East of England 2016


Essex (Martin Astell)

The Essex Record Office Sound and Video Archive project, You Are Hear: sound and a sense of place is now in its second year.  A large number of archived oral history recordings have been digitised and made available through the Essex Archives Online catalogue. Listening benches have been installed in Colchester, Saffron Walden, Great Dunmow, Great Waltham, Kelvedon, Castle Hedingham, and Harwich. More listening benches and audio-visual kiosks have been touring the county, visiting places intended to reach people who would not necessarily think of visiting an archive. So far they have spent time at Stansted Airport, Hatfield Forest and a number of country parks. A further 11 listening benches will be installed in towns and villages across Essex in the next year.  As part of the You Are Hear project, the Essex Record Office has also launched a new website – www.essexsounds.org.uk – which allows users to hear recordings linked to specific locations in Essex and also to compare historic and newly-created recordings from the same places.

The above project is primarily funded by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. There are a number of other oral history projects being carried out in Essex with funding from the HLF. Colchester and Tendring Women’s Refuge have begun a project exploring the turbulent early days of the women’s refuge movement. This project – called You Can’t Beat a Woman – should help to bring to light a valuable ‘untold story’ of the practical, political and personal difficulties involved in building from scratch a movement and institutions which we now take for granted.

The Essex Cultural Diversity Project are collecting stories from members of a range of minority ethnic communities who have used Thurrock as the starting point for their experiences in this country. Their project is called By Thames to all Peoples of the World: Thurrock Routes 1930-2004.

The Southend Association of Voluntary Services, in their project called Volunteering-on-Sea, are using an HLF Young Roots grant to help a group of young people to learn about the work of a number of charities based along the Southend seafront by interviewing volunteers who work for them. And the Mercury Theatre in Colchester has recently been awarded a grant for a two-year archive project which includes an oral history element. They will be working with the Colchester Recalled Oral History Group to gather interviews with people who have played a significant role (but not necessarily on stage) in the history of the theatre, but also people for whom the theatre has played a significant role in their lives.

The Maldon Society has received a grant from the Essex Heritage Trust to carry out interviews relating to the history of Maldon.

Video interviews with members of the Nepali community recorded as part of the Beyond the Gurkhas project organised by the Foundation for Indian Performing Arts (FIPA) have been deposited at the Essex Record Office. Other collections we have received over the last few months include interviews made by the Harwich Society; interviews with residents of the village of Clavering; over 60 interviews recorded as research for a Ph.D. into the effects of evacuation in the Second World War; and interviews with folk musicians and others about their experiences of the ‘folk movement’ in the 1960s.

Suffolk (Juliana Vandegrift)

This year sees the culmination of the three year HLF project ‘Eighth in the East’, a heritage project recording the story of the 8th United States Army Air Force in the East of England. Archive material was gathered and oral history recordings were made by volunteers. Further information can be found at http://www.8theast.org/oral-history/

In terms of enquiries received from members of the public, I’ve had less than half a dozen.  Most of these were seeking advice for oral history projects outside of Suffolk.  The lack of enquiries from people in Suffolk embarking on oral history projects prompted me to do a little investigative work on the Heritage Lottery Fund website.  I discovered that since November 2015 the Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded grants in the East of England involving oral history recording to at least half a dozen groups ranging from Suffolk Wildlife Trust to the Bottolph Green Living History and Listening Project.  However none of the groups has contacted me personally for advice so it’s hard to know where they got their advice from to write their bids. I noticed on the published minutes of grants awarded that several oral history bids for funding were rejected by the HLF East of England committee and I’m not in a position to comment on the standard of the applications as I was not asked for input or aware of their submission until the ‘rejected’ notice appeared.  Having reflected about this, I think I need to request a meeting with the HLF East of England team to find out why the applications failed to get grants and how we can better publicise the Oral History Society’s advice and regional network which is available to assist groups and organisations submitting their bids.  

Suffolk has less than a dozen paid up members in the Oral History Society, including institutions and I’d like to hold a one day event to promote oral history and our services to wider groups and also invite members.  This is on my ‘to do’ list for 2017.  

South Yorkshire 2016


South Yorkshire hosted the 2016 Regional Network meeting at the Showroom Workstation, Sheffield, on the theme of ‘Oral History and Museums’. The morning session, for professional development, will be led by networkers Martin Bisiker (London), John Tanner (South Yorkshire), Cynthia Brown (East Midlands) and Padmini Broomfield (South East). The afternoon session is open to local members and speakers include Elizabeth Carnegie, University of Sheffield, and Tracy Craggs, Freelance Oral Historian and Yorkshire networker.

