Community Heritage Coordinator Laurel Miller reports on our recent Oral History training day…

Hearing a person telling their own story in their own voice is a very powerful way of engaging people with history. You can hear the emotions behind the account and feel a real connection with the person who is talking, and through them, to the events they describe. Oral History provides a window into parts of history that are often not recorded and which would otherwise be lost to future generations.

Our trainer Julian starts the day by enthusing us about the opportunities that oral history provides. He tells us of some very early notes made from interviewing people who had lived through the great upheaval of the English Civil War in the 1600s. When asked to reflect on the changes they had seen in their lives, they commented that now people have pewter plates instead of wooden ones. Lots of official documents and learned histories can tell us about the Civil War, but here was a window into people’s lives and the things that were important to them.

The project volunteers are all very keen to hear people’s stories, and the training helped them to get to grips with the technology and paperwork which they will need to use during the project. There were plenty of opportunities to have a go with the recorders and to practice interviewing. Ghee and Ravi from the Exeter Telling Our Stories project were on hand to share their advice and to act as guinea pigs for us to practice on. Everyone agreed that they felt a bit nervous about doing the interviews but that practice certainly helped!

Our volunteers enjoying learning more about oral history. Photos: Chris Lavender.

The volunteers will be doing some more practice back in Tiverton, Bideford and Okehampton – and then we can start recording people’s stories.

Do you know someone with an interesting story to share? We would love to hear from people with BAME heritage, or those of other faiths or cultures who live or work in our focus towns.

Later in the year, you will be able to hear the stories yourself on our website – and remember to look out for details of local events coming up this summer.