An invitation to participate in a seminar held by the Oral History Society in September 2017, based on some work from thirteen or so years before, got me thinking about oral history and differing walking practices. Obviously, many people record their walks – but I wanted to seek examples of projects and ideas beyond that admittedly admirable practice.
So I joined the Walking Artists Network and introduced myself with a question: I wondered if any walking artists carried out oral history projects as part of their approach. Some examples follow, but first I thought I might outline my experiences and ideas.
The work which was so well regarded was for www.irespect.net – the website seems a bit creaky now, but my perspective was that the lives of ordinary people were as necessary to any transmission of ‘Heritage’ as the lives of the powerful: a form of ‘Counter-Heritage’, in a way. I also put together a whole series of worksheets and lesson plans for schools. What I/we haven’t done is to walk the streets of Gloucester, using those testimonies and questions for walking and discussion: the great thing about devising questions with testimonies is that it stops those oral testimonies becoming inert. The questions promote engagement – that is especially so, of course, with young people.
‘We think place is about space but in fact, it is really about time.’
When I first went in search of the soul of FGR,
I wandered through fields and lanes and hills and hedgerows,
Trying to find FGR’s elusive genius loci,
A topographical version of the soul,
Interwoven with local history,
Only to reach the conclusion that this soul
Might just be found in the imagination,
An invented fey ley line,
Emanating from the Jovial Forester,
Stretching up to The New Lawn Another Way
Down through the old hamlet of Forest Green,
And along the valley to the River Frome,
And thence to the River Severn,
A gateway to a world far beyond the Five Valleys:
In short, a Janus-like conjoining
Of both introspection and extrojection.
But a reading of Tim Barnard’s FGR history:
Something to Shout About
Gave me something to think about,
And grounded me further in time as well as space,
This is the official Facebook group for History Workshop Journal and History Workshop Online.
Both the journal and the website emerge from the History Workshop movement. Founded in Britain in the late sixties by the historian Raphael Samuel, the movement advocated “history from below”: history envisioned from the perspective of ordinary people rather than elites…read more
Brooklyn and the Slad Brook Conjoined Historically and Inter-Textually
I remember so well that day at Wallbridge in Stroud,
Seeing the man whose name I do not know,
Yet with whom I always share the time of day
Whenever our paths cross in the street;
He was leaning on the canal bridge,
Gazing out over the waters,
Beyond the information board
Which portrays Stroud Scarlet,
Stretched out on tenterhooks
In Rodborough Fields;
He was staring at the Cainscross Road,
Where the Slad Brook enters the canal –
In a reverie about the old brewery, I thought –
‘Remembering the smell of the beer?’ I asked;
‘No, I’m just thinking about all of these cars,
Where they all comin’ from, and where they all goin’ to?’
It’s odd to think that the Chartist mass meeting up on Selsley Hill
Contributed to the formation and spread of public libraries.
But it’s true, after a fashion.
The Chartist decade of 1838 to 1848,
The ruling class fear of revolution,
The threat to private property and profit,
The association of freethinking with ‘intemperance’,
All helped lead to the 1850 Public Library Act,
The cult of municipal museums too,
And the Victorian emphasis on private study,
Within a public or familial space:
The familiar trope of the Victorian working class male autodidact.
‘We must educate our masters’,
Said Home Secretary, Robert Lowe,
After the urban working class gained the vote in 1867,
But self-help, the 3 R’s, libraries, museums and schools
Didn’t necessarily mean universal conformist thinking:
Fiction fostered the imagination, and non-fiction the frown:
Reading could lead to questioning, and such questioning,
Coupled with the study of a book’s bibliography
Could lead to the polite request that the local library
Might order a required book –
Not on the shelves –
Either as new stock,
Or from another library,
Out of town or county:
This was a public, national service,
Not just a municipal one.
This posting, about Chartism in Wotton-under Edge, was kindly shared by Richard Barton, after our Weavers and Workhouse Walk during the Stroud Fringe: the original focus was upon the family history of the Lacey family, and this section has been taken from that overall...read more
I knew of Mick and I knew of Nick, But I didn’t know of your existence, Until early one morning on the number 46 bus, When I was reading a Swindon Town programme. It was back in 1992, And you told me that Nicky was your nephew, And I looked at you, someone I had never...read more