Monday, 10 November 2014

Rescue!History and Climate Change

Rescue!History - not, as you might think, a group attempting to rescue History, but historians (mostly) who want to help save the world from climate change (see bottom of page for more detailed statement from their webpage).

I was lucky to be invited to present at their event at BMI Birmingham on the subject of  'Archivism, activism and climate change'.  The event as a whole took on a broad range of very different historical perspectives on how climate change might be changing our view of history, and how history and historians might best save the world.

There was nothing too conclusive, as you might expect but in the mix a lot of interesting points made, a healthy meeting of opinions on crisis and history, and a less healthy meander into eco-eugenics and the futility of fighting the selfish gene.  I kept fairly well clear of the toxic parts of the debate, and was keen mainly to put over the relatively simplistic point - people need to ask their own questions, find out for themselves, relate to the issues if they are going to take any meaningful part in the solutions.

We all need to be historians, if we are to understand any of history's lessons (and using example of Paganel Archives we can!)  I'll certainly be following more closely Rescue!History and keeping in touch with new found historian friends.

Rescue!History are:
'practitioners of the Humanities and Social Sciences wish to affirm that investigations and findings from our colleagues in the scientific community overwhelmingly support the conclusion that contemporary global warming is anthropogenic: that is, at least in considerable part, a consequence of our own individual and collective human actions, at all levels of local, national and international society, economy and polity.'
'recognises the urgency of the situation we are now in, and seeks to develop, both individually and collectively, research, curricula, and other educational programmes of past and present societies that will contribute to disseminating knowledge about the human origins, impacts and consequences of anthropogenic climate change, while also enabling and empowering the broader public to make the epochal changes that are going to be needed if we are to survive and sustain ourselves in the face of the challenge before us.'

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

My family in World War 1

It's hard to appreciate what life might have been like 100 years ago.  Until recently I knew nothing about  Heinrich Hoenen, my Great Grandfather who died in 1941 when my Mother was 2 years old.  Here's a clip of my Mum talking about him, some photos and an extract from an Obituary in the newsletter of the Lutheran Parishes Osnabrueck (1941):

"...Early in life when only 9 years old, he lost his father. Five years later his mother also died. 
Following his father's death, his mother moved with her children to Lengerich in Westphalia.  Of the six children four died in very early childhood, leaving only two brothers who loved each other dearly - Heinrich and Leonard.  Upon their mother's death the family was torn apart. Heinrich Hoenen became an apprentice to a master-saddler who also took him into his home as a foster-son... 
Heinrich was a dispatch rider during WW1
...[Heinrich married and was] blessed with four children. However, they were not spared devastating heartache, having to bury one son at an early age (Walter, 22/12/1912 - 19/12/1920 - died in the 'Spanish' flu epidemic that swept across Europe after the war). 
Heinrich Hoenen served in the First World War from 1914 - 1918. In the very first year of the war he was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class (Eisernes Kreuz 2. Klasse). He returned as Warrant Officer (Offizier-Stellvertreter).  The war was over; but in what state did he find our beloved fatherland and, in particular, Alsace-Lorraine (Elsass-Lothringen), Hoenen's second home! The Kaiser-Wilhelm-Haus in Metz had to be vacated immediately. Because of his German nationality Hoenen was forced to leave by the French, along with his family, having to abandon almost all of their possessions. Where should they go? He found a place to stay in Osnabrueck, and thus a new home. These few words contain much sorrow and pain that can hardly be appreciated by outsiders..."

Heinrich with his wife and family
My mother is translating his book 'The Guiding Hand' into English - as I don't speak German, I'm looking forward to reading more.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Favourite place at Sarehole Mill

Irene de Boo, curator and property manager at Sarehole Mill, shared her story with us this week. Irene was instrumental in the Mill's recent refurbishment project and in developing the site as a working mill that now regularly provides flour to a local bakery and restaurant.  You can also buy flour from the Mill itself, milled by a team of volunteer millers.

All the Sarehole Mill Stories will be available to listen to on this blog from the end of January and will be in an exhibition at the Mill in the Spring. Details will follow here.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

More stories from Sarehole Mill

Richard Albutt writes:

We had a very successful afternoon at Sarehole Mill  on Sunday 28th September, with Diana, Ann and Natalie  all sharing their mill memories with us. Here is a short clip of Natalie, and Elijah, talking about childhood memories of Moseley Bog:

listen to ‘Natalie and Elijah extract’ on audioBoom

We're now at work transcribing and working on interviews and photos for presentation in the new year at Sarehole Mill.  Interviews will also be available online.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Bring your stories to Sarehole Mill

Over the past few months we have had the opportunity to interview people at Sarehole Mill about their memories of the mill and the area.

It's been a very enjoyable experience hearing people reminisce about the place, their tales of playing their as children, coming on a school trip and one lady actually remembering the miller leaning over the gate at the front of the mill.