Our project news includes Barnsley Museums award of £51,500 from the Heritage Lottery Fund for a ‘Joy of Sound and Vision’ project. Paul Stebbing, Archives and Local Studies Officer, reports that this will include conversion and making available of all sound and film collections held in the museum as well as the creation of new material. A highlight is the large series of oral history interviews undertaken by local oral historian Brian Elliott over a 30 year period. Covering themes such as sport, politics, industry and leisure, the interviews will significantly add to understandings of the development of South Yorkshire. http://www.experience-barnsley.com/archives-and-discovery-centre

Gary Rivett has sent news from the University of Sheffield about ‘Stories of Activism in Sheffield, 1960-present’. The city’s rich history of civic and social activism is diverse, with a near countless number of campaigns and community groups. The project, a collaboration between activists and the Department of History at the university, collects and archives the oral histories that have made up these experiences. The next collaboration will be with Sheffield Women Against Pit Closures, focusing on the pit camp at Houghton Main, a colliery near Barnsley, in 1993.’ http://storiesofactivism.group.shef.ac.uk/about-the-project/

Also at the University of Sheffield, Mariam Khokhar is carrying out oral history interviews with Pakistani women in Leicester and has additionally begun doctoral study on personal experiences of head and neck cancer in Pakistan.

A joint project between the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, funded by Sheffield Hospitals Charity, has been piloting oral history and life story methods with people with dementia. The project has conducted several interviews and is concentrating on understanding how best to work with interviewees to develop an ethically robust project. A partner project working with people in palliative care has had another successful year but is currently facing an uncertain future due to funding issues. Please contact Michelle Winslow for more information: m.winslow@sheffield.ac.uk

The Heritage Lottery funded  ‘Ecclesfield Civil Parish Past and Present Archiving Project’ is progressing well. Christine Handley writes that volunteers have completed six interviews so far and have more to conduct in autumn. Group interviews have been found to work well in gaining a sense of how the local area has changed, ascertaining locations of old shops, pubs, farms, chapels etc. who owned them, cost of goods and anecdotes about living there. During this work lessons have been learnt about interviewing, interview content, recording and transcribing that have provided a solid foundation for the project. A booklet is planned as an output. http://www.archiveproject.ecclesfield-pc.gov.uk/

Michelle Winslow, Sam Smith. Regional Networker Representatives

New Sheffield Blitz Exhibition

A brand new permanent Sheffield Blitz exhibition opens from 18 Feb 2017 at the National Emergency Services Museum in Sheffield featuring artefacts, stories, oral history recordings along with a wealth of images from the collections at Sheffield Libraries and Picture Sheffield.

Venue address: National Emergency Services Museum, Old Police/Fire Station, West Bar, Sheffield, S3 8PT

Please click here to find out more.

South Asian heritage to be celebrated in Birmingham


A project to celebrate the role of South Asian culture in Birmingham’s history and identity has been awarded an HLF grant of £91,700.

The Library of Birmingham, in partnership with the British Library, will present a major exhibition and public programme of events and workshops throughout 2017. The Documenting Histories project coincides with the city’s wider celebration, Utsav, Year of South Asian Culture, marking the UK’s longstanding cultural ties with the Indian subcontinent.

Find out more about this exciting project here.

Spooks Spies and Videotape


Project summary

In recognition of the 70th anniversary of the disbanding of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) in January 2016, Legasee in partnership with oral historian Martyn Cox, and with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund, have captured 70 remarkable interviews with men and women who played vital roles in the clandestine operations of WWII.

The interviews, previously recorded on tape, have all been archived and are now freely available to view online in our dedicated Secret war video archive. Additionally, every interview  has been deposited at the internationally recognised ‘Archive of Resistance Testimonies’ at the University of Sussex for further study.

During the Second World War, London played a central role to much of the organisation of all clandestine operations. As part of the project, we have created a mobile phone App.  It  features both video and audio recordings of people who served in the buildings along with facts, photos and documents from the National Archives.  Featuring geo-location it enables the public to learn about the “secret war” history of some of the buildings and streets of our capital city.
This App is a free download on both Android and Apple phones. Click here to access:  http://apple.co/2dGhGPA

Reflections on the project
A great project with a lot of good press coverage. Met and interviewed some fascinating veterans from a fascinating chapter of British military history. My only regret is that I didn’t start the search ten years ago.

All the interviews can be viewed at:  http://www.legasee.org.uk/oursecretwar/the-archive/

For more information about the project please contact Martin Bisiker: martin@legasee.org.uk



Have you made an OHS training booking recently and not received a response?


We apologise if this has happened to you, we’ve had a glitch in the online system and may have missed some bookings.

Please contact me if you’ve experienced a problem or not received a booking confirmation email within five working days. Or if you’ve had any other issues using the OHS website: Michelle Winslow, Oral History Society Website Coordinator: m.winslow@sheffield.ac.uk


Call for papers. Tell Me More: Sharing our Stories. New Zealand, 22-23 October 2016

National Oral History Association of New Zealand

22-23 October 2016
Commodore Airport Hotel

It is 30 years since a group of committed historians formed the National Oral History Association of New Zealand. We think it’s an appropriate time to look back on our history, honour our founders and consider our future. By meeting in Christchurch, we’re also acknowledging the experiences of those affected by the earthquakes of 2011 and 2012, which have been recorded in a number of oral histories – including one by our keynote speaker and founder, Hugo Manson, for the Alexander Turnbull Library.  Let’s consider how such life histories connect us to a wider network of whanau, friends and colleagues here and across the Tasman, and internationally.

