There seem to be lots of oral history projects going on in the West Midlands at the moment, but as a networker, I only seem to find out about a fraction of them. I concentrate on Worcestershire and the Black Country, with Helen Lloyd focussing on Birmingham and other parts of the West Midlands.
I have been directly involved in a variety of projects this year, some of which are listed below:
Black Country Stories – Multistory, West Bromwich
This is a four year project (now in Year 3) to document the working and personal lives of ordinary Black Country people through photographs, films and oral history interviews. The project was created by Multistory based in West Bromwich. This year the focus has been on Dudley. I have been recording oral history interviews with people from various Black Country industries (glass, tiles, leisure) and working with two Year 6 classes at school in Stourbridge to produce interviews with local people. The completed archive will contain at least 75 oral history recordings from the Black Country, available to the general public in each of the four Black Country boroughs. Extracts from the interviews can also be found, along with a vast selection of photographs, on Multistory’s website www.multistory.org.uk.
Project Pigeon – Birmingham Pigeon Archive
Project Pigeon has completed an archive of Oral History interviews (audio and video), a book and 3 short plays about pigeon fanciers based on the oral history interviews. Two of the plays were performed in the open air at a pigeon loft in the centre of Birmingham to mark the culmination of the project in April 2013. All the material has now gone to the new Birmingham Library and Archive.
Warley Woods, Smethwick
This HLF project – to collect oral history interviews about Warley Woods in Smethwick – is also reaching its completion. About 30 interviews have been recorded by volunteers. These have been edited and a book and CD are about to be published charting the life of this much loved park in the 20th Century. In addition to this, I was involved in a project with 2 local primary schools to produce a DVD combining video oral histories with local people, photos and other footage of the park. This will be used as a school resource.
Hallow History Group has now published a book and CD on the history of farms and mills around the village of Hallow (just north of Worcester). The CD includes interviews with about 20 people, recorded by volunteers trained by the OHS. The group also worked with Hallow Primary School who created their own CD of interviews with people who had attended the school as children.
Chantry High School – 40th Anniversary.
A group of students recorded interviews with a number of former pupils and teachers who had attended Chantry High School when it first opened in 1973. These interviews were edited and put on display on an audio point during a celebratory weekend to mark the school’s 40th birthday.
‘Our Droitwich’ – Memories of the Expansion of Droitwich Spa
This is a small project in Droitwich Spa, funded by HLF, to create an archive of photos, documents and oral history interviews on the massive expansion of the town between 1950 and 2000. Due to overspill from Birmingham, the population trebled during this period, rising from seven to twenty thousand in about 30 years. We are attempting to document the changes brought about by this rapid expansion, from the point of view of both the incomers and the old Droitwich families. All the information will be stored in Droitwich Library and local schools will be involved in a ‘Super Learning Day’ next summer.
‘We did our bit’ – Video Oral History Project, Worcestershire
I teamed up with an old colleague from Splash TV to work on a video oral history project of WW2 testimonies. The aim of the project, funded by the Worcestershire Partnership, was to create a film, which was played on November 11th just after the 2-min silence. We recorded over 20 hours of material with 13 local veterans, all in their late 80s or early to mid 90s. We also filmed the participants out and about in the community. The resulting film has 2 versions; an 11 minute one for school assemblies and Remembrance gatherings, and a longer 45 minute version which gives far more detail and background on the veterans.
Worcestershire Archive & Archaeology Service and Worcestershire County Libraries – Oral History projects in Stourport on Severn and Bromsgrove
In Stourport, 12 students from Stourport High School recorded interviews with 5 members of the Civic Society about the heritage of the town and 7 students from Bewdley High School recorded the memories of 2 members of the town’s Local History Society. In Bromsgrove, 11 students from Bromsgrove School have interviewed 17 local people about their memories of the town’s High Street. This is part of Bromsgrove District Council’s Heritage Lottery funded Townscape Heritage Initiative and will result in a DVD including oral history interviews and old photos.
African Roots, Freshwinds
This HLF funded project, managed by the African Community Council for the Regions (ACCR), is looking at the evolution of the English language in a number of African countries and the Caribbean. The project team has recruited and trained a number of volunteers aged between 15 – 25 who are gaining work-related skills through the project. The aim is to create a video documentary, an oral history archive, and a website, all charting the changes and uses of English by people before, during and after immigration to this country from Africa and the Caribbean.
Aston Martin, A Century of Craftsmanship
This is an HLF funded project to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the production of Aston Martin cars. The project team is in the process of recruiting volunteers both at Aston Martin HQ in Gaydon and at their factory in Newport Pagnell. The volunteers will be trained in research skills and oral history recording, and they will undertake at least 20 interviews with a variety of past and present workers within the company. A two-year exhibition at the Heritage Motor Centre will combine the contributions of Aston Martin craftsmen and women with never-before-seen archive material.
Heritage Motor Museum, Gaydon
The Heritage Motor Museum is collecting oral history interviews with former workers and managers in the car industry. A team of volunteers has been given oral history training and is now well underway with recording. The collection will be stored in the Museum’s archive and used in current and future audio displays.
Counter Culture, Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton
This project created by The Arena Theatre in Wolverhampton has involved two schools, West Park Primary and Penn Hall Special School in a number of oral history related activities. The aim is to record interviews with local people about how they used to meet and do business across counters… for example shopping, post office, job centre, cafe, food bank, credit union… and how this has changed over the years. The children have been trained in oral history skills, have toured the Wolverhampton Archives and are now recording interviews both in school and out and about in the community. The interviews will be turned into a production which the children will put on at the Arena Theatre early next year.
In Wales, The Llanwyrtd History Resource Group has recorded more than 30 oral history interviews on the history of Llanwyrtd Wells, in both English and Welsh. The Year 6 pupils at the local primary school also recorded interviews with local people and created a book and CD called ‘Memories of childhood’.
Birmingham & area
Last year I reported on a growing interest among minority groups in recording their history, including one group that wanted to record memories in Somali. This year I’ve had enquiries about recording memories in several different languages. In some cases potential interviewees speak little or no English and in some cases project organisers feel that even those who speak good English would relate their experiences more eloquently in their native language. They’ve all aimed to produce English translations but have not usually given much thought to the methods and costs involved. Often the assumption is that bi-lingual members of the community will conduct the interviews and then somehow produce translations – and this chimes with the requirement of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to use volunteers as much as possible. However, professional interpreters and translators – often themselves bi-lingual – argue that being bi-lingual is not an adequate qualification for producing accurate translations. Some also think it’s essential to make a transcription before doing a translation, thus doubling the cost of each interview.
The ‘Go-Woman! Alliance’ CIC (http://www.gwacic.com) has chosen to use professional translators for a project funded by the HLF called Home Away From Home. Bi-lingual young women volunteers from the Saltley and Washwood Heath areas of Birmingham have been trained to interview Mirpuri/Kashmiri women who arrived in the UK in the 50s, 60s and 70s. The aim is to put on record the lives of women who have often been ignored, to make known their experiences in adjusting from village life and early teenage marriages in Kashmir to city life in Birmingham and to celebrate their achievements in finding suitable food, health care and employment.
The South Asian arts organisation, Sampad, (http://www.sampad.org.uk) has submitted a second stage application to the HLF for a project called My Route which aims to preserve the history and culture of different groups who’ve settled along the Stratford Road in Birmingham over the past 60 years. Out of 50 interviews they hope to record at least 15 non-English speakers – in Somali, Arabic, Urdu or Punjabi. If their grant application is successful, they’ll recruit and train volunteer interviewers who speak these languages, pay professional transcribers and use a mixture of professional and volunteer translators.
As a self-employed oral history consultant, I work all over the UK, but have also worked on local projects. These have included The Big Story of Pugin project (http://www.pugin.org), which began with the 200th anniversary of the Gothic revival architect, Augustus Pugin (1812-1852). Four primary schools in Oscott, in north-west Birmingham, learnt about his life and his architectural work on the Houses of Parliament and on parts of the Catholic seminary, Oscott College. As part of the project, the children interviewed staff and students from Oscott College and local residents who had memories of the college and the farm attached to it.
The Castle Bromwich Youth and Community Partnership received a grant from the HLF to create a Graveyard Heritage Trail (http://www.thecbcp.co.uk) to explore the stories behind the headstones in the local graveyard. This will include memories of local residents – of the graveyard itself, of those buried there and of the surrounding area.
Volunteers in the Balsall Heath area of Birmingham are trying to restore an old print-works, JH Butcher, which closed in 2009, and make it available for community activities. I recorded the life-stories of ten people who’d worked there, including the grandsons of the man who founded the factory in 1900, to form part of an exhibition, Voices of the Old Printworks, which was held in September.
The new Library of Birmingham opened in September and all the collections in the Archives, Heritage and Photography Department are stored in environmentally-controlled conditions inside the Library’s ‘golden box’. They welcome transcriptions, translations and summaries to accompany oral history recordings.
Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service
The Hive, Worcester
Our involvement in oral history work has continued to be low key, partly because we have not had many approaches from people seeking advice and guidance this year, but also because I have been seconded to a cataloguing project, so have less time to devote to oral history work at the moment. I have given some initial advice to two local groups, Worcestershire Industrial Archaeological and Local History Society and the Friends of Hartlebury Castle, both of whom are hoping to undertake some oral history work and I will hopefully pick things up with them as needed, once they are further forward with their ideas.
We continue to receive deposits of sound recordings and it’s very pleasing that local groups and societies do regard us as a place of deposit for recordings. We have received some additional CDs from the Voices of Croome project to complement what we already have. We have also received some tapes of interviews undertaken to support a dissertation on the gloving industry in Worcester and we have just taken in both video and sound recordings made by a local historian to support her research and publications about the Wolverley and Cookley area.
Oral history volunteer work has been somewhat quiet, partly because we have a number of specific cataloguing and outreach projects underway and many of our volunteers are currently assisting with those. It is hoped to recruit some additional volunteers to pick up the various copying, transcription and summarising work we were undertaking prior to our move to the Hive. I am hoping that the project I am working on to catalogue the archives of the Lytteltons of Hagley Hall might have some oral history work as part of the outreach for the project, but it is likely to depend on attracting some additional external funding.
University of Worcester
We have continued to forge links with our Hive Partner, the University of Worcester. This autumn we are planning to include introductory talks on our oral history collections in the University’s November study skills sessions to raise awareness of their potential for research. We already have a couple of students embarking on World War II Home Front research using our collections. We will also be hosting a student placement and part of their work experience will involve working with oral history collections and we hope to build on this activity in the future.
Engineering the Past
Jestaminute Community Theatre (JCT) have been awarded HLF money for a one year project to investigate the industrial heritage of Redditch 1939-64, a time prior to the development of Redditch as a New Town, when a lot of new factories were being established there and many people were moving into Redditch to work in them. JCT are working in partnership with Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service, Redditch Local History Society, Age UK (Redditch) and local schools to record the reminiscences of residents about their working lives during that period. We are undertaking oral history training and workshops for schools as part of the project.
Birmingham & area
In November 2011, the Heritage Lottery Fund in Birmingham invited me to play audio extracts from my ethnic minority interviews to around twenty participants at a Diverse Heritage Workshop. In March 2012, I addressed another conference organised by the HLF, to celebrate ten years of their Young Roots programme, and it turned out that most of the sixty representatives of Birmingham youth organisations in the audience were also from ethnic minorities. It’s clear that there’s a growing interest among minority groups in recording their history, to make younger generations aware of their heritage and to celebrate the contribution they’ve made to British society.
During the past year I’ve been involved in four projects that aim to record and celebrate minority histories. The most complex was called Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, a project run by the Common Ground Foundation at Aldridge School in Walsall. Pupils aged 11 to 13, who described themselves variously as mixed race, dual heritage or multiple heritage were given time off from their usual classes to record the memories of their relatives and others in the community who had experiences of mixed heritage. During their training, they took it in turns to interview a white teacher who recalled the prejudice she’d encountered when she first went out with her black husband and they listened to the project organiser describe his childhood memories of having a Muslim father from Pakistan and two white uncles who were members of the National Front. Only a few of the young interviewers said they’d experienced much prejudice themselves, so they were interested to hear about prejudices in the past and to learn that their interviewees felt their struggles were outweighed by the benefits of understanding different cultures and being able to choose the aspects of each culture that they liked best.
The second project is called Out of Africa and involves teenagers from Sandwell and Birmingham in recording the memories of African footballers, to celebrate their contribution to professional football in England through a DVD, an exhibition, an educational school pack and an archive for the Professional Footballers’ Association. Some of the teenage interviewers are from deprived backgrounds, but all are talented footballers themselves, so they are highly motivated to discover more details about the daily lives of professional footballers than can be learnt from media interviews.
Media interviews rarely report on any aspect of Somalian culture, so some of the Somali volunteers, aged 18 to 25, who are taking part in the Discover Your Roots project know little about their own heritage and are not completely fluent in the language. However, they are attempting to do some interviews in Somali (for later translation) as well as some in English, with older members of their community in the Small Heath area of Birmingham, with the aim of discovering more about their culture and rural traditions. During training (interrupted by breaks for prayer), they took it in turns to interview a 60-year-old man in Somali and, though I don’t know the language, it was possible to tell which interviewers were doing well i.e those who appeared to concentrate most on what was being said and those who allowed the interviewee to pause without jumping in with a question.
If there’s time at the end of the project, I hope the interviewers will record each other, as their own stories deserve to be archived. In brief practice interviews, one recalled how his uncle guarded his tent against hyenas – a far cry from inner-city Birmingham – and another recalled her puzzlement when she arrived at Heathrow on 11th September 2001, to find police everywhere and people staring at her hijab with undisguised hostility.
After the riots of summer 2011, members of a largely Nigerian church in Perry Barr reflected that their young people lacked roots, in that they knew little about Nigeria and even less about the history of the people who lived around them. So they’ve begun an oral history project called Reach Out in which both adult and young volunteers will record the memories of older church members and also the memories of their neighbours – for example the Muslim man from Pakistan from whom they rent their hall. If this works well, it could become a model for future projects, to encourage people from different cultures to understand each other better through recording each other’s memories.
As a Networker, I have found that things have got quieter as the year has progressed, with fewer emails and calls from people seeking advice or starting projects. However, I have delivered a number of training courses this year to various groups including primary schools, community groups, university students and people working in dementia care.
I have been directly involved in a few projects in Worcestershire and the West Midlands and have also contacted a few other organisations who are currently running projects in this area. Some of these are listed below:
Black Country Stories – Multistory, West Bromwich
‘Black Country Stories’ is a unique four-year project to document the working and personal lives of ordinary Black Country people through photographs, films and oral history interviews. The project, created and produced by Multistory based in West Bromwich, began in Sandwell in 2010. Last year the focus moved to Walsall, and this year Wolverhampton, before finishing in Dudley in 2013. The completed archive will contain at least 75 oral history recordings, available to the general public in each of the four Black Country boroughs. Extracts from the interviews can also be found, along with a vast selection of photographs, on Multistory’s website www.multistory.org.uk
Shelton Heritage Project
This oral history project is collecting interviews and memorabilia from people connected to Shelton Hospital, Bicton Heath, Shrewsbury. The hospital, built as a lunatic asylum in the 1840s, is closing this year. A team of volunteers (who have had Oral History Society training) are now enthusiastically gathering material which will eventually be displayed in the new hospital and shared with the Shropshire Archives.
Project Pigeon – Birmingham Pigeon Archive
Project Pigeon is working on the Birmingham Pigeon Archive, an archive which charts the fascinating history and culture of pigeon fancying in Birmingham. So far the team has collected more than 30 oral history interviews with Birmingham based pigeon fanciers and has produced several short films. A writer is also creating radio plays with the material. The archive will be housed in Birmingham Library and some material will go to Bletchley Park.
Warley Woods, Smethwick
This is an HLF project to collect oral history interviews about Warley Woods in Smethwick, a well loved public park for over 100 years. For many years people have been popping into the Community Trust’s office wanting to share a story about their experiences at Warley, bringing photographs and half stories about things that modern visitors have never seen or known about and other than just listening for a little while, we could do nothing with these recollections. Now twelve volunteers at Warley Woods have had OHS training as interviewers and are planning to record over 30 stories and to create a book, CD and schools resource pack.
Oral history at The Hive, Worcester
Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service has recently completed a number of interviews with people local to Worcester who have lived or worked, from the 1930s onwards, in the area of The Butts in which the new joint County and University Library and History Centre (The Hive) will open in July 2012. The generated oral history archive will be available in audio form at the new Centre and edited clips and slideshows will be on display in exhibition spaces, in sound domes, on easy to use touch screens and on public computers.
Regal Cinema – Online Oral History Project, Tenbury Wells
Interviews from 20 people (locals and visitors) talking about their memories and experiences at the Regal Cinema in Tenbury Wells have been recorded for a new website. This 1937 art deco cinema, owned by Tenbury Town Council is currently undergoing restoration funded by the HLF.
Voices through Corridors: This is an HLF funded project by Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust, following major redevelopment of the Walsall Manor Hospital site. A group of volunteers were OHS trained and have been interviewing people with memories of the hospital, which was a central part of this community for many decades. Some of the recordings are already on the Trust’s website.
Hallow History Group is recording oral history interviews with local people who’ve lived and worked on farms and mills in and around the village of Hallow (just north of Worcester). The group has also worked with Hallow Primary School who created a CD of interviews with 4 people who were at school in the village several decades ago.
Bedworth Primary School got HLF funding for the pupils to record oral history interviews with local people talking about their working lives in the town. Bedworth was once famous for ribbon-weaving and hat-making, as well as mining and later making cars and car parts. The year 5 students had 2 mornings of oral history training before undertaking audio and video interviews and creating a DVD and CD Rom.
