East Midlands Region Annual Report – 2012

Leicestershire & Rutland

(Cynthia Brown & Colin Hyde)


A series of interviews to mark ninety years of the British Legion in Leicestershire and Rutland has now come to an end. All the information gathered through the interviews will be kept at the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland (ROLLR) along with documentary material collected as part of the same project. There is more information at www.leics.gov.uk/britishlegion. Videos from the ‘Migration Stories’ project have been added to the EMOHA YouTube site and are also presented on a map of the East Midlands on the Migration Stories website at www.migrationstories.co.uk/. The ‘Village Voices’ project to record Leicestershire accents and dialects has been extended to cover more ground and add to the recordings already collected.

EMOHA held its annual Oral History Day in June 2012 on the theme of ‘Telling Stories’, attended by delegates from across the region. Speakers included Sally Horrocks from the University of Leicester, who is also Academic Advisor to the National Life Stories ‘Oral History of Science’ project, and Ruth Page from the University’s Department of English who spoke about narrative theory; Michelle Winslow on recording end-of-life stories in a palliative care environment in Sheffield; Helen Bates and volunteers from the ‘On the Flats’ project on Hyson Green in Nottingham (see Nottingham below for more details); Roger Kitchen on digital storytelling; and Pete Davis, a storyteller, who described his work with elderly people with dementia – as well as telling a story of his own!

Other work in Leicestershire and Rutland over the past year includes a one-year project by Mosaic, a Leicester-based organisation providing information and services to disabled people. It has been conducting interviews to document the lives of forty five people who were either born with a disability; have suffered a sudden trauma or stroke, or been wounded through war or accident; or who have acquired a disability through a progressive medical condition. At the end of the project the results will be shared through a DVD, magazine and travelling exhibition, aimed both at the general public and schoolchildren.

The three villages featured in Michael Wood’s Story of England BBC TV series were awarded Heritage Lottery funding for a ‘Heritage Legacy Project’ through which volunteers have produced material for a series of heritage trails, interpretation panels and school study packs. The project includes memories recorded in audio and video, and these will also be featured in a new online Kibworth Archive alongside photographs and historical documents. See www.leicestershirevillages.com/kibworthbeauchamp. De Montfort Hall, a major music and entertainment centre in Leicester, has been appealing for memories of concerts and other events at the Hall to help celebrate its centenary in 2013. The Hall was designed by the local architect Shirley Harrison for the Corporation of Leicester, and completed at a cost of around £21,000. As well as hosting recitals by many distinguished organists, De Montfort Hall has been a regular venue for classical music concerts, pantomime and popular music including the Beatles and Rolling Stones in the 1960s.

The Highfields Association of Residents and Tenants (HART) in Leicester has published a book based on memories of living or working in the South Highfields area of the city, which has attracted migrants from many different cultures over the years. It was supported by funding from Near Neighbours, a project administered through the Church Urban Fund to encourage people from different faiths to get to know each other better and establish initiatives to improve local neighbourhoods. A project celebrating thirty years of the Centre for Classical Indian Dance (CICD) in Leicester was also completed in June 2012 with the launch of an exhibition and book. Entitled ‘Karman’ – the Sanskrit word for ‘works’, ‘deeds’ or ‘actions’ � the project was funded by the HLF. Volunteers recorded over fifty interviews with past and present students, dance teachers, arts administrators and others who have been involved with CICD since its foundation by Nilima Devi. Hundreds of students have studied at CICD over the years, some up to the level of a six year Diploma Course in Kathak.

The young people’s performance group Nani Hathi, based in Blaby, Leicestershire was been awarded �23,300 to uncover the ‘forgotten’ stories of soldiers from the 4th Indian Division who fought at the Battle of Monte Cassino in Italy in 1944. The two year project will involve interviews with veterans who moved to Leicestershire after the war, or people in the Asian communities who have memories of fathers, uncles or other relatives who served there. Fifteen volunteers aged from fifteen to their early twenties are conducting the first interviews alongside research in archives at the Imperial War Museum, and it is hoped to involve a further forty volunteers over the course of the project. The Policy Research Centre at the Islamic Foundation at Markfield, Leicestershire is planning an oral history archive preserving the history of British Muslims. This aims to explore the process of settlement and experiences of the pioneering first generation who arrived in the UK from 1950-79. Volunteers have been recruited to make short films, conduct interviews in Arabic, Gujarati, Bangla, Urdu and Punjabi, edit video recordings, take photographs, and develop a website. The Policy Research Centre specialises in research, policy advice and training on issues related to British Muslims.


