Review of Oral History Society Regional Networkers Event, Suffolk

Posted on 04/12/2011 by


Guest Post by Cynthia Brown

Last month 35 oral historians got together in Ipswich for the Oral History Society‘s annual regional networkers event.

The event, organised by regional network co-ordinator Juliana Vandegrift, enables the society’s network of oral historians around the country to get together, share stories  and catch up both on personal and society work. This year the event was held at  University Campus Suffolk in Ipswich on the theme of Suffolk, East Anglia and oral tradition. As well as society networkers local people working with oral history material were also invited.

Speakers included Dr Harvey Osborne of the university, who talked about the oral history work carried out by undergraduates and graduates in a number of community-based projects.

The work enables them to acquire skills of historical analysis and address issues of reliability and evidence. This includes recent work with the Ipswich Maritime Trust to record the memories of captains of commercial sailing barges based in Suffolk ports, and interviews on women’s experience of courtship and marriage from 1955 to 1970.

Bridget Hanley, archivist at the Suffolk Record Office, spoke about the Heritage Lottery Fund project Suffolk Voices Restored, which is preserving and improving access to oral history recordings at the record office, describing the history and development of the project, its use of volunteers, and input from school students.

Essex Voices: How to Speak Essex, was the subject of a presentation by Martin Astell, sound archivist at the Essex Sound and Video Archive.

Stephen Bayfield

The Blaxhall Archive Group, formed in 2003 to continue the pioneering work of George Ewart Evans, was unfortunately unable to attend the event, but Stephen Bayfield talked instead of his memories of some of the peopleinterviewed by George Ewart Evans. Stephen’s son Mat Bayfield and Eric Sedge, otherwise known as the Broadside Boys, demonstrated other ways of archiving the past with a lively and entertaining performance of some of their own songs, inspired by everyday experiences of life in Suffolk and its local ‘characters’.

The morning session concluded with an overview by Mary Stewart, OHS committee member, of the continuing development workshops recently introduced for members to reflect on oral history practice and theory, and to network and make links with other oral historians in their geographical area.

This was followed after lunch by an interactive session with local members of the OHS, which included Swaffham Museum, the Norwich Living History Group, Jane Bradburn, who has been conducting interviews with former members of the 67th Medium Artillery Regiment who fought in World War II, and Allan Williams, who is planning to record the lives of older Suffolk people by painting their portraits and making recordings of their memories.

The event concluded with a discussion led by the chair of the Oral History Society, Graham Smith, on ‘The Making of Oral History’, with particular reference to community oral histories.

The Broadside Boys

One of those who attended was Julia Letts, regional networker for the West Midlands. She said: “It is always a delightful and refreshing event for those of us who spend a lot of time working on our own, and I have come back fired up with ideas. There was a good turnout of networkers but I hope we can make it an even better turn out next year. Put it in your diaries early!”

Posted in: Notices, Project News