Call for papers: Urban History 2016

Urban History Group 2016. University of Cambridge, 31 March – 1 April

Re-Evaluating the Place of the City in History

As the devolution of powers to cities gains political momentum in the UK it brings into sharper focus the roles of towns and cities in previous times and cultures. Since 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the first conference devoted to urban history (Leicester 1966) it provides the Urban History Group Annual Conference an opportunity to: a) clarify the general scope and methods of urban history, and b) to examine the potential for comparative research – both issues addressed in 1966. With the political developments in Britain, and a special issue of the Journal of Urban History in the USA, it is thus timely to question the historical role of the city.

The central themes of the 2016 conference are:

1. To what extent is the city a ‘site’ for action or an active agent that shapes behaviour and decision-making?

2. Should scholars disrupt the existing typologies by which towns and cities are defined?

3. Do scholars from other fields, including but not limited to, economic, social, cultural history, historical geography and/or urban studies, conceptualise the role of the city differently within their research, and how can this inform a deeper understanding of urban development?

4. By what means, if at all, has the non-western city played a role in redefining our conceptual and empirical understanding of urban historical processes?

5. In what ways do the ideas of key authors such as Lewis Mumford, Henri Lefebvre, Jane Jacobs, Manuel Castells, Fernand Braudel and others remain relevant to the study of urban history?

These issues are located across time and space and the conference organisers welcome papers from Britain, Europe and the wider world from 1600-2016. The conference committee invites proposals for individual papers as well as for panel sessions of up to 3 papers. Sessions that seek to draw comparisons across one or more countries or periods, or open up new vistas for original research, are particularly encouraged.

Issues to be considered can include but are not limited to:

*Representations of the city

*Comparative and transnational methodologies

*Inter-disciplinary research on the city

*The history and heritage of the city

*Urban governance and relationships between city and region

*Emerging methodologies for researching the city

*The urban biography in relation to urban theory

Abstracts of up to 300 words, including a paper or panel title, name, affiliation and contact details should be submitted to the conference organiser and should indicate clearly how the content of the paper addresses the conference themes outlined above. Those wishing to propose sessions should provide a brief statement that identifies the ways in which the session will address the conference theme, a list of speakers, and abstracts. The final deadline for proposals for sessions and papers is 2 October 2015.

The conference will again host its new researchers’ forum and first year PhD sessions. The new researchers’ forum is aimed primarily at those who, at an early stage of a PhD or early career research project, wish to discuss ideas rather than to present findings. These new researchers’ papers need not be related to the main conference theme, but should follow the same submission process as outlined above. Additionally, there will once again be some limited opportunities for first-year PhD students to present 10 minute introductions to their topics, archival materials, and the specific urban historiography in which their work sits. The intention here is to allow students at the start of their projects to outline their plans and research questions and obtain helpful feedback and suggestions from active and experienced researchers in the field of Urban History.

If you wish to be considered for the new researchers’ forum or for the first-year PhD sessions, please indicate this on your submission.

Bursaries. Students registered for a PhD can obtain a modest bursary on a first come, first served basis to offset expenses associated with conference registration and attendance. Please send an e-mail application to Professor Richard Rodger at and also ask your supervisor to confirm your status as a registered PhD student with an e-mail to the same address. Deadline 4th December 2015. The Urban History Group would like to acknowledge the Economic History Society for its support for these bursaries.

For further details and to submit your abstract please contact the Conference Organiser:

Dr Rebecca Madgin

Urban Studies, School of Social & Political Sciences

University of Glasgow, Glasgow, G12 8QQ

Tel: 0141 330 3847



For New Researchers and First Year PhD presentations Dr James Greenhalgh School of History and Heritage University of Lincoln Brayford Pool Lincoln LN6 7TS

Tel: 01522 83 7729




More information about this article can be found at: this link.

Call for papers: Crossing Borders, Crossing Boundaries. Ottawa, Canada

Society for Military History, 83rd Annual Meeting, Ottawa, Canada, 14 – 17 April 2016.

The 83rd Annual Meeting of the Society for Military History will be hosted by the Canadian War Museum and the Canadian Museum of History. ‘Geography as history’ is one of the Canadian War Museum’s overarching themes, reflected throughout its permanent galleries in discussions of topography and its influence on battle, and the gradual conquest of distance bytechnology, population movement, and communications. Wars are now fought on and over the surface of the earth, on and under its adjacent oceans, in space, in the electromagnetic spectrum, and on the Internet. Traditional boundaries are regularly transgressed, imperfectly administered, and unevenly acknowledged. Moreover, fighting forces can blend with civilians in asymmetric warfare, blurring the lines between combatants and non-combatants.

Borders and boundaries – geographic, political, or conceptual – remain important to the study of military history. The program committee has therefore welcomed paper and panel proposals on all aspects of military history, while especially encouraging submissions that reflect on this theme.

Further details: email

More information about the call for papers can be found via the link below.

More information about this article can be found at: this link.

OHS IHR oral history seminar

Shelley Trower and Amy Tooth Murphy. Memories of Fiction. PLEASE NOTE DATE CHANGE


Please note that this oral history research seminar will take place on November 5th, not October 1st as originally advertised. 

Thursday November 5th 2015: Shelley Trower and Amy Tooth Murphy, University of Roehampton, “She used to get lost in a book”: approaching gendered reading through two archives (Memories of Fiction and 100 Families).

Oral history seminars at the Institute of Historical Research are open to all and free to attend.

Call for papers : Resources of hope: The place of hope in researching learning lives. Canterbury

European Society for Research on the Education of Adults (ESREA) Life History and Biography Network Annual Conference, Canterbury Cathedral, 3 – 6 March 2016.

From its first meeting in Geneva, in 1993, the Life History and Biography Network of ESREA has been a forum for a wide range of researchers, including doctoral students, drawing on different disciplinary backgrounds, and coming from every corner of Europe, and beyond. Life history and biographical approaches in adult education and lifelong learning are very diverse, and our conferences are based on recognition and celebration of this diversity.

