East England Region Annual Report – 2012


(Carmela Semeraro)

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

Oral history will feature in a number of ways:

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

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

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

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


(Jonathan Draper)

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


(Juliana Vandegrift)

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


(Martin Astell)

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