(Michelle Winslow & John Tanner)
Many oral history projects are underway in South Yorkshire and here we report on a few, particularly reflecting a growing body of work taking place in universities.
In July of this year we held a 13th Regional Network meeting in Sheffield; this annual event is free to anyone with an interest in oral history in the region. The day was a mix of discussion and project presentations. Gary Rivett (University of Sheffield) began the day with an excellent presentation about his project ‘Stories of Activism in Sheffield. 1960-2012’. Alison Twells (Sheffield Hallam University) followed with a community history session in which she sought views and ideas for a new website; Michelle Winslow (University of Sheffield) presented work taking place in palliative care; and Elizabeth Carnegie (University of Sheffield) facilitated a session on oral history in museums. Plans for next year’s event are already underway; if you are interested in taking part please contact Michelle (email@example.com).
The website referred to above will provide an online community presence for South Yorkshire and is currently being developed by Alison Twells, Michelle Winslow and John Tanner (Barnsley Museums). The site will bring together community and oral history organisations and activities in the region; it will showcase and publicise community history events and projects, and gather groups and activities in South Yorkshire ‘under one roof’ (virtually speaking). It will offer opportunities to gain knowledge from other groups about, for example, writing a funding bid, buying equipment, and developing books and exhibitions. The website also aims to make available an extensive archive of digital resources relating to South Yorkshire’s history.
Alison Twells sends a report about work at Sheffield Hallam University with students who took part in oral history interviews as part of a new third-year module, ‘C20th Women: life stories and social change’. Most focused on the Sixties, interviewing family, neighbours and acquaintances about their experience of that decade, while others focused on women’s experience of work and domesticity during World War Two and after. They also enjoyed getting their teeth into oral history theory, via Lynn Abrams’ recent book of that title. Students undertook oral history interviews for their work on a ‘Community History’ module and one of them, Alexander, developed a KS2 teaching resource on the Sheffield Blitz, using as a centrepiece his interview with his grandmother.
An oral history initiative taking place at the University of Sheffield is now entering its second year. Charles West writes that ‘Witness: Preserving Sheffield’s Past’ is a project run by students from the Department of History who will be conducting interviews on topics relating to living in Sheffield in the 1980s, and the Second World War in Sheffield. Last year’s interviews, and the report that came out of them, can be viewed at http://www.witness.group.shef.ac.uk/ If you’d like to find out more, or are interested in helping out, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
In the Sheffield Macmillan Unit for Palliative Care, an oral history project continues to offer a service for people staying in the unit with the support of the Northern General Hospital Charitable Trust. The project began in 2007 under the auspices of the Academic Unit of Supportive Care, University of Sheffield. Michelle Winslow, the project lead, Sam Smith, and a team of volunteers make life history recordings with people diagnosed with life-limiting illness. This year Michelle is working with St Luke’s Hospice to establish a second service in the city. The new service recently featured in a Radio 4 documentary, ‘Dad’s Last Tape’, produced by Clare Jenkins, who explored why people record their life stories and what impact those stories have on other people. Michelle is also pleased to announce a new partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support; this national charity has agreed to fund both a pilot study of oral history in palliative care and a project to explore the impact of oral history with participants and bereaved family and friends. Regarding the first study, five project pilot sites in the north of England will be confirmed shortly, after which volunteers will be recruited to work as oral historians. A call for volunteers will appear on the OHS volunteer page in the coming months: www.ohs.org.uk/volunteers/index.php . For more information contact Michelle Winslow: email@example.com
In Barnsley, an opening date of May 2013 has been set for the opening of Experience Barnsley, the new, and first, Barnsley Museum with an associated Discovery Centre. The Discovery Centre incorporates Barnsley Archives together with a new Sound and Film Archive, and an opportunity for visitors to see and touch museum objects in an archival environment. Oral history is a major focus of the new Museum, both in the collation of existing collections and in carrying out new interviews. A number of very important collections have been brought together, news of which will be shared soon. There will be a host of different types of audio interpretation in the new galleries, and a Voice section of a Making History Gallery, in which younger visitors will be able to carry out interviews with characters on a life-sized screen.
Elsewhere in Barnsley, a host of groups of organisations are starting up new projects involving oral history, including a number of sports-based projects, and some very innovative ideas being developed with older members of the community and sheltered accommodation across the borough. Excellent work is taking place around industrial archaeology in the East Peak, which is hoped to provide a model for future work. A number of heritage sites are using oral history extensively in major reinterpretation projects, to share the stories of those sites in their original form, but also as public heritage sites valued by local communities and as visitor attractions through the 20th century. These include a country house, art gallery, water-mill and a large Victorian industrial heritage complex.
