The Norfolk Record Office continues to support oral history projects in the county, by running basic training, lending equipment and acting as a place of deposit for recorded oral history interviews.
The projects which have been supported by the NRO reflect a diverse range of subjects and locations. They include St Seraphim Chapel in Little Walsingham who are collecting interview’s relating to Chapel’s life as a railway station and a centre for icon painting. Two other projects reflect the county’s maritime heritage. The Wherry Yacht Charter Charitable Trust and the Rescue Wooden Boats project were both seeking to interview those associated with building, maintaining and using different types of boats. The NRO has also supported young people from Norwich to produce a documentary regarding Norfolk’s Islamic community. Several Norfolk villages and towns have sought help with oral history projects. These include Shotesham, Aylsham, Thetford, Taverham and Hickling.
The NRO has also received several hundred recorded interviews. Again, the interviews relate to a wide range of subjects and Norfolk places. Subjects reflected in the interviews include the Agricultural Workers Union, Norwich’s Baedecker raids during the Second World War, archaeology and Norfolk’s black and minority ethnic communities. The NRO has also received several interviews of former players of Norwich City Football Club as well as non-playing staff and supporters.
The NRO has also received over a hundred interviews from the Norwich Living History group, which has decided to finish its activities. This organization has collected many life interviews of current and former inhabitants of Norwich. Another organization which operates in Norfolk, which has received support from the NRO, is the Wise Archive. This Norfolk based organization records and preserves the working life stories of people in the United Kingdom in order to recognise and value the contribution they have made to society.
The NRO has also contributed to a project entitled ‘Eighth in the East’ which has just received a grant from the HLF. The project aims to explore the impact of the United States Army Air Force’s Eighth Army in East Anglia during the Second World War through oral history, community archaeology, drama and local exhibitions.
As a freelance oral historian I’ve been working as a project manager since October 2012 with Legasee Educational Trust for their 65th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift project. This has been successfully completed this October and I’m delighted to say we have recorded fifty interviews with British veterans of the airlift. The interviews are uploaded on the archive page of the Legasee website: http://www.legasee.org.uk/the-archive/ Bungay High School was involved in filming some of the interviews with days organised at Duxford Museum and the Norfolk & Suffolk Aviation Museum. A celebratory event was held at NSAM for over eighty veterans and their families with a pop-up exhibition. This has been a wonderful project to work on and I’ve made some new friends with the veterans and their families! Some of their families weren’t even aware of their parent’s role in the airlift until we began this project and several veterans have passed away since we filmed them which makes their stories even more precious for their families and the archive.
My current project I’ve just begun working on this week is with Colchester and Ipswich Museum Service who are delivering a major Heritage Lottery funded redevelopment of Colchester Castle. One element of this redevelopment is to film ten oral history interviews with a range of individuals from the Colchester Garrison community, past and present. The museum will incorporate these into an interactive display which will enhance the displays in Colchester Castle which is re-opening in Spring 2014.
In the last year I’ve received general enquiries from fewer local history groups and museums seeking advice and guidance on which recording equipment is best for their purpose and which oral history elements to include in a bid for Heritage Lottery Funding.
However I have received requests to train oral history volunteers from local history societies and museums who have already been successful in their funding bid with Heritage Lottery. Examples of projects I’ve personally been involved with are:
Pascal Theatre: At the end of last year I was asked by Pascal Theatre to train a group of volunteers to record interviews with families of those connected to Trent Park in the Second World War, known as the secret listeners. (Background: Between 1942 and 1945 German Generals were imprisoned at Trent Park. British Military Intelligence spied on them to try and learn military secrets. Until now this has been kept top secret, www.secretlisteners.com)
Little Waldingfield History Society was granted funding by Heritage Lottery to record memories of their village. In January I was asked to train their group of volunteers in an introduction to oral history interviewing and recording skills.
Ely Wildspace: A group of local campaigners for the protection of rural Ely secured funding for their wider project which includes an oral history project collecting memories of how the common was used within living memory and the changes to wildlife and landscape. The group asked me to hold a training workshop in June for a group of volunteers who are gathering the memories of local villagers.
Mildenhall Museum in Suffolk is managed by volunteers and they asked me to recorded some memories about one of their early founders and the archaeological finds in their area such as the Iceni coin hoard and the burial graves at RAF Lakenheath.
Cambridge University Press – is continuing with some new interviews and I’ve been editing the existing interviews from 2011 for their corporate archive.
In November 2012 the University of Essex hosted two events as part of the Economic and Social Research Council’s annual Festival of Social Science. Both events offered opportunities for members of the public to share memories. One event – at which a number of interviews were recorded by Professor Paul Thompson – gathered information relating to the impact of the Marconi factory in Chelmsford. The other commemorated the 60th anniversary of the East Coast Flood of 1953.
November also saw the publication of The 1953 Essex Flood Disaster: The People’s Story, a book by local author Patricia Rennoldson Smith which was largely drawn from interviews with survivors of the floods.
Continuing with the sea theme, a number of interviews were recorded with wives of fishermen from Leigh on Sea. Extracts from the interviews were made available via a blog called “The Seagull That Lived in the Shower” [http://sdoralhistory.blogspot.co.uk/] which was created in March 2013 to mark International Women’s Day.
A number of projects in Essex have benefitted from grants awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. January 2013 saw the launch in Grays of the British South Asian Theatre Memories project. The Silver End Heritage Society has received funding for a project to record the experiences of those living, working and growing up in the village of Silver End which was designed to house workers at the Crittall windows factory. Essex County Fire and Rescue Service has been recruiting volunteers to assist with a project to record interviews with former fire-fighters as well as a number of people who have been affected by major fire incidents in the county.
A touring exhibition on the History of Jazz in Essex has been opened. This is the result of a project run by Essex on Tour, which is part of Essex County Council, in which nearly 50 interviews have been recorded with musicians, promoters and venue holders. The project began with sadness and a feeling of a missed opportunity as the first interviewee was to have been Kenny Ball who, unfortunately, died only a month before the project was ready to begin recording interviews.
The Essex Sound and Video Archive at the Essex Record Office has received £53,700 in development funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund for the You Are Hear: sound and a sense of place project. The project will aim to digitise and catalogue recordings held in the archive, focussing on collections of oral history interviews. This wealth of digitised recordings will then be presented in different ways, enabling Essex residents in particular to learn about, interact with and enjoy the recordings, helping them to use the sounds of Essex people and places over the last 100 years to develop or enhance their sense of place.
Report uploaded by: Juliana Vandegrift