We welcome papers that explore the idea of sharing, and shared, oral histories. We are interested in the many ways such stories are garnered and disseminated – all the way from the process of selection through to the archiving and future-proofing of the lives we record. We want to address issues of access and reuse. And we need to consider the ways in which rapidly-changing technology affects our work.

NOHANZ invites members, friends, and colleagues to the 2016 Oral History conference in Christchurch, timed to coincide with the city’s Heritage Week. Those interested in presenting at the conference are invited to submit abstracts for consideration by the Conference Committee.

We invite proposals for papers addressing any aspect of the above themes.
Proposals should include:
• Title
• Duration (20 minute full paper, or 5 minute project summary)
• Name of author/s, postal and email addresses and phone numbers
• Institution (if relevant)
• Abstract of 200 – 250 words on the proposed presentation
• Brief author biography (no more than 100 words per author)

Please send your proposal to NOHANZ 2016 Conference Committee either at nohanzconf2016@gmail.com OR post to PO Box 3819, Wellington.

Closing date for proposals: Friday 8 April, 2016.

Successful presenters will be notified by Friday 20 May, 2016.


Shanghati Oral History Project (London)


The project aims to help reveal the rich heritage of poetry in East London during 1960-80, primarily by Bengalis, through oral history and collecting community poems. You can get involved by becoming an oral history volunteer or publicity and events volunteer.

Training will be delivered by the Oral History Society and Bancroft Archives.

How to apply:

To Faridha Karim by email: faridha.karim@shanghatioralhistory.com

Or phone: 07427 832 361 


Now online – National Directory of UK Sound Collections

The National Directory of UK Sound Collections and the accompanying Report on the National Audit of UK Sound Collections have now been published online at http://www.bl.uk/projects/uk-sound-directory

Over a period of 20 weeks (from January to May 2015), this survey collected information on 3,015 collections, from 488 collection holders, containing 1.9 million items.

The resulting Directory of UK Sound Collections is now available to download (661pp) and contains details of all collections whose holders agreed to share information on their holdings.

A Report on the National Audit of UK Sound Collections describing the approach and methodology used, and analysing the results of the information gathered is now available to download.

IHR/OHS seminar. Approaching gendered reading through two archives. Amy Tooth Murphy, Shelley Trower

The first oral history research seminar of this academic year will take place this Thursday, November 5.

Shelley Trower and Amy Tooth Murphy of the University of Roehampton will be leading the seminar titled, “She used to get lost in a book”: approaching gendered reading through two archives (Memories of Fiction and 100 Families).

The seminar starts at 6pm in the John S Cohen Room (203) at the Institute of Historical Research, Senate House, Malet St, London WC1E 7HU.

Seminars are free and open to all and afterwards there is opportunity for discussion over a glass of wine.

Click here for more information.

Oral history project sheds new light on the story of the Commonwealth

A new oral history project questions the role of the Commonwealth, asking if it is an obsolete relic and whether it has ever served a useful purpose.
The Commonwealth Oral History Project is the result a three-year programme of research, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). It was conducted by  scholars at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, part of the University of London’s School of Advanced Study (SAS), with Dr Sue Onslow acting as lead researcher and interviewer.
Since the project launched in 2013, Dr Onslow has talked to  65 leading players involved in the Commonwealth from 1965 to the present. They include the Commonwealth Secretaries General Sir ‘Sonny’ Ramphal, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, and Sir Don McKinnon; former prime ministers from across the Commonwealth; and two former British foreign secretaries, Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Lord (Douglas) Hurd.
The interviews give an overview of  the changing nature of the organisation over the last 50 years. The interviewees are often frank about the Commonwealth’s problems, but also give surprisingly positive insights, as well as candid assessments of its likely survival and future. These Commonwealth Oral Histories are freely available on a dedicated website hosted by SAS. The interviews:
●     Throw new light on the Commonwealth’s attempts to end apartheid in South Africa
●     Give behind-the-scenes accounts of relations with Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe
●     Demonstrate  conflicting assessments of Margaret Thatcher’s policy towards South Africa
●     Provide rare insights into the Queen’s ‘hands-on’ role as Head of the Commonwealth
●     Investigate the extent to which the Commonwealth was an important policy incubator in cancelling the debt of the world’s least developed countries
●     Provide new details about challenging events for the Commonwealth such as Idi Amin’s brutal rule in Uganda, the invasion of Grenada in 1983 and the coups in Fiji in 1987, and 2000
●     Chart the troubled history of efforts to reform the Commonwealth
To find out more and listen to the interviews go to: www.commonwealthoralhistories.org/