Glasgow/Strathaven (Alison Chand)
Since becoming a regional networker for the OHS in Scotland in summer 2016, I have dealt with an enquiry from an Edinburgh based group in the process of setting up an oral history project, offering advice on training and costs. The group asked that the details of the project remain confidential at this stage. I am looking forward to becoming more involved with the OHS and offering more advice to local groups in my first full year as a regional networker.
NORTHERN IRELAND (Anna Bryson, Ronan Deazley)
Ronan Deazley and I were delighted to be jointly appointed as regional networkers for Northern Ireland in June 2016. Before commencing this brief report we would like to pay tribute to the work of our predecessor, Linda Ballard, who has now stepped aside to pursue a PhD.
Having recently stepped into role, we are only just beginning to receive formal requests in our capacity as OHS regional networkers. The most recent was from the Cultural and Heritage Centre in Maghera who are embarking on a HLF-funded project titled ‘Maghera Roots’. I arranged to meet the project directors to discuss the first steps (necessary equipment, consent forms, scope and scale) and am now helping to facilitate OHS-accredited training.
We are, of course, both plugged into various oral history networks in the region and are striving to ensure that we use our role as networkers to strengthen links between the OHS and these various projects and initiatives. These include:
Professor Sean O’Connell (Editor, Oral History), Ronan Deazley and I have been driving forward a new initiative titled QUOTE (Queen’s University Oral history, Technology and Ethics) Hub. This involves an interdisciplinary team of scholars from Law, History, Drama, Creative Arts, English, Geography and the Faculty of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science who wish to provide a holistic approach to the use of oral history at QUB. It is modelled on world leading oral history collectives such as the Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling at Concordia University. Our aim is to pool the many strengths that QUB has in the broad field of oral history and to develop a centre for research and teaching excellence that offers the foundations from which to build successful collaborative projects and to provide outreach activities to our partners in the community. We are currently working with a web developer and hope to go ‘live’ before the end of the year.
Healing Through Remembering Stories Network
We are both members of the Stories Network https://www.facebook.com/TheStoriesNetwork/. This network was launched in June 2014 by Healing Through Remembering http://healingthroughremembering.org/ (the leading NGO on ‘Dealing with the Past’ in Northern Ireland). It aims to assist and facilitate those gathering and sharing personal narratives related to the conflict in and about Northern Ireland by: encouraging people and projects interested in storytelling to learn from each other; promoting good practice / ethical principles for the gathering and sharing of stories and personal narratives; promoting, where appropriate, links between projects and accounts; sharing learning; holding seminars and events; participating in processes calling for national collections; and encouraging listening to stories and personal narratives. Dozens of oral history and storytelling projects (too numerous to list) are represented within the network, with a core of about twenty attending quarterly meetings in Belfast. Notable developments in the past year include the publication of the Stories Network briefing paper on the Oral History elements of the Stormont House Agreement http://web-previews.com/healingthroughremembering/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/TSN_Briefing_Paper_on_SHA_FINAL_Oct_2015.pdf and the organisation of a highly successful seminar on ‘Oral History Archives: Process, Methodology and Copyright’ in May 2016. An ongoing challenge confronting many of the oral history and storytelling projects represented within this network is the dearth of available funding. The majority of these projects got off the ground with the support of the EU’s Peace Programme but the priorities of that funding stream have since shifted, leaving many worthy projects without the means to develop and archive their collections.
Amongst the projects that have managed to find alternative means of funding in the past year are:
- ‘Voices from the Vault’ led by Will Glendinning (Diversity Challenges) and funded by International Sites of Conscience. This project will gather stories from former members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and An Garda Síochána (Irish police force). It builds on an earlier project titled ‘Green and Blue’ which used oral testimonies as the basis for a drama produced in association with Kabosh Theatre (I serve as an Advisor to both projects).
- ‘Both Sides Now’ led by Paul McLaughlin of the Northern Ireland Mixed Marriages Association was funded by the Big Lottery Fund and has resulted in the publication of publication and associated play (this can be viewed on You Tube by searching on “Mixed Emotions Play Belfast” or by following this link).
Stormont House Agreement Oral History ArchiveIn January 2015 Professor Kieran McEvoy (QUB) invited a team of eight individuals (including two law professors, a former British Ambassador and the Director of the main Northern Ireland Human Rights NGO, the Committee on the Administration of Justice) to develop ‘model’ legislation for the implementation of the Legacy Mechanisms proposed under the terms of the Stormont House Agreement. The idea was that this might inform, influence and shape the official legislation. I led on the proposed Oral History Archive. This involved liaising with the political parties involved in the negotiations, senior officials from the British and Irish governments and the relevant devolved departments, and the relevant civil society groups. The Model Bill (including a substantial section on the proposed Oral History Archive) together with an explanatory framework and an analysis of the process of ‘legislating the past “from below”‘ was formally launched in October 2015 at an event at the House of Lords sponsored by Lord Dubbs in October 2015 and addressed by Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary of State Vernon Coker. It was also widely publicised through the local print and broadcast media, at a number of major conferences in Belfast, and a range of seminars and briefings aimed at civil society organisations and political parties. Related publications including ‘Victims, Violence and Voice: Transitional Justice, Oral History and Dealing with the Past‘ develop in further detail the ethical dimensions of oral history research in post-conflict societies. Progress on the development of the legacy mechanisms stalled in late 2015 due to political disagreement around the issue of disclosure of official documentation. Talks are ongoing and both the QUB/UU/CAJ team and the Stories Network are working intensely to influence the shape and development of the Oral History Archive.