(Christina Raven-Conn)

Here at the Local Studies section of Nottingham Central Library we continue to support local projects, mainly with advice. We also continue to receive copies of oral history from local Nottingham and Nottinghamshire projects for archiving and copies for the library’s collection where possible.

As to current projects, the Hyson Green ‘On the Flats’ project has now been completed and a book produced and launched in April 2012. The launch was at Nottingham City’s Hyson Green Library on Gregory Boulevard, close to where the ‘Flats’ were located.

The Children of the Croft project has been successful with its bid to the HLF and has now started. This is the history of the Family First at The Croft, Nottingham from 1966 to 1975, managed by Now Heritage. Now Heritage is a Community Interest company formed to carry out oral history projects by Barbara Reed, based in Nottingham and her daughter Emma Golby Kirk, who lives in Bristol and has previous experience in media and oral history work. The Croft, Nottingham, a large house in Alexandra Park could house eight women and their small children at any one time. The project aims to interview the early members of staff of the Family First at the Croft. They have asked to deposit the results of the project, particularly oral history recordings with the Local Studies library. A group of their volunteers have had a short tour of the Local Studies library and commenced with their research there.
A group of Fine Arts students are currently working on a project about the Old Market Square, hopefully to create an audio guide, which includes oral history recordings from the present and the past. But this is still in its infancy so exact ‘angle’ not yet finalised. It sounds as though it could be really interesting.

Another project beginning in August this year, is to record the thoughts and memories of residents of the Lenton flats which are due for demolition shortly. The Dunkirk and Lenton partnership are carrying out this project.

East England Region Annual Report – 2013


Jonathan Draper

The Norfolk Record Office continues to support oral history projects in the county, by running basic training, lending equipment and acting as a place of deposit for recorded oral history interviews.

The projects which have been supported by the NRO reflect a diverse range of subjects and locations. They include St Seraphim Chapel in Little Walsingham who are collecting interview’s relating to Chapel’s life as a railway station and a centre for icon painting. Two other projects reflect the county’s maritime heritage. The Wherry Yacht Charter Charitable Trust and the Rescue Wooden Boats project were both seeking to interview those associated with building, maintaining and using different types of boats. The NRO has also supported young people from Norwich to produce a documentary regarding Norfolk’s Islamic community. Several Norfolk villages and towns have sought help with oral history projects. These include Shotesham, Aylsham, Thetford, Taverham and Hickling.

The NRO has also received several hundred recorded interviews. Again, the interviews relate to a wide range of subjects and Norfolk places. Subjects reflected in the interviews include the Agricultural Workers Union, Norwich’s Baedecker raids during the Second World War, archaeology and Norfolk’s black and minority ethnic communities. The NRO has also received several interviews of former players of Norwich City Football Club as well as non-playing staff and supporters.

The NRO has also received over a hundred interviews from the Norwich Living History group, which has decided to finish its activities. This organization has collected many life interviews of current and former inhabitants of Norwich. Another organization which operates in Norfolk, which has received support from the NRO, is the Wise Archive. This Norfolk based organization records and preserves the working life stories of people in the United Kingdom in order to recognise and value the contribution they have made to society.

The NRO has also contributed to a project entitled ‘Eighth in the East’ which has just received a grant from the HLF. The project aims to explore the impact of the United States Army Air Force’s Eighth Army in East Anglia during the Second World War through oral history, community archaeology, drama and local exhibitions.


Juliana Vandegrift

As a freelance oral historian I’ve been working as a project manager since October 2012 with Legasee Educational Trust for their 65th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift project. This has been successfully completed this October and I’m delighted to say we have recorded fifty interviews with British veterans of the airlift. The interviews are uploaded on the archive page of the Legasee website: http://www.legasee.org.uk/the-archive/ Bungay High School was involved in filming some of the interviews with days organised at Duxford Museum and the Norfolk & Suffolk Aviation Museum. A celebratory event was held at NSAM for over eighty veterans and their families with a pop-up exhibition. This has been a wonderful project to work on and I’ve made some new friends with the veterans and their families! Some of their families weren’t even aware of their parent’s role in the airlift until we began this project and several veterans have passed away since we filmed them which makes their stories even more precious for their families and the archive.

