from its original institutional basis to therapeutic education.
Mike is a resourceful person who makes easy relationships with children and adults. He has throughout this time carried considerable senior internal management responsibility. He is a person for whose integrity and knowledge I have a very high regard and who now needs to be in a position where he takes more responsibility for innovation and change in this field.
He has a strong, positive personality and a very high level of capacity for leadership.”
I think we would all agree that Mike certainly did take more responsibility for innovation and change in this field, as a result of his move to the Caldecott Community and all that he did there.
Mike’s last letter to Richard in September 1980 contained the following paragraph:
“Words cannot adequately describe what I feel about my experiences during the past twelve years. They have been rich, varied and too numerous to mention, and the apprenticeship I have received, in the understanding and application of the principles of planned environmental therapy, has been substantial. I only hope that I can now apply them with similar confidence and authority in other environments. In this sense, I do not feel I will be leaving the Community, but taking the next steps along a path in residential work which is always changing and presenting new challenges. “
It was very important for me to see Mike again on a regular basis, through the Charterhouse Group, and continue our good working relationship.
I would now like to quote David Wills, from his book, “Spare The Child”, which was about the transformation of an Approved School into a therapeutic community at the Cotswold Community. Let us not forget that Richard and Mike did not have the luxury of closing the place down and re-opening with new staff and children. You can perhaps appreciate that resistance to change was enormous.
“I saw a small mechanical dumper come rattling and banging towards me on one of the Community’s internal roads. It was being driven by a young man of my acquaintance whom we shall call Tommy whose age was thirteen. His whole body expressed ecstasy. He was leaning forward with his head thrown back. The wind ruffled his blond hair, his lips were parted, his grey eyes were shining. As he approached the small triangular island of grass in front of the kitchen building, I felt sure that he would go roaring right round it like a fighter pilot doing a victory roll. But he did not. Perhaps he realised that he was observed, for he suddenly straightened himself, squared his shoulders, closed his mouth and assumed the serious demeanour of a man going about his work with a proper sense of dignity, but not without a certain panache permissible to the man with confidence in his own skill. I saw him slap the gear lever into neutral with an elegant follow-through motion, then he treated me to a terminal roar of the engine as he jammed on the brakes and drew up in front of the kitchen door with more of a flourish than I would have thought possible with so ungainly a vehicle. He and his passenger leapt off the dumper and ran into the kitchen, to emerge in a couple of minutes carrying respectively a tray full of mugs and a large teapot. These were firmly stowed and guarded by the passenger, and off they drove with another accelerando from the engine. Tea-break for the builders!
The day before, I had spent a couple of hours with Mike Jinks, head of education, while he told me about the philosophy and methods of the Community’s education programme, of which he is in charge. Tommy now neatly and charmingly summarised it in that one episode.”
Over the following 9 years Mike provided the leadership to transform the trade training departments, remnants of the Approved School, into small polys practising therapeutic education. He helped put in place the structure which is still visible today.
What are my personal memories of Mike?
Quoting from Spare The Child is rather apt, because it was reading this book which inspired me to apply to work at the Cotswold Community 25 years ago. I had been the Deputy Warden of a new probation Hostel for 3 years and thought I knew a thing or two about residential work. I cannot describe the shock to my system upon entering the world of this emerging therapeutic community, with values and principles which were not based on common sense.
• Where depression was regarded as a good thing: The emotionally disturbed child can live on an excitable delinquent high. Therapy is progressing when he begins to feel sad.
• Fairness was not about everyone having the same.
• Delinquent contracts were to be challenged – you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.
• A quiet day was not necessarily a good day in a therapeutic community.
In those first few months I was all at sea and, because the Community was changing rapidly, staff were coming and going at a rate of knots. You only had to stand still for 5 minutes to get promoted! After a few months I found myself managing one of the group living households, a task for which I was completely ill-equipped. There are a few people here today who can bear witness to this fact. For most of my first year at Cotswold I felt I was engaged in a completely impossible task. I felt overwhelmed by the emotional disturbance and delinquency of the boys. Mike was one of the people who kept me going. He was always ready to listen to my despair. His optimism and conviction in the primary task of residential therapy meant that I left our discussions with a bounce in my step, which lasted at least for a few minutes. I expect there are many people here today who used Mike as a port in a storm. In a turbulent environment he was very much a safe person.
Mike was one of the core team engaged in the heroic struggle to create a therapeutic community from an Approved School. All four men in that core team, Richard Balbernie, Trevor Blewett, Bill Douglas and Mike Jinks died before they could enjoy retirement. A terrible coincidence. Pat Hancock, who is here today, is the only survivor of that original senior management team.
Mike was fulsome in his admiration for the Community’s consultants of that era, Pip Dockar-Drysdale, Isabel Menzies Lyth, Ron Dare and Bill Allchin. He learnt a great deal from them and they in turn had considerable respect for him.
What other things do I remember about Mike?
Mike the family man. He and Ann and their children lived in a house central to the Community and their kitchen overlooked communal gardens. I have this memory of Mike washing up on Sundays, to the accompaniment of opera playing very loudly.
Mike the gardener – something he seemed to get into while at the Community. In those days he seemed to mow a lot of lawns.
Mike the defuser of difficult situations. He was one of the few people I knew who could tackle a group of boys in a delinquent merger.
Before Mike left the Cotswold Community he planted some trees. They are now very well established, flourishing and live on in his memory.
People like Mike make the world go round, for they put more into life than they take out of it.
I would like to finish by reading an extract from a poem by T. S. Elliot:
What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning
The end is where we start from.
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And to know the place for the first time.