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).
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. http://www.experience-barnsley.com/
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. firstname.lastname@example.org
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: http://vimeo.com/68523096. 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: http://communityheritage.group.shef.ac.uk/ or e-mail Dr Kimberley Marwood at: email@example.com
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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: http://www.scampston.co.uk/ and http://www.highwolds.org.uk/. 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.
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. http://www.leedsmencap.org.uk/history-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, http://www.hud.ac.uk/research/researchcentres/cvohr/news/