Save Our Sounds
The Ulster Folk and Transport Museum is currently working with staff at the British Library to explore the Northern Ireland limb of the HLF Save Our Sounds programme (https://www.bl.uk/projects/save-our-sounds#sthash.oWOd6h9b.dpuf). This exciting £9.5 million project seeks to digitise and make available 500,000 rare, unique and at-risk sound recordings from both the British Sound Archive and locally based repositories. Work is also underway to scope out a major outreach programme involving schools and local communities.
It will be clear from this brief overview that a wealth of oral history work is underway in Northern Ireland – within, across, and between universities, community groups, the museum and archives sector, and the creative arts. Funding for community and voluntary groups remains a major challenge – as does resolution of outstanding concerns relating to the Oral History Archive proposed under the terms of the Stormont House Agreement. At QUB we have long since recognised the need for increased collaboration amongst oral history practitioners – hence the development of the QUOTE hub. Beyond the confines of the university, we hope that in our capacity as members of the HTR Stories Network and as Regional Networkers for Northern Ireland we will in the coming year help to provide a focal point for the myriad oral history practitioners and projects operating across our society.
Birmingham & area (Helen Lloyd)
For several years I’ve been asked by children and grandchildren of immigrants to help them record older generations’ memories of their countries of origin and of immigration and settlement in this country. They realise that soon there’ll be no family members left who weren’t born in this country and they want to preserve a culture in which they take pride. But this is the first year in which I’ve been asked by two groups to help with projects that wanted to use oral history to provide a critique of aspects of their culture (while still being proud of other aspects).
A group of young women from Somaliland asked for training to record memories of FGM (female genital mutilation) with the aim of provoking discussion of a practice which they hope will soon cease. They feel that the practice only survives because no-one talks about it and hope that when the project is completed, it will get people talking. I also trained a group of women from a Muslim charity called the Amirah Foundation to record an oral history of domestic violence over the past 60 years, particularly in Muslim families (http://www.amirahfoundation.org/hitting-back). Both projects involved a delicate balance between the desire to publicise an issue and the desire to protect the interviewees; but what I found most difficult was that some of the interviewers had also been victims and they struggled to keep their own experiences from affecting the interviews.
I also trained two TV producers to record an oral history of stillbirth (http://stillbirthstories.org) which resulted in a radio programme called We Need to Talk About Stillbirth, broadcast on Radio 4 in July – but although they’d both had stillbirths, they’d already learnt as journalists to prevent their own experiences from colouring their interviews.
I find it easier to train people to record experiences of immigration, when the interviewees know little about the experiences of their parents and grandparents’ generations, but are eager to learn. I get frequent calls from people saying that nobody has recorded these experiences before and I used to respond by pointing out that I’ve done so and so have lots of other people. But I now think there are other priorities apart from filling gaps in the archive. Many immigrants tried to protect their children from knowledge of the racism they’d experienced, because they didn’t want to turn them against British society, so if younger generations now want to know more, they’ll benefit from recording these memories themselves, irrespective of how many interviews already exist in archives.I enjoyed helping some teenagers from a Caribbean church to record memories of Leaving A Land Of Paradise To Live In A Land Of Expectations, including family memories of a man who fought for Britain in both the First and Second World Wars. I also helped a Bangladeshi charity called New Hope to record memories of traditional games – including Ludo, which apparently originated in India many centuries ago (http://www.nhbham.org/heritage-project). I’m currently helping a group of young men from the Congo with a project called Minding Africans’ Hidden Memories, which will record memories of immigration from French-speaking countries, with a focus on mental health: http://www.africancoheritagehub.org/african-oral-history.
(Some of the projects mentioned so far involved interviews in other languages and my experience of such projects over several years suggests that they should budget for at least twice what they expect to spend on interpreting and translation!)
I’ve recently given two days of training to retired members of the Birmingham Irish Association, to record the memories of labourers who came from Ireland to work on buildings such as the Bullring and Spaghetti Junction (http://www.birminghamirish.org.uk/news/26/we-built-this-city-project). This week the project officer said she wished she’d budgeted for more training days: the second session which assessed practice interviews was helpful, but she’d have liked two more days to assess the first few ‘real’ interviews. I told her that most projects say they can’t get volunteers to commit to more than two days – and some projects only budget for one – but she was keen that I should urge Networkers to argue for a minimum of four days – which I’m now doing!
Next week (11.10.16) I’ll begin helping volunteers to explore the story of Silverdale – a former mining village in North Staffordshire – and in November I’ll attend a ballet at the Midlands Arts Centre called If I Could Reach Home, which incorporates some recordings I made with women refugees (https://macbirmingham.co.uk/event/if-i-could-reach-home). I’m also giving talks on oral history for the Alzheimers Society, to groups of people who’ve only recently been diagnosed – plus other talks too numerous to list!
I’ll end by publicising two projects with which I’ve had no involvement, but which are recommended by the HLF in Birmingham: the Birmingham Prefabulous project, which is collecting memories of people living in prefab homes (http://www.birminghamconservationtrust.org/2016/06/06/prefabulous/) and the 50 Years of the Barford Tigers project in which young people recorded stories of their successful Birmingham hockey club to celebrate its 50th anniversary:https://www.hlf.org.uk/our-projects/50-years-barford-tigers
West Midlands (Julia Letts)
Another busy year in my patch (which includes parts of Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Gloucestershire, the Black Country and over the border into Wales). I have continued to provide advice, support and training to groups running oral history projects in the area. In addition to organising tailored courses for many of the projects listed below, I also hosted an OHS/ BL Introduction to Oral History Course at the University of Worcester in June which was over-subscribed. The University has a vibrant history department, is keen to promote oral history and is a great supporter of the Oral History Society.