My current project I’ve just begun working on this week is with Colchester and Ipswich Museum Service who are delivering a major Heritage Lottery funded redevelopment of Colchester Castle. One element of this redevelopment is to film ten oral history interviews with a range of individuals from the Colchester Garrison community, past and present. The museum will incorporate these into an interactive display which will enhance the displays in Colchester Castle which is re-opening in Spring 2014.

In the last year I’ve received general enquiries from fewer local history groups and museums seeking advice and guidance on which recording equipment is best for their purpose and which oral history elements to include in a bid for Heritage Lottery Funding.
However I have received requests to train oral history volunteers from local history societies and museums who have already been successful in their funding bid with Heritage Lottery. Examples of projects I’ve personally been involved with are:
Pascal Theatre: At the end of last year I was asked by Pascal Theatre to train a group of volunteers to record interviews with families of those connected to Trent Park in the Second World War, known as the secret listeners. (Background: Between 1942 and 1945 German Generals were imprisoned at Trent Park. British Military Intelligence spied on them to try and learn military secrets. Until now this has been kept top secret, www.secretlisteners.com)

Little Waldingfield History Society was granted funding by Heritage Lottery to record memories of their village. In January I was asked to train their group of volunteers in an introduction to oral history interviewing and recording skills.
Ely Wildspace: A group of local campaigners for the protection of rural Ely secured funding for their wider project which includes an oral history project collecting memories of how the common was used within living memory and the changes to wildlife and landscape. The group asked me to hold a training workshop in June for a group of volunteers who are gathering the memories of local villagers.
Mildenhall Museum in Suffolk is managed by volunteers and they asked me to recorded some memories about one of their early founders and the archaeological finds in their area such as the Iceni coin hoard and the burial graves at RAF Lakenheath.
Cambridge University Press – is continuing with some new interviews and I’ve been editing the existing interviews from 2011 for their corporate archive.


Martin Astell

In November 2012 the University of Essex hosted two events as part of the Economic and Social Research Council’s annual Festival of Social Science. Both events offered opportunities for members of the public to share memories. One event – at which a number of interviews were recorded by Professor Paul Thompson – gathered information relating to the impact of the Marconi factory in Chelmsford. The other commemorated the 60th anniversary of the East Coast Flood of 1953.
November also saw the publication of The 1953 Essex Flood Disaster: The People’s Story, a book by local author Patricia Rennoldson Smith which was largely drawn from interviews with survivors of the floods.
Continuing with the sea theme, a number of interviews were recorded with wives of fishermen from Leigh on Sea. Extracts from the interviews were made available via a blog called “The Seagull That Lived in the Shower” [http://sdoralhistory.blogspot.co.uk/] which was created in March 2013 to mark International Women’s Day.

A number of projects in Essex have benefitted from grants awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. January 2013 saw the launch in Grays of the British South Asian Theatre Memories project. The Silver End Heritage Society has received funding for a project to record the experiences of those living, working and growing up in the village of Silver End which was designed to house workers at the Crittall windows factory. Essex County Fire and Rescue Service has been recruiting volunteers to assist with a project to record interviews with former fire-fighters as well as a number of people who have been affected by major fire incidents in the county.

A touring exhibition on the History of Jazz in Essex has been opened. This is the result of a project run by Essex on Tour, which is part of Essex County Council, in which nearly 50 interviews have been recorded with musicians, promoters and venue holders. The project began with sadness and a feeling of a missed opportunity as the first interviewee was to have been Kenny Ball who, unfortunately, died only a month before the project was ready to begin recording interviews.

The Essex Sound and Video Archive at the Essex Record Office has received £53,700 in development funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund for the You Are Hear: sound and a sense of place project. The project will aim to digitise and catalogue recordings held in the archive, focussing on collections of oral history interviews. This wealth of digitised recordings will then be presented in different ways, enabling Essex residents in particular to learn about, interact with and enjoy the recordings, helping them to use the sounds of Essex people and places over the last 100 years to develop or enhance their sense of place.

