The Club and Institute Union (CIU)
Many working men’s, ex-service and social clubs in general have a sign by their doors saying ‘CIU Affiliated’.
In fact, there are around 1,900 clubs across the country affiliated to this over-arching institute of the club movement though there were many more at the peak of club popularity in the early 1970s.
The CIU sign is a familiar and friendly sight for club goers who like to visit other clubs apart from their own when they go on holiday or attend games nights at other clubs or who simply want to have a pint in a different place. The sign symbolises that the club is part of a Union with certain rules and standards of practice that go back to the 19th century. Club members with Associate and Pass Cards also know they can gain entry easily into other clubs in the Union: we should remember that as private members clubs, people can’t just walk in off the street as you could with a pub. The issue of entry into other clubs has been an issue for female club members who were denied this mobility in membership and were only granted this right in 2007! But readers might be wondering what the CIU is and what it does. Here are a few potted facts about this organisation which made possible the massive development of the club movement for working people all across Britain.
The full title is the Working Men’s Club and Institute Union though now it is usually referred to as the CIU. Club goers debated often heatedly the pros and cons of having Working Men’s part in the title- but that is another story to be told another time.
The ‘Union’ as it is often called was established in 1862 in London with the Reverend Henry Solly at its head and supported by members of the aristocracy and high ranking politicians. They saw the need for working men (women were considered only indirectly) to have a place to go for ‘sober social discourse’ after work, where they could meet friends, relax, perhaps play some games, read newspapers and books. There were already some such clubs in England but the establishment of the CIU was intended to assist many others to form.
The CIU was to assist in setting up clubs, offering advice and sometimes financial assistance as well as patronage. There would be rules and regulations which individual clubs could take on board and use as a model and also assistance with balancing the books. The clubs were to be private members clubs and needed rules of procedure and behaviour.
Clubs were to be an alternative place of leisure to the public house where many working men spent their free time and usually their wages. There were concerns about drunkenness and violence amongst the ‘lower orders’ but people like Solly, himself a teetotaller, believed that working men could better themselves if they had places to go in their precious few free hours apart from the pub.
Things quickly developed after 1862 and many clubs came into existence. The teetotal element didn’t last long as many working men wished to have a drink in their free hours. The element of patronage also didn’t stand the test of time with working men choosing to run their own clubs by themselves.
But the CIU was there as the over-riding organisation and clubs could choose to affiliate to it, for a small fee, thus bringing them into a wide and growing network of clubs across the country.
The CIU grew as well eventually moving head offices several times before settling in the current premises at Highbury Corner in London. There are still many things for the CIU staff and officials to do such as advising on how clubs should interpret and apply laws affecting clubs (a very big issue right now). There are still the games and sports competitions as well as educational courses that members can attend plus the Convalescent Home at Saltburn. The CIU take responsibility for all of these and are there to support clubs in good times and bad. The CIU also gives a voice to clubs and their members at a national level, representing their interests and views through its own membership of other bodies such as CORCA, (The Committee of Registered Clubs Associations) and through political action.
Another of its jobs is to publish the monthly Club and Institute Journal which is distributed to clubs across the network. In the Journal, we can find news about charity fund raising events in clubs, successes in the sports and games leagues as well as articles about legal issues that affect clubs and the educational courses.
The CIU has its own National Executive of elected representatives from the 29 branches and recently women have been allowed to stand for election to key positions. Traditionally, the National Executive has been all-male and it will probably take some time for women officers to enter the higher ranks of the CIU.
These are some of key points about the CIU but if you would like to know more, take a look at their website- www.wmciu.org.uk.
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