Below I have listed the projects with which I have had some involvement in the last 12 months:
Tales of the Vale – A Forgotten Landscape
Between 2016 and 2018 I am training and mentoring a group of volunteers who are creating an oral history archive called Tales of Vale. The group is researching and recording interviews with people connected to A Forgotten Landscape’s project area (the Lower Severn Vale Levels from Avonmouth in the south, to the village of Shepperdine in the north). The volunteers will record at least 30 interviews with people who’ve grown up, lived, worked and shaped the landscape and those who’ve played a part in its development over the past century. 16 interviews have been recorded and summarised so far. The volunteers will work alongside a group of history researchers who are investigating even further back, visiting local archives and studying primary sources which shed more light on the history of the area. The two Tales of the Vale teams will eventually put together a booklet and mobile exhibition, which will include their historical findings, archive photographs and oral history recordings. This very exciting project is already producing a wealth of new material and providing volunteers with all sorts of opportunities to learn new skills. We are starting to upload extracts from the interviews on to the newly revamped website. Do take a look at firstname.lastname@example.org
New College, Worcester
To mark the 150th anniversary of New College Worcester (formerly Worcester College for the Blind), current students have interviewed former pupils and staff going right back to the 1940s. It was the first time I had worked with people with little or no sight, and I was astonished by their empathy and ability to respond to their interviewees despite the fact that they couldn’t see them. We have collected 17 interviews so far and are now taking extracts from the interviews to create a CD, which will be narrated by the students. There will also be an exhibition, and extracts on both the website and in the sound domes in the Hive in Worcester. The project will culminate in a 150th anniversary service in Worcester cathedral in December 2016. http://www.newcollegeworcester.co.uk/celebrating
St Richard’s Voices; 30 years of memories. This project was completed in the summer of 2016 and I am delighted to say has been selected for presentation at the Hospice UK National Conference in November 2016. In 2015, I worked with 4 volunteers to record 26 oral histories with people who were key to the creation of St Richard’s Hospice in Worcestershire. These included nurses, doctors, volunteers, patients, patients’ families, shop workers, administrators and governors. The collection is now at the Hive in Worcester, and audio extracts are on the sound domes in the first floor gallery. In addition there is a website www.strichardsvoices.org.uk and a mobile exhibition with a sound post. A talk on the first 30 years of St Richard’s, illustrated with audio, has been developed and is being delivered by hospice volunteers. The project was funded by a Shared Heritage grant from HLF.
The Worcester Spirit; Memories of Campus Life 1946 to 2016
The University of Worcester has just started this oral history project which will run until the end of 2017. There has been a college of Higher Education on the current University campus since 1946 when the Worcester Training College was set up as an ‘emergency college’ to train teachers at the end of the Second World War. The college finally became the University of Worcester 10 years ago, but this year, 2016, marks the 70th year of teaching students on the same site. Many of the current University staff work in the Nissan huts that housed the first 250 students! The University’s oral history project will capture memories of the Training College and chart the many changes it underwent over the decades. I will be training and mentoring current students who will be interviewing former staff, students and administrators. The planned outcomes include a website, a film, an exhibition and booklet. https://www.facebook.com/UniversityofWorcesterAlumni/
Llanwrtyd Wells Heritage Project – This project also reached its completion in the summer of 2016, with the opening of a heritage centre in a former chapel in the middle of Llanwrtyd Wells. The project started 6 years ago, when I first trained a small group of volunteers from the town. Since then they have been collecting oral history interviews, photos and memorabilia, all of which are now on display in the chapel. Extracts from the oral histories can be listened to on a touch screen (with transcriptions in both Welsh and English) and they cover themes such as ‘taking the waters’, pony trekking, farming, chapel life, Eistedfodds and the town’s shops. Volunteers also worked with the town’s school. The Year 6 children interviewed residents and produced a book of childhood memories. www.llanwrtydhistorygroup.webs.com
The Look Back Project, Clun, Shropshire – The Look Back heritage project interviewed people who knew the playwright John Osborne when he lived in Clun between 1986-1994 and people who remembered this area of South Shropshire in the 1950s. I was involved in training and working with a group of 20 Year 8 history students at Bishop’s Castle Community College, and 12 local people who have recorded 21 interviews to date. I am currently editing these for the website. The full collection will be housed in the Shropshire Archives. In May 2016 there was a very successful weekend of festivities to mark 60 years since the first performance of Osborne’s groundbreaking play Look Back in Anger. More details are on the website www.osborneandafter.org
Wolverhampton Art Gallery – Collecting Cultures – Black Art Group
Wolverhampton Art Gallery has collected a number of oral history interviews as part of its HLF funded project to collect, promote and share the works of the Wolverhampton Young Black Artist Group from 1979 to present. Following oral history training with me, staff and volunteers recorded interviews with people in Wolverhampton who had connections with the Black Art Movement, or who had been influenced by it. Extracts from these interviews have been edited by Helen Lloyd and will be on display in Wolverhampton Art Gallery in October 2016, as part of an exhibition of contemporary Black British artists called ‘Back to Black’. http://www.wolverhamptonart.org.uk/whats-on/back-to-black/
Voters and Volunteers – Pershore Women’s Institute/ Heritage and History Society
