East England Region Annual Report – 2011


Carmela Semeraro

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project about Leighton Buzzard’s Sand industry, with associated digital photographs, transcripts, summaries and related historical documents which I collected for the Greensand Trust, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.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

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

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

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


Jonathan Draper

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

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

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


Juliana Vandegrift

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


Martin Astell

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

Report uploaded by: Juliana Vandegrift