The first drop-in exhibition/workshop event took place on Tuesday last week at the Omega Centre. We didn’t have high numbers, but those who did come along had some interesting stories to tell about their own experiences of Somerstown. I was able to interview someone during the event, and have arranged interviews with others to document their stories. This phase of the project will naturally include gathering (and transcribing) some oral history interviews which is, I believe, where the real treasure will lie.
This was followed in the evening by an archive film screening of Portsmouth, hosted by Portsmouth Film Society http://www.portsmouthfilmsociety.org.uk/ using footage that is in the care of the Wessex Film Archive http://www3.hants.gov.uk/wfsa.htm
Meanwhile the Somerstown Stories website, also includes details about the great work that took place at Somers Park Primary School in the Autumn term last year, when the teachers and children were engaged in their part of the project: http://www.somerstown-stories.org.uk/?page_id=100
Overall the project is now in its wider community phase, and local people are getting the chance to go on the same journey of exploration. As I start to gather oral history accounts from local people, these along with the photographs and maps will be catalogued and collated into the Somerstown Archive which will be held and managed by the Local History Centre: http://www.portsmouth.gov.uk/learning/15605.html
This means that the conversations that are being started now can continue after the project has finished, and the material will be available for other people to access and add to.
Part of this second phase series of events includes a creative workshop being led by two local artists: Jane Kilford http://www.janekilford.com/ and Julie Graves http://www.artwanted.com/artist.cfm?ArtID=5843 who are also planning to do some preliminary work with the children at Somers Park, inviting them and their families to bring an object from the past into school to share with others and to use as a prompt for telling their own story of Somerstown.
Meanwhile, Julie has enabled me to make a link with the University of Portsmouth’s School of Architecture http://www.port.ac.uk/departments/academic/architecture/. Her husband Francis is an architect and senior lecturer and his current cohort of students are engaged in a project whose theme is the redesign of Somerstown and some of the key buildings within it, including the churches of St Luke’s and St Peter’s. This is a beautiful overlap for me, and so I was able to attend the students mid-term review on Thursday of last week and see and hear first-hand their ideas and visions for the area. It was fascinating to see an area I’m so familiar with through someone else’s eyes. Francis has kindly invited me back to speak to the group about the Somerstown Stories project and share some of the resources I’ve found and what I’ve learnt so far. I was impressed with the breadth and depth they are required to consider and include in their planning and I’m looking forward to teaching and learning more about Somerstown with them.