Volunteers and project staff received OHS training to record oral history interviews with more than 20 people connected to the Cotswold Canals. The interviews were then used to create about 20 podcasts which can be downloaded at various points along the canal towpath. They are also accessible from a website and the original interviews will be stored with Gloucestershire Archives.
I am currently working with a few groups outside the West Midlands who have just received funding and are at the outset of oral history projects. These include: Outstories Bristol, who are collecting interviews with gay lesbian bisexual and transsexual people in the Bristol and Bath area, Food Stories Llandrindod Wells, who are collecting memories and experiences of growing, preserving, cooking and creating food in their local area, the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth, who are celebrating their 40th anniversary with a series of interviews with people who’ve been involved in the centre since the 1970s.
Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service
In January of this year Worcestershire Record Office merged with the Worcestershire Historic Environmental and Archaeology Service to form the Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service ahead of their relocation to the new Worcestershire Library and History Centre, now renamed the Hive. A complete restructuring of the service and the physical move of the staff and holdings from their various locations to the new building gave no time for any oral history work be undertaken or for any direct involvement in any projects. The volunteer work on transcribing and summarising recordings was also suspended. Now that the move is complete and new systems and procedures are bedding in, staff from the collections team are about to undertake a review of oral history work to look at how it will fit into the aims and objectives of the new service and what shape future oral history work will take.
The Hive: The new Library and History Centre in Worcester City centre was opened officially in July 2012 by Her Majesty the Queen. The first major exhibition at the Hive is entitled ‘Beyond the City Wall’ and includes audio visual material from and about people who used to live in the area where the Hive is situated, collected as part of a HLF funded project relating to the City, its archives and people. It is planned to use audio visual material in future exhibitions based around particular themes. The current six month theme is ‘Memory’ and the next theme is likely to be ‘the River Severn’.
On the History Floor there are three sounds pods where visitors can dip into selections from our audio collections as part of their general visit to the building. These will be refreshed at intervals. The old Record Office CD jukebox containing selections of World War II reminiscences has also been moved to this floor to give it a more prominent place. It is hoped to broaden the selection of material available in the jukebox to cover other collections now held by us.
Kays project: The University of Worcester have now deposited the interviews they had undertaken as part of their six month project to create a web archive of fashion images from the Kays of Worcester catalogues held by them. As well as interviews with former workers the deposit includes themed CDs on topics such as fashion, the Kays brand, advertising and photography. Linked to the project a fashion show and arts events will be held at the Hive at the end of the year.
(Andrew Edwards & Beth Thomas)
This year’s report from Wales is testimony to the continuing support given to oral history projects by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Devised to celebrate Disability Wales’ own 40th Anniversary, Story at 40 is an oral history film project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, capturing the memories and experiences of disabled people born around 1972 and living in Wales. The aim of the project was to reflect changing policy and attitudes towards disabled people over the past four decades, and to represent the different experiences of disability and the diverse community of disabled people in Wales. Disabled volunteers of all ages took part in this project either by becoming part of the production team or by becoming interviewees. All volunteers were provided with training including learning about interviewing techniques, filming, editing, and cataloguing as well as disability equality and the history of disabled people. The film premier will take place in early December.
Mencap Cymru have also been awarded a first-round pass from the Heritage Lottery Fund for their oral history project, Hidden Now Heard.
The Aber Valley Heritage Museum in Senghenydd near Caerphilly has received Heritage Lottery Funding for a project relating to next year’s 100 year anniversary of Britain’s largest mining disaster at the Universal Colliery, Senghenydd, in which 440 people were killed. Part of the project is to record stories passed down through generations regarding the 1913 explosion and its aftermath. As the explosion is no longer in living memory the interviews would also deal with general life in the Aber Valley in the years following the closure of the mine and how life has changed since 1913. These stories (or some of them at least) will then be uploaded onto an audio post to be based at the site of a new Memorial.
The Committee of the Arandora Star Memorial Fund in Wales has now deposited recordings from their Arandora Star Oral History Project at St. Fagans: National History Museum. The ship, carrying Italian internees to internment campls in Canada was torpedoed in July 1940. The material recorded includes 9 interviews with the relatives of the victims and survivors of the sinking together with a short transcript both in Welsh and in English.
Another Lottery funded oral project which has come to completion is the Hineni Project that tells the life stories of 60 members of the Cardiff Reform Jewish community. From those who grew up in Wales and the UK, to refugees and holocaust survivors, from Welsh speakers to business people to political activists, the exhibition, book and website give a picture of how these people have lived their lives and formed their identity.
The Reform community, which follows a more liberal version of Judaism than the Orthodox community, grew in Wales in the 1930s as the number of Jews fleeing the Nazis increased.The only progressive – as opposed to traditional – Jewish community in Wales, it numbers around 250. Cardiff Reform Synagogue was awarded over £33,000 from Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) in 2010 to provide project volunteers with specialised training in oral history, archiving, interviewing and the digital technology skills needed to document the stories. The Reform community worked in partnership with Glenn Jordan of the Butetown History and Arts Centre (BHAC), experienced in portraying minority communities in Cardiff.
Finally the Heritage Lottery Fund have also been generous in their support of St Fagans: National History Museum. The HLF’s £11.5m grant from HLF has enabled us to embark upon a £25.5m project to turn the museum’s aspirational title National History Museum into a reality. Over the next four years we will transform St Fagans into a new and unique kind of museum where national collections of archaeology amd history will displayed together in an open-air museum. Visitors will be inspired to explore the history of the peoples of Wales from the earliest times to the present day through dialogical exhibitions, authentic historical buildings and archaeological reconstructions. The plans include giving greater prominence to our long-standing archive of oral testimony, exploring how history is constructed and how some people’s voices become part of the national story while others remain silent.
The War in Plymouth: Destruction and a New Beginning (Heritage Lottery Fund/Plymouth University Vice-Chancellor’s Community Research Awards, May 2013 – current)
Dr Kayleigh Milden is currently coordinating the oral history project The War in Plymouth: Destruction and a New Beginning. This collaborative project between the Department of History, Plymouth University and The Word Machine (community interest publishing company), is collating an oral history archive of recordings relating to Plymouth in the Second World War and the rebuilding of the City from 1945-1955. Much of the landscape of Plymouth was indelibly altered in the aftermath of the War, impacting upon the physical and social make-up of the City. The project is examining the interplay between the national, community, and individual ‘memory’ of the Second World War. It is researching how the population of Plymouth reacted to the architectural and social changes that occurred in developments such as the Abercrombie and Paton-Watson ‘Plan for Plymouth’ that reshaped the city centre. It is also charting the story of the new housing estates that grew around the edges of Plymouth in the post-war era. Over the course of ten years between 1945 and 1955, over 17,000 new homes and 24 new schools were built, creating new neighbourhoods such as Southway and Efford. The research questions being explored include: How did these developments impact upon the health of the population? Was there a ‘sense of community’ within the new estates?
Project outcomes will include an exhibition, publications and online learning resources.
Gloucestershire is a big county with much going on, as will be evident from the sample of activity below. There is certainly more, and it would be good to hear news of other oral history-related developments and projects.
This report is grouped into four main sections in order to indicate both how diverse the activity is within Gloucestershire, and how fortunate it is to have three active and interactive centres of oral history within the County. Section 1 is on General Activity Around the County; Section 2 is on activity related to the University of Gloucestershire; Section 3 is on activity related to the Planned Environment Therapy Trust Archive and Study Centre; and Section 3 is on activity related to Gloucestershire Archives.
1. GENERAL ACTIVITY AROUND GLOUCESTERSHIRE
The Great Gloucester Story
In July the BBC and Gloucester City Museum collaborated to host a day of interactive events and exhibitors celebrating the history of Gloucester over the last 1,600 years, with BBC Learning “exploring place names, surnames, hidden landscapes and recording oral history provided by local residents.”
Yate District Oral History Project book launch
The Yate Oral History Project has published its Photographic History of Yate, “the largest assembly of local images put together and comprises many hitherto unseen images”, with over 290 photographs. See: www.yateheritage.co.uk
This ongoing oral history project, established to record the history and recollections of the Cashes Green area of Stroud, has a Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/pages/Cashes-Green-on-the-Map/254829625936
“All Along the Cotswold Canals”
Following training by West Midlands Regional Networker Julia Letts, this exciting project of the Cotswolds Canals Restoration Project recorded memories and created a 22-point audio trail which can be accessed on smartphones while walking the canal, or downloaded from the website: www.alongthecotswoldcanals.co.uk
Ashton Keynes School Jubilee Project
Assisted by community artist Kathryn Gray, Year 5 and 6 pupils from Ashton Keynes School used a �1,600 grant from the Malmesbury Area Board to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee by recording interviews with twelve Ashton Keynes villagers about life in the 1950s, and translating their memories into works of art.