This project, funded by the HLF’s WW1 funding stream ‘Then and Now’ and coordinated by Prof Maggie Andrews at the University of Worcester, is looking at the Home Front during the Great War in and around Pershore in South Worcestershire. This was an area of market gardening and fruit growing, and the town’s jam factories played a major role in the war, pulping fruit and producing jam for the front line. Women were involved in all aspects of work, on farms, in orchards and in the factories. Pershore WI, founded in 1916, was one of the first branches in the country and celebrated its 100th anniversary this year. Members of many local groups have contributed to researching and producing a book called ‘How the Pershore Plum won the Great War’ and a number of oral history interviews are currently being recorded, looking at the legacy of WW1 on this area and its inhabitants. https://ww1inthevale.wordpress.com/category/pershore-wi
Queen Street Gateway Townscape Heritage Scheme, Wolverhampton
This project is just getting underway in Wolverhampton. Queen Street was once ‘the gateway’ to Wolverhampton. It was laid out in the 18th century and contains some of the City’s finest and most important buildings. In the 19th century it was a thriving trading centre and the main route into the City from Wolverhampton’s railway stations. The Townscape scheme seeks to bring the street back to its former glory, with volunteers involved in every aspect of Queen Street’s heritage including research, conservation and oral history. I have recently trained a small group of volunteers who are about to start interviewing local people and shop keepers to create an archive of recordings of ‘Queen Street in living memory’. Extracts from the recordings will be used in an App which will guide visitors around a heritage trail. http://www.wolverhampton.gov.uk/article/9022/What-is-the-Scheme
Studley Needle Heritage Group, Redditch
This community group in Studley is starting to collect oral histories with people in the village who were involved in the needle trade in living memory. Studley is world famous for needle-making, dating back to Tudor times when Huguenot settlers moved to the village bringing the skill with them. In its heyday, Studley’s needle factories produced more needles than anywhere else in England. This continued through the 20th century until cheap imports from the Far East decimated the industry. Although some oral histories of needle workers have been collected in the past, there are few known accounts from the Studley workforce. This project hopes to rectify that. With funding from HLF’s Sharing Heritage, a group of volunteers are embarking on collecting at least 10 interviews with local people involved in the needle trade. These will be used to produce a permanent display in Studley’s village hall.
Lighting the Golden Fire, Hereford
Rural Media in Hereford is recording a number of filmed oral history interviews for its digital arts project on the production of cider and its role in Herefordshire’s economy, culture and way of life from 1945 to the present day. The project is called ‘Golden Fire’ (a reference to Laurie Lee’s description of the drink in Cider with Rosie). The oral history interviews will be used alongside archive film and photographs in the creation of a mobile exhibition and a Golden Fire app, which will be launched next spring 2017.
Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service (Maggie Tohill)
For much of the year I have been seconded to an externally funded archive cataloguing project, so things have inevitably been much quieter for me on the oral history front this time round.
I have continued to give advice to local groups and organisations who are thinking of undertaking projects and to answer enquiries about our audio holdings. We continue to get quite a bit of interest in our collections from local students. One particularly intriguing enquiry came from a student working on an art exhibition who wanted descriptions of anti-radar measures during World War II.
We have received several deposits of oral history material at the Hive during the year. These have included recordings made as part of the St Richard’s Hospice: 30 years of memories project to record the memories of people who were involved in the creation of the hospice. Some of the recordings have also featured on our sound domes in the Hive. We also received some recordings made about 10 years ago as a data collecting exercise for the Kidderminster and District Archaeological and Historical Society publication ‘Kidderminster & District in World War II.’
I have continued to organise work for volunteers and placements wishing to undertake oral history work as part of the range of tasks they undertake with our User Services Team. This has been a particularly useful way of getting transcripts and summaries of the single/stray interviews which people bring into us which are not part of a specific project.
In addition we recorded a special one-off interview with a 94 year old gentleman whose family wanted to make some permanent record of his long association with the City of Worcester and in particular his working life at the now demolished Ronkswood Hospital. We operate a Life Stories collection at the Hive for interviews which don’t fit a specific project so were able to add the recording to that collection.
As reported last year our Learning and Outreach Team have been involved with Jestaminute Community Theatre (JCT)’s project ‘The Start of Something Big’. This is a two-year project to investigate the industrial heritage of Redditch during the new town development years. As well as recording reminiscences of local stories, exhibitions, podcasts and performances are planned.
Greater Manchester (Rosalyn Livshin)
Legacy of Ahmed
The Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Education Trust (AIUET) has continued both to deliver and support oral history projects. Its own ‘Legacy of Ahmed’ project is uncovering and sharing the positive developments that have happened in the 30 years since Ahmed was killed by a fellow pupil in a Manchester school playground. It focusses on, the story of the school built by his mother, Fatima Begum, in Sylhet, now serving over 800 pupils; the development of the AIUET Resource Centre; the growth of the Manchester Bangladeshi Women’s Organisation; and the work of a local organisation forging stronger links and understanding between Manchester and Bangladesh – the Longsight Sylhet Link Group. Over 30 interviews have been conducted and reminiscence sessions recorded with members of the Bangladeshi community and people involved with all the organisations. There is also a great deal of archival material now stored in Manchester Central Library.
Kotha & Kantha, Bangladeshi Women’s project
AIUET has also delivered this project which has worked with an artist, writer, embroiderer and photographer. While not strictly an oral history project, the artists worked with a group of Bangladeshi women to explore memories and testimony, expressing them through writing and embroidery.