Report uploaded by: Juliana Vandegrift

East England Region Annual Report – 2012


(Carmela Semeraro)

This year will go into history as the year when Bedford Museum building work came to an end; the builders have finally left! We have a new name: The Higgins Art Gallery & Museum, Bedford. The fitters are in now and then it will be our turn to move in and start to put up the displays in our fantastic new galleries…

Oral history will feature in a number of ways:

  • Lace maker gallery: the 100s year-old local rural cottage industry which lasted up to the 20th century.
  • Brickwork industry: the biggest in the world! From Changing Landscapes Changing Life Oral History Project at the Forest of Marston Vale
  • Other Oral History recording from the local great industrial past
  • New Communities: this from the latest recording I have done with the younger new migrants from former Soviet Union states.

Possible new Oral History projects from local groups that I am helping and supporting in delivering:

  • The retired Nurses from Caribbean islands (awaiting funding); this could lead into a community Exhibition at The Higgins.
  • Project by Save Your Rights: Tying the Knots – Past and Present, funding pending.

One of the exhibitions will be the “Peoples Gallery” which will reflect on the multicultural aspect of Bedford from the 1940s and ’50s based on local Oral History recordings.


(Jonathan Draper)

Enthusiasm for oral history interviewing in Norfolk continues. Advice on all aspects of oral history interviewing has been given to a variety of groups and individuals.
Following some basic training at the Norfolk Record Office, students at the University of East Anglia have begun a project to interview people with a connection with the University in preparation of its 50th anniversary in 2013. A project to interview those involved in the management of fenland around the Little Ouse on the Norfolk’s border with Suffolk is nearing completion. Dragon Hall’s King Street Community Voices project has now come to an end. The resulting interviews reflect this road’s importance as once being the location of several industries, including brewing, shoe making and milling. Support has also been given to Wymondham College in its efforts to create a heritage trail around its campus, which will be based on oral history interviews. The College has identified interviewees who remember the College’s role as a military hospital for the United States Army Air Force during the Second World War. Basic training has also been given to volunteers at Swaffham Museum and the Aylsham Heritage Centre.
Support has been given to a group of young people who are making a documentary on Norfolk’s Islamic community. During the early 1970s, a community of converts to Islam moved to Wood Dalling Hall in Norfolk before settling in Norwich.
Some interviewing has taken place as part of SeaChange Arts’ Bread and Circus project which relates to the history of the circus in Great Yarmouth. Advice has also been given to the Wherry Yacht Charter Charitable Trust, who hope to interview people who remember wherrys being used for commercial purposes. Advice has also been given to an organization whose aim is to conserve wooden lifeboats. As part of this work, they are interviewing those who constructed, repaired and used these boats.
The Norfolk Sound Archive has received several collections of oral history interviews during the last year. These include extensive life history recordings of people from Great Yarmouth and Wymondham as well as several rural locations throughout Norfolk. The Norfolk Sound Archive also received a series of interview relating to Norwich’s nightlife in the 1960s; Great Yarmouth and the North Sea oil and gas industries; council housing in rural Norfolk; land management in the Little Ouse headwaters area on the Norfolk and Suffolk border; and or archaeologists working in Norfolk. The Norfolk Sound Archive has received a large amount of interviews carried out by the Norfolk based Wise Archive who interview people about their working lives. Furthermore, the Norfolk Sound Archive has received large collections of oral history interviews relating to Norwich which were carried out by Norwich Living History group and the HLF funded King Street Community Voices project.


(Juliana Vandegrift)

Palace Voices is an oral history and interpretation project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the National Horseracing Museum in Newmarket. Volunteers at the NHRM recorded living memories of people who have direct associations with the local racing industry and in particular with the historic Palace House Stables and former training yard. So far 16 people have been recorded, including former stable lads.Legasee Educational Trust has received funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund for The British Berlin Airlift Project which is based in East Anglia. Led by veterans of the airlift and working with young people, the project will focus on capturing the stories of 50 veterans of the airlift on film, culminating in an exhibition celebrating the 65th anniversary of the airlift, which will open to the public in August 2013.From time to time I receive enquiries for advice on setting up an oral history project and the budget required. However, these enquiries are most often nationally based and not from Suffolk and I’ve never received feedback if their funding applications were successful.