“Back to the Future”
Running from June 2011 to December 2012, “Back to the Future” is a Heritage Lottery Funded project of the Black Southwest Network which looks at the impact on and contribution to the cultural landscape of Southwest England by Black and Minority Ethnic organisations, using oral history interviews with members of the three most prominent BME organizations in Gloucester and other Southwest communities.
2. UNIVERSITY OF GLOUCESTERSHIRE
“You Asked Me So I’m Telling You”
In April, University of Gloucestershire PhD student Christian O’Connell gave a paper entitled ‘”You Asked Me So I’m Telling You:” Oral History and Photography in Paul Oliver’s Conversation with the Blues’ at the 57th Annual British Association of American Studies (BAAS) Conference at the University of Manchester.
“The Ethics of Oral History and Memory Studies”
In September, Melanie Ilic, Reader in History at the University of Gloucestershire, co-organised a conference on ‘The Soviet Past in the Post-Soviet Present: the Ethics of Oral History and Memory Studies’ in Lithuania. Her book, Life Stories of Soviet Women: the Interwar Generation, drawing on her life history research, talking to women about their everyday lives during Soviet times, is due to appear from Routledge in 2013.
“Land, Cultural Heritage and Identity in the Scottish Highlands”
Dr Iain Robertson, Course Leader and Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Gloucestershire has been awarded a Research Grant by the University as part of a broader project on the ‘Glasgow Gaels’, using oral history to look specifically at the construction of visual cultural identity within the crofting communities of Lochs and Harris on the Isles of Lewis and Harris. In September the project’s fieldworker, archaeologist Dr. Mary MacLeod, herself a crofter, gave the first in a new series of staff History seminars at the University, in a stimulating and well-received presentation called “Memory, Cultural Identity and Landscape: the perils and pitfalls of oral historical work in the Outer Hebrides”.
3. PLANNED ENVIRONMENT THERAPY TRUST ARCHIVE AND STUDY CENTRE
The Planned Environment Therapy Trust (PETT) now has an active Facebook Page, a thoroughly renewed website, and a Twitter account @pettconnect.!
“Therapeutic Living With Other People’s Children”
PETT’s 18-month Heritage Lottery Fund-supported project, “Therapeutic Living With Other People’s Children: An oral history of residential therapeutic childcare c. 1930 – c. 1980” reached a successful conclusion, producing 282 audio and video recordings and 119 transcripts as well as 8 websites presenting 130 documents, 5 digital stories, 428 photographs, 38 audio/video selections, 23 transcript selections, and 19 personal written accounts.
In recognition of the achievements of the project, the Community Archives and Heritage Group awarded PETT its first “Most Impactful Archive of the Year” award. The award was received at the University of London with the help of students from Trinity Catholic School in Leamington Spa, who had both recorded interviews and worked with former ‘maladjusted’ children to produce a successful theatre production. A detailed report on the project’s history, development, design, outputs and outcomes was uploaded to the project website, www.otherpeopleschildren.org.uk.
There have been several recording-fest “Archive Weekends” since the end of the project, and oral history recording has continued elsewhere, with digital stories and other material continuing to be developed and uploaded to the “otherpeopleschildren” website by volunteers. The Archive continues to make other recordings, loan equipment, and to offer support, encouragement and guidance generally.
In July Project Oral Historian Gemma Geldart, Project Administrator/Transcriptionist Chris Long, and Trinity Catholic School Assistant Principal Stephen Steinhaus all gave papers relating to the “Therapeutic Living” project at the Oral History Society’s annual conference in Southampton. In September, at the invitation of the organisers, Gemma Geldart gave a paper drawing on the project at the “Understanding Parenting: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives” Conference at the Centre for the History of Medicine at the University of Warwick.
Craig Fees, Regional Networker:
As Archivist, I continue to be based at the Planned Environment Therapy Trust Archive and Study Centre. During the past year, alongside my duties as Regional Networker for Gloucestershire, I was Project Manager for PETT’s “Therapeutic Living With Other People’s Children” project, continued as a Trustee/Committee member of the Oral History Society, co-organised and chaired several sessions at the Oral History Society’s annual conference “Displaced Childhoods: Oral history and traumatic experiences”, consulted on Dr. Iain Robertson’s “Land, Cultural Heritage and Identity” project at the University of Gloucestershire, conducted a seminar for history students on oral history at the University and, as course author and tutor on the “Sound and Vision” distance learning module for the Centre for Archive and Information Studies at the University of Dundee, thoroughly rewrote the Unit on oral history.
4. GLOUCESTERSHIRE ARCHIVES
“Hidden Lives of Barton and Tredworth”
Launched in March 2011, and managed by The National Archives Skills for the Future Trainee Ollie Taylor, this Heritage Lottery Fund-supported project between the Gloucester Theatre Company, Gloucestershire Archives, and the University of Gloucestershire, has resulted in an attractive and richly informative website, a series of Reminiscence Theatre performances by a group of young actors from the Gloucester Theatre Company, over 60 interviews, and a Youtube channel with 10 Digital Stories and excerpts from the “Hidden Lives” theatre production.
“The Fielding and Platt Community Archive Project”
Led by Gloucestershire Archives and Gloucester City Centre Community Partnership, directed by project officer Ollie Taylor, and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, this oral history-based project kicked off in June 2012 to record, preserve, and celebrate major international engineering firm Fielding and Platt’s history and impact on Gloucester. There have been over 20 interviews to date, there is an attractive and growing website, and considerable outreach and development activity.
“History of Gloucester Rugby Club”
Awarded a three-year ‘Your Heritage’ grant by the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2008, and supported by Gloucester Rugby Club, Gloucestershire Archives, and the Friends of Gloucestershire Archives, the ‘History of Gloucester Rugby Club’ project continues to add recorded interviews to the rich and active project website.
This has been a busy year for new acquisitions of oral history recordings at Wessex Film and Sound Archive (WFSA), prompted by lots of activity in the county. I will highlight some of the more exceptional projects, followed by a brief mention of the others, although that does not mean the latter are any the less important or interesting.
Hampshire Showpeople: this has been a major project, led by Dr Jo Ivey and supported by the HLF in conjunction with the Hampshire Archives Trust, to record the lives and memories of travelling fairground families and to create a better understanding of this tight-knit community, their way of life and their contribution to the economy and life of Hampshire. The project team worked with members of the showpeople community, volunteers from the wider population and local schools to gather a picture of showpeople’s culture and history. The materials collected will be preserved and made available for all to discover and enjoy at WFSA and Hampshire Record Office (HRO). The archive includes 36 recordings, including members of the famous Cole and Wall families, and over 1,900 fairground photographs collected by fairground enthusiast, Ken Wise, during the course of his lifetime and donated to the Record Office by Steve Bailey, himself a descendent of the Bartlett fairground family of Blissford and Fordingbridge. A DVD and a book resulted from the project and may be obtained from HRO.
Open Sight: this is the largest charitable organisation in Hampshire working with people who have, or who are at risk of developing sight loss. Its trustees wanted to record the memories of older people with sight loss, in order to show the difference in their experiences of this condition earlier in their lives and now. The Vision of the Past project, aided by the HLF, reveals how changing attitudes and legislative amendments have transformed the way that blind and partially-sighted people live and work, as well as asking the question whether, in 90 years, VIPs (as they are known) have truly achieved equality despite social and political reform. All these story-tellers describe the devastation of loss, courageous new beginnings and the aspirations, challenges and achievements of leading normal lives in exceptional circumstances. The resulting book, audio book and exhibition will now tour clubs, care settings and schools across the county, whilst the original recordings are preserved and made accessible by WFSA. For more information, see http://vision-of-the-past-opensight.org.uk/.
New Forest Remembers – untold stories of World War II: as a spin-off from this major project to record and make accessible sites in the New Forest associated with World War Two (of which there are many), oral history recordings were made with people who remember that period. There is a wealth of untapped information about this period and of activities in the memories of those who were living in the New Forest at the time, whether they were evacuees, local residents, or military personnel from this country or from abroad. Organised by a dedicated team from the National Parks Authority, volunteers are now transcribing over 70 recordings, which are due to be deposited with WFSA in November. In the meantime, you can learn more about the project at www.newforestww2.org/.