Local Community Group Projects
The AIUET has again been active supporting local community groups to deliver oral history projects largely funded by Heritage Lottery. These include the connections between Manchester and West Africa evident in textile heritage – a project delivered by Michelle and Joseph Ayavoro of the Creative Hands Foundation; oral histories of Yoruba people in Manchester delivered by Peter Macjob; and an ongoing project called ‘Traditional Best Times of South Asian Women’ collecting testimonies of Pakistani women about their traditional pastimes – sports and games, arts and crafts, food and recipes, being delivered by Nusrat Ahmed of the organisation Community on Solid Ground.
Manchester Refugee Support Network heritage and archiving project.
This has been a particularly significant oral history project – still in progress – which has so far collected 20 interviews, exploring the life-stories and roles of founder members and project workers in MRSN over its 20 years of existence. Much of the paper archive has already been deposited and catalogued at the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre and the oral history recordings will add to the growing collection of BME materials that the Centre holds. MRSN’s project will end with an event at Manchester Central Library on December 3rd.
A Liverpool – West Africa Maritime Heritage
The project is creating an online resource of memories and experiences of the former staff of Elder Dempster Lines (EDL), the largest British shipping line between the UK and West Africa, which until 1989 was based in Liverpool. It is a collaboration between the EDL Pensioners Association, Liverpool John Moores University and the University of Liverpool, together with local history and community groups, the Centre for Port and Maritime History, and the Merseyside Maritime Museum. The major part of the work is the recording of at least 25 oral history interviews with sea-faring and on-shore staff, some by the volunteers from former staff members. In collecting and making these memories and experiences publicly accessible the intention is to preserve and promote the rich and diverse heritage of the company and the people who worked for it. It will also enhance public understanding of the interlinked maritime heritage of Liverpool and West Africa. Details of the project are at www.elderdempster.org/heritage.htm
The Bradford Muslim Womens Council head covering project
This project explores female head coverings in the three Abrahamic faiths as a way of sharing their common heritage and challenging stereotypes that only Muslim women cover their heads. Two staff and 15 volunteers across the faiths were trained as oral historians. The project has enabled women to share their experiences, stories and memories of head coverings and is resulting in a book and a webpage. Volunteers will also retell their stories in schools.
Chorley Mills: An Oral History Project
The project is recording interviews with former mill workers in Chorley, Lancashire with the aim of building up a picture of working lives in the town’s mills from the 1930s to the 1980s when the last mill closed. 15 interviews have been done to date out of a proposed 20-25. The interviews are being made available via the project’s website, chorleymills.org together with archive photographs and documents and an education pack is being produced.
North West (Fiona Cosson and Steve Kelly)
OurManchester OurSelves, Manchester
Young people from the Factory Youth Zone (Manchester) recently used oral history in their project ‘Ourmanchester Ourselves’, a youth led, Heritage Lottery Funded partnership project between The Factory Youth Zone and Archives+ (facilitated by Open the Door Theatre in Education). The young people which they undertook oral history training from Fiona Cosson, and then carried out oral history interviews which featured as part of their documentary film (with supporting education materials) to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the IRA bombing of the Arndale Centre bombing in June 1996. http://www.ourmanchesterourselves.co.uk/
Life’s a Drag, Manchester
Created by artist Jez Dolan, Life’s a Drag celebrates the history of drag in Manchester, beginning with the infamous Hulme Drag Ball of 1880, taking you right up to date with Manchester’s current outrageously Gender Queer drag revolution. Life’s a Drag is a year-long project uncovering the secrets of Manchester’s drag stories and histories, through performance, exhibitions, workshops and a drag seminar. As part of the project, volunteers undertook oral history training with Fiona Cosson and then carried out oral history interviews with a range of people connected to the drag scene. http://www.lifesadragmcr.co.uk/
Boomtown Basement Records, Blackburn
Boomtown Basement Records CIC in Blackburn recently completed an HLF-funded project about the fascinating history of acid house and rave scene in the disused mills and abandoned mills of East Lancashire, 1988-1990. The project culminated in a film and exhibition at Blackburn Museum and Galley, featuring oral history interviews, original posters and newspaper articles form the era.
Unheard Voices, Bradford
Earlier this year, the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded a grant to Bradford City FC Community Foundation for their project, Unheard Voices. The project aims to document the experiences of the ground’s surrounding community of the events of 11th May 1985 at Bradford City Football Stadium. The project will tell the unheard story of how the local BME community helped people on the day of the tragic fire in 1985, and also the stories of the events of the following days. The project began in February 2016, and has recruited and trained volunteers in Oral History skills to enable them to get involved in focus groups and workshops for people to share their memories. The project will create a book and film about the events of that day. http://www.bradfordcityfitc.org.uk/heritage-lottery-fund
OUT! Manchester Pride
OUT! is a project celebrating lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender histories across Greater Manchester using digital technologies. It is funded by Heritage Lottery Fund and delivered by Manchester Pride. In August 2016, Fiona Cosson worked with project volunteers to train them oral history interviewing techniques so they could undertake oral history interviews for the project. Some recordings will be chosen to feature in the digital exhibition space at Archives+ and will also form part of the OUT! online portal. https://outmanchester.org/
History of Place
Accentuate History of Place is a nationally significant social history programme which will chart disabled people’s lives from the middle ages until the late 20th Century in relation to built heritage. The Accentuate History of Place project will investigate and animate eight important built heritage sites, with the objective of elevating this history to greater prominence. In Liverpool, the focus is on the Royal School for the Blind. In early August in Liverpool, members of the research group and representatives from local heritage organisations gathered for Oral History Training hosted by History of Place and delivered by Fiona Cosson, Manchester Metropolitan University. The project volunteers are currently preparing to undertake interviews with ex-pupils and school staff. http://historyof.place/
The Granadaland oral history project which is being carried out in conjunction with Manchester Metropolitan University is now in its third year and has recently received further funding which will enable it continue for at least another two years. So far more than 80 interviews with former Granada TV staff members have been recorded. These have all been transcribed and placed on the Granadaland website (www.granadaland.org) along with photographs and other material related to the history of the company. In May 2016 a one-day conference at Manchester Metropolitan University was held to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Granada and attracted 200 delegates who enjoyed a day of talks, programme viewing and networking. Speakers included some of the biggest names in Granada’s history as well as the daughter of Lord Bernstein, Granada’s founder, who flew in from New York for the occasion. The project’s co-ordinators, Stephen Kelly and Judith Jones, are also collecting as much material as possible about the company and all this will be archived by the University. A PhD studentship has also been established and a student has been appointed to examine an aspect of the company’s history.