Doncaster Sound Archive has continued to run small-scale projects in the community, working with elderly people in reminiscence sessions and also engaging volunteers from third-sector organisations in work-based learning. In addition, Real-to-Reel Media and Doncaster Sound Archive have pooled their audio-visual and sound-editing equipment and made it freely available to other local groups. Dave Angel reports that this has proved worthwhile, as some people often want to initiate oral history work, but have limited access to such resources. The archive also offers help in using the equipment, and so far, this practice has worked well. Anyone interested can contact the archive at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Grace Tebbutt, Community History Project Officer, sends news from The Manor Castle Village community which represents a lost heritage. In the shadows of a grand Tudor estate grew a small village settlement on the outskirts of Sheffield city centre. This community thrived and adapted, lasting for two centuries. Although the Manor Castle Village area is now situated in an increasingly urban district, its position in a relatively rural enclave on the outskirts of the city originally allowed a ‘village’ type environment to evolve. Activities focused on the Methodist Chapel encouraged a communal spirit between residents and many occupants stayed in the area for much of their lives. Family ties are evident throughout the village’s history, allowing a rich heritage of inherited memories to build up which are still very much alive today. Since the demolition of the Chapel in 1982 the story of the Manor area has changed significantly. The Manor Castle Village Group has been meeting frequently during the past year: it consists of ex and current residents of the area, many of whom have witnessed huge changes in the district, from rural village to one of the country’s biggest municipal housing estates. Their memories will contribute to the ‘Hands on our Heritage’ project at Manor Lodge where a 1940s living cottage farm is in development. Many of the residents experienced events during the Second World War and have been able to help build up an accurate and insightful picture of the immediate area in the interwar and post war period. Finally, several members of the group will be involved in a film to document their stories. It is hoped that this film will be used for a local screening and to build up awareness of the fascinating hidden heritage of this area of Sheffield today. For more information please contact: G.Tebbutt@greenestate.org
I became the Regional Networker for East Yorkshire in Spring this year, and it has been a quiet one so far, partly because I have been busy working on amendments to my PhD thesis. The thesis utilises oral histories to tell the story of working-class community in Beverley, East Yorkshire, relating personal experiences to broader theories about community and to particular discourses about changes in working-class life in the post-war ‘age of affluence’. I plan to archive the recordings (over 100) made for this project in the East Riding Archives in the Treasure House, Beverley. In my capacity as Regional Networker, I have had two email enquiries thus far, one about oral history relating to mining in Yorkshire and the second about Land Army memories, and I was able to point the enquirers towards relevant material in each case. In terms of oral history projects taking place ‘in my patch’, the only active collecting I am aware of is that undertaken by the East Riding Museums Service, whose rolling programme of temporary exhibitions on rural life and the regions market towns involves collection of testimony from local residents. Recent subjects include circuses, Beverley’s ancient common pastures, almshouses and workhouses in the East Riding of Yorkshire. I look forward to becoming more involved in the work of the society after seeing off my thesis amendments, and therefore aim to have more to report next year.
Centre for Visual and Oral History Research (CVOHR)
History at the University of Huddersfield has two research students working in the oral history: Jo Dyrlaga has just started her PhD on oral history and performance and identity in the Manchester drag scene, and Simon Bradley is in the third year of researching the location of oral history within the environment as augmented reality, based on the regeneration of Holbeck in Leeds. Both are AHRC-funded. While the MA Oral History was closed as a response to government changes in higher education funding, the University of Huddersfield still runs an MA in Oral History by Research, with some fee waivers available. Current students are involved in an oral history of Huntington’s Disease and developing software relating to the intersection of oral history, sonic art and locative media. Past Masters students have conducted projects on urban space and immigration in Huddersfield, POWs in East Yorkshire, the oral history of Yorkshire TV, mining in the north-east and waste-pickers in India. The Yeoman Warders Oral History project, funded by the university and led by Paul Wilcock and Paul Ward, has interviewed more than 15 Beefeaters at the Tower of London. Paul Ward also conducted an oral history interview with Margaret Lister – the winner of the National Coal Board’s 1972 Coal Queen Competition as part of an artist project called Mining Couture: A Manifesto for Common Wear by Barber Swindells.
The University of Huddersfield’s Centre for Oral History Research (COHR) has now been renamed Centre for Visual and Oral History Research (CVOHR), under direction of Stephen Dorril, Director of CVOHR. The centre is host to several projects including Asian Voices, the ‘Up and Under’ Rugby League project, Two Minute Silence and Greenhead Stories. Projects and oral histories can be accessed via the University of Huddersfield’s CVOHR website http://www.hud.ac.uk/cvohr/. Current projects include the Centre’s Sound, Craft, Vision and Place project, managed by Dr. Rob Light.
The Centre for Visual and Oral History research (CVHOR) presents two new publications:
- Asian Voices book: Ali, Nafhesa. Asian Voices: First generation migrants. Riley Dunn & Wilson Ltd: Huddersfield, 2010.
- ‘Up and Under’ rugby league book: Light, Robert. No Sand Dunes in Featherstone. London League Publication Ltd: London, 2010.
Steve Burnip is a Senior lecturer at the University of Huddersfield, and his recent MA project and website archives oral histories of key people involved in the History of Yorkshire Regional Television. Memories of Yorkshire TV can be accessed on http://memoriesofytv.weebly.com/. Steve Burnip gives his seminar on YTV on the 24th Oct at 4.15pm at the University of Huddersfield.
Local History Society: Asian Voices
The Local History Society continues it collaborative work with local history groups in West Yorkshire and presents my Asian Voices talk ‘From South Asia to Springwood,’ South Asian migration in Huddersfield post 1960, at the Huddersfield Town Hall on Monday 25th March, 2013. For further details and booking please contact John Rawlinson, Chair of the Huddersfield Society JohnRawlinson@aol.com.
Kirklees Heritage Forum
2012, has seen the development of the Kirklees Heritage Forum, chaired by Bill Roberts. The Heritage Forum brings together oral historians, archivists and community organisations who are jointly developing a Heritage Lottery Fund pre-application.
The Oral History Company
The Oral History Company, based in Leeds, is a network of full-time freelance professionals with a common interest in producing high quality oral history. Recent projects include Leeds City Varieties Music Hall (2010-2011). Further details of The Oral History Company can be found at http://theoralhistorycompany.com/?page_id=142.