Voices from the past

Grandmother Looking At Photo Album With Teenage GranddaughterGrandmother Looking At Photo Album With Teenage Granddaughter

Ahead of a family orientated oral history training session in Wanstead this month, Rev Dr Jack Dunn explains why listening to your elders is important, and why talking to youngsters is vital for the community

This month, Wanstead Parish, in conjunction with Eastside Community Heritage (ECH), will be offering a unique opportunity to develop and gain new skills through oral history training at St Mary’s Church.

The training is part of the parish’s Heritage Lottery Funded (HLF) community activities, associated with the recent repair and renovation works of the masonry at St Mary’s, and is open to all. It has been particularly designed to be family friendly and is ideal for children aged 10 and over and their parents, caregivers and grandparents.

ECH has been working in east London for over 22 years. During that time, it has become one of the nation’s leading community heritage organisations. It has established (with funding from HLF) the London People’s Archive, now called the Hidden Histories Archive, which contains over 4,000 digitised oral histories of Londoners.

ECH’s mission is to uncover the histories of people that would otherwise permanently be hidden or lost from history; from working-class communities, from the economically disadvantaged, from immigrant communities and from LGBTQIA+, BAME and disabled people. The organisation helps ‘ordinary people’ to see that their stories can be extraordinary and are worth telling and preserving for posterity.

Intergenerational activities are a core element of both Wanstead Parish’s and ECH’s ministry and offering. This project has been designed to help bring the generations together to listen and to share and to learn from each other. Young people find older people more interesting than expected; older people are surprised and touched by the interest of the young; experience is passed on from one generation to another; enduring relationships are formed, which benefit communities and individuals, breaking down generational barriers. The process of training younger people to interview their parents, grandparents, carers and older members of the community will hopefully shine a new light for future generations.

The skills and techniques the participants will acquire by engaging in oral history-based projects are numerous. For school-aged children, oral history is not confined to history lessons and can be used to enrich learning across the national curriculum, including in art, media, technology, geography and English language.

All this and more is included in the oral history training provided by ECH. We hope you will join us for a fascinating 90-minute session, open to all.

Oral history training will take place at St Mary’s Church, Overton Drive, Wanstead on 8 February from 11am to 12.30pm (free; open to all). For more information, call 020 8530 8743