A project at Hogton Tower, close to Preston, is collating a history of the spectacular Tudor building and its distinguished role over the last 500 years. The project which is funded by the HLF is primarily collecting data to add to its already extensive archive. Eventually this will be made available for exhibitions and public use. But the project also includes an oral history element which is focused on collecting memories of the building. A training programme has been carried out and a series of interviews are now being recorded with members of the public.
North West (Andrew Schofield)
In the last year ASRaudio has been involved with several oral history projects (mainly funded by HLF) offering training and advice throughout the projects. Several more are in the pipeline, either in the planning stage or awaiting funding decisions.
Since the demise of North West Sound Archive one of the problems for new projects has been finding somewhere to deposit their recordings where they will be accessible to the public. Although repositories will accept recording some will only do so on the understanding that they are fully transcribed and catalogued. In some cases this has been built into the funding bid but in other it has meant that the recordings are only available through the initiating organisation or in the form of extracts online. Enquiries have also been received from individuals looking for a repository for small collections of recording which they have undertaken as part of an interest in local history or a `hobby’. Some of these have now been placed in public repositories but unfortunately we are still looking for a home for others.
Below is a brief summary of supported projects:
- Blacko Primary School A small project in which pupils have recorded older people’s memories of the school.
- Sefton Council for Voluntary Services Recording general memories of Sefton (Merseyside).
- Quarry Arts Memories of quarrying in the Clitheroe area.
- Bacup Pride Run by Bacup Naturalists recording general memories of the town and surrounding area.
- Association of Jewish Refugees Memories of the Jewish community in Greater Manchester.
- People’s Empowerment and Enrichment Forum Recollections of the Asian community in Brierfield.
- Stanhill Village Heritage Project General memories of the village loosely based on James Hargreaves, inventor of the spinning jenny, who was born in the village.
- Signed Voices A project run by Deafway using sign language to capture the memories of deaf people throughout Lancashire.
- Woodend Mining Museum Memories of coal mining in the Burnley coalfield.
- Careladies Organisation Memories of the Congolese community in Manchester.
- Pendle Leisure Trust (In Situ Arts) Clothing and fashion in the Nelson area from the 1950s.
- Low Moor Reading Room and Club Memories of Low Moor (Clitheroe) which was originally built as housing for workers at the local textile mill and formed a separate self-sustained community on the outskirts of Clitheroe.
University of Central Lancashire Two sessions with the photography department linking oral history to photography as a means of interpretation.
Tyne & Wear (Janette Hilton)
Living History North East: The Regional Oral History Centre – Sunderland
Living History North East continue to support the development of oral history led projects, training, networks and support across the north east. As always LHNE hope to illustrate how oral histories can be used in creative and innovative ways to engage the wider communities in the region. LHNE are working alongside a number of projects, these include:
‘Our Roots, Our Journey Our City’.
The Sunderland Bangladeshi Community launched their exhibition and website in September this year. This community is the most populous BME community in Sunderland. Bangladeshis have been arriving in Sunderland since the 1960s. With the majority arriving from Syedpur, Life in Sunderland proved extremely different from the life in Bangladesh. Through a series of oral histories interviews from the community, as well as interviews from other diverse groups in Sunderland; ‘Our roots Our Journey, Our City’ tells the story of a community’s journey, their experiences, their hopes, fears and expectations as they arrived in the UK and travelled to Sunderland to provide opportunities for their families. The project produced a timeline exhibition, currently on display in The Bangladeshi International Centre in Sunderland; a smaller exhibition as a travelling exhibition; a 60 minute DVD compilation that charts the community story through oral history testimony; a website which hosts (via YouTube) the 40 interviews that were completed as part of this project. These can be accessed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSTooM6UMO0 Living History North East supported the community oral history training, DVD production and historical context for this project as a heritage partner.
Hearts and Minds Across Generations:
Developing intergenerational dementia and reminiscence awareness through activities.
This work developed a programme of activities that focused on delivering accessible, specialised dementia awareness and reminiscence sessions and workshops for young people and teenagers, working alongside older volunteers.
Working alongside Bridging The Gap, Pip McKever led on the training sessions providing opportunities for young people to be mentored through the dementia and reminiscence sessions and supported by older volunteers in delivering a session to people living with Dementia/Alzheimer’s in the community.
The project developed a network and outreach capacity, enabling access to people with dementia in assisted living environments. This was supported by trained and experienced staff.
