Working Men's Club and Institute Union
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The Working Men's Club and Institute Union (CIU or C&IU) is a voluntary association of private members' clubs in Great Britain & Northern Ireland, with about 1,800 associate clubs. One club in the Republic of Ireland, the City of Dublin Working Men's Club is also affiliated. Most social clubs are affiliated to the CIU.
They do not have to be working men's clubs, although most are. There are many village clubs, Royal British Legions, Labour Clubs, Liberal Clubs, and various other clubs involved. A member of one CIU-affiliated club is entitled to use the facilities of all other CIU clubs, although they will only be entitled to vote in committee elections in clubs where they are full members.
The CIU has two main purposes: to provide a voice at national level for working men's clubs and social clubs; and to provide discounted products and services for its members.
The Club and Institute Union was founded by The Rev. Henry Solly in 1862. A great propagandist for clubs, he provided a much needed conceptual clarity to the notion of club work.
The CIU as a national body is non-political. Though individual clubs can be affiliated to political parties. Originally it was a middle class led philanthropic organisation aimed at education and non-alcoholic recreation. However, working men themselves soon took over the running of the CIU and drinks were allowed.
In the Victorian era, the Liberal Working Men's Clubs were prevalent in increasing the Union's membership. Sometimes Liberal Clubs were called Gladstone Clubs in honour of the Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone. In some working-class areas local landowners and business owners would contribute to the cost however as land was relatively cheaper in those days, it was fairly easy for groups of men to buy the land and establish the clubs using their own skills and labour.
In the pre- and post-World War I era these clubs were often associated with trade societies and trade union branches. In the miners' strike of the early 1980s, the Miners' Welfare Clubs were prominent in their support of the strike. Other such clubs can still be recognised by their title e.g. Engineers or Railwaymen's Clubs. There were also Socialist Clubs built before the establishment of the Labour Party. Labour Clubs were founded as that party grew in size in the 1920s. Generally, Conservative Clubs did not join as they formed their own federation. (though there are some). Servicemen returning from the Great War would also found clubs. Roman Catholic parishes had clubs. The only stipulation demanded for membership of the CIU was that clubs be owned by the members and accept the standards of membership. (Clubs were often subject to inspection.)
Many entertainers developed their skills in them over the years.
Until 2004, the CIU had its own beer brewed by the Federation brewery in Dunston, Tyne and Wear. Although CIU-affiliated clubs do still receive discounted beer, these discounts are largely passed on to the members and Federation beer will generally be cheaper than beer available in local pubs. The brewery was taken over by Scottish & Newcastle in 2004 and now brews Newcastle Brown Ale.
Together with other club organisations such as the Royal British Legion, the Association of Conservative Clubs, the National Union of Liberal Clubs and the National Union of Labour and Socialist Clubs the CIU is part of CORCA (Confederation of Registered Club Associations) which lobbies Parliament on behalf of clubs. This was active in the recent debate about smoking. As most clubs are known as the haven of the working man who likes to drink and smoke (in many cases without any women in the bar), there is a degree of justifiable concern about the future prospects of clubs.
The CIU holds a national congress every year and as part of its activities runs convalescent homes. In may ways it could be said to be the oldest surviving friendly society still run by its members and if it were to fold would be a sad loss to the cultural life of working-class families.
The Working Men's Club and Institute Union is now the largest non-profit-making social entertainment and leisure organisation in the UK, representing the interests and views of six million club members.
The Working Men's Club and Institute has come a long way since 1862. However, it could be said that working men's clubs have suffered from an old-fashioned image among young people and have found it hard to compete with modern trends, resulting in many closures of clubs in recent years. The problem has recently become acute, particularly in relation to anti-smoking legislation in which the CIU lobbied MPs to exempt clubs from. The CIU has changed in recent years and women are now allowed full membership rights. Some clubs have broadened their appeal by letting local community groups use the facilities.
The Working Men's Club and Institute Unions HQ is in London.
The current National Officials of the Union
- President - George Dawson CMD
- Vice President - John Tobin
- General Secretary - Ken Green CMD
C&IU Clubs in Republic of Ireland
- City of Dublin Working Men's Club