Leicestershire & Rutland
Cynthia Brown & Colin Hyde
Oral histories have formed part of several local projects funded under the HLF ‘All Our Stories’ programme. They include ‘For Truth’s Sake’ by the Leicester Secular Society, which was founded in 1851 and is the oldest surviving Secular Society in England. Extracts from interviews featured in an exhibition in September 2013, and will be used in other activities to document the Society’s history and that of the Secular Hall, which was opened in 1881 and still hosts the Society’s meetings and other events. The BU History Group has also received funding under the ‘All Our Stories’ programme to produce a website, DVD and book based on the memories of former employees of the British United Shoe Machinery Co (BUSM). The ‘BU’ was once the largest producer of shoe-making machinery in the world, employing 4500 people at its peak. The interviews are being deposited in the East Midlands Oral History Archive (EMOHA).
Other new projects have been funded through the ‘Building Shared Heritages’ programme in which the University of Leicester’s School of Historical Studies aims to widen access to its resources and help local groups with research and access to funding. ‘Not Lost the Plot’, by the Friends of Queens Road Allotments in Leicester, is exploring the heritage of over 160 privately-owned allotments, purchased from the Craddock family in 1926. A project by the Leicester Mayasa Link Group, ‘Reaching Out: the untold story of Leicester’s twinning links’, aims to explore and record both the civic and social aspects of the City’s twinning links with Strasbourg (France), Krefeld (Germany), Rajkot (India), Chongqing (China) and Haskovo (Bulgaria), as well as Mayasa (Nicaragua) itself. It will be recording memories and collecting photographs, documents and artefacts with a view to producing an exhibition, educational resources and a video.
The Hinckley and Bosworth Sound Archive has recently been updated and has a variety of reminiscences and interviews hosted by Hilltop Radio and Earsight. The oral history section features interviews conducted by Rhianydd Murray on the hosiery industry in Hinckley at http://www.habsa.co.uk/.
The annual EMOHA Oral History Day was held at the University of Leicester in June 2013 on the theme of ‘Oral History: past, present and future’. Organised by Colin Hyde and Cynthia Brown, it also marked the thirtieth anniversary of the original Leicester Oral History Archive and Mantle Oral History Archive in North West Leicestershire, established with funding from the Manpower Services Commission. Colin’s reflection on thirty years of oral history in Leicester and Leicestershire was followed by presentations from Simon Dixon and Tom Hulme on ‘rediscovering’ the history of Leicester’s Cultural Quarter through oral histories, and by Terese Bird on the use of oral history with other media in the ‘Manufacturing Pasts’ website. All three are based at the University of Leicester. Other speakers were Wendy Freer, who talked about the use of digital sound at Ashby-de-la-Zouch Museum; Roger Kitchen, who reflected on the origins of the Living Archive in Milton Keynes, and the challenges and rewards of turning oral testimony into dramatic productions; and Nick Hayes, who gave an update on options for recording equipment. Around thirty people attended from across the East Midlands.
EMOHA continues to contribute to a range of University of Leicester projects investigating the effects of deindustrialisation in Leicester. This work includes the history of Leicester’s industry for the City Council’s ‘Story of Leicester’ website, which also links to previous projects ‘Manufacturing Pasts’ and ‘My Leicestershire History’: www.leicester.gov.uk/your-council-services/lc/storyofleicester/ cityheritage/atwork/. Colin Hyde of EMOHA, Liz Blood of Leicestershire County Council, and Burt McNeill of the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland (ROLLR) have been recording interviews with members of the Leicestershire Branch of the British Korean Veterans Association to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War. The interviewing is now finished and a brief look at the recent service of remembrance at Leicestershire County Hall is available on You Tube at http://youtu.be/pHDAt2hqQn8 . The plan is to create a longer documentary using the interviews and the large amount of memorabilia that has been collected during the project.
