North West Region Annual Report – 2012
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.