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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 February, 2005, 14:17 GMT
Brownies 'registered at birth'
By Clare Purdy
BBC News, Manchester

The Brownies uniform includes hooded tops and boot-cut trousers
Girl Guides and Brownies are enjoying a resurgence which is forcing parents to put their daughters' names down on waiting lists at birth, the group says.

Girlguiding UK says that 50,000 names are currently on the list to join up for the Rainbows, at the age of five.

The surge in popularity, coupled with a shortage of adult leaders has led to a battle for places in some packs.

In Rossendale, Lancashire, some girls have been on waiting lists for four or more years to join up.

The movement has shaken off its stuffy image, and puts its new popularity down to "keeping contemporary" and testing out its new ideas on its young members.

The brown dress has long since been shelved in favour of a uniform which includes polo shirts, boot-cut trousers and hooded tops.

Some people think we are all still ironing and making cups of tea
Girl Guiding UK

In addition to the 50,000 girls in the UK on an early list to join up at five, a further 20,000 four-year-olds are waiting to start as Rainbows.

They then have the chance to become Brownies at seven, and move on to the Guides at the age of ten.

Carole Wensley has been involved with guiding for 50 years and is the district commissioner in Rossendale, where there are 41 Girlguiding units.

She says: "We have girls who become Rainbows and then when it's time for then to move on to Brownies, there's no room.

"We have had instances of babies being put on the waiting list, but the average time girls wait is a few years.

More than 50% of the UK female population has been involved in Guiding
About 30% of eight-year-old girls are Brownies
Activities are diverse as party planning, abseiling and circus skills
Former celebrity members include Cat Deeley, Mo Mowlam, Zoe Ball, Carole Vorderman and Kate Moss
The Girl Guides formed in 1910 after they had 'turned up' at the first Boy Scout Rally at Crystal Palace in 1909.

"Parents don't realise, so they ring up and are surprised when you tell them there is a waiting list."

In inner-city areas, especially London, adult leaders are quite difficult to recruit, as working and commuting means people have less time for volunteer work.

Nicole-Louise Hambridge, PR executive for Girl Guiding UK, said: "I think some people think we are all still ironing and making cups of tea, which makes it harder to get volunteers.

"I think guiding is so popular now because what we deliver is what the girls want. We do a lot of team and outdoor activities and arts and crafts.

"The Rainbows, Brownies and Guides tell their friends at school, and then they want to join.

"We have heard about people registering their babies on the waiting lists, and at first we thought it was just rumour, but it is happening."


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