Tag Archives: Oral History

Women’s Lives in the Archives: Women’s journeys from Mirpur to Birmingham

MS 4760/35 project booklet

The Home Away from Home project archive (MS 4760) documents the personal experiences of women who moved from Mirpur in Pakistan to the Saltley and Washwood Heath areas of Birmingham in the 1960s and 1970s.

The archive is a visual and audio record of these women’s experiences which include happy memories and recollections as well as some of the challenges they faced. It contains oral history interviews recorded with the women, copies of photographs from their own personal collections and a summary booklet giving a useful overview of the project and the interviews.

A number of common themes emerge through the stories and experiences shared in the recordings. One of these is the sense of community the women experienced when they first arrived in the UK which they felt was better in those days than it is now. Life was much more difficult, however, in practical ways such as heating and lighting of houses.

The ladies had some shared experiences, for example several mentioned that they would have liked to learn English when they moved to the UK, but that there were no suitable opportunities or classes for them to go to. A number of the women were also scared of going to hospitals but found that when they did go the staff were kind and helpful and they were able to communicate with each other through gestures.

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Charles Parker Day 2014

Charles Parker  interviewing Mrs Costello photographed by Bob Etheridge  [MS 4000 2004/172]

Charles Parker interviewing Mrs Costello photographed by Bob Etheridge
[MS 4000 2004/172]

Studio Theatre, The Library of Birmingham                                             Friday 4th April 2014 10.30-17.30 

The extensive Charles Parker Archive [ref. no. MS 4000] stored at Archives, Heritage and Photography at the Library of Birmingham, comprises the papers and tape recordings collected by Charles Parker (d. 1980). Parker was a BBC radio producer in Birmingham until the 1970s, was an activist and co-founder of the Birmingham and Midland Folk Centre, Grey Cock Folk Club and Banner Theatre of Actuality. He was a tireless campaigner for the voice of ordinary people to be heard on radio, and the folk music and song which originally came from the working classes to be preserved and re-used for contemporary campaigns.

The 10th Charles Parker Day, the annual conference that celebrates the radio feature – past, present and future –  will be held at the Studio Theatre, Library of Birmingham on Friday 4 April, 2014.

The first Charles Parker Day was organised by the Centre for Broadcasting research at Bournemouth University on 5 April (Charles Parker’s birthday) in 2004. It included the launch of the Charles Parker prize for students of radio features.

For the last eight years, the main theme of the conference has been the Radio Ballads, for which Parker and his collaborators, Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger became famous.

It’s 50 years since the last of these eight innovative radio features – ‘The Travelling People’ – was broadcast. So this year, the Charles Parker Day celebrates this ballad about travellers and examines the legacy of the whole series of Radio Ballads.

For this special occasion one of the original creative team, Peggy Seeger, will attend the day and will reflect on the making of the ballads, in particular ‘The Travelling People’, in an illustrated conversation with Peter Cox (author of the definitive book on the Radio Ballads ‘Set into Song’).

But have attitudes towards travellers changed during the intervening 50 years? Heritage writer and consultant Sarah Baylis will examine the relevance for travellers today of the original recordings for the ‘Travelling People’ in the Charles Parker Archive. Continue reading

Guest blogger: Archive DIY – The Paganel Story

Everyone in year 5 went to the archive in town. We had to put on gloves when we were holding things (because things were very old and easily broken).  Now we have our own archive of the school and our local area and all the people here.

  Young Archivist at Paganel Primary School

Yr5 discovering archives at Library of Birmingham Archives

Yr5 discovering archives at Library of Birmingham Archives

This tells the story of the creation of Paganel Primary School Archive, the first ARCHON registered repository archives in a UK state primary school.

Over the past two years we have been working with Library of Birmingham Outreach and Archive service to collect, record, archive and catalogue the history of our school and our community and to make it accessible for this community. Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund this is a two year partnership project, working with Weoley Castle Ruins, BMAG, Library of Birmingham, Sellywood House Residential Home and Weoley Castle Community Library.

Oral testimonies have been crucial to bring to life heritage, and we have completed over 100 interviews on a range of local related topics.  These oral testimonies and the value we place on them by documenting, cataloguing and referencing to existing heritage sources, validates the contribution of people in Weoley Castle and inspires learning in the school.

Interviewing a parent for the archives

Interviewing a parent for the archives

Cataloguing and labeling in Paganel Archives

Cataloguing and labeling in Paganel Archives

Weoley Castle, in which Paganel Primary School is located, is a unique interwar housing estate built to enable slum clearance in Birmingham, built within a rural community and around a medieval castle.  The lives of people in the school and community represents the social and cultural changes of our times and have not been well documented.  Schools have a very particular and important role within our community and are in a unique position to both document social life and engage children, parents and local community in our rich heritage, across all generations.

Over the past two years we have worked with the whole school to create and develop the archive and Yr 5 children have had a special role in designing the archive room in conjunction with set designers from the Rep. With the support from Library of Birmingham, Archives and Heritage, we have also established an Archives After-School Club – a unique after-school club of pupils which meets every week to interview people, catalogue, and organise and manage the Archives and will continue after our project has finished.

After nearly two years of hard work, on 28th June 2013 2:00 Paganel Archives will be officially opened.  It is quite an achievement, but the real achievement of Paganel Archives, is putting heritage at the heart of it’s community.

Marcus Belben
Project Coordinator

Useful links:

Gender Matters: trans history

Gender Matters1

Ben and Melissa’s story

Gender Matters has been awarded Heritage Lottery Funding to capture the oral histories of the trans community in the West Midlands.

Birmingham Archives and Heritage have been supporting the project to help map the history of trans experience.

Members of the group are telling their stories through stories, song, poetry and art, which will form a permanent record of trans experiences in the region.

This is Ben and Melissa’s story:

Ben is a cross dresser and has captured his story – and his transition to Melissa through a series of photos and memories: 

‘I got married when I was 21 so my access to women’s clothes increased…but the difficulty in hiding it also increased.  There was a subconscious desire to be found out and accepted, combined with the fear of not being accepted.’

The stories describe positive and uplifting journeys.

‘I wasn’t prepared to go through the deceit and lies in another relationship so I was very upfront in the early stages and was thankful that she was accepting and supportive which has enabled me and Melissa to flourish. It’s a cross dressers dream to be accepted and supported.’

Rachel MacGregor