Diving in and hitting the ground running has been the theme of the past few weeks, as the Telling Our Stories, Finding Our Roots project has kicked off in both Honiton and Ilfracombe, focusing on uncovering and rediscovering hidden multicultural accounts within each town. An exciting mix of historical and contemporary accounts are already beginning to bubble to the surface, highlighting the incredible depth and breadth just waiting to be found within each community.
Best of all, our team of two Community Heritage Coordinators, Jess in Honiton and Abi in Ilfracombe, and Hilda the Project Coordinator based in Exeter, has uncovered so many potential starting points to research further into despite barely scratching the surface, thanks to a passionate community stepping forward with suggestions.
In Ilfracombe alone the historical stories we are already looking into range from those of the Monte Gurugu shipwreck and the Spanish sailors it brought into town, to delving into Irish Nationalist Anna Catherine Parnell’s life and experiences in this town, all the way to the Jewish refugees during WWII who trained as soldiers in and around Ilfracombe while putting on fundraising concerts for the war effort (conducted by Coco the Clown, of course). In addition, several members of the public have expressed interest in telling their contemporary stories – tales touching on war, struggle, relief, love, their senses of family and community and more.
At the end of the project, this new information will be publicly available via exhibits, adding findings to local archives, exciting new educational resources and a website, so that it will always be accessible to all members of the public in the future. With time and resources being able to be spent on training volunteers on archival research and interview practices, and support from local museums, businesses, libraries and clubs, the Telling Our Stories project is one that will help illuminate broader aspects about these two towns within which so many of us grow, live and learn from.
These are the fifth and sixth towns to be featured, with Devon Development Education (DDE) having run the Telling Our Stories, Finding Our Roots project in Exeter, Bideford, Okehampton and Tiverton.
If you have a multicultural story just waiting to be told that’s centred around either Honiton or Ilfracombe and would like to be interviewed for this project as a volunteer or have suggestions of who we should talk to or look into then please feel free to get in touch. You don’t even need any prior experience to volunteer as all participants will be provided with free training by the DDE! Hours are totally flexible.