History on display at Records Office

Wednesday, 10th December, 2008
A new exhibition at the Record Office, prepared by members of Leicester YMCA, will celebrate 125 years of the movement Leicester. The exhibition, largely composed of photographs of former members and buildings tells the story of the organisation from its early beginnings through the traumas of two world wars to its modern work at home and abroad.

World War Two
In 1940 Leicester suffered its first major air-raid, which centred on the railway station and the area around, including Highfields and New Walk. Despite large numbers of hits the YMCA itself was left entirely unscathed. Dilys was in the services and was posted to Leicester in 1944 and billeted on London Road. There were few women in the services those days and she has fond memories of Leicester YMCA:

"There was a wonderful lady called Mrs Boshier who always helped you out, she worked in the tea bar. There were lots of American soldiers around and dances were held in the YMCA hall." Dilys Tester

One piece of special service found prominence in national newspapers. The problem was how could a serving soldier travel to his home in a neutral country? The reply took the form of a second-hand suit of clothes. The publicity brought further candidates with the result that two suits of clothes have made 12 journeys overseas, and that a number of men have had a happy leave with their folks at home.

Iris Watson (pictured) was the first woman to join the board of directors and has been involved with Leicester YMCA for over 40 years.

In 1965 Iris came to Leicester YMCA to see her daughter Shirley in a production with the YMCA Operatic Society and immediately wanted to get involved with performing and singing. Eventually she took on many roles on and off stage. "I really felt the warmth of the YMCA when I arrived"

In 1975 she was asked to join the board of whole organisation, which she found quite daunting to start with. Taking things in her stride she soon got to like them and 27 years later, in 2002, she became President.

The Modern Day
In 1883 president T Howard Lloyd vowed to "promote the welfare of young men in every possible way". Since then the YMCA has evolved into a diverse organisation that still strives to provide shelter, a place to meet, physical activity and learning for the community. Today it turns special attention to supporting homeless and vulnerable young people, while at the same providing sports, arts and education.

Neil Griffiths, Chair of Leicester YMCA said, "We would like to thank those people who have got in touch to tell us their stories and share their photographs. It has been interesting to look back to our history and to celebrate how that work made us the charity we are today."

Opening Times
This exhibition will be on display from 8 December to 9 January 2009 at the Record Office. Entrance is free. The exhibition is open on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday from 9.15am to 5pm; on Wednesday from 9.15am to 7.30pm; on Friday from 9.15 to 4.45pm and on Saturday from 9.15 until 12.15pm

The Record Office for Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland
Long Street, Wigston Magna, Leicester, LE18 2AH
Telephone: 0116 257 1080 Email: recordoffice@leics.gov.uk

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