Morecambe Bay Lives is an intergenerational oral history project delivered within the communities around Morecambe Bay. It was a distinct project within the wider Heritage Lottery funded Headlands to Headspace led by Morecambe Bay Partnership.
Morecambe Bay Lives comprised of three main elements, the first of which was the recording of oral histories around Morecambe Bay. The second aspect was an intergenerational strand and saw the delivery of projects in primary schools. The school projects focused on engaging pupils both in the process of collecting oral history and exploring memory and in creating opportunities for pupils to meet and share memories with older members of the community. Morecambe Bay Lives also included an element of reminiscence.
Morecambe Bay is an area which straddles Lancashire and Cumbria. The communities around the Bay are diverse with each having its own distinctive character. At the north west end of Morecambe Bay is Barrow-in-Furness, home to BAE shipyard, whilst eastwards, towards the south of the Bay, is the seaside resort of Morecambe and the Port of Heysham. The communities large and small around the Bay are connected by their proximity to Morecambe Bay itself which is the largest expanse of intertidal mudflats and sands in the UK and an important area for wildlife.
The criteria for the collection of oral histories was simply that memories were related to Morecambe Bay – either land or sea (a separate Morecambe Bay Partnership project looked specifically at fishing). The range of topics covered by the recordings is quite diverse from, for example, recollections of the Barrow Blitz, to memories of the local lidos, to experiences of working at Morecambe Bay’s ports or childhood exploration of the shore and sands.
Alongside, the recording of oral histories, Morecambe Bay Lives ran projects in 8 primary schools. The school projects explored memory, aging and local identity and responded to how the pupils wished to explore these topics. Pupils were able to develop new interviewing, recording and photography skills and share their own memories. Each project culminated in a memory share. For these sessions, pupils invited in older members of the community for an informal afternoon gathering, where local memories were shared and pupils made recordings of their visitors. The memory shares were successful both in terms of intergenerational dialogue and in strengthening a sense of local identity through local stories.
A local creative practitioner with a background in oral history and specialism in working with primary pupils facilitated the project. Over 80 individual recordings collected during the project are available via an on-line archive.
Duration 36 (months)
eflections on the project:
The project’s Intergenerational oral history sessions were a wonderful way for young and old to engage with each other through the sharing of their own and local memories. The ‘scaffolding’ provided for the children beforehand and a trust in their ability to not only engage with the older visitors but to record their visitors’ memories worked really well. The sense of nerves from pupils and visitors when they first met melted away very quickly and the recordings the pupils made during the session are testament to how young and old engaged with and listened to each other. Teachers were impressed by how their children responded and some have started to run similar sessions in their schools themselves.
A particularly successful approach was to take a class out of school and into a community setting to meet and record members of a specific community. Although each school was also offered the opportunity to extend the intergenerational aspect into additional shared sessions the constraints of the school timetable meant that unfortunately schools weren’t able to take up this offer.
Without a narrow oral history focus and with a large geographical area covered by the project it was difficult at first to find ways to engage potential interviewees. Despite publicity, posters, community engagement and outreach by Morecambe Bay Partnership it became apparent that the only real effective way of engaging potential interviewees was by personal contact. There have been quite a few lessons learnt along the way and the project has responded flexibly.
The positive effects on wellbeing for some of the interviewees through the process of meeting sharing and recording became an important aspect of this project. The connection to older, perhaps isolated people who are ‘opening up’ past memories was an important temporary connection between the interviewer and interviewee. In a way that wasn’t expected at the beginning of the project the time spent with the interviewee before and after the interview became an important space, The positive elements of utilising oral history to facilitate children and older people being given the space to communicate and enjoy each other’s company and for the positive effects of older people being given the space to be heard and to share their stories are outcomes which are hard to quantify in evaluations, but which were a very real outcome of this project.
Publications: Project booklet containing extracts from oral recordings Other outputs:
Project website – morecambebaylives.org
On-line archive – recordingmorecambebay.org.uk
Morecambe Bay Partnership
Castle Mills, Aynam Rd
Kendal LA9 7DE