(Andrew Edwards & Beth Thomas)
This year’s report from Wales is testimony to the continuing support given to oral history projects by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Devised to celebrate Disability Wales’ own 40th Anniversary, Story at 40 is an oral history film project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, capturing the memories and experiences of disabled people born around 1972 and living in Wales. The aim of the project was to reflect changing policy and attitudes towards disabled people over the past four decades, and to represent the different experiences of disability and the diverse community of disabled people in Wales. Disabled volunteers of all ages took part in this project either by becoming part of the production team or by becoming interviewees. All volunteers were provided with training including learning about interviewing techniques, filming, editing, and cataloguing as well as disability equality and the history of disabled people. The film premier will take place in early December.
Mencap Cymru have also been awarded a first-round pass from the Heritage Lottery Fund for their oral history project, Hidden Now Heard.
The Aber Valley Heritage Museum in Senghenydd near Caerphilly has received Heritage Lottery Funding for a project relating to next year’s 100 year anniversary of Britain’s largest mining disaster at the Universal Colliery, Senghenydd, in which 440 people were killed. Part of the project is to record stories passed down through generations regarding the 1913 explosion and its aftermath. As the explosion is no longer in living memory the interviews would also deal with general life in the Aber Valley in the years following the closure of the mine and how life has changed since 1913. These stories (or some of them at least) will then be uploaded onto an audio post to be based at the site of a new Memorial.
The Committee of the Arandora Star Memorial Fund in Wales has now deposited recordings from their Arandora Star Oral History Project at St. Fagans: National History Museum. The ship, carrying Italian internees to internment campls in Canada was torpedoed in July 1940. The material recorded includes 9 interviews with the relatives of the victims and survivors of the sinking together with a short transcript both in Welsh and in English.
Another Lottery funded oral project which has come to completion is the Hineni Project that tells the life stories of 60 members of the Cardiff Reform Jewish community. From those who grew up in Wales and the UK, to refugees and holocaust survivors, from Welsh speakers to business people to political activists, the exhibition, book and website give a picture of how these people have lived their lives and formed their identity.
The Reform community, which follows a more liberal version of Judaism than the Orthodox community, grew in Wales in the 1930s as the number of Jews fleeing the Nazis increased.The only progressive – as opposed to traditional – Jewish community in Wales, it numbers around 250. Cardiff Reform Synagogue was awarded over £33,000 from Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) in 2010 to provide project volunteers with specialised training in oral history, archiving, interviewing and the digital technology skills needed to document the stories. The Reform community worked in partnership with Glenn Jordan of the Butetown History and Arts Centre (BHAC), experienced in portraying minority communities in Cardiff.
Finally the Heritage Lottery Fund have also been generous in their support of St Fagans: National History Museum. The HLF’s £11.5m grant from HLF has enabled us to embark upon a £25.5m project to turn the museum’s aspirational title National History Museum into a reality. Over the next four years we will transform St Fagans into a new and unique kind of museum where national collections of archaeology amd history will displayed together in an open-air museum. Visitors will be inspired to explore the history of the peoples of Wales from the earliest times to the present day through dialogical exhibitions, authentic historical buildings and archaeological reconstructions. The plans include giving greater prominence to our long-standing archive of oral testimony, exploring how history is constructed and how some people’s voices become part of the national story while others remain silent.