We have decided to focus here on the place and nature of hope in learning lives, and of the resources of hope that we draw on as both researchers and people, whether at an individual or collective level. We want to consider the role of hope in building better dialogue and connection between diverse peoples, at a time when dialogue often seems difficult and the other and otherness can be experienced as a threat rather than a source of enrichment. The other may be someone of a different class, religion, ethnicity, nationality, age, gender, sexual orientation etc. and the dynamics of our interaction may be stifled. Perhaps we may need new resources of hope to help in building a new politics and education of and for humanity, across difference; and for strengthening democratic processes in contexts of diversity.

Among the questions we will ask are: what resources of hope are foregrounded in our research?;what resources of hope have been important in our own lives?; can life-based or narrative research itself offer resources of hope, and if so how and why? Life-histories and auto/biographies represent potential sites of innovation, for transformative learning, for community and political action, in diverse settings as well as for, at a different level, experience, perhaps, of the numinous and sacred. In such terms researching lives goes far beyond ‘pure research’ – or a detached view of academic research in an ivory tower – towards a highly nuanced as well as subjectivist sensibility. The conference seeks to build dialogue around this theme, and differing ways of understanding it: between those who may see the issue as to do with challenging oppression in the secular world and securing control over processes of production and or reproduction; or those who think the spiritual, or even the religious, is a crucial resource of hope (not least given the location of our conference in the Cathedral grounds). We will also be attentive to weaving into our work previous themes of our conferences: embodiment and narrative, critical reflection, social change, agency.

One goal of this conference is to encourage all participants to reflect on their research and to ask themselves about the meaning of hope, at both a social and maybe a more intimate and individual level, as well as methodologically: where hope might lie, in short, in the business of doing research itself, in its myriad forms and dimensions.

Further information: Professor Laura Formenti, email; or Professor Linden West:

More information on the call for papers can be found at the link below.

More information about this article can be found at: this link.

Yorkshire Region Annual Report – 2013

North Yorkshire

Van Wilson

York Oral History Society is still involved in a major HLF-funded First World War project. We have 285 recordings which were conducted in about 1980 with veterans from all over the country, but mainly Yorkshire and Cambridge. They were all done by Dr Alf Peacock, warden of York Educational Settlement.

There are also interviews with some conscientious objectors. We will be producing a book and exhibition and commemorative event next June, as well as running workshops in two local schools using the material about the war. A large percentage of the grant has been spent on digitising and transcribing the recordings. Unfortunately the transcribing has been very mixed, with even some professionals producing poor quality results. Admittedly the voices are not always clear, but we were surprised at the quality, and it meant that a lot of correcting was needed. The best transcriber has been Carolyn Mumford of Harrogate who I would heartily recommend.

Our project is different from most other First World War projects because our activities and publication will commemorate the survivors. Wounded physically, psychologically and emotionally, they still survived the war years. We are now trying to trace relatives of as many of the interviewees as possible, to obtain photos and to give them copies of the recordings. Those who we have traced have expressed their delight in receiving a copy of the interview with their father, grandfather, uncle or other relative. Often these men did not talk about the war with their own families but they were very open with Dr Peacock.

I am also doing some work with Beningbrough Hall, interviewing some of those men and women who had some involvement with the hall during the Second World War when it was requisitioned by the Canadian Air Force. The stories of some of these people form the basis of a trail at the Hall and an archive. Also this month my book on Coney Street, York, historically the centre of the city, has been published by York Archaeological Trust, combining historical research with oral history (I interviewed nearly 50 people).

South Yorkshire

Michelle Winslow & John Tanner

The past year has seen healthy oral history activity in South Yorkshire, with lots of projects coming to completion, others securing funding, and lots of events happening across the region at which oral history has played a part.

One exciting development is Experience Barnsley, the new Barnsley Museum and Discovery Centre, which has opened and hit its annual visitor targets in the first four months. Most of the objects and stories have been donated by the people of Barnsley. Through large touch-screens, visitors can listen to donors talking about what they’ve contributed to the museum, why, associated stories and what it means to them. Listening posts have been carefully designed to be changeable, with staff able to change content and rotate tracks on a regular basis. A special part of the Making History gallery celebrates voice, dialect and oral history – including a touch-screen interactive on which visitors can choose an interviewee, then choose effective questions to prompt stories and memories. A new Archives Discovery Centre has been created too, which at the moment offers an initial easily accessible selection of material from the new sound and film archive. This is being extended and a new visitor interface developed over the course of the next few months.

Two other exciting oral history-related projects have just received funding in Barnsley. These include Barnsley People’s Sport, a two-year project to capture memories and stories about popular participation in sport in the town. The new Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership spans large parts of Barnsley, Doncaster and Rotherham. This five-year £1.9m project involves improving access to sites, conservation of built heritage and an extensive programme of community engagement and oral history. These projects were represented at our 2013 regional network meeting held at ‘Experience Barnsley’. Seventeen people gathered to share and discuss their work, with presentations from John Tanner and Richard King (Barnsley Arts, Museums and Archives) and David Clayton (Shaw Lane Peoples Sport Project. Kate Burland and Dr Charles West (University of Sheffield) presented work on their projects ‘Black Country to Black Barnsley’, a study of dialect, and the ‘Witness Oral History project’, involving a group of students in researching particular aspects of Sheffield’s past.

A presenter at last year’s South Yorkshire regional meeting, Gary Rivett (University of Sheffield) sends this update about project work focusing on Sheffield’s long and vibrant history of community and political activism: Over the past fifty years Sheffield’s activists have been vigorous and energetic campaigners on numerous social, economic, ethnic and political issues. This heritage is often lost or little known. Activists rarely archive or record their experiences. Their time and efforts are directed towards the important work of improving and defending the lives and livelihoods of local people. Sheffield’s history has long been shaped by an especially strong sense of civic and community engagement, whilst also being well known for its radicalism. The history of Sheffield’s activist heritage is an untold part of a much broader story of the City’s past. The project collects the campaign stories, memories and objects from activists, who campaigned between 1960 and the present day. Oral histories interviews are performed by volunteers trained by the project. These stories are collected and stored in Sheffield Archives, ensuring their accessibility to the general public. For more information contact Gary Rivett.

