Led by Dr Nick Baron, The COREL Project (Curating Online Resources for Engagement and Learning) has been working with the Life Lines community group in order to develop an easy to use and accessible online platform for presenting textual materials. A work in progress, it is hoped that the final platform will enable the display of documents held by archives, libraries, museums or private collections. In the course of developing specifications and a prototype of the platform, the COREL project worked with World War One era documents contributed by Life Lines members as well as materials from the University of Nottingham’s Sir George Buchanan collection. As part of the co-productive elements of this project, Nick employed Culture Syndicates, a Nottingham based Heritage and Arts consultancy company. This was in order to assist with building the relationship with Life Lines and organising key activities like focus groups. I caught up with Nick and Charlotte Pratley, Director of Culture Syndicates. We discussed the contribution that companies like Culture Syndicates make to the co-production process between universities and community partners.
For Nick, companies like Culture Syndicates provide an invaluable service in acting as mediators between academics, heritage organisations and community partners. This can be in terms of negotiating the different project aims of each partner as well as understanding different conceptions of ‘impact’. Logistically, they can also be effective by suggesting prospective partners and acting as the convenors of activities such as meetings and focus groups. Nick also adds that companies like Culture Syndicates are additionally important in helping diverse partners find that ‘common language’ and mutual ground of shared interest which is essential to effective university and community collaboration. In acting as a third-way mediator, they have the potential to neutralise potential hierarchies of cultural power. In short, companies like Culture Syndicates can advise academics as to how best to communicate with community partners, while they can help community partners to be confident in articulating their views to academics.
Agreeing with many of Nick’s comments, Charlotte added that a challenge to co-production in practice can be the fact that, “Operating methods can be very different between community groups and universities, so academics need to work consciously, understanding that communities’ needs and ideas should drive the project. Failing to do so can result in tokenistic projects that can fulfil the impact agenda without creating meaningful change.” Culture Syndicates aim to provide this bridge between academics and community groups, making sure that essential practicalities for public engagement are in place. Whether that’s venue accessible parking or clarifying academic terminology ahead of public meetings. For as Charlotte notes, “Co-production is an exciting way of joining academic practice with community need and ambition, empowering communities to use the resources provided by universities.”
On 7th October 2017, Lakeside Arts will be hosting a performance of the Centre for Hidden Histories sponsored show, ‘The Sherwood Foresters of 1916’. Developed with Professor James Moran (English, University of Nottingham), Professor Fintan Cullen (Art History, University of Nottingham), theatre director, Sarah Stevenson and performed by Year 9 students at Hall Park Academy, the play seeks to uncover the hidden narrative and the unheard voices of the Sherwood Foresters who fought during the Easter Rising of 1916. Of the significance of this research project in uncovering a difficult and provocative ‘hidden history’ of the First World War, James commented:
“Our research examines the legacy of the Sherwood Foresters who fought during the Easter Rising in Dublin. These men, from Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire in the English Midlands, suffered the greatest casualties of the British regiments involved in the insurrection, and participated in the firing squads that executed the rebel leaders. Yet the public and artistic memorialising of these English soldiers is not widely known, and our interdisciplinary work tells the unfamiliar story of what happened to the Sherwood Foresters after the fighting of Easter Week ceased.”
The Centre for Hidden Histories has supported a number of projects which explore the experiences of Germans in Britain during World War One. We are pleased to announce some news in relation to two of these projects.
The ‘In the Wrong Place, At the Wrong Time’ project has announced a whole series of events both in the UK and Germany for autumn 2017. These include a Heritage Open Day in Lofthouse, Wakefield on 10th September 2017 and the opening of a Lofthouse Park exhibition at Wakefield One/Wakefield Local Studies Library and Museum on 11th November 2017. For full details of the 2017 Lofthouse Park Heritage Open Day, please click here: Heritage Open Day Lofthouse Park Revisited.
Dr Ben Braber, who organised a schools project with the Trent Academy Group has published this research in Midland History, Volume 42, Issue 1. Students from the Trent Academy Group who participated in this project, each contributed one day’s research to the article, “Living with the enemy – German immigrants in Nottingham during the First World War.”
To read the research findings of Ben’s project, please click on the link below for an open access version of his article:
On 19th-21st July 2017, Dr Will Pooley (University of Bristol) organised a British Academy supported conference on ‘Creative Histories’ which was held in the Clifton Pavilion at Bristol Zoo Gardens. I was fortunate to be selected to present a paper. This was on the evaluative methodologies of the ‘Reflection Workshop’ and ‘Shared Experience Workshop’ that the Centre for Hidden Histories team have developed. These evaluative methodologies have provoked discussion about the individual, social and cultural impact of our First World War One university and community partner projects.
The range of conference presentations was incredibly diverse, with talks by Julia Blackburn on the process of writing creative histories as well as panels on ‘colonial archives’; ‘history, creative writing and crime’; and ‘history out and about’ in public. I spoke as part of a panel on ‘public engagement’, which was chaired by Dr Richard Stone and also included a paper by Gisele Lecker de Almeida (Ghent University). Gisele’s paper discussed recent developments in public history in Brazil, including the huge popularity enjoyed by Brazilian historians from across the political spectrum on social media. The discussion at the end of our panel included a consideration of the role played by the UK and Brazilian governments in encouraging or discouraging public history; the impact of political crises on the popularity of public history; and the extent to which social media promotes more top-down or democratic approaches to history. We also talked about how we can shift considering the ‘impact’ of projects from a focus on outputs to considerations of ‘process’ and ’embodied legacies’.
June has been a busy month for Centre for Hidden Histories representatives.
On Friday 23rd, the University of Derby held an afternoon symposium on ‘Community, Identity and Commemoration’. Centre for Hidden Histories Co-Investigator, Professor Paul Elliott gave a lecture on ‘World War One: Recovering a Hidden History of the Home Front’. Discussing the use of public parks in war-time, with particular focus on Derby, Paul showed the importance of the parks as sites for a range of public functions. These included military uses such as practice trenches, recruitment, drilling grounds and defensive gun emplacements. Parks were also used for civic functions as sites for hospitals, schools and crop growing. Finally, parks provided a forum for spaces of social gathering, from arenas of leisure for troops on leave to communal areas for anti-war meetings and pacifist demonstrations.
On Saturday 24th June, Professor Mike Heffernan’s community partners the Ramgarhia Social Sisters participated in the day long community history event, Military History Live at Leicester’s Old Library Cafe and Galleries. Representatives of the Sikh community, the Social Sisters were displaying their tapestry panels which have been crafted in order to commemorate the contribution that Sikhs made to the British First World War effort. Also, on display were examples of the community research which contributed to the Social Sisters project as well as the posters that were produced as a result of Leicester Council’s First World War Family Learning Project with Bridge Junior School. Engaging with parents and pupils, The Ramgarhia Sikh Sisters visited Bridge Junior School as part of the Family Learning Project.