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.
Kath Smith, Remembering the Past, Resourcing the Future
The past year has been a busy one for RPRF with continued and expanding interest in oral history as a medium for recording local history and for making it available to a wide range of audiences across North Tyneside and beyond.
The ‘Day at the Beach’ project, funded by HLF in partnership with North Tyneside VODA, was hugely successful and saw teams of volunteer oral historians co-ordinating a large scale memory collection exercise based on memories of the seaside. In a wonderful feat of organisation 24 older people were interviewed in a single day. The subsequent recordings were edited by the volunteers and uploaded to the RPRF archive site www.memoriesnorthtyne.org.uk. The recordings also formed the basis for a cartoon film script.
The partnership model worked extremely well for the ‘Day at the Beach’ project and we are delighted to say that it will be replicated in 2013/14 with a new project which will explore the heritage of the Shiremoor Treat. The Treat has been going for 107 years, providing a special day out for local children on the first Saturday of July. Oral history collection will form a significant part of the project as well as the production of a documentary film. An oral history training programme for new volunteers will take place and we’ll be working hard to find memories and memorabilia as part of a celebratory exhibition in July 2014.
The commemoration of the beginning of World War One is also a trigger for a look back at the direct impact of war on local life and we’re delighted that the Tynemouth World War One Commemoration project has included oral history as part of their remit as they research the Tynemouth Roll of Honour. The project has already drawn together family members to reflect on how their family history has been influenced by losing a loved one in the Great War. All of this material will be made available in time for the commemoration of the start of World War One in August 2014.
This is just a snapshot of the work going on in North Tyneside and new ideas are emerging on a regular basis.
If You Were Mine: A story of the North East by Liquid Theatre in association with Northern Stage.
Members from the Liquid Theatre Company spent the month of July 2011 in the North East interviewing local residents who were in their twenties in the 1950s. These interviews were used along with songs from the dancehalls and playgrounds to bring 1950s Sunderland to life. The play which combines kitchen sink naturalism with stylish theatrical storytelling will tour the North East region later this year before coming to London.
Barnard Castle School
Barnard Castle School celebrates its 130th anniversary next year and is planning a ‘memory lane’ project in order to bring their archive alive by engaging and recording their present and former pupils. The school is hoping to receive funding from the Heart of Teesdale Landscape Partnership.
Toon Times is a new Heritage Project that will focus on the rich history of Newcastle United Football Club and the impact it has on the North East and around the world. Funded by The Premier League Professional Footballers’ Association (PLPFA) Community Fund, Heritage Lottery Fund and in partnership with Tyne and Wear Museums, Toon Times aims to delve into the clubs past and capture history through the eyes of Newcastle United’s passionate supporters.
European Reminiscence Network
Reminiscence Theatre Archive
Greenwich University has accepted the archive of recorded and transcribed interviews and related theatre work created during my years as Founder and Artistic Director of Age Exchange Theatre Trust (1983-2005) In May 2012, I transferred all the surviving material relating to reminiscence theatre to the University. The archive consists of audio-recordings on key themes in social history of 20th century, including women’s war work. working life on the River Thames, inter-war housing estates round London, Health care before the NHS, Jewish East End and Irish memories, plus many more.
In many cases there are matching transcripts and accompanying photos. The scripts formed from these reminiscences are included, plus production photographs, tour schedules, press reports, etc.
The Archive and Students
The University is not only storing the archive, but actively working on it in various curriculum areas, especially Drama. For example, drama students have been exploring the archive as a source for new theatre productions.
Several of these productions have toured to local sheltered houses where they have been very well received. Here, a student records her pleasure in learning about reminiscence theatre and having a chance to play for older people.
Wioleta Pietrasik on participating in Reminiscence Theatre
Volunteering at university gave me an opportunity to work with archive material, which I have never done before. I read stories that were previously recorded and found it very touching. I had many ideas, which I used to work in my written work and created performances which brought those precious stories to life. Our meetings were full of energy; we improvised with the text, devised movement, decided on the order of the pieces and how to present them in an enthusiastic way, which did justice to the stories’ authors. At the end of the day these weren’t just stories, but people’s lives, or parts of them. Therefore I felt responsible for producing pieces which would not only have historical meaning but also an artistic outcome.