Reflections of entrepreneurs with heritage from Asia and the Caribbean: showcasing the cultural heritage of business people in North Hampshire from Asian and Caribbean backgrounds. This HLF project has worked with support from Hampshire County Council’s Archives Service to create and preserve 20 oral histories collected from entrepreneurs. The oral history recordings and accompanying booklet reveal the hidden cultural heritage of entrepreneurs from Asia and the Caribbean who have contributed to the local social and economic area in North Hampshire over the past 50 years. Many of the early business people from the Caribbean and Asia have now retired or returned to their overseas home. An exhibition resulting from the project is currently on display at the Willis Museum, Basingstoke and there has been educational work in local schools and colleges. Click here to listen to some of the interviewees: www.acehants.org.uk/the-entrepreneurs/
The Culture of Kerala in Hampshire: this HLF project documents the traditions that the people of Kerala in India brought to Hampshire when they settled in the area and what traditions they had to leave behind. The project also took the heritage of the traditional classical and folk dances of Kerala (Kathakali) through practical workshops, lectures and performances, plus a very colourful exhibition of Kathakali costumes at Winchester Discovery Centre. The oral histories of the people from Kerala living in Hampshire are retained by WFSA in the form of an edited DVD and booklet. A full Kathakali Company of major artists from Kerala will be touring England from September to December this year (see tour dates: www.kathakali.net/ ) with support from the Arts Council of England.
Other oral history acquisitions were received from Basingstoke Talking History, East Woodhay local history group, Macmillans publishing company and the Russell-Cotes Museum and Art Gallery (which was a valuable taped interview made in 1993 with Mrs Lee-Duncan, grand-daughter of the museum founders). We have also recently had deposited a copy of Padmini Broomfield’s project to record workers at the Ford Motor Co. plant at Southampton, just prior to its closure – see her report for more details.
Jocelyn Goddard & Manda Gifford
Telling Whitstable’s Story community memories group
Cushing at 100! at Whitstable Museum & Gallery: Telling Whitstable’s Story gave a special twist to the centenary exhibition celebrating the town’s most famous resident and star of Hammer Horror and Star Wars, Peter Cushing, by recording memories of him from townspeople and those closest to him. The Cushing listening post now forms part of a very popular redisplayed area of the main museum.
The group is currently busy undertaking an audit of all the previous local community oral history projects it has conducted, dating back over the past 15 years, to ensure that all are copied across to current media and can be used to inform the programme of audio-visual redisplays in the Museum. The latest addition to the displays shows silent footage of the oyster harvest in the early 1900s alongside current interviews with a contemporary whelk-fishing family business based at Whitstable Harbour.
Herne Bay Community Memories Group
At the start of 2013, the group contributed invaluable oral memories and sourced stunning images for an exhibition at Herne Bay Museum & Gallery marking the 60th anniversary of the momentous East Coast Storm of 1953.
Herne Bay Community Memories Group is celebrating its 10th anniversary with another chance to see one of its earliest exhibitions at Herne Bay Museum & Gallery: Herne Bay Sporting Lives. The exhibition focusses on the town’s most iconic sports such as sea rowing and swimming, fishing, and the truly terrifying roller hockey! This time the exhibition will be enhanced by the addition of audio memories on a listening post, involving re-editing early recordings which pre-date the acquisition of a listening post.
University of Kent
In 2014/15, the University of Kent celebrates its 50th anniversary. A range of projects and activities are planned, including the gathering of information about its history. Led by the School of History, the History Projects aim to document and archive the University’s past. This work is being undertaken by students as part of a new module focusing on real world research skills. For example, the Disability at Kent project will explore the changing experiences of disabled students and staff at the University of Kent over the last 50 years. Those carrying out research on this project will primarily use the oral histories of disabled students, alumni and past and present members of staff, as well as some archival sources, to highlight the changes to attitude, policy and provision toward disabled people at the University.
Information taken from the University’s website: http://www.kent.ac.uk/planningfor50/projects/historyprojects/index.html
Surrey History Centre has two Tascam DR40s which can be borrowed by Surrey groups (but not individuals) interested in developing community oral history projects. Surrey recorders have been used for the following projects:
Early this year a small team of volunteers from Mickleham and Westhumble Local History Group began work on a project to record village memories and stories of the village shop. Their recordings show how the village has changed over the past few decades with tales of the past 50 years centred on how the use of the village shop has changed as new people move, children buy different items (not just sweets and comics) after school or in their lunch time, and what role the village shop plays in the community now. It’s proving to be a fascinating glimpse in to the life of what was once a very small rural village in Surrey.
Surrey History Centre has a very large collection of archived documents from the Mental Health Hospitals that were once scattered across the County. As a result there are still significant communities of people who were once staff or patients at the hospitals. And as a consequence Surrey History Centre has developed a long-standing interest in working with these communities. Past projects have included oral history recordings many throwing a new light on the documented histories. More recently supporters of Epsom Mental Health Week have been interviewing visitors to the events held over the week who have been taking part in some of the many activities. This has been their first experience of taking recorded interviews and it is hoped that it may lead to a project with a more formal structure and funding.
Oral history will be taking a significant role in a Surrey landscape project but we’re waiting for the results of an HLF bid before getting too excited about that!
Look out for more developments next year as further projects currently being discussed begin to produce what looks like fascinating work.
The past year has seen the usual inquiries and requests for advice and training from those applying for HLF or other funding. Several recent projects have focused on the collection of oral testimony for use in art and performance projects.
On a personal note, I am now working freelance after nearly 20 years at Southampton City Council, first at the Southampton Oral History Unit (SOHU) and then on the exhibitions team of the new SeaCity Museum. The archival recordings from the SOHU archive continue to inspire and be re-used in a variety of new formats.
SeaCity Museum: Opened in 2012 the museum’s two permanent galleries, Southampton’s Titanic Story and Gateway to the World, make use of oral testimony from the SOHU archive. A powerful audio-visual installation uses first-hand accounts from survivors of the events leading up to and following the sinking of the Titanic, while audio posts play memories of those describing the impact on the local seafaring community as the news reached the town. The story of post-war migration through the city’s port is told through artistic interpretations of memories of seafarers and present-day communities.
Between Wind and Water Touring Theatre Production: This one-hour play, written by Deborah Gearing and directed by Emma Golby-Kirk of Now Heritage, is inspired by oral testimony of shipbuilding, dockwork and seafaring from the SOHU archive and new recordings. Performed by a cast of professional and amateur actors, the show toured shoreline venues along Southampton Water during summer 2013. Itis the culmination of the ‘My Ship of Dreams’ theatre project, led by Now Heritage and funded by the Arts Council England, Hampshire County Council and Southampton City Council. For more information visit: bwaw-play.tumblr.com and www.nowheritage.org/
Bedford Place Map Project: This collaboration between Now Heritage and artist and animator Alys Scott Hawkins uses stories and reminiscences of local traders and residents to produce a hand-drawn map of the Bedford Place shopping area of Southampton. The map will function as a visitor guide, promotional tool for businesses and a link for the diverse local communities. The project, supported by Southampton Solent University, and funded by transnational European project VIVID, involves students in the research, interviewing, editing and creation of visual documentation. The audio and visual material collected will also be used to produce animated and other interactive products. For more information visit: http://bedfordplacemap.tumblr.com/
Showpeople of Hampshire: This project, led by Jo Ivey and funded by the National Lottery Fund and the Hampshire Archives Trust, documented the little known history of the travelling showpeople of Hampshire. Using archival research, family photographs and life story interviews, the project produced a book, a mobile exhibition and an educational DVD. The project also included work in two schools with children from showpeople families on their roles. For more information: http://www3.hants.gov.uk/archives/showpeople.htm
Los Niños: child exiles of the Spanish Civil War: Following the successful completion of this project with the publication of our book Here Look After Him: Voices of Basque Evacuee Children of the Spanish Civil War (pub. University of Southampton), the oral testimonies we collected inspired an animated documentary film, To Say Goodbye, which uses the original voices (www.izarfilms.com/news.html).
Ford Southampton Heritage Project: My most recent project was recording interviews with employees at the Ford Transit Assembly Plant in Southampton before it ceased operations at the end of July. Over 8 weeks in the run-up to closure I recorded 53 interviews, averaging 1.5 hours each, on site with a cross-section of the workforce representing the different departments, job roles, hierarchy, lengths of service, ages, gender and diverse communities. The interviews, deposited at the Southampton Archives and at Wessex Film and Sound Archive, provide a comprehensive picture of the working practices, changes in technology, economic pressures, camaraderie and the impact of the closure of the plant. The project was part of a wider documentation project led by the Hampshire Solent Alliance Partnership.
There have been some changes since my last report: I now work three days a week, and we no longer organise a seminar on oral history at Winchester. We shall concentrate upon providing a home for film and sound material within our region (central Southern England), lend equipment for oral history projects, whilst acting as a venue and conduit for training and advice. Meanwhile, Wessex Film and Sound Archive (WFSA) continues to flourish with the help of my colleagues in Hampshire Record Office, and we have been receiving some good recordings to preserve and make accessible during the past year. The highlights are presented below.