A further project achieving much success is Researching Community Heritage, an AHRC funded project at the University of Sheffield. The research team have been working with community groups and organisations from across the region on Heritage Lottery Fund All Our Stories projects as well as developing new collaborative heritage projects. University students have also been working with community groups to record oral histories.  Archaeology and English Literature students worked with the Heeley History Workshop, a local history group, to record stories and memories of social life in the area. They combined the recordings with moving images and archival photography to create a photo-film with photographer Gemma Thorpe – the film is available to view here: Other projects collecting stories and memories include the Bengali Women’s Support Group who have been recording women’s readings and interpretations of traditional poetry and song and Woodhead Mountain Rescue Team who have been capturing memories of the World War II tank range at Langsett and Midhope. For more information on these projects and related events see: or e-mail Dr Kimberley Marwood at:

An oral history and photography project in the Sheffield Macmillan Unit for Palliative Care continues to work with patients to produce audio life story recordings and photographs, funded by the Sheffield Hospitals Charity. The past year has been particularly exciting due to success in gaining two Macmillan Cancer Support grants. (1) The ‘Oral History Pilot Study’ is a two year project that is piloting oral history services in six centres in the north of England and Northern Ireland, based on the service in Sheffield. The project completes in September 2014 and evaluation will determine whether oral history as a service can be rolled out nationally. (2) ‘How does providing an oral history at the end of life influence well-being of the individual and the bereaved?’. This 12 month study is exploring the impact of oral history in palliative care with patients who make recordings and family who listen to them in bereavement, it completes at the end of November 2013 and has produced insightful feedback. For more information please contact Michelle Winslow:

East Yorkshire

Stefan Ramsden

This year a growing body of academics and post-graduate students at the University of Hull have formed an informal group meeting regularly to discuss oral history theory and practice, sharing ideas and experiences. Ongoing interview work by members of this group includes research into memories of the fishing industry in the town, and into nursing in the British empire. There have been two community oral history projects that I know of within, or close to, my region. Both are HLF funded. The first is a project to record the memories of workers at Scampston Hall estate, near Malton, for use in the restoration and reinterpretation of buildings on the grounds. The second is an ongoing project by the High Wolds Heritage Group, who have been collecting memories of life in a remote farming area and have just published a collection of these memories in a book ‘Voices from the Wolds’ with an accompanying DVD. More information about each project can be found at their respective websites: and A mention should also be made of the East Riding Museums Service, whose staff and volunteers continue to undertake excellent work collecting, catalogue and making publicly available oral history from residents of the county, on a wide range of subjects.
I have given advice by telephone and email to a number of groups, and I recently spoke about oral history to a meeting of the Archives and Records Association (ARA) in the Hull History Centre, where I of course spoke of the range of services provided by the Oral History Society.

West Yorkshire

Heather Nicholson on behalf of University of Huddersfield

Heather Norris Nicholson reports:

Much work continues in and beyond the Centre for Visual and Oral History (CVOHR), as projects reach completion and new projects get underway. This report captures some of the variety and apologies for any initiatives that may be overlooked. The University of Huddersfield’s Archives and Special Collections has received HLF funding for four years that will greatly boost online and public access to different heritage collections including the archives of the Rugby League and the British Music Collection. From later 2014 the project will develop greater emphasis also on community outreach that will enhance oral history practice across the region. Work has also begun on the Our Minds, Our History HLF funded All Our Stories project. The project is being carried out by St Anne’s Community Services as part of an AHRC funded scheme, Heritage and Stigma: The History of Learning Disabilities and involves Drs Rob Light and Rob Ellis and a team of care workers from the Kirklees area in interviewing clients about their experiences and changing approaches to care for people with mental illness over the last 40 years. Related work includes a recent exhibition entitled Nothing With Us, Without Us: The History of Learning Disabilities in Leeds that featured interview clips on themes of changes in care for people with learning disabilities, local experiences and the future of learning disabilities.

On-going individual staff projects involve a range of interviews on different topics including mining apprentices, volunteer nurses with Médecins Sans Frontières and filmmakers. Students are involved in collecting memories of international rugby league at the World Cup Celebration Day in November and also in a pilot oral history project on the history of the co-operative movement in Northern England during the 1956-2013 period. This latter collaborative partnership with the universities of Northumbria, Central Lancashire and Liverpool John Moores has the potential to become a major historical source.

Recent staff oral-history related publications include work on French experiences during World War II, the Miners’ Strike of 1984, former intelligence officers, amateur film makers and James Mason. Other current oral history work addresses aspects of Methodist history, local choral traditions, and postgraduates are working on different local migration experiences particularly within the South Asian and Eastern European communities, the BBC in Yorkshire 1945-90, Queer identity, and links with community memories and urban regeneration. Individual postgraduates also contribute valuably to the OHS/British Library led History of Parliament Trust Oral History project, as well as different local community initiatives. Recent seminars hosted by CVOHR include a presentation by Michelle Winslow and Sam Smith (Academic Unit of Supportive Care, University of Sheffield) on the contribution of oral history and palliative care. Jodie William, travelling as a 2013 Churchill Fellowfrom Norfolk Island in the South Pacific, brought a new dimension to community outreach during her recent visit. Spotting online The Sound Craft Place Vision project, her seminar provided an interdisciplinary opportunity to discuss her wishes to develop oral histories, archives and visual projects to record the island’s diverse histories and cultural inheritance. Discussions covered issues of identity, cultural retention and intergenerational memory, dissonant heritage associated with penal settlements, and the need for better understanding of Polynesian traditions and the Manxian legacies that derive from the island’s nineteenth century settlement by crew members associated with the mutiny on HMS Bounty.

