In November 2012, it was announced that nearly 90% of community groups who applied to the HLF’s ‘All Our Stories’ fund with CCH support were successful. Since then, a team of nine University of Cambridge researchers have been in regular contact with over 25 community groups as they have prepared and run their community heritage projects in the eastern region. The event held last Saturday afternoon (23rd November 2013) was an opportunity to gather representatives of all of the current community groups to share the stories behind the conception and execution of their projects in the past year, but also to invite new community groups interested in future CCH support to meet them.
The first half of the event was led by Dr Carenza Lewis, who has coordinated the Cambridge Community Heritage team of researchers. The aim was to reflect on the process of developing a community heritage project, thinking about best practice, ideas for future collaborations, funding avenues and application procedures. Sarah Talks, the chairman of the Friends of Ashwell Museum, was invited to give her perspective on planning and running an All Our Stories project. She has overseen the ‘Ashwell Archaeology’ project investigating the archaeological potential of the Hertfordshire village, collating information from local archives, the Historic Environment Record and adding new information to the development of the settlement through a series of fieldwalking events involving the local community. A video of their first fieldwalk, in March 2013 and supervised by Access Cambridge Archaeology (ACA), can be viewed here.
Following a discussion between representatives of the community groups, prompted by Sarah’s speech, there was a schedule of meetings between the groups and University researchers to discuss individual needs and ideas for future heritage projects.
The aim of the second half of the event was to showcase all of the All Our Stories projects supported by CCH in 2013. A short summary of each of the community groups and their projects was given by Carenza Lewis, which was followed by a speech by our guest speaker, Karen Brookfield, Deputy Director (Strategy) of the Heritage Lottery Fund. Karen attended school in Cambridge and told the audience several stories about her recollections of some of the places in East Anglia where communities have run their heritage projects, including field trips to Ashwell Museum and visits to friends in Meldreth. Inspired by the Michael Wood BBC series, ‘The Story of England’, which featured community test pit excavations run by ACA, Karen first conceived of the idea to link community heritage projects with university researchers, and has been very impressed with the outcomes of the collaborations spawned through initiatives such as CCH. The All Our Stories grant has now been superseded by Sharing Heritage, and further information about the funding programme can be found on the HLF website here.
The afternoon concluded with refreshments and an exhibition of the All Our Stories projects undertaken in 2013. Nearly twenty of the community groups were represented, showing the creativity and diversity of projects undertaken. There were notice boards of information and photographs, as well as displays with reports, presentations, leaflets and artefacts generated by their projects.
Pirton Local History Group, who undertook an investigation of the timber-framed buildings in their village, brought along a selection of the knitted houses that were produced to promote their project. Another group, Freudian Slips, displayed some of the ‘talking’ pillows which featured in their recent exhibition about the women who have worked in the Cambridge laundry industry. The pillows incorporated an audio device which played some of the oral histories collected by the group in their project, which will become the basis of a performance about the lives and work of washer women in 2014.
An electronic copy of a publication produced for the event, summarising all of the All Our Stories projects supported by CCH in 2013, can be downloaded here.
The event took place at the Pitt Building, in central Cambridge, with many thanks to the University’s Public Engagement team for their support of Cambridge Community Heritage in 2013, and most especially Nicky Buckley, Rachel Teubner, Dane Comerford and Kathryn Muir for their assistance.