Southampton Oral History Unit (SOHU) collection: firstly, and most importantly for us, the highly significant SOHU collection of tapes and discs has been transferred from Southampton City Archives, where it has resided since the Unit’s closure. A digital copy of many of the recordings (and information about them) stays in Southampton for local users to research, and we will be providing access in our own search rooms whilst completing the digitisation for both archive services. Enquiries should be directed in the first instance to Southampton City Archives (023 8083 2251; email@example.com) with whom we are working closely to provide as wide an access to this remarkable collection as possible. You are probably familiar with its contents, SOHU having been a major local authority unit for over 20 years and reported regularly to oral historians like yourselves at conferences and in journals. Suffice to say that we are enormously proud to be preserving interviews concerning the Titanic disaster, Vosper Thornycroft shipyard, merchant navy crews, reconstruction of Southampton Docks, the Home Front and the various communities in the city. Once sorted and listed, WFSA can add value to the SOHU collection via its online catalogue, which is available at www3.hants.gov.uk/wfsa/wfsa-catalog.htm.
Gosport Women in the Second World War: we were delighted to receive the original interviews (on cassettes) from Jenny Bartlett’s 1999 MA thesis ‘The Wartime Lives of Civilian Women in Gosport, 1939-1945: a Typical or Extraordinary Experience?’, along with a copy of the thesis itself. Jenny worked at the time as an education officer for the Royal Marines Museum in Portsmouth and was trained to use oral history in her work, so the interviews were recorded ‘in the proper manner’. One of the consequences of waiting so long to deposit the recordings was that the transcripts were still on floppy discs! Luckily, we were able to transfer the information to modern WORD files and make them available to our users alongside digital copies of the tapes.
Petersfield Museum: every year, we receive oral history recordings made to support particular exhibitions at the old court house in Petersfield, where this private museum is based. This time it was for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the 50th anniversary of the town’s outdoor swimming pool, respectively. Elderly residents remembered Petersfield 50-60 years ago, not just dwelling on the celebrations for those events, but also the attitudes and way of life back then. This is something that oral history can do really well, of course.
Solent People’s Theatre: sadly, this publicly-funded group has now folded, but it has left behind a legacy in the form of its own records, including audio-visual recordings, which have now been deposited with Hampshire Record Office and WFSA. These recordings include interviews with local people, in order to find out about important events in their recent history, and to help inform the scripts of various plays which the group performed. This includes the experiences of migration*, nursing, Southampton Docks working, the Home Front and the Blitz. Once again, oral history is used for historical research in a direct sense, for use in public performances in this case, but analogous to Petersfield Museum. (* There were a number of interviews recorded on video for later incorporation in the play ‘Passage West’, itself based upon the oral history gathered)
(Jocelyn Goddard & Manda Gifford)
Kent History and Library Centre, Maidstone
The new Kent History and Library Centre opened on Monday 23rd April 2012. It has been purpose built and houses about 14 kilometres of historic material relating to Kent dating back to 699 AD. There is a community history area, archive search room, digital studio and a large space for displays and events.
Kent Community History Network
Kent County Council’s Libraries and Archives team report that they would like to work more closely with community history groups in the county, to support the important work they are doing and to make more information on history available locally. Some groups already work in partnership with libraries, for example at Marden, Meopham and Joyden’s Wood. Others have set up their own heritage centres and community archives with advice, help and support from the History Services team, for example at Smarden, Ash and Kemsing. Many communities have expressed a desire to find out more about their local history and set up groups locally. Kent Libraries and Archives aim to continue to support them especially in areas that will benefit most from having access to their history. The aim is to do this by setting up a community history network linking all groups interested in history in the county and enabling them to support and encourage each other.
Paralympics Project � How It Used to Be
A project to revisit the records of two Maidstone mental health hospitals, Leybourne Grange and Oakwood Park, which began in 2010, is now nearing completion. Staff in the archives have been working with former hospital staff, members of MIND, Maidstone Museum and Time2Give volunteers to collect ‘then and now’ memories at reminiscence workshops and ‘coffee and chat’ sessions using archival documents, contemporary photographs and maps to stimulate discussion. This oral history material has been incorporated into a new guide to help bring the archive collections to life, put them into context and make them relevant to the present day. It also allowed project members with mental health issues to explore the different approach to mental health in the past.
Kent County Council also now has a link on its site to museums that are carrying out oral history work: http://www.kent.gov.uk/leisure_and_culture/museums/museums_in_kent/oral_history.aspx
Telling Whitstable’s Story
Telling Whitstable’s Story community memories group helped to create a highly successful exhibition at Whitstable Museum and Gallery about people and their sheds, which is now tipped to transfer to a central London venue. Visitors to the exhibition were able to listen to memories and enjoy photographs and the work of two artists, Lucy Steggals and Cathy Miles, inspired by the theme.
The group is now collecting memories of Peter Cushing, for an exhibition in Spring 2013 celebrating the centenary of his birth. It is also conducting an audit of all the previous local community oral history projects to inform the redisplays in the Museum.
Herne Bay Community Memories Group
Herne Bay Community Memories Group is collecting memories and photographs of the 1953 East Coast Flood, in preparation for an exhibition at Herne Bay Museum and Gallery planned for January 2013.
Brompton 200: Civilian Life in a Military Village
Brompton 200: Civilian Life in a Military Village has been set up and run by the Brompton History Research Group in association with the Royal Engineers Museum to record the history of Brompton from the past 200 years. The project has been part funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and aims to record historical and archival information about the village as well as personal memories and recollections. The oral history part of the project is open to anyone with a memory of the village; whether they lived there, passed through or visited. The Brompton History Research Group holds regular oral history sessions at the Royal Engineers Museum and also has the facilities to visit people wishing to share their memories who cannot make it to the Museum. The oral histories are being transcribed and edited and the final versions will be made available online at www.bromptonhistory.org.uk which contains all the research that has come to light as part of the project. Some of the oral histories already recorded are being used as part of an exhibition currently running at the Royal Engineers Museum. From January 2013 the exhibition will be touring the libraries of Medway.
Review of work in Surrey 2011 – 2012
There haven’t been many new oral history projects in Surrey in the last twelve months. Some long term work to record memories around the county carries on but hasn’t yet reached publication stage.
For Surrey Heritage, Mental Health continues to be a popular theme for oral history work. A series of interviews of ex-hospital staff and people still involved in the mental health community took place last winter to be transcribed and added to Surrey Archives catalogue. These interviews have added significantly to our understanding of life in mental hospitals from 1940s to their closure in the 1990s. There is potential to develop this work with a much larger number of mental health service users and professional care staff. An exciting prospect that could prove useful to both the general and the academic world.
A ‘Memories’ club run by Guildford volunteers at the Guildford Institute has been and will continue to record the life stories of people who live in the town and is now planning to create an archive of recordings with help from Surrey Heritage. I’m looking forward to hearing and seeing the collection when it’s been prepared for cataloguing for Surrey’s archives. It will be of great interest to local historians and residents alike.
In spite of the fairly low level of activity there is still a lot of interest in the potential of oral history from a variety of communities and I’m anticipating there will be more funded project work in the next year.
Apologies for my small contribution to the Network over the past year, mainly due to retirement and travel, and so have no exciting projects to report (unlike the rest of you).
I’m still receiving regular requests for information on Oral History, via phone or e-mail, mainly training requests, general information, funding and talks. I have also had several requests for people’s relatives to be interviewed, I try and put them in touch with an oral historian, or, alternatively advise them to go on one of the O/H training courses and carry out the interviews themselves.
I always ask for feed back but it’s rarely forthcoming, and I have no way of knowing whether the advice I am giving is followed up. It would be good to discuss with other networkers if they have some kind of feed back form they use to monitor the requests.
I was involved (in a very small way) with the Basque ‘Ninos’ project and very impressed at the successful outcome, with a publication, exhibition, and more recently an animated film, centred on the oral testimony of the Ninos, which has its premier in San Sabastian at the end of September.
On a personal note, I am about to interview a Holocaust survivor, who has been a friend for over 50 yrs, and whom I have been meaning to interview for over 50 yrs!! but have finally got around to it.
Unfortunately, I will not be attending this years Network meeting as I’m in Australia, but I hope it’s as successful and enjoyable as these events usually are, and I hope to catch up with you all in 2013
As a new member of the network, I am still gathering information about the oral history projects in Sussex this year. Here are some that I have been told about, although I am sure there were many more which I look forward to being able to let you know about next year.
Speaking up for Disability
This is a two year HLF project based in Worthing with the Independent Living Association. The project has been collecting recordings by disabled people living in West Sussex and extracts will soon be uploaded to their website at www.speakingupfordisability.org.uk/. They are also planning an exhibition ‘Re-framing Disability’ for next summer.
Sussex Deaf History
Sussex Deaf History launched a new ‘Hidden Histories’ exhibition on their website this September entitled ‘Deaf Education in the Seventies’. These interviews are an excellent example of the diversity and the possibilities of oral history. See www.sussexdeafhistory.org.uk.
Screen Archive South East
SASE are now a third of the way through an HLF project to collect memories of some of the seaside towns in West Sussex. Interviews are currently being recorded and extracts will be used as commentary for the archive film compilations.
And finally, I have recorded interviews for the exhibition ‘Barbara Hulanicki: Biba and Beyond’. These interviews with shoppers and staff reflected different aspects of the Biba experience in the 60s and 70s.