An exploration of Huddersfield’s significance in the roots of UK reggae recently culminated in a Sound System Culture, a lively multi-media exhibition that features interviews, as well as songs, vinyl records and an interactive DJ booth equipped with turntable, records and recorded voices and a noisy launch that included opening words by Professor Paul Ward at the local Tolson Museum. Another new exhibition at the Tolson focuses on rugby league heritage and again features extensive oral material. In contrast, the RSPB Dove Stone Memory Bank project has created a memoryscape audio trail, two publications and extensive interview clips. The result is a fascinating record of lives, livelihoods and landscapes associated with a rugged upland area known as the Chew Valley within the Peak District National Park. It captures the memories and a sense of period in documenting the lived experiences of people directly affected by and involved in decisions associated with building a reservoir (opened in 1967) to supply water to communities west of the Pennines and in the Greater Manchester region. Further details of these and other initiatives are available via the CVOHR website,

Yorkshire Region Annual Report – 2012

South Yorkshire

(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 (
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 If you’d like to find out more, or are interested in helping out, please contact

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: . For more information contact Michelle Winslow:

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:

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:

East Yorkshire

(Stefan Ramsden)

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.

West Yorkshire

(Nafhesa Ali)

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 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 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

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

West Midlands Region Annual Report – 2013

West Midlands

Julia Letts

There seem to be lots of oral history projects going on in the West Midlands at the moment, but as a networker, I only seem to find out about a fraction of them. I concentrate on Worcestershire and the Black Country, with Helen Lloyd focussing on Birmingham and other parts of the West Midlands.

I have been directly involved in a variety of projects this year, some of which are listed below:

Black Country Stories – Multistory, West Bromwich
This is a four year project (now in Year 3) to document the working and personal lives of ordinary Black Country people through photographs, films and oral history interviews. The project was created by Multistory based in West Bromwich. This year the focus has been on Dudley. I have been recording oral history interviews with people from various Black Country industries (glass, tiles, leisure) and working with two Year 6 classes at school in Stourbridge to produce interviews with local people. The completed archive will contain at least 75 oral history recordings from the Black Country, available to the general public in each of the four Black Country boroughs. Extracts from the interviews can also be found, along with a vast selection of photographs, on Multistory’s website

Project Pigeon – Birmingham Pigeon Archive
Project Pigeon has completed an archive of Oral History interviews (audio and video), a book and 3 short plays about pigeon fanciers based on the oral history interviews. Two of the plays were performed in the open air at a pigeon loft in the centre of Birmingham to mark the culmination of the project in April 2013. All the material has now gone to the new Birmingham Library and Archive.

Warley Woods, Smethwick
This HLF project – to collect oral history interviews about Warley Woods in Smethwick – is also reaching its completion. About 30 interviews have been recorded by volunteers. These have been edited and a book and CD are about to be published charting the life of this much loved park in the 20th Century. In addition to this, I was involved in a project with 2 local primary schools to produce a DVD combining video oral histories with local people, photos and other footage of the park. This will be used as a school resource.

Hallow History Group has now published a book and CD on the history of farms and mills around the village of Hallow (just north of Worcester). The CD includes interviews with about 20 people, recorded by volunteers trained by the OHS. The group also worked with Hallow Primary School who created their own CD of interviews with people who had attended the school as children.

Chantry High School – 40th Anniversary.
A group of students recorded interviews with a number of former pupils and teachers who had attended Chantry High School when it first opened in 1973. These interviews were edited and put on display on an audio point during a celebratory weekend to mark the school’s 40th birthday.

‘Our Droitwich’ – Memories of the Expansion of Droitwich Spa
This is a small project in Droitwich Spa, funded by HLF, to create an archive of photos, documents and oral history interviews on the massive expansion of the town between 1950 and 2000. Due to overspill from Birmingham, the population trebled during this period, rising from seven to twenty thousand in about 30 years. We are attempting to document the changes brought about by this rapid expansion, from the point of view of both the incomers and the old Droitwich families. All the information will be stored in Droitwich Library and local schools will be involved in a ‘Super Learning Day’ next summer.

‘We did our bit’ – Video Oral History Project, Worcestershire
I teamed up with an old colleague from Splash TV to work on a video oral history project of WW2 testimonies. The aim of the project, funded by the Worcestershire Partnership, was to create a film, which was played on November 11th just after the 2-min silence. We recorded over 20 hours of material with 13 local veterans, all in their late 80s or early to mid 90s. We also filmed the participants out and about in the community. The resulting film has 2 versions; an 11 minute one for school assemblies and Remembrance gatherings, and a longer 45 minute version which gives far more detail and background on the veterans.

Worcestershire Archive & Archaeology Service and Worcestershire County Libraries – Oral History projects in Stourport on Severn and Bromsgrove
In Stourport, 12 students from Stourport High School recorded interviews with 5 members of the Civic Society about the heritage of the town and 7 students from Bewdley High School recorded the memories of 2 members of the town’s Local History Society. In Bromsgrove, 11 students from Bromsgrove School have interviewed 17 local people about their memories of the town’s High Street. This is part of Bromsgrove District Council’s Heritage Lottery funded Townscape Heritage Initiative and will result in a DVD including oral history interviews and old photos.

African Roots, Freshwinds
This HLF funded project, managed by the African Community Council for the Regions (ACCR), is looking at the evolution of the English language in a number of African countries and the Caribbean. The project team has recruited and trained a number of volunteers aged between 15 – 25 who are gaining work-related skills through the project. The aim is to create a video documentary, an oral history archive, and a website, all charting the changes and uses of English by people before, during and after immigration to this country from Africa and the Caribbean.

Aston Martin, A Century of Craftsmanship
This is an HLF funded project to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the production of Aston Martin cars. The project team is in the process of recruiting volunteers both at Aston Martin HQ in Gaydon and at their factory in Newport Pagnell. The volunteers will be trained in research skills and oral history recording, and they will undertake at least 20 interviews with a variety of past and present workers within the company. A two-year exhibition at the Heritage Motor Centre will combine the contributions of Aston Martin craftsmen and women with never-before-seen archive material.

Heritage Motor Museum, Gaydon
The Heritage Motor Museum is collecting oral history interviews with former workers and managers in the car industry. A team of volunteers has been given oral history training and is now well underway with recording. The collection will be stored in the Museum’s archive and used in current and future audio displays.

