Colin Hodgetts

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Biographical Information

According to his web site he writes: "I organised the first Caribbean arts festival in East London in 1964. In the folk group Common Round I played the double bass. We made three LPs and undertook residencies at a number of London clubs. I took a PGCE in RE and music at the Institute of Education. In 1968 I worked for a trust attached to Crown Woods school in Eltham and was responsible for setting up a residential centre on Loch Awe, West Scotland, for school leavers unlikely to get a place on the usual field study trips.

"At the same time I edited Sing True, a song book for school assemblies, that was to pay my salary for three years. After a short period as Peace Officer of the Martin Luther King Foundation I was appointed the first Director of Christian Action, a charity founded by Canon L. John Collins, who was also the founder of the International Defence and Aid Fund (an antiapartheid organization) and Chairman of CND. Our main activities were in the fields of single homelessness, nonviolence and prison reform. With Nick Beacock (originator of ‘Crisis at Christmas’) and David Brandon I set up a halfway house for alcoholic women in Stepney and a hostel in Soho.

"Satish Kumar and I founded the London School of Nonviolence, which met in the crypt of St. Martin-in-the Fields where I was an honorary curate. I founded Tent City, at Wormwood Scrubs, and Hackney Camping to provide cheap accommodation for young overseas visitors. I was eased out of Christian Action after Canon Collins gave up the chairmanship and was replaced by Canon Eric James (not his fault!). The organization ceased to be ‘action’ and became ‘words’. Fortunately most of the activities became independent organizations. We continued to run Tent City and Hackney Camping, for instance, for another fifteen years.

A short period as a member of the collective running the Student Christian Movement at Wick Court near Bristol was followed by the chaplain/wardency of the Othona Community’s centre at Bradwell-on-Sea. A core group of staff lived in wooden huts on the edge of the Essex marshes, keeping animals, planting trees, growing vegetables, welcoming visitors - up to 100 residents a week in the summer - and worshipping twice daily in the wonderfully simple chapel built by St. Cedd in AD 654. There was a lot of music. I wrote the Othona Psalms, fifty psalms and a number of canticles from Christian and other sources, which the community published.

After a few months out to write Exploring Worship for Mowbrays, I was invited by Save the Children to run their resettlement programme for Vietnamese Refugees. It was then that I met my wife Julia, and we have worked together ever since. We established a network of fourteen reception centres from Montrose in Aberdeenshire to Hothfield in Kent and a residential school at Bingley, Yorks. We had three main aims: to keep our reception centres small, average 80 residents with a staff of five; to get the buildings for nothing; to train Vietnamese staff to take over the programme. After 18 months, with the blessing of SCF and the Home Office, we set up Refugee Action in which Julia and I are still involved.

"In 1983 I was invited by Satish Kumar, now editor of Resurgence and living in the North Devon village of Hartland, to run an alternative secondary school. I was headteacher of the Small School for eleven years and wrote an account of the first five in Inventing a School...

"Meanwhile, I resigned from the school and joined Human Scale Education to establish the Third Sector Schools Alliance to campaign on behalf of small schools, Moslem, Jewish, new Christian and Steiner schools for state funding... From June 2003 to July 2007 I was Vicar of Hartland. Apart from a bit of tinkering with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs this left little time for music. On the other hand, it has allowed me to do a lot more thinking about spirituality and the nature of Christianity. Although my contract ended in June 2006 I continued to help in the parish on a part-time voluntary basis. At the same time I converted the barn to a holiday let. We had to empty it of three skiploads of rubbish..." [1]

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  1. Colin Hodgetts Bio, organizational web page, accessed April 2, 2012.