South East 2016


South East Region (Padmini Broomfield)

As in years past, the vast majority of oral history projects seeking advice and support continue to be those funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. In a recent initiative, led by the HLF to encourage grant applications from BAME communities, I worked with its South East region development team to deliver a project development workshop followed by mentoring sessions for organisations in the Southampton area.  

Age Fusion: An intergenerational project, led by Age Concern Hampshire (ACH) with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), has been exploring the experiences and expectations of ageing. Oral history interviews, recorded by staff and volunteers with ACH Day Care Centre service users, formed the basis of a series of training workshops for young people attending the Hampshire Fire and Rescue Services The Prince’s Trust Team Programme. The third stage brought the two generations together to converse and interact during reminiscence and activity sessions. A touring exhibition, book , Getting On: Conversations on living life and growing old and a resources kit has been produced.

Rebuilding Bodies and Souls, a new project at East Grinstead Museum, aims “to tell the story of the Second World War pioneering plastic surgeon Archibald McIndoe and the 649 patients who became known as the Guinea Pig Club.” A team of trained volunteers is reviewing existing interviews and recording new ones, with surviving members of the Guinea Pig Club and local people who remember them, to help inform new displays and other activities.

The People’s Cathedral Project at Guildford Cathedral continues with an enthusiastic group of volunteers recording the memories of ‘brickgivers’ who helped raise funds to build the Cathedral, those who worked or worshipped there in the early years. The progress of the oral history project within the larger project of repairs, restoration and community engagement activities, including artist-in-residence, public lectures and research, is being documented in the newsletters.

While it is good to see new projects collecting fresh interviews on a variety of topics, one of the highlights for me has been two commissions that allowed me to delve into the rich archives of the former Southampton Oral History Unit to select and edit audio extracts for use in new exhibitions at SeaCity Museum. Researching through interviews recorded in the early 1980s with WW1 women war workers (for the new Soldiers’ Journey audio posts) or with early 20th century crew members of ocean liners (for Port Out, Southampton Home displays) was fascinating. It highlighted the importance of long-term archiving and digitisation that would open up even more opportunities to re-use existing material in new formats and displays along with newly collected interviews.

Sussex (East and West)/Brighton & Hove (Jo Palache)

This year I have had a fewer general enquiries regarding oral history projects in comparison with previous years. The past year’s oral history projects in Sussex include:

Brighton Museum

Oral history interviews with local residents from the African Diaspora were included as part of the Fashioning Africa HLF community engagement project accompanying the museum’s major fashion exhibition, Fashion Cities Africa.  The interviews provided audio clips and quotes for a smaller exhibition, which ran from 30th April to 28th August 2016 on the South Balcony at Brighton Museum.

Chesham House Centre (RVS), Lancing: Age Craft

The local Royal Voluntary Service in Lancing completed its HLF project to enable children to engage with older people in their local community through intergenerational workshops. The project culminated with an exhibition at their day centre.

A Kemp Town Cornerstone, St Mary’s Church, Brighton

As part of a restoration project, St Mary’s has been awarded HLF funding to create an exhibition of photographs and memories about the changes that have taken place in the church’s neighbourhood.  As well as collecting photographs and items, oral histories are being conducted so that local residents and parishioners can share memories and preserve them for the future.

South East/Hampshire (Sheila Jemima)

In contrast to last year, 2016 has been fairly busy here in Hampshire with a steady flow of oral history enquiries, mainly requests for help and advice in setting up new projects, training requests and talks.

HLF in partnership with Hampshire County Council have awarded the Royal Victoria Country Park in Netley, Southampton, a grant of £2.68 million to refurbish the Chapel of what once was said to be the World’s largest military hospital.  The  foundation stone was laid by Queen Victoria in 1856 and the Hospital opened in 1863,  amid some controversy regarding  the design, especially from Florence Nightingale who was reported as  saying

” the comfort and recovery of the patient has been sacrificed to the vanity of the Architect whose sole object has been to make a building which should cut a dash when looked at from Southampton water”

During the expansion of the Empire the hospital served the Military from all over the World, and it was particularly busy during the second Boer War 1899-1902. The US Army Medical School took it over during the second world war prior to D-Day.

It was finally closed down in 1966, although the Asylum was still operational until 1978.

As well as an extensive refurbishment programme of the Chapel, an oral history project will also be carried out to tell the story of the people who worked there, and  Padmini and I have been  asked for our help and support.   An  oral history project was  carried out in 1985, and I have been researching this material( which is held at the Wessex Film and Sound Archive in Winchester) for use in the exhibition.

When the refurbished Chapel re- opens in late Summer 2018, visitors will be able take a tour to the top of the Chapel Tower and learn about the History of the hospital through interpretive displays and oral history.