Scottish Oral History Centre
Angela Bartie & Arthur McIvor
Scottish Oral History Centre
2013 has been a busy and exciting one for the Scottish Oral History Centre. We formally launched the new Centre facilities on 29 April, with an afternoon of workshops led by community groups and museums that the SOHC has worked closely with. Diane Grey from the HLF also provided a talk on funding opportunities and held a networking session thereafter. The evening was opened by David Goldie (then head of the School of Humanities, in which the SOHC is based), followed by short presentations on the history of the Centre by founding Director Callum G. Brown and the current work of the Centre by current Director, Arthur McIvor. The main event was a public lecture by one of the global pioneers of oral history, Paul Thompson. This was a great way to open the new facilities and inaugurate a new phase in the work of the SOHC. Furthermore, we are also delighted to welcome our newest member of staff, Erin Jessee, who works on the oral history of post-conflict Rwanda and Uganda and is experienced in the use of digital media in oral history.
Staff have continued to undertake oral history in a number of projects in different areas alongside ongoing training and support to a range of community and heritage groups in the greater Glasgow area, Current staff projects include the Wellcome Trust funded coalfield disability project (McIvor; and Angela Turner), the AHRC-funded wartime Reserved Occupations oral history project (Juliette Pattinson, who has recently taken up a new position at the University of Kent, McIvor and Linsey Robb), the AHRC-funded historical pageantry project (Angela Bartie in conjunction with colleagues at King’s College London and University of Glasgow), the British Academy/Leverhulme-funded residential childcare services project (Bartie, with Social Work colleagues Andrew Kendrick and Julie Shaw). We are also delighted to welcome two full-time ESRC PhD students: Andrew Clark and Aimee McCullough (supervised by McIvor and Bartie respectively). Andrew will be working on the female factory occupations of the 1980s, whilst Aimee’s research project is on fatherhood and masculinity in Scotland, c 1970-1990.
The SOHC has continued providing CPD and training to external non-SFC funded groups, including a series of commissions from Heritage Lottery funded community oral history projects at Govanhill, Paisley, Pollok, Inchinnan, British Waterways (Maryhill) and Scottish Opera (Theatre Royal), Glasgow. This work is led by Susan Morrison and David Walker with training taking place in the new SOHC facilities in Curran as well as in the communities. The SOHC has also ventured into the world of business undertaking oral history projects for the Clydesdale Bank and Inver House Distillers These have both been led by David Walker.
Scottish Oral History Centre
(Angela Bartie & Arthur McIvor)
This has been a very productive year for oral history in Scotland and for the SOHC. An important development has been the move of the SOHC to purpose-built facilities at the University of Strathclyde (a formal re-launch is planned for January 2013). This includes a training lab, archive, and Special Projects, interview and editing rooms. This substantially improves the capacity of the Centre to deliver oral history training and will operate as a hub for community and academic oral history projects, as well as our seminar series.
We were delighted to welcome Dr David Walker to the post of Research Coordinator, Dr Susan Morrison as a Research Associate and to see Dr Angela Bartie secure an open-ended lecturing contract. These colleagues bring a wealth of oral history experience to the Centre. Another staff member, Dr Andrew Perchard, was appointed to a permanent lectureship in the Business School at the University of Strathclyde. The Centre also hosted Professor Steven High, Director of the Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling, as a Visiting Professor, for two months in March-April 2012.
Amongst ongoing research work at the SOHC are projects on youth gangs (Bartie), the arts scene in 1960s Scotland (Bartie, with Eleanor Bell, English Studies), on working lives (Walker and McIvor), on the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (Pattinson) and on Forensic Science (Walker). Andrew Perchard’s work on the Aluminium communities in the Highlands has culminated in the publication of the impressive Aluminiumville in 2012. The Centre recently completed AHRC-funded work in collaboration with Glasgow Museums on work-life oral histories in the city (Walker and McIvor), including the digitisation of the 2000 Glasgow Lives collection. This wonderful resource has now been made much more accessible. Pattinson (PI) and McIvor (CI) have also recently been successful in securing a major AHRC Research Award to undertake a large-scale oral history project on the wartime Reserved Occupations in the UK. Dr Linsey Robb has been appointed as Research Associate and work will start in earnest on this project in January 2013. The Centre was also awarded money from the Hudson Trust to host ‘Our Secret War’, a collection of interviews conducted by Martyn Cox with resisters and Home Front personnel, whilst Pattinson and Prof. Rod Kedward (Emeritus Professor at Sussex) are currently compiling an inventory of Anglo-French Resistance oral testimony.
Our postgraduate community also continues to grow, and there have been three outstanding PhD submissions in the past year by Fiona Frank (on the transmission of Jewish identity through close study of several generations of the Hoppenstein family), Linsey Robb (cultural depictions of British working men, 1939 – 1945) and Alison Chand (Glasgow in wartime, 1939-45). Our teaching of oral history has also expanded, with two new oral history theory and methodology courses at Third Year and Honours levels introduced in 2012. The latter is an innovative ‘Work Placement in Oral History’ class which locates students trained in oral interviewing in local museums and archives.
Outside the SOHC, oral history has also been thriving, with a vast range of local, community and academic oral history projects up and down the country. For example, the Scottish freemasonry movement has a major oral history project underway, whilst the Scottish Council on Deafness finished its HLF oral history project in 2012 on the deaf community, with the production of four outstanding DVDs. A Stakeholders Group has also been established to investigate the viability of a National Sound Archive for Scotland and they are currently undertaking an audit of oral history resources across the country. New community oral history projects have also been initiated at Govan and at Govanhill in Glasgow. The latter (coordinated by Dr Susan Morrison) is a major HLF project ambitiously aiming to interview over 200 local residents from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds (over 50 different languages are spoken in Govanhill). The SOHC are providing extensive oral history training for the local volunteers. With the new SOHC facilities at University of Strathclyde we are looking forward to developing these community-academic links and expanding our activities even further in the years to come.
Scottish National Sound Archive
The most important activity in oral history in Scotland this year has been the announcement of government funding for a Scottish National Sound Archive Pilot scheme.
First Minister, Alex Salmond, announced in July that the National Library is to receive £100,000 for sound archiving development.
NLS will work on an archive pilot with Skye-based digitisation project, Tobar An Dualchais/Kist O Riches. This is a collaborative project which was set up to preserve, digitise, catalogue and make available online several thousand hours of Gaelic and Scots recordings. The website contains a wealth of material such as folklore, songs, music, history, poetry, traditions, stories and other information. The material has been collected from all over Scotland and beyond from the 1930s onwards.
The recordings come from the School of Scottish Studies (University of Edinburgh), BBC Scotland and the National Trust for Scotland’s Canna Collection. Martyn Wade, National Librarian and Chief Executive of NLS, said of the funding announcement:
‘The National Library welcomes this support from the Scottish Government and looks forward to working with Tobar an Dualchais to pilot a national sound archive for Scotland. The Library’s work already includes the popular Scottish Screen Archive collections and therefore we are excited at the opportunity to expand the national collections to cover sound as well.’
Stakeholders are meeting regularly at the moment to develop the project.
Some interesting oral history projects include: Celebrating Potential
Breadmakers Rise To The Occasion: Provost Approves
Garvald Edinburgh, well known in the Lothians for its Bakery, run with workers with learning disabilities, launched an exciting new initiative in August.
With finance from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Celebrating Potential Project will enable Garvald’s Members and Tenants to research and record their own histories and that of the organisation.
In an endeavour to blend their traditional arts and crafts, such as pottery, glasswork, joinery and puppetry, with the recorded histories and modern technologies, Garvald’s project will create an ambitious legacy to communicate with the wider public.
The Lord Provost of Edinburgh, the Rt. Hon. Donald Wilson, who officially launched the project at Orwell Arts Centre, commented,
“I’ve been familiar with the work of Garvald Edinburgh and the vital service they provide for many years and I’m delighted that, through this innovative project, the wider public will have an opportunity to see just what a wonderful job they do.
“As someone with a strong interest and background in technology, I was fascinated to learn about the plans to use contemporary technology to communicate the outcomes of the project.”
After recruiting volunteers and recording histories over the next year, the subsequent outcomes will celebrate the individual experiences that make up the story of Garvald Edinburgh.
- An exhibition of art and craft work where each piece contains a QR code. When scanned with a smartphone, the object will act as a portal to see a video of the people who made the object and hear their stories.
- A web based archive, to preserve and store the material generated by the project and have the audio, video, photographs and transcriptions available in an easily accessed online format.
- A publication documenting Garvald Edinburgh’s history, distributed to Primary Schools and contributing to the Curriculum for Excellence Scheme.
- A film, edited from material collected and recorded over the year, building on the organisation’s award winning Breadmakers documentary.