(Martin Astell)

Colchester and Ipswich Museums Service and Epping Forest District Museum are working together on a project to record interviews with members of the Chinese communities in their respective areas. A touring exhibition of artefacts called China in the East will be used to prompt memories and stories from different generations of the Chinese communities. The recordings will be preserved at Colchester Castle Museum, Epping Forest District Museum and the Essex Record Office.
Essex County Council Arts Development and Heritage Teams have been working to deliver Team Hadleigh, an ambitious Heritage Lottery Fund project. The project was inspired by Hadleigh being chosen as the venue for the 2012 Olympic Games Mountain Biking event. It sought to engage a wide range of communities with their local heritage through several interlinked activities, and to provide resources relating to the history of Hadleigh for the many people visiting the area for the first time as a result of the Olympics. The results included a mobile web app and audio guide featuring local people speaking about the area and their memories of Hadleigh, and an interactive video booth at the Mountain Biking venue which allowed visitors to capture their experience of the event. The audio and video content created by this project will be deposited in the Essex Sound and Video Archive.
An oral history group has been established in the village of Littlebury with support and guidance from the Essex Record Office Archive Access Point in Saffron Walden. This is one of a number of active local groups in the north west of Essex.
The Essex Sound and Video Archive has received a collection of 42 cassettes of interviews with residents of the village of Castle Hedingham. The interviewer sought advice from me only at the stage of depositing the recordings, but was able to go back to the interviewees to discuss with them the future of the recordings and to ask them to sign copyright release forms. The Archive itself has been able to arrange the recording of two interviews: one with a lady who worked for Naval Control on Southend Pier during the Second World War; and one with a major figure in the development of Ju Jitsu in the UK.Report uploaded by: Juliana Vandegrift

East England Region Annual Report – 2011


Carmela Semeraro

A big hurrah! After nearly 100 years, Bedfordshire & Luton Archive Service have accepted the first complete digital Sound collection of oral history recordings, from the “Sands of Time” project about Leighton Buzzard’s Sand industry, with associated digital photographs, transcripts, summaries and related historical documents which I collected for the Greensand Trust, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. This makes me very happy because finally all the “Sands of Time” material will be available world-wide on the net at: www.bedford.gov.uk/archive

My part-time work at Cecil Higgins Art Gallery & Bedford Museum as Community Historian for the Audience Development Project, funded by HLF, is taking me in all sorts of different directions to establish partnerships, including some hard-to- reach groups to promote inclusion through Oral History. Here are just some examples:

  • Contributed with Bedford Central Library & Team of Volunteers to the “High Street” BBC project. Sound extract from interviews on Blog on: www.bedfordmuseum.org
  • Kempston History Society, charting the development of an ancient, Saxon settlement. Interviews with members about their research will be collected and archived at the Museum.
  • Bedford Retirement Education Centre’s collection of life stories from participants of the ‘writing biography’ course.
  • Sheltered Homes snapshots of memories from people on the edge of dementia to be published with their photographs.
  • Bedfordshire Carers organising Art & Photography classes culminating in an end of term exhibition of work from Family Carers, who also participate with their life story to our collection of archived digital interviews.
  • Bedford African and Caribbean group: BACF Commonwealth Connection Project enabling young people to learn about their origins and to take an active part in community life by doing oral history interviews to be deposited with Bedford Museum.

My role is to support and train diverse groups to do interviews enabling us to add to the archive collection of oral history interviews, covering multiple aspects of the social history of the Bedford and its surrounding villages from agriculture to the industrial past to present present-day work. Some of the material will be used in future exhibitions for the opening of the refurbished Cecil Higgins Art Gallery & Bedford Museum. An exhibition in the “Peoples Gallery” will reflect on the multicultural profile of Bedford Borough.