The work enable participates of all ages to develop session around memory and activity that benefit the clients and user in the various community settings.
Children from Broadway Juniors School, established a Dementia Cafe in school as part of their long term development of skills for young children.
This provision is part of Living History North East’s programme of Making Memories Matter.
“Sings”, (Sunderland Intergenerational Singers):
Living History North East haves secured funding to support a new Intergenerational Community Outreach Choir. Connecting generations through song, song writing and singing. Providing opportunities for intergenerational exchange through this new development. The activities will involve coming together as a new group, learning what it means to be part of an intergenerational experience, breaking down stereotypes and exploring differences in an affirmative way. Core values of intergenerational practice will be shared, with an opportunity for some members to become ‘Intergenerational Champions’ in their communities. The project will build on the success of previous work, by using personal memories and oral histories to develop song writing skills and to share the past and experiences the past through song.
This project will provide an opportunity to use existing oral histories within the collection.
In addition this project will encourage participants to write and develop new songs through collaborative song writing processes sharing musical ideas, melodies and lyrics. “SingS” – will empower people to develop and value their own voices, the voices of the past, foster mutual understanding and respect among people of all ages and backgrounds.
Where the Wild Things Were Project
Tees Valley Wildlife Trust
The project aims to fill a gap in our current knowledge about past experiences and activities of children exploring wild spaces and nature in East Cleveland. It will also help us to map the past distributions of animals, wildlife arrivals and changes to the landscape to help us better contribute to nature conservation in East Cleveland today. We will try to fill these gaps in our knowledge by conducting oral history interviews with 50 residents who grew up in the middle of the last Century in East Cleveland. The interviews will provide a fuller picture of the evolution of East Cleveland’s wildlife and the activities and experiences of the last generation to experience truly free roaming outdoor childhoods. The project is being led by Kate Bartram of the Tees Valley Wildlife Trust, supported by volunteer interviewers. The interviewers will have been trained in interview techniques. The research is funded by the National Lottery players through the Heritage Lottery Fund and Northumbrian Water. As the recordings will form a historically significant collection of interviews they will be archived with Tees Archives for future generations of researchers to access.
Selected parts of the interview recordings will be used on our website and selected transcripts may be used in some of our publications and those of others. Copies of all recordings will be archived with Tees Archives so others can refer to them at some later date. The Project is receiving oral history training and support from Living History North East, the regional specialists in oral history.
North Tyneside Area (Kath Smith)
We have begun to work with two very diverse organisations in our local area. Shiremoor Adventure Playground is researching the history of adventure playgrounds in North Tyneside since the 1970s and our role is to support a team of young researchers to interview playworkers who worked in this field at that time. North Tyneside Art Studio (NTAS) is researching the history of the studio as it celebrates its 25th anniversary. NTAS was established to support people with mental health problems at a time (1991) when they were being moved out of residential care back into the community. The research will record the effects of this change and give a voice to a group of people who have lived through the transition. Current service users and staff will be trained to collect oral histories and create digital stories, they will also learn research techniques, audio editing, archiving and dissemination methods so that they can share the stories they are finding with a wider audience.
RPRF was approached by staff at our local NHS Palliative Care Unit with an idea to record some of the life experiences of the patients in their care. After a series of exploratory meetings which focused heavily on ethical issues the outline of a pilot project, ‘Pass it On’, emerged, which is currently running. RPRF volunteers were trained by Michelle Winslow of OHS in the specialist techniques required to interview patients in end of live care. Our main objective in this pilot has been to give people a chance to enjoy an activity that is totally outside of their ongoing medical care, focusing on them as a person, rather than a patient. Their recordings will be added to the RPRF archive as part of its ongoing work in North Tyneside.
Finally, we’re keeping our fingers crossed that HLF will fund a follow on project ‘Linskill After School’. One reason why we’re so keen on this project is that we will be part of a team creating a soundscape, combining the human voice and the sounds associated with life in the building, which is now a thriving community centre.
London 2017 RN report can be viewed here: Final Regional Network Report 2017
Leicestershire & Rutland (Cynthia Brown & Colin Hyde)
The East Midlands Oral History Archive (EMOHA) held its annual Oral History Day at Nottingham Central Library in June 2016 on the theme of ‘Oral History and Health’. It was organised by Colin Hyde, Cynthia Brown and Verusca Calabria, OHS Regional Network representatives for the East Midlands, and drew an audience from across the region. It included presentations on Verusca’s PhD research into the role of social support and networks in psychiatric hospitals in Nottinghamshire, and that of Yewlande Okuleye on issues around the ‘re-medicalisation’ of cannabis as a medicine. Other contributions covered an HLF-funded project to document twenty five years of the history of Leicestershire AIDS Support Service (LASS); the Boots oral history project to capture the memories of past and present employees and the different perspectives that they can bring to the company history; and reflections from a volunteer for a project in Kent the extent to which talking about her memories helped to reduce some of the anxiety and distress of a patient with Parkinson’s Disease.
An oral history project focusing on the development of Leicester’s heritage from World War II to the present has been awarded a £45,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The project, called ‘Changing Leicester’, will tell the story through oral testimony of the beginnings of heritage development in the 1950s and 1960s, continuing through the evolution of archaeological research, and reaching a peak with the discovery and re-interment of the bones of King Richard III which put Leicester on the world’s map. It will record changing perceptions of the importance of buried remains and local heritage, the impact of heritage preservation on local people, and the way that heritage preservation is reflected in the media. It is led by the Leicestershire Archaeological & Historical Society (LAHS) in partnership with Leicester Arts & Museums Service and EMOHA. Project staff and volunteers will seek out memories and memorabilia from across the city, and there will be exhibitions in a Leicester museum and community venues in 2017.
