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District Fellows is the name given to the 16- to 20-year-old age group of the Woodcraft Folk, a UK-based cooperative educational movement for children and young people. It operates both on a local group level and as a semi-autonomous movement within the Woodcraft Folk. Woodcraft Folk is very strongly in favour of youth empowerment—to this end the 16- to 20-year-old age group is largely run by the young people. District Fellows are often referred to with the abbreviated term DFs.
Individual DF groups are usually based in a town or city, or in some cases a region. DF group meetings usually consist of a group of like minded individuals meeting up at a regular time and place and taking part in usual woodcraft activities such as co-operative games, organising events, workshops and discussions about the Woodcraft Folk's aims and principles and general socialising.
DFs also help with the running of the younger groups: Venturers, Pioneers, Elfins, and Woodchips; and are an invaluable asset to many districts. The movement has recently set up the New Roots Fund which aims to give grants to new and in need groups.
District Follows are renowned for their events. Within Dfs there are two main types of event: Social and Business, although all DF events have a social quality to them and many social events will contain some business. Social events and business events have different structures and different events fall into these two categories.
Social events are primarily for meeting other DFs and enjoy a wide range of activities both in the day and at night, this programme can range from training in First aid, to a live ceilidh, to a silent discussion on gay marriage laws, learning about political activism (if you fancy), and partying, they also featuring activities such as fancy dress, morning yoga, arts and crafts etc.
Social events happen in different places, both in door and out, and are open to different groups within the movement.
Some take place at a regional level, for example, Span That World With Music (STWWM), an event that happens once a year for raising awareness of The District Follows Movement and larger Woodcraft Folk through music, and as such is open to all Woodcraft members, though most choose to attend their local STWWM. This event happens in regions, cities, towns and villages all across the country over the same weekend or week. Different groups have different styles for this events; some choose to hold the event outdoors somewhere in the local area for large groups of DFs and public alike, others get together in one DF's house and sing songs as a group with a guitar. The same set up is true of Span That World With Costume.
Other regionally organised events include regional social events. Here, DFs from a region (i.e. Midlands) meet over a weekend or for an evening in order to see each other, meet new DFs and take part in discussions, debates, games, and workshops on all manner of subjects. These events are usually held in a venue close to or within the region organising them, and while aimed at the region are open to DFs at the coordinators' discretion.
Often DFs will come together as a group and organise an event such as a Valentines Hostel (a social event for DFs and Kinsfolk, members of woodcraft folk over 20, held the weekend closest to Valentine's Day) or walking events. These events don't happened at a specific point in the year as they are organised as and when members suggest them. These events vary drastically in location and in attendance, some events may be open to all DFs (for example the Valentines Hostel) while others may only be open to the district that organised them.
WWOOFing is an activity that many DFs choose to take part in throughout their time in the movement. The international opportunities Rep (explained later) often acts as a link between DFs wanting to WWOOF and farms in need of WWOOFers, as well as coordinating WWOOFing trips both within the UK and in other countries.
On top of all of these events there are also three national social events a year.
- Winter Wonderland- a four-day event between Christmas and New Year that takes place inside. Winter Wonderland has in the past been split into a North and a South event, due to the limitations of indoor accommodation
- Spring Awakening- a five- or six-day event in the Easter holidays. This event is a "back to basics" for DFs with a large emphasis on training and skills as well as getting back to the roots of Woodcraft Folk.
- DF Camp - the longest and largest social event of the DF calendar, DF Camp takes place over a week in July in which ideas are created memories made and mayhem and magic are present in abundance.
In DFs there are four main business events a year: three regional Things and one Althing.
Within DFs there are nine regions, with each region holding a business event once every three years. Here any member of DFs may come to discuss how DFs works why it works, when it doesn't work and how it can be improved among other things. Things happen in December, February/March and May/June each year and are planned by a group or individual, preferably, from within that region. Mini-things are also held during Winter wonderland, Spring Awakening and DF camp. These are often used as a way of introducing new members to DF business. Things are open to all DFs.
Althing is the annual AGM of the District Fellows and occurs in September of each year. The venue for this changes each year and while Things mainly involve discussion, Althing mainly consists of DFs voting on motions submitted by other DFs on how to improve the movement, some of which come from discussions at Things. Althing is open to all District Fellows and any DF is allowed to vote on and/or propose motions and elect DFs to/stand for roles up for election. It is named after the ancient Icelandic Parliament (Althing), where anyone could speak freely.
The District Fellows are organised almost entirely by 16- to 20-year-olds. The aim being that the parent organisation, The Woodcraft Folk should only talking on administrative tasks such as Membership, Insurance and DBS checks. The organisation of DFs is incredibly fluid with the structure of roles and responsibilities changing almost every year, much more than similar organisations. This is due in part to the high turnover of members with around 20% of the movement changing each year as new DFs turn 16 and old DFs turn 21. The highly fluid nature of DFs allows newer members to input their ideas into the movement and make it their movement.
District Fellows Committee
District Fellows Committee is responsible for overseeing the running of the District Fellows movement. It consists of the following Committee Members:
- Affiliations Rep
The role of the Affiliations Rep is to find like minded organisations and organise collaborative events, projects and campaigns.
- Campaigns Coordinator
The role of the Campaigns Coordinator's role is to facilitate work on the national campaign. The current DF campaign is running from 2013-2014 and is focused on getting the military out of schools.
- Chair of Committee
Chair of Committee is a facilitator of DF committee and provides pastoral support to members of the Committee.
- Communications Rep
- Districts Rep
- Events Rep
- International Opportunities Rep
- Laymember (x2)
- MEST-UP Coordinator
- Shadow Treasurer
There are secondary roles, held by members of Committee. They are elected at Old/New (held sometime in October) the change over event between the previous committee and the new reps elected at that years Althing. These secondary roles are:
- Sustainability Rep
- Staff Liaison
- Vice chair
- General Council Rep (x2)
- DF Chair Carer
All positions (except Chair, Treasurer and Shadow Treasurer which are one year roles) are normally 2 year roles.
In addition, there are also non-committee roles, these are elected every year.
- Zine Editor
- First Aid Rep
- London Liaison Rep
- Workers' Beer Rep
- Venturer Committee Liaison (replaced with 'Venturer Committee & Venturer Camp Liaison' in the 2 years preceding a Venturer Camp)
The main form of Communication for DFs is now their website.
DF News was a seasonal magazine sharing news from within the Woodcraft Folk, mainly from the District Fellow age range. It was written mainly by members of the DFs and its editor was elected from the floor of Althing. It also featured international stories that centre on the issues the Woodcraft Folk is concerned with. It was cancelled in October 2009 to be replaced by The Zine.
DF News Archives can still be found on the Span That World website.