No two weeks are ever the same in my world, and the summer break is no exception – in fact in some ways it’s even more pronounced! Now don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy variety in my work – it’s one of the reasons I work freelance, but it can occasionally make you feel a little dizzy!
Last week I had the pleasure of volunteering at North End Playscheme, which I wrote about in my last entry. Despite the odd rain shower and even a power-cut on the last day, adults and children all had a fab time! Lucy and the Race to Save the Olympics went down a treat with children and grown-ups (which is always nice!) and Uncle Trevor the aeronaut seemed to be a big hit! Hoot Hoot!
However, this week I’m turning my attention to books: two in fact. One isSomerstown Stories, which is the book of the project and the story of the area*. The other is a smaller, far more personal little book comprised of original stories from the children of Stamshaw Infants School’s Storytelling Club.
For five weeks in the summer term I ran an after-school club, with around 12-14 children aged 6 and 7, to develop their storytelling skills and write their own story. We used freeze frames and storyboarding to break the story down into sections and help with sequencing. The children played with Story Cubes© (www.storycubes.com) and Story Pegs as well as listening to music to give them inspiration. Despite a very tight timescale all but one of the children managed to produce an original piece of work, and I was very pleased with the variety and degree of imagination they had. The stories are being compiled into an anthology and each child will get their own copy. I hope that it’ll inspire them to keep writing, and maybe they’ll be the next generation who could give JK Rowling or Philip Pulman a run for their money!
*The Somerstown Stories book, relates the story of the area as I’ve discovered it. It would be difficult for it to be a complete account as I haven’t been able to interview every single resident! However hopefully it will provide a good flavour of the area as it’s developed over time. The book is being paid for by the Heritage Lottery Fund and will be free to the public. It will have a limited print run, and people can apply for a copy through the website: www.somerstown-stories.org.uk A copy of the book will be allocated one per household, on a first-come-first-served basis. We hope it will be available in early October.
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.
After a hectic rush up to Christmas getting the brochure to print (it looks very shiny, thanks to Keli at http://www.digitallyenriched.co.uk/), the wider community phase of the project is about to start – with a vengeance!
A range of activities and events will be taking place over the next few weeks, starting on Tuesday 17th January at Somers Park Primary School with a free local history course – but this time for the grown-ups! It’s a fantastic course which will include a trip to the D-Day Museum, a look at archive maps & photos, wartime cooking and lots more. A second class is taking place at Omega Centre on Thursday mornings, and both are being run by the Omega Centre team.
Alongside this we’re rather delighted to be able to partner up with Angel Radio http://www.angelradio.co.uk/ as part of their Pass It On project http://www.pass-it-on.org.uk/ Angel Radio is an on air and online radio station made by older people, for older people. It’s a nostalgia station with, in their own words “snap, crackle but no pop!” We’re planning to do regular slots during the course of the project, at each of workshop venues, gathering the stories of people who visit.
One of the main aims of Angel Radio’s Pass It On scheme is to pass on skills from one generation to another – and that works both ways! Older people have been learning recording and editing techniques and how to use the last equipment including FlashMics. Younger people in turn can learn from the stories and skills of people from a different generation.
If you have a story to share about Somerstown, we’d love to hear it! Or maybe you’ve got some old film footage or photos we could look at? We’d be delighted to see you at any one of the four drop-in workshops that are taking place across Somerstown:
Tues 24th & Weds 25th January at Omega Centre, Omega Street, 10am-12 noon
Thurs 23rd & Fri 24th February at Wilmcote House Community Room, 10am-2pm
Thurs 1st March at St Peter’s Church Hall, 10am-12 noon
Weds 14th March at Southsea Community Centre, 11am-1pm
Today I’m heading over to Southsea Castle for the Kaospilots Landing workshop. Its intended as a way of grounding all that we discussed and experienced in Denmark, and finding ways to make tangible, that which felt intangible.
We were due to meet at Mercantile House, a 9 storey building owned by Portsmouth University, and the home of the Centre for Enterprise, which is the UK link for Kaospilots. However, due to unexpected flooding (who ever expects flooding?!) we’re now meeting at Southsea Castle, which was commissioned by Henry VIII and now managed by English Heritage.
Being something of a fan of C16 history, I now have two things to look forward to today!