EMOHA has also secured funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund for a one year project to record an oral history of post-war Leicester 1945-1962. This will enlist volunteers to record memories of as many aspects of life in Leicester in the post-war period as possible. The results will feed into Leicester City Council’s Story of Leicester website. Further information at http://www.le.ac.uk/emoha/community/postwarleicester.html. EMOHA continues to provide training for oral history projects across the East Midlands. In 2015-16 these have included the Diwali project at Leicester City Council, which has recorded memories of people who have attended the festival over the years (see www.visitleicester.info/things-to-see-and-do/arts-museums/exhibitions/diwali/); the history of the Nupur Arts organisation in Leicester (www.nupurarts.org.uk/; and a project by the Galleries of Justice in Nottingham to record memories of the former Shire Hall where it is based (www.galleriesofjustice.org.uk/share-your-memories-with-the-galleries-of-justice-museum/).
Nottinghamshire (Verusca Calabria)
I’ve been transitioning from London to Nottingham in the last year hence I have been giving advice and supporting oral history projects in both regions.
I recorded 11 interviews with key players about the history of St Martins of Tour, a thriving charitable organisation in London that was set up in 1920 by the Catholic Fund to cater for homeless and destitute men. I wrote a brief history of St Martins and produced sound bites from the interviews. To find out more, visit: www.stmartinoftours.org.uk/about-us/history.
I provided advice to the Greater London Community Interest Company on their HLF application for an oral history project entitled ‘The Greater London Council 1981-86: retelling a forgotten history’. The grant application has been successful.
I have helped prepare the audio-visual archive for the oral history project ‘Twilight People Stories of Faith & Gender Beyond the Binary’. The archive has now been deposited at the London Metropolitan Archives. More information about the project can be found here: www.twilightpeople.com.
I helped Colin Hyde and Cynthia Brown to organise the East Midlands Oral History Archive (EMOHA) annual Oral History Day at Nottingham Central Library in June 2016 on the theme of ‘Oral History and Health’. As part of the day, I gave a presentation based on my PhD research on the value of social support and social networks in psychiatric hospitals in Nottinghamshire.
As part of the aforementioned research, I am conducting oral history interviews with former patients and staff of the Nottinghamshire mental hospitals. I plan to deposit the recordings at the Nottingham’s Central Library – Local Studies section – upon completion of my fieldwork.
I am about to start teaching on the BA in Health and Social Care at Nottingham Trent University. I have introduced the theory and practice of oral history to the curriculum including the option of adopting a life history approach as part of the assessment process.
South Yorkshire hosted the 2016 Regional Network meeting at the Showroom Workstation, Sheffield, on the theme of ‘Oral History and Museums’. The morning session, for professional development, will be led by networkers Martin Bisiker (London), John Tanner (South Yorkshire), Cynthia Brown (East Midlands) and Padmini Broomfield (South East). The afternoon session is open to local members and speakers include Elizabeth Carnegie, University of Sheffield, and Tracy Craggs, Freelance Oral Historian and Yorkshire networker.
Our project news includes Barnsley Museums award of £51,500 from the Heritage Lottery Fund for a ‘Joy of Sound and Vision’ project. Paul Stebbing, Archives and Local Studies Officer, reports that this will include conversion and making available of all sound and film collections held in the museum as well as the creation of new material. A highlight is the large series of oral history interviews undertaken by local oral historian Brian Elliott over a 30 year period. Covering themes such as sport, politics, industry and leisure, the interviews will significantly add to understandings of the development of South Yorkshire. http://www.experience-barnsley.com/archives-and-discovery-centre
Gary Rivett has sent news from the University of Sheffield about ‘Stories of Activism in Sheffield, 1960-present’. The city’s rich history of civic and social activism is diverse, with a near countless number of campaigns and community groups. The project, a collaboration between activists and the Department of History at the university, collects and archives the oral histories that have made up these experiences. The next collaboration will be with Sheffield Women Against Pit Closures, focusing on the pit camp at Houghton Main, a colliery near Barnsley, in 1993.’ http://storiesofactivism.group.shef.ac.uk/about-the-project/
Also at the University of Sheffield, Mariam Khokhar is carrying out oral history interviews with Pakistani women in Leicester and has additionally begun doctoral study on personal experiences of head and neck cancer in Pakistan.
A joint project between the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, funded by Sheffield Hospitals Charity, has been piloting oral history and life story methods with people with dementia. The project has conducted several interviews and is concentrating on understanding how best to work with interviewees to develop an ethically robust project. A partner project working with people in palliative care has had another successful year but is currently facing an uncertain future due to funding issues. Please contact Michelle Winslow for more information: email@example.com
The Heritage Lottery funded ‘Ecclesfield Civil Parish Past and Present Archiving Project’ is progressing well. Christine Handley writes that volunteers have completed six interviews so far and have more to conduct in autumn. Group interviews have been found to work well in gaining a sense of how the local area has changed, ascertaining locations of old shops, pubs, farms, chapels etc. who owned them, cost of goods and anecdotes about living there. During this work lessons have been learnt about interviewing, interview content, recording and transcribing that have provided a solid foundation for the project. A booklet is planned as an output. http://www.archiveproject.ecclesfield-pc.gov.uk/
Michelle Winslow, Sam Smith. Regional Networker Representatives