We were given a number of opportunities to present our performances to the audience at Care Homes and university meetings. After each performance we were given time to talk to elderly people, which was an amazing experience, as we could hear their response and feedback to our work.
A new website for the Reminiscence Theatre Archive is launched
During this last year, the University of Greenwich has facilitated the making of a website to reflect the depth and variety of material in the archive. The in-putting work has been conducted by Assistants from Poland, Finland and Spain, funded by the European Commission, and students of the university. The website was due to be launched on 23rd of May 2013 with a special event. Because of the murder of Lee Rigby outside the Woolwich Barracks, just round the corner from the Greenwich University Drama Building, this had to be cancelled at the last minute, which was very upsetting for all concerned. However, the site is now on-line and can be viewed at www.reminiscencetheatrearchive.org.uk
We shall have a belated official launch, together with performances of reminiscence theatre at the University of Greenwich on 26th June 2014, as part of the forthcoming conference “Remembering Yesterday, Caring Today” (see below).
European Reminiscence Network: Reminiscence in dementia care
This last year, we gained new EU Learning Partnership funding with partners in 8 EU countries to develop a new training and apprenticeship course in Reminiscence in Dementia Care. The project is called “Remembering Yesterday, Caring Today Training (RYCTT) and it runs for 2 years until July 2014. The partner countries are Germany, Spain, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Northern Ireland, France, Poland and UK. We also have 4 associate partners pursuing the same project in Finland, Netherlands, Ireland and Estonia.
There have been three international meetings of this Learning Partnership since my last report. The first was in Prague in November 2012, the second in Perpignan in France in April 2013 and we have just returned from Poznan, Poland. On each occasion, 6 or 7 of us have travelled to these countries to compare notes and catch up with partners developing the same project. This year I invited 2 post-graduates from Greenwich University, and again Wioleta Pietrasik has written about her experience of performing the piece in London and in Poland.
As part of one of my university courses I created a theatrical piece about the life of my grandmother. She was always my inspiration and role model and I have always wanted to create a piece of drama based on her difficult, but also beautiful life. She was an amazing story-teller and I gathered in my memory all those amazing things she told me, added her favourite poems, my favourite songs which she sang to me and cultural elements (such as use of different language) as my grandmother was Polish. My main interest was how dementia, which she suffered from, changed her as a person and what impact it had on her life when the symptoms started to show.
I really enjoyed working on the piece itself. It brought back happy memories and made me realize how similar we both were. I received fantastic feedback from my tutor and decided to present my piece at the European Reminiscence Network meeting in October, 2013 in Poznan (Poland). The meeting was about ‘Remembering Yesterday, Caring Today'(an international reminiscence project for people with dementia and their family carers) and I thought that my piece would fit in perfectly.
Unfortunately a few days before the conference my grandmother passed away. It was a very difficult time for my whole family and I travelled to Poland to attend the funeral. I decided I would still take part in the conference and will present my creative project as a form of tribute to my grandmother. I felt very vulnerable, but also felt like sharing my memories and stories with others as I thought it would help me go through that difficult time. The reception of my piece was over-whelming: everyone was very sensitive and kind and the feedback was amazing. At the end of the conference a few participants said that they found my piece the most memorable thing they will take away from the whole meeting. I am very humble and thankful and really hope I have done justice to my grandmother’s life.
In connection with this RYCTT project, we have piloted in London a 2-day training course based at the University of Greenwich, involving experiential and theoretical learning about Reminiscence in Dementia Care. This course is now being used and certificated across all partner countries. The apprenticeship scheme follows the training course with 10 weeks of involvement in reminiscence workshops with people with dementia and their family carers. This includes taking responsibility for leading sections of the workshops and writing an essay (or other form of submission such as a video diary) reflecting on learning achieved. Those who have satisfactorily completed these requirements receive an accreditation as facilitators of groups running reminiscence in dementia care. Across our whole partnership we hope to have 300 people trained and 100 people gaining accreditation via the apprenticeship scheme.
An International Conference on Reminiscence in Dementia Care
Our latest news is that we have been funded by the European Commission to run an international conference on Reminiscence in Dementia Care at the University of Greenwich on 26-27 June 2014. All our EU partner countries will attend and present their work, together with arts and health professionals from across the UK and well beyond. For further information about the conference, send off to Marta Moreno at this email address email@example.com or to me at firstname.lastname@example.org