Jonathan Draper

The Norfolk Sound Archive, which forms part of the Norfolk Record Office, has continued to work with several groups and individuals who are carrying out oral history project work throughout the county. A lot of the support relates to equipment, permission forms and basic interviewing technique. Many of these partnerships have led to the deposit of recordings with the Norfolk Sound Archive.

A colleague within the Norfolk Record Office has begun interviewing members of the Jarrold family to compliment a project to catalogue the records of Jarrold and Sons Ltd, printers, publishers and retailers of Norwich. I have continued to advise True’s Yard Museum in King’s Lynn on oral history matters. We have helped Gressenhall Workhouse and Farm Museum with a new permanent exhibition on the Land Army and Timber Corps which is based on oral history recordings. We have given basic advice to a team of students at the University of East Anglia who are interviewing people regarding care of the elderly in Norfolk. Other groups which I have helped include the Dragon Hall King Street Community Voices project, which is based in Norwich; West Somerton History Group; a local history group in Happisburgh supported by Norfolk Landscape Archaeology’s Coastal Heritage Project; the Barton Turf, Irstead and Neatishead oral history group; and representatives from the Little Ouse Headwaters project.

On-going work which the Norfolk Sound Archive supports includes the work of Norwich Living History group, the Wise Archive and the Great Yarmouth Voices Project.


Juliana Vandegrift

Similarly to other posts in this report, I too have had several enquiries during the past year on how to put a funding proposal together for HLF oral history projects – or sections of a HLF project requiring an oral history element – for projects involving schools and volunteers in the community. Of half a dozen enquiries I’ve had one group respond with feedback of successful funding.
During the past twelve months there have been a several requests to deliver training courses on how to do oral history which have been spread across Norfolk and Suffolk.
One of the new Continuing Professional Development Workshops for oral historians was delivered in July at the University Campus Suffolk (UCS) and there was a keen interest to hold another one in the Spring.
And for my own personal projects I’ve delivered nearly 40 interviews for Cambridge University Press with former employees of the last fifty years of so. The recordings are for their own archive and corporate museum which is launched this autumn. It’s hoped that a second phase will go ahead next year after April, depending on budget approval.


Martin Astell

This year has seen sterling work carried out by Colchester Recalled volunteers in digitising their many cassette tapes. It is expected that all of the recordings – well over 2,000 of them – will be digitised by the early part of 2012. In addition, they are hoping to complete the task of creating word processed summaries for all of the tapes in the summer of 2012.
Thanks to a grant of £48,700 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Essex Record Office and Essex County Council Libraries have been able to support volunteer groups in Wickford, Hadleigh and Thundersley, Billericay, Benfleet, Laindon and Rochford District as they set up ‘Community Archives’.  After many months of hard work, each of the six groups now has an attractive and fully functioning website.  The websites have had visits from people across the world, some of whom grew up in south Essex but have since moved on. Part of the project involved members from each of the groups receiving training in oral history techniques and procedures. As you would expect with groups of volunteers, some have taken to it more than others. Members from the Hadleigh and Thundersley group have used what they learnt to contribute a number of interviews to the MLA’s People’s Record project. These recorded local people’s views on the London 2012 Olympics mountain biking event which is to take place in Hadleigh.
The Essex Media Workshop has completed an HLF- funded project to gather testimony relating to the Home Guard and Civil Defence during the Second World War. The project has resulted in a DVD entitled Defence of the Home Front. This is a follow-up to their previous project which produced a DVD called Those Blessed Girls featuring former members of the Women’s Land Army.
Another impressive DVD – Colne Maritime – has been produced by the Colne Oral History Group. It uses a combination of oral history interviews on video, archive photographs and specially filmed video sequences to tell the stories of boat building, fishing and yachting in Brightlingsea and Rowhedge in the River Colne estuary. In addition to the main feature, it includes additional extended sections and a separate short film on the almost forgotten art of Punt Gunning. The DVD is an Ariège Arts Production for the Colne Oral History Group Project.
The Essex Sound and Video Archive has received oral history recordings from Elsenham Village History Society and a project led by the sound artist Damien Robinson at Southend High School for Girls. We are also providing assistance to the Silver End Heritage Society which is in the early stages of planning a project to record residents of the art deco model village built by the businessman Francis Crittall

Report uploaded by: Juliana Vandegrift