Noting The Tradition
The National Piping Centre has received support from the Heritage Lottery Fund to undertake an oral history project called “Noting The Tradition”. This will involve undertaking oral history interviews with people who have been involved in piping at all levels and all over Scotland in the past 50 years.
The project is looking to recruit volunteers from all over Scotland to undertake at least one interview to contribute to the project. Volunteers will receive training in oral history methods and protocols, as well as handling digital recording equipment and formatting the files for upload to the Noting the Tradition website.
The National Piping Centre Principal, Roddy MacLeod, commented, “This is an exciting project which will add to the historical and heritage resources available to researchers and members of the public interested in the history of piping. It also offers the opportunity to become involved in the creation of an important and lasting resource telling the story of Scotland’s iconic instrument, the Great Highland Bagpipe. We hope that you will be inspired to join us in this vital heritage work.”
This is an HLF funded project looking at migration to and from the Inverclyde area over a 200 year period. Working closely with schools and local volunteers, the project has produced a number of exciting outcomes, but at its core is a web archive, holding oral histories, audio, video, images and documents which have been collected over the past year.
The OHS and the British Library training course on the Introduction to Oral History, was held again in the North West at the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre at the University of Manchester, which is 5 minutes from Manchester’s Piccadilly station. The Centre’s Oral History Project on ‘Yemeni Roots, Salford Lives’, funded by the HLF to collect life story interviews and documentation on the Yemeni community in Eccles, was completed in December 2012. 22 life story interviews were recorded and the project also involved arts reminiscence and youth projects utilising other methodologies. The recordings are archived at the Centre. A community website, www.yca-manchester.org.uk, contains text and sound extracts from the interviews collected.
The Centre is also participating in an interdisciplinary project between the University of Manchester’s department of Archaeology, the Manchester Museum, the Whitworth Art Gallery, and the Friends of Whitworth Park looking at the history and development of Whitworth Park, which was opened in 1890. The project’s many outputs include archival research, archaeological digs, poetry workshops for school children, as well as oral histories. The archaeological digs have been taking place and Vox Pox interviews have been recorded during park Open Days, giving a glimpse of the many personal memories that local people have of this space. The Oral History element of the Project is yet to start but preparatory work has taken place with a template being devised, using the innovative mind mapping tool; the KETSO, © University of Manchester, which helped to identify the most important themes. Of particular interest to the Centre will be how the changing communities in the vicinity have been reflected in the park. Anyone with memories of the Park should contact firstname.lastname@example.org. And the project’s blog at: whitworthparklife.wordpress.com/ will show how the project is progressing.
Oral History Training Sessions were held with the Working Class Movement Library in Salford which has launched an Oral History Project ‘Invisible Histories’, recording the memories of people who worked at three Salford workplaces. The three workplaces were chosen as a microcosm of the diverse range of industry once based in Salford. They are Agecroft Colliery, which closed in 1991, Ward and Goldstone’s engineering factory, at one time Salford’s largest industrial employer, which closed in 1986 and Richard Haworth’s mill, which existed for around a century from the 1870s on Ordsall Lane, near what is now Salford Quays. To date the project has conducted 22 interviews with people who worked at these three sites.
In an effort to bring these memories to a wider audience, the Working Class Movement Library has been working in association with teachers and Year 9 students at Buile Hill Visual Arts College to produce a podcast, linking people’s actual words with music and song. They will also contribute to an exhibition and work with a musician and creative practitioner to produce a Radio Ballad, based on the memories and stories that have been collected. When the Radio Ballad is complete, it will be added to the project website http://InvisibleHistoriesProject.wordpress.com and disseminated as widely as possible. The project website includes the full interviews, summaries or transcripts for the interviews and themes will be added with accompanying interview extracts.
Participating in the Oral History Training was also a member of the Blackden Trust, which is aiming to create an archive of documents, photographs, oral histories and artefacts detailing the history of the ancient area of Blackden within the village of Goostrey in the depths of Cheshire. With the help of a group of volunteers, the trust organises events and workshops and hopes to uncover the stories, memories and half-forgotten lore associated with the area.
The OHS and the British Library training course on the Introduction to Oral History, was held again in the North West and is proving to be popular with full attendance and a waiting list. The course was held at the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre at the University of Manchester and this location, which is 5 minutes from Manchester’s Piccadilly station, ensured easy access to attendees from the North West and beyond. The Centre itself has made good use of the course and is partnering a project ‘Yemeni Roots, Salford Lives’, which is collecting life story interviews and documentation on the Yemenite community in Eccles. To date 17 interviews have been recorded with 21 people and recordings will also be undertaken with young people. The recordings will be archived at the Centre. A website has been launched www.yca-manchester.org.uk. and two exhibitions will be held, one in October focussing on women’s memories and the other from Dec 15- Feb 17 showcasing the whole project.
The Caldwell’s Nurseries Oral History Project, for which I held a training course last year has been progressing well. The project has recorded and processed 17 interviews to date and it advertised its work by putting together a garden display at the Tatton Park Flower show. The project held a volunteer feedback session (to be recommended for all projects) which highlighted the benefits and challenges of oral history for the volunteers.
I am currently undertaking work on the Oral History Collection of the Manchester Jewish Museum helping to make it accessible to a wider audience. The collection of 519 interviews, many of them conducted in the 1970s and 1980s, is being slowly digitised and their summaries or transcripts are being timecoded.
Manchester’s 160 year old YMCA launched a sporting heroes oral history project in October 2011 to document the lives of members who have done well in sport through the YMCA sporting facilities. These include many British champions and Olympians over the last 50 years and players of the Manchester United Football team, who used the YMCA physical fitness training facility in the 1950s. Many of the athletes continue to train in the YMCA (some are in their 80s). 30 interviews have been undertaken to date. A mini exhibition was held in February/March 2012 during the Manchester Histories Festival and a full exhibition will be held in October 2012 and a book produced.
A short project incorporating oral history has been held from March – October 2012 on Worsley New Hall, a Victorian mansion which was demolished. Five interviews and other material are available on the University of Salford’s online Archive repository http://usir.salford.ac.uk/archives/ and an exhibition was scheduled for September.
The Irish Diaspora Foundation has continued its oral history work, undertaken by a team of volunteers at the Irish World Heritage Centre. Twenty interviews have been conducted in the past year either on a specific theme or with people who had an interesting story. Some of the interviews were incorporated into the oral history exhibition, which was part of the Manchester Irish Festival in March and will form part of the exhibition at the new Irish World Heritage Centre premises due to open in December.
In January a highly successful OHS Continuing Development Day was held at the People’s Museum in Manchester. Some thirteen people attended, not only from the north west but from south Yorkshire as well. The sessions were run by Stephen Kelly and Clare Jenkins around the theme of legal and ethical issues and touched on subjects such as sensitive interviews, interviewees divulging more than they had anticipated, libel and the Official Secrets Act. Attendees also talked at length about their own projects and debates that had arisen.
Manchester YMCA has now almost concluded its project on Sporting Heroes associated with their institution. The one-year project, funded by an HLF grant and run by Christine Gibbons, has been focused around Manchester YMCA’s Olympians and other major sporting personalities. These have included Manchester United players as well as world champion wrestlers, Olympic judo medalists and so forth. The project was formally launched a year ago at the YMCA’s Castlefield site in Manchester by guest of honour Sir Alex Ferguson, manager of Manchester United. During the 1940s, 50s, 60s and even into the 1980s Manchester United regularly used the YMCA. Also among the guests was Jack Crompton, an honorary member of the YMCA, and the Manchester United goalkeeper in the 1948 FA Cup final. Other guests included former Busby Babe and United manager Wilf McGuinness, plus a host of Olympians going back to 1956.
The project, which was planned around the London Olympics, was also represented in the Manchester Histories fortnight earlier this year along with an exhibition stand in the Town Hall. Students from All Hallows Secondary School in Salford and Manchester Metropolitan University as well as YMCA volunteers helped conduct interviews. A website has been set up featuring interviews with many of the YM’s sporting heroes, talking about their experiences of the YMCA as well as their sporting memories. A celebratory dinner is to be held in October to formally end the project.
The Swinton Lions Tales project continues to collect oral history recordings of players, fans and club officials as well as other memorabilia. The project, which was launched in 2011 and funded by the HLF, is expected to continue on a voluntary basis for a number of years.
The Chat Moss project which has been funded by an HLF grant, has also recently come to a close. The project focused on an area of land, close to the Trafford Centre in Manchester which was rich farmland for over 150 years but since the 1980s has gone into decline with only a handful of farms remaining. Memories of the area and the farms however remain strong and more than 20 interviews have been recorded capturing those memories. The project worked with local schools, producing a range of artistic endeavours around the recordings such as mosaics, paintings and even a puppet show. A book with the memories and photographs is due to be published shortly.
Another HLF funded project on the Bridgewater Canal continues. The canal, the oldest in the world, is celebrating its 150th anniversary. Volunteers have been collecting memories of the canal and a number of recordings have been made.