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Ruth’s Story

My connection to No5 is not typical – I haven’t been a client, nor worked in a traditional voluntary role. I came across the work of No5 when I began studying counselling skills back in 2016. Fast forward to January 2019 and I discovered that the organisation was looking for a volunteer to research its history for the upcoming 50th anniversary. Being an archivist, the ad piqued my interest. Before I knew it, I was visiting the Oxford Road premises on my day off to delve into the archive boxes. This led me to investigate other records held elsewhere – council minutes, reports, newspapers and the like.

Sometimes, boxes or shelves of papers and photographs can seem on the surface uninteresting or meaningless to the present, but when you delve into records and piece them together, you can find hidden gems and powerful stories.
I discovered that No5 was featured in the 1972 BBC TV series ‘Working with Youth’; in 1977 its Director Ken Humphreys was involved in the birth of the British Association of Counselling; a Youth and Community committee report in 1988 praised No5 for ‘leading the field’; and by 1994 it had developed into ‘the country’s premier youth counselling service’. From the very start No5 has had an annual presence at Reading Rock Festival and in 2015 it was crowned Charity of the Year at the Pride of Reading Awards. It has also, for many years, been at the forefront of provision of training and CPD for its volunteer counsellors. This is just a tiny snapshot of the achievements of No5. We have uncovered a fascinating history that would be too long for a short blog post here.

Why does the history of No5 matter? From its very beginnings in 1971, the records reveal that No5 has been a pioneer in youth counselling. This is the thread – the story – of No5 that runs throughout its history.

Why did I choose to volunteer at No5? I have personal experience of the power of counselling, not as a young person, but as an adult, and I know that good therapy can be life-changing. My passion for therapy and archives allowed me to immerse myself in the story of No5 that has been a privilege for me to undertake.

Whilst we don’t have to stay rooted in the past, an understanding of it can help us gain insights and lead us into the future. This is true of both history and therapy. The history of No5 has ultimately shown me that with the right team of people, great things are possible and the difference it has made to many young people’s lives over the last 50 years is worth celebrating!