Counter Culture, Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton
This project created by The Arena Theatre in Wolverhampton has involved two schools, West Park Primary and Penn Hall Special School in a number of oral history related activities. The aim is to record interviews with local people about how they used to meet and do business across counters… for example shopping, post office, job centre, cafe, food bank, credit union… and how this has changed over the years. The children have been trained in oral history skills, have toured the Wolverhampton Archives and are now recording interviews both in school and out and about in the community. The interviews will be turned into a production which the children will put on at the Arena Theatre early next year.

In Wales, The Llanwyrtd History Resource Group has recorded more than 30 oral history interviews on the history of Llanwyrtd Wells, in both English and Welsh. The Year 6 pupils at the local primary school also recorded interviews with local people and created a book and CD called ‘Memories of childhood’.

Birmingham & area

Helen Lloyd

Last year I reported on a growing interest among minority groups in recording their history, including one group that wanted to record memories in Somali. This year I’ve had enquiries about recording memories in several different languages. In some cases potential interviewees speak little or no English and in some cases project organisers feel that even those who speak good English would relate their experiences more eloquently in their native language. They’ve all aimed to produce English translations but have not usually given much thought to the methods and costs involved. Often the assumption is that bi-lingual members of the community will conduct the interviews and then somehow produce translations – and this chimes with the requirement of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to use volunteers as much as possible. However, professional interpreters and translators – often themselves bi-lingual – argue that being bi-lingual is not an adequate qualification for producing accurate translations. Some also think it’s essential to make a transcription before doing a translation, thus doubling the cost of each interview.

The ‘Go-Woman! Alliance’ CIC ( has chosen to use professional translators for a project funded by the HLF called Home Away From Home. Bi-lingual young women volunteers from the Saltley and Washwood Heath areas of Birmingham have been trained to interview Mirpuri/Kashmiri women who arrived in the UK in the 50s, 60s and 70s. The aim is to put on record the lives of women who have often been ignored, to make known their experiences in adjusting from village life and early teenage marriages in Kashmir to city life in Birmingham and to celebrate their achievements in finding suitable food, health care and employment.

The South Asian arts organisation, Sampad, ( has submitted a second stage application to the HLF for a project called My Route which aims to preserve the history and culture of different groups who’ve settled along the Stratford Road in Birmingham over the past 60 years. Out of 50 interviews they hope to record at least 15 non-English speakers – in Somali, Arabic, Urdu or Punjabi. If their grant application is successful, they’ll recruit and train volunteer interviewers who speak these languages, pay professional transcribers and use a mixture of professional and volunteer translators.

As a self-employed oral history consultant, I work all over the UK, but have also worked on local projects. These have included The Big Story of Pugin project (, which began with the 200th anniversary of the Gothic revival architect, Augustus Pugin (1812-1852). Four primary schools in Oscott, in north-west Birmingham, learnt about his life and his architectural work on the Houses of Parliament and on parts of the Catholic seminary, Oscott College. As part of the project, the children interviewed staff and students from Oscott College and local residents who had memories of the college and the farm attached to it.

The Castle Bromwich Youth and Community Partnership received a grant from the HLF to create a Graveyard Heritage Trail ( to explore the stories behind the headstones in the local graveyard. This will include memories of local residents – of the graveyard itself, of those buried there and of the surrounding area.

Volunteers in the Balsall Heath area of Birmingham are trying to restore an old print-works, JH Butcher, which closed in 2009, and make it available for community activities. I recorded the life-stories of ten people who’d worked there, including the grandsons of the man who founded the factory in 1900, to form part of an exhibition, Voices of the Old Printworks, which was held in September.

The new Library of Birmingham opened in September and all the collections in the Archives, Heritage and Photography Department are stored in environmentally-controlled conditions inside the Library’s ‘golden box’. They welcome transcriptions, translations and summaries to accompany oral history recordings.

Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service

Maggie Tohill

The Hive, Worcester
Our involvement in oral history work has continued to be low key, partly because we have not had many approaches from people seeking advice and guidance this year, but also because I have been seconded to a cataloguing project, so have less time to devote to oral history work at the moment. I have given some initial advice to two local groups, Worcestershire Industrial Archaeological and Local History Society and the Friends of Hartlebury Castle, both of whom are hoping to undertake some oral history work and I will hopefully pick things up with them as needed, once they are further forward with their ideas.

We continue to receive deposits of sound recordings and it’s very pleasing that local groups and societies do regard us as a place of deposit for recordings. We have received some additional CDs from the Voices of Croome project to complement what we already have. We have also received some tapes of interviews undertaken to support a dissertation on the gloving industry in Worcester and we have just taken in both video and sound recordings made by a local historian to support her research and publications about the Wolverley and Cookley area.

Oral history volunteer work has been somewhat quiet, partly because we have a number of specific cataloguing and outreach projects underway and many of our volunteers are currently assisting with those. It is hoped to recruit some additional volunteers to pick up the various copying, transcription and summarising work we were undertaking prior to our move to the Hive. I am hoping that the project I am working on to catalogue the archives of the Lytteltons of Hagley Hall might have some oral history work as part of the outreach for the project, but it is likely to depend on attracting some additional external funding.

University of Worcester
We have continued to forge links with our Hive Partner, the University of Worcester. This autumn we are planning to include introductory talks on our oral history collections in the University’s November study skills sessions to raise awareness of their potential for research. We already have a couple of students embarking on World War II Home Front research using our collections. We will also be hosting a student placement and part of their work experience will involve working with oral history collections and we hope to build on this activity in the future.

Engineering the Past
Jestaminute Community Theatre (JCT) have been awarded HLF money for a one year project to investigate the industrial heritage of Redditch 1939-64, a time prior to the development of Redditch as a New Town, when a lot of new factories were being established there and many people were moving into Redditch to work in them. JCT are working in partnership with Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service, Redditch Local History Society, Age UK (Redditch) and local schools to record the reminiscences of residents about their working lives during that period. We are undertaking oral history training and workshops for schools as part of the project.