Almost everyone talks about the beautiful green space as a haven in a city, something they remember feeling when they first visited and perhaps feel even more now.

Here's a clip from Bridget recalling the story of her first visit as a babe in arms.

We're at Sarehole Mill again this Sunday(28th September) between 12 and 3 to record memories so if you have a story to share or just a little memory of your first visit to the place or the area we'd love to hear it. Please ask anyone you know to come along too.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Uncovering Birmingham WW1 history with Paganel School

Looking at World War 1 Memorials at Lodge Hill Cemetery
Dr Nicola Gauld writes:

Paganel Primary School is unique in that it has its own archive and its Year 6 pupils are well versed in research, collecting evidence and making connections between events in history. The warfare project which took place in June made great use of these skills. The school is situated close to Lodge Hill Cemetery which has its own First World War memorial where victims of the war who died at the Southern Cross Hospital (located at the University of Birmingham’s campus at Edgbaston) are buried.

This formed the focus of this week-long project. The week began with pupils looking at archive material to establish what the pupils already knew about the First World War (quite a lot), what they knew about Birmingham’s experience during the war (a bit less) and what they would like to find out by the end of the week (what the experience of children was like, what food and clothing was like at the time, what weapons were used).

The following day the class worked in two groups, both visited Lodge Hill with question sheets relating to the men and women buried there while the second group carried out research using the Commonwealth War Graves Commission site. While some of the dead had been Birmingham residents before they joined the war or had joined the Royal Warwickshire regiment, we discovered that many had come from much further afield, from Australia and Canada for example, but also that there was a Maori soldier buried there. This helped the pupils appreciate the war in its global context, as well as the different regiments and the different jobs that could be done as part of the war effort.

Creating a storyline from photos
On the final day we used the archive material and research we had gathered to create stories, thinking about what life was like back then for the soldiers stuck in the trenches, children living in Birmingham, nurses and women munitions workers. It was clear that the children had absorbed and taken on the stories that they had learned about earlier in the week and were able to deal with the subject in a sensitive and mature manner. The stories each group devised were then presented to the rest of the class, teachers and head teacher. Overall, it was a really positive project, dealing with difficult and challenging subject matter, and the response of each pupil was impressive. Lots of questions were raised and there is certainly the potential to extend this into a larger scale project which could make a valuable contribution to the commemoration of the war’s centenary.
Using a green screen to project children into archive photographs

Friday, 25 April 2014

Mill memories

Over the last two years, Sarehole Mill has had a major £450,000 restoration and refurbishment with a team of volunteer millers who are beginning to mill regularly with a view to selling flour later in the season.

Set on the edge of Moseley Bog with a large mill pond that attracts a range of wildlife, it is easy to see how Tolkein took inspiration from this landscape and to see why many visitors to the mill feel as if they are taking a trip back in time when they enter the mill buildings. It is an evocative place which has stood as a landmark building for over 200 years in some form and in its present form with the tall chimney, for over 100 years.

Working as a volunteer miller, it is the stories of the visitors that bring to life the history of the mill over the last fifty years. As you stand and chat to them about their memories of the mill and it’s surrounding area, with the backdrop of the sound of the water wheel and the vibrations of the mill stones which shake the whole building, you get a sense of the importance of the place and the connection people have to it.

Over the coming weeks, Richard and I will be visiting the mill at weekends to record some of these stories of visitors, millers and staff as a permanent record of the place of the mill in the memories and history of the local community.

If you or a friend or neighbour has a story or memory about the mill that you would like to share with us we would very much like to hear it and add to our collection of Mill memories. You can contact us via this blog or on our googlegroup email or just drop in when we are around, listed below

Mill Memories drop in sessions start Sunday 27th April.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Cooperate :)

If you are interested in people, stories, your local area, and sharing our heritage and culture, then maybe People's Heritage Co-operative is for you!

We are a group of heritage practitioners who want to work collaboratively to develop exciting creative projects that record the stories of Birmingham people for interest and for our  historical record.

We want to support others doing the same things by promoting what you do, sharing resources and sharing practice.

We are a free, open organisation that is member led and run, by the people for the people (of Brum!)

Please join us virtually by signing up to the blog and following us @PHCooperative and in real life by coming to our member meetings. First one is this Friday 25th April at 1:00 at Aroma Cafe, University of Birmingham.

If you have a project you want to share, an idea for a project you need support with, or you like the look of working with us on one of our projects, then please get in touch.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Stories from the past - Kitty

I love interviewing people. I've chosen one to start our blog - Kitty was 102 when I interviewed her in October 2000.  She could talk from first hand experience about life before World War One.

She talks about family life, the'workers examination' entry to grammar school, minimum wage for children, starvation wages, the first 'council schools' forcing all children to attend school and about World War One.

She talks about the first labour government under Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 which 'changed everything', she talks about travel, shorthand, secretarial work and what it was like as a woman working between the wars.

The interview clip I enclose is big, but only half of the interview.  For transcript see below.

Kitty abridged transcript