‘Dialect & Oral History: the East Midlands’ is a new resource on EMOHA’s website. This project was a collaborative research project conducted in 2011-2012 by researchers from the University of Leicester and Nottingham Trent University. Funded by The British Academy, the project identified variation and change in the East Midlands dialect through an investigation of recorded voices from oral history archives. To address a gap in previous linguistic research in the area, the study examined a number of archival oral history interviews from the latter half of the last century and compared those with interviews conducted more recently. Have a listen to voices from across the East Midlands here: www.le.ac.uk/emoha/community/dialect/home.html.
EMOHA has also taken in several new collections over the past year, among them recordings made for an exhibition about hair braiding; those made for the Centre for Indian Classical Dance (CICD) Karman Project about South Asian classical dance in Leicester; a project called ‘Father Used to Say’ that gathered stories from Leicestershire people and set them to music; interviews about the history of Leicester’s Cultural Quarter; Leicester Museum’s ‘Suits & Saris’ project about South Asian clothing; Mosaic’s ‘Our Lives’ project, about the lives of disabled people; and ‘Mountsorrel Memories of Stone, Steam & Steel’, a project by Glassball Arts in partnership with the Mountsorrel Heritage Group and Lafarge Aggregates & Concrete UK. These reflect the wide variety of projects that groups in Leicestershire have been involved with. Although most of these will not be catalogued in the near future, they will be stored safely and made available to anyone wanting to listen to them.
A full list of collections held at EMOHA can be found at www.le.ac.uk/emoha/catalogue/collections.html.
At the Local Studies section of Nottingham Central Library we continue to support local projects, mainly with advice and use of our collection for research. We are also willing to receive copies of oral history from local Nottingham and Nottinghamshire projects for archiving and also copies for the library’s collection where possible.
Nottingham Women’s Centre have successfully gained an HLF Grant to carry out a project about the Women’s liberation movement in Nottingham and Nottingham Women’s Centre when it was located on Shakespeare Street in the 1970s – mid 1980s. They are trying to locate women who worked at/used the centre during this era to interview and record their memories; as well as exploring ways to preserve the archives that they currently hold.
Eleven-eleven-eleven (Part of Nottingham City Council First World war Project – ‘From the Trent to the Trenches – Nottinghamshire in the Great War 1914-18) is a community memories project that attempts to gather stories from the many diverse communities that make up Nottingham as it is today. In 1914 the city was a very different place than it is now, and most of the communities that have settled here since, will not have been present during the years of World War 1. But there will be people from across the city’s many communities who have family stories connected to the war. These may be stories of relatives serving in armies, maybe for the British Empire Forces, the Allied Forces, or the Central Powers. Or they may be stories connected to the impact of the war on the countries in which their relatives lived.
The Children of the Croft project has now been completed. This is the history of the Family First at The Croft, Nottingham from 1966 to 1975; it was managed by Now Heritage. The Croft, Nottingham, a large house in Alexandra Park could house eight women and their small children at any one time. More information can be found on their website www.storiesofthecroft.org.uk – an online exhibition created from this project (November 2011- January 2013).
Daniel O’Neill, a current PhD student at the University of Nottingham is working on the John Player Advertising Archive that the City Council’s museum service holds. As part of this he is conducting an oral history project interviewing former employees of Player’s. The aim is to get at the stories behind some of the physical objects we hold.
There is also the Nottingham Green spaces project, supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, this community history project aims to examine the changing social and cultural uses of the Forest, the Arboretum, the General Cemetery, Church Cemetery and some of the other green spaces formed during the mid-nineteenth century. Led by the University of Nottingham and the University of Derby and working with the Friends of the Forest, Friends of the Nottingham Arboretum, Nottingham City Council, Nottingham Women’s History Group and other partners, it is exploring the relationship between the parks and the changing communities in their vicinity. The project is directed by Professor John Beckett of the University of Nottingham and Dr. Paul Elliott of the University of Derby. More information can be found at www.ng-spaces.org.uk