West Midlands Region Annual Report – 2012

Birmingham & area

(Helen Lloyd)

In November 2011, the Heritage Lottery Fund in Birmingham invited me to play audio extracts from my ethnic minority interviews to around twenty participants at a Diverse Heritage Workshop. In March 2012, I addressed another conference organised by the HLF, to celebrate ten years of their Young Roots programme, and it turned out that most of the sixty representatives of Birmingham youth organisations in the audience were also from ethnic minorities. It’s clear that there’s a growing interest among minority groups in recording their history, to make younger generations aware of their heritage and to celebrate the contribution they’ve made to British society.

During the past year I’ve been involved in four projects that aim to record and celebrate minority histories. The most complex was called Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, a project run by the Common Ground Foundation at Aldridge School in Walsall. Pupils aged 11 to 13, who described themselves variously as mixed race, dual heritage or multiple heritage were given time off from their usual classes to record the memories of their relatives and others in the community who had experiences of mixed heritage. During their training, they took it in turns to interview a white teacher who recalled the prejudice she’d encountered when she first went out with her black husband and they listened to the project organiser describe his childhood memories of having a Muslim father from Pakistan and two white uncles who were members of the National Front. Only a few of the young interviewers said they’d experienced much prejudice themselves, so they were interested to hear about prejudices in the past and to learn that their interviewees felt their struggles were outweighed by the benefits of understanding different cultures and being able to choose the aspects of each culture that they liked best.

The second project is called Out of Africa and involves teenagers from Sandwell and Birmingham in recording the memories of African footballers, to celebrate their contribution to professional football in England through a DVD, an exhibition, an educational school pack and an archive for the Professional Footballers’ Association. Some of the teenage interviewers are from deprived backgrounds, but all are talented footballers themselves, so they are highly motivated to discover more details about the daily lives of professional footballers than can be learnt from media interviews.

Media interviews rarely report on any aspect of Somalian culture, so some of the Somali volunteers, aged 18 to 25, who are taking part in the Discover Your Roots project know little about their own heritage and are not completely fluent in the language. However, they are attempting to do some interviews in Somali (for later translation) as well as some in English, with older members of their community in the Small Heath area of Birmingham, with the aim of discovering more about their culture and rural traditions. During training (interrupted by breaks for prayer), they took it in turns to interview a 60-year-old man in Somali and, though I don’t know the language, it was possible to tell which interviewers were doing well i.e those who appeared to concentrate most on what was being said and those who allowed the interviewee to pause without jumping in with a question.

If there’s time at the end of the project, I hope the interviewers will record each other, as their own stories deserve to be archived. In brief practice interviews, one recalled how his uncle guarded his tent against hyenas – a far cry from inner-city Birmingham – and another recalled her puzzlement when she arrived at Heathrow on 11th September 2001, to find police everywhere and people staring at her hijab with undisguised hostility.
After the riots of summer 2011, members of a largely Nigerian church in Perry Barr reflected that their young people lacked roots, in that they knew little about Nigeria and even less about the history of the people who lived around them. So they’ve begun an oral history project called Reach Out in which both adult and young volunteers will record the memories of older church members and also the memories of their neighbours – for example the Muslim man from Pakistan from whom they rent their hall. If this works well, it could become a model for future projects, to encourage people from different cultures to understand each other better through recording each other’s memories.

West Midlands

(Julia Letts)

As a Networker, I have found that things have got quieter as the year has progressed, with fewer emails and calls from people seeking advice or starting projects. However, I have delivered a number of training courses this year to various groups including primary schools, community groups, university students and people working in dementia care.
I have been directly involved in a few projects in Worcestershire and the West Midlands and have also contacted a few other organisations who are currently running projects in this area. Some of these are listed below:

Black Country Stories – Multistory, West Bromwich

‘Black Country Stories’ is a unique four-year project to document the working and personal lives of ordinary Black Country people through photographs, films and oral history interviews. The project, created and produced by Multistory based in West Bromwich, began in Sandwell in 2010. Last year the focus moved to Walsall, and this year Wolverhampton, before finishing in Dudley in 2013. The completed archive will contain at least 75 oral history recordings, available to the general public in each of the four Black Country boroughs. Extracts from the interviews can also be found, along with a vast selection of photographs, on Multistory’s website

Shelton Heritage Project

This oral history project is collecting interviews and memorabilia from people connected to Shelton Hospital, Bicton Heath, Shrewsbury. The hospital, built as a lunatic asylum in the 1840s, is closing this year. A team of volunteers (who have had Oral History Society training) are now enthusiastically gathering material which will eventually be displayed in the new hospital and shared with the Shropshire Archives.

Project Pigeon – Birmingham Pigeon Archive

Project Pigeon is working on the Birmingham Pigeon Archive, an archive which charts the fascinating history and culture of pigeon fancying in Birmingham. So far the team has collected more than 30 oral history interviews with Birmingham based pigeon fanciers and has produced several short films. A writer is also creating radio plays with the material. The archive will be housed in Birmingham Library and some material will go to Bletchley Park.

Warley Woods, Smethwick

This is an HLF project to collect oral history interviews about Warley Woods in Smethwick, a well loved public park for over 100 years. For many years people have been popping into the Community Trust’s office wanting to share a story about their experiences at Warley, bringing photographs and half stories about things that modern visitors have never seen or known about and other than just listening for a little while, we could do nothing with these recollections. Now twelve volunteers at Warley Woods have had OHS training as interviewers and are planning to record over 30 stories and to create a book, CD and schools resource pack.

Oral history at The Hive, Worcester

Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service has recently completed a number of interviews with people local to Worcester who have lived or worked, from the 1930s onwards, in the area of The Butts in which the new joint County and University Library and History Centre (The Hive) will open in July 2012. The generated oral history archive will be available in audio form at the new Centre and edited clips and slideshows will be on display in exhibition spaces, in sound domes, on easy to use touch screens and on public computers.

Regal Cinema – Online Oral History Project, Tenbury Wells

Interviews from 20 people (locals and visitors) talking about their memories and experiences at the Regal Cinema in Tenbury Wells have been recorded for a new website. This 1937 art deco cinema, owned by Tenbury Town Council is currently undergoing restoration funded by the HLF.

Voices through Corridors: This is an HLF funded project by Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust, following major redevelopment of the Walsall Manor Hospital site. A group of volunteers were OHS trained and have been interviewing people with memories of the hospital, which was a central part of this community for many decades. Some of the recordings are already on the Trust’s website.

Hallow History Group is recording oral history interviews with local people who’ve lived and worked on farms and mills in and around the village of Hallow (just north of Worcester). The group has also worked with Hallow Primary School who created a CD of interviews with 4 people who were at school in the village several decades ago.

Bedworth School

Bedworth Primary School got HLF funding for the pupils to record oral history interviews with local people talking about their working lives in the town. Bedworth was once famous for ribbon-weaving and hat-making, as well as mining and later making cars and car parts. The year 5 students had 2 mornings of oral history training before undertaking audio and video interviews and creating a DVD and CD Rom.

Cotswold Canals

Volunteers and project staff received OHS training to record oral history interviews with more than 20 people connected to the Cotswold Canals. The interviews were then used to create about 20 podcasts which can be downloaded at various points along the canal towpath. They are also accessible from a website and the original interviews will be stored with Gloucestershire Archives.

I am currently working with a few groups outside the West Midlands who have just received funding and are at the outset of oral history projects. These include: Outstories Bristol, who are collecting interviews with gay lesbian bisexual and transsexual people in the Bristol and Bath area, Food Stories Llandrindod Wells, who are collecting memories and experiences of growing, preserving, cooking and creating food in their local area, the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth, who are celebrating their 40th anniversary with a series of interviews with people who’ve been involved in the centre since the 1970s.

Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service

(Maggie Tohill)

In January of this year Worcestershire Record Office merged with the Worcestershire Historic Environmental and Archaeology Service to form the Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service ahead of their relocation to the new Worcestershire Library and History Centre, now renamed the Hive. A complete restructuring of the service and the physical move of the staff and holdings from their various locations to the new building gave no time for any oral history work be undertaken or for any direct involvement in any projects. The volunteer work on transcribing and summarising recordings was also suspended. Now that the move is complete and new systems and procedures are bedding in, staff from the collections team are about to undertake a review of oral history work to look at how it will fit into the aims and objectives of the new service and what shape future oral history work will take.
The Hive: The new Library and History Centre in Worcester City centre was opened officially in July 2012 by Her Majesty the Queen. The first major exhibition at the Hive is entitled ‘Beyond the City Wall’ and includes audio visual material from and about people who used to live in the area where the Hive is situated, collected as part of a HLF funded project relating to the City, its archives and people. It is planned to use audio visual material in future exhibitions based around particular themes. The current six month theme is ‘Memory’ and the next theme is likely to be ‘the River Severn’.

On the History Floor there are three sounds pods where visitors can dip into selections from our audio collections as part of their general visit to the building. These will be refreshed at intervals. The old Record Office CD jukebox containing selections of World War II reminiscences has also been moved to this floor to give it a more prominent place. It is hoped to broaden the selection of material available in the jukebox to cover other collections now held by us.

Kays project: The University of Worcester have now deposited the interviews they had undertaken as part of their six month project to create a web archive of fashion images from the Kays of Worcester catalogues held by them. As well as interviews with former workers the deposit includes themed CDs on topics such as fashion, the Kays brand, advertising and photography. Linked to the project a fashion show and arts events will be held at the Hive at the end of the year.

Wales Region Annual Report – 2012

(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.

South West Region Annual Report – 2013


Kayleigh Milden

The War in Plymouth: Destruction and a New Beginning (Heritage Lottery Fund/Plymouth University Vice-Chancellor’s Community Research Awards, May 2013 – current)
Dr Kayleigh Milden is currently coordinating the oral history project The War in Plymouth: Destruction and a New Beginning. This collaborative project between the Department of History, Plymouth University and The Word Machine (community interest publishing company), is collating an oral history archive of recordings relating to Plymouth in the Second World War and the rebuilding of the City from 1945-1955. Much of the landscape of Plymouth was indelibly altered in the aftermath of the War, impacting upon the physical and social make-up of the City. The project is examining the interplay between the national, community, and individual ‘memory’ of the Second World War. It is researching how the population of Plymouth reacted to the architectural and social changes that occurred in developments such as the Abercrombie and Paton-Watson ‘Plan for Plymouth’ that reshaped the city centre. It is also charting the story of the new housing estates that grew around the edges of Plymouth in the post-war era. Over the course of ten years between 1945 and 1955, over 17,000 new homes and 24 new schools were built, creating new neighbourhoods such as Southway and Efford. The research questions being explored include: How did these developments impact upon the health of the population? Was there a ‘sense of community’ within the new estates?

Project outcomes will include an exhibition, publications and online learning resources.

South West Region Annual Report – 2012


(Craig Fees)

Gloucestershire is a big county with much going on, as will be evident from the sample of activity below. There is certainly more, and it would be good to hear news of other oral history-related developments and projects.
This report is grouped into four main sections in order to indicate both how diverse the activity is within Gloucestershire, and how fortunate it is to have three active and interactive centres of oral history within the County. Section 1 is on General Activity Around the County; Section 2 is on activity related to the University of Gloucestershire; Section 3 is on activity related to the Planned Environment Therapy Trust Archive and Study Centre; and Section 3 is on activity related to Gloucestershire Archives.


The Great Gloucester Story

In July the BBC and Gloucester City Museum collaborated to host a day of interactive events and exhibitors celebrating the history of Gloucester over the last 1,600 years, with BBC Learning “exploring place names, surnames, hidden landscapes and recording oral history provided by local residents.”

Yate District Oral History Project book launch

The Yate Oral History Project has published its Photographic History of Yate, “the largest assembly of local images put together and comprises many hitherto unseen images”, with over 290 photographs. See:


This ongoing oral history project, established to record the history and recollections of the Cashes Green area of Stroud, has a Facebook page at:

“All Along the Cotswold Canals”

Following training by West Midlands Regional Networker Julia Letts, this exciting project of the Cotswolds Canals Restoration Project recorded memories and created a 22-point audio trail which can be accessed on smartphones while walking the canal, or downloaded from the website:

Ashton Keynes School Jubilee Project

Assisted by community artist Kathryn Gray, Year 5 and 6 pupils from Ashton Keynes School used a �1,600 grant from the Malmesbury Area Board to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee by recording interviews with twelve Ashton Keynes villagers about life in the 1950s, and translating their memories into works of art.

“Back to the Future”

Running from June 2011 to December 2012, “Back to the Future” is a Heritage Lottery Funded project of the Black Southwest Network which looks at the impact on and contribution to the cultural landscape of Southwest England by Black and Minority Ethnic organisations, using oral history interviews with members of the three most prominent BME organizations in Gloucester and other Southwest communities.


“You Asked Me So I’m Telling You”

In April, University of Gloucestershire PhD student Christian O’Connell gave a paper entitled ‘”You Asked Me So I’m Telling You:” Oral History and Photography in Paul Oliver’s Conversation with the Blues’ at the 57th Annual British Association of American Studies (BAAS) Conference at the University of Manchester.

“The Ethics of Oral History and Memory Studies”

In September, Melanie Ilic, Reader in History at the University of Gloucestershire, co-organised a conference on ‘The Soviet Past in the Post-Soviet Present: the Ethics of Oral History and Memory Studies’ in Lithuania. Her book, Life Stories of Soviet Women: the Interwar Generation, drawing on her life history research, talking to women about their everyday lives during Soviet times, is due to appear from Routledge in 2013.

“Land, Cultural Heritage and Identity in the Scottish Highlands”

Dr Iain Robertson, Course Leader and Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Gloucestershire has been awarded a Research Grant by the University as part of a broader project on the ‘Glasgow Gaels’, using oral history to look specifically at the construction of visual cultural identity within the crofting communities of Lochs and Harris on the Isles of Lewis and Harris. In September the project’s fieldworker, archaeologist Dr. Mary MacLeod, herself a crofter, gave the first in a new series of staff History seminars at the University, in a stimulating and well-received presentation called “Memory, Cultural Identity and Landscape: the perils and pitfalls of oral historical work in the Outer Hebrides”.


The Planned Environment Therapy Trust (PETT) now has an active Facebook Page, a thoroughly renewed website, and a Twitter account @pettconnect.!

“Therapeutic Living With Other People’s Children”

PETT’s 18-month Heritage Lottery Fund-supported project, “Therapeutic Living With Other People’s Children: An oral history of residential therapeutic childcare c. 1930 – c. 1980” reached a successful conclusion, producing 282 audio and video recordings and 119 transcripts as well as 8 websites presenting 130 documents, 5 digital stories, 428 photographs, 38 audio/video selections, 23 transcript selections, and 19 personal written accounts.
In recognition of the achievements of the project, the Community Archives and Heritage Group awarded PETT its first “Most Impactful Archive of the Year” award. The award was received at the University of London with the help of students from Trinity Catholic School in Leamington Spa, who had both recorded interviews and worked with former ‘maladjusted’ children to produce a successful theatre production. A detailed report on the project’s history, development, design, outputs and outcomes was uploaded to the project website,

There have been several recording-fest “Archive Weekends” since the end of the project, and oral history recording has continued elsewhere, with digital stories and other material continuing to be developed and uploaded to the “otherpeopleschildren” website by volunteers. The Archive continues to make other recordings, loan equipment, and to offer support, encouragement and guidance generally.

In July Project Oral Historian Gemma Geldart, Project Administrator/Transcriptionist Chris Long, and Trinity Catholic School Assistant Principal Stephen Steinhaus all gave papers relating to the “Therapeutic Living” project at the Oral History Society’s annual conference in Southampton. In September, at the invitation of the organisers, Gemma Geldart gave a paper drawing on the project at the “Understanding Parenting: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives” Conference at the Centre for the History of Medicine at the University of Warwick.

Craig Fees, Regional Networker:

As Archivist, I continue to be based at the Planned Environment Therapy Trust Archive and Study Centre. During the past year, alongside my duties as Regional Networker for Gloucestershire, I was Project Manager for PETT’s “Therapeutic Living With Other People’s Children” project, continued as a Trustee/Committee member of the Oral History Society, co-organised and chaired several sessions at the Oral History Society’s annual conference “Displaced Childhoods: Oral history and traumatic experiences”, consulted on Dr. Iain Robertson’s “Land, Cultural Heritage and Identity” project at the University of Gloucestershire, conducted a seminar for history students on oral history at the University and, as course author and tutor on the “Sound and Vision” distance learning module for the Centre for Archive and Information Studies at the University of Dundee, thoroughly rewrote the Unit on oral history.


“Hidden Lives of Barton and Tredworth”

Launched in March 2011, and managed by The National Archives Skills for the Future Trainee Ollie Taylor, this Heritage Lottery Fund-supported project between the Gloucester Theatre Company, Gloucestershire Archives, and the University of Gloucestershire, has resulted in an attractive and richly informative website, a series of Reminiscence Theatre performances by a group of young actors from the Gloucester Theatre Company, over 60 interviews, and a Youtube channel with 10 Digital Stories and excerpts from the “Hidden Lives” theatre production.

“The Fielding and Platt Community Archive Project”

Led by Gloucestershire Archives and Gloucester City Centre Community Partnership, directed by project officer Ollie Taylor, and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, this oral history-based project kicked off in June 2012 to record, preserve, and celebrate major international engineering firm Fielding and Platt’s history and impact on Gloucester. There have been over 20 interviews to date, there is an attractive and growing website, and considerable outreach and development activity.

“History of Gloucester Rugby Club”

Awarded a three-year ‘Your Heritage’ grant by the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2008, and supported by Gloucester Rugby Club, Gloucestershire Archives, and the Friends of Gloucestershire Archives, the ‘History of Gloucester Rugby Club’ project continues to add recorded interviews to the rich and active project website.