Sunday 16 June 2013

Getting the archive buzz

Meeting the dinosaur after the performance
There are archives, and then there's what you do with them.  For 'Life's Rich Pageant' Birmingham History Theatre Company devised a play about the making of Birmingham Pageant of 1938.

When we first got involved, I thought my children would be doing some singing, and I'd be helping them a bit.  In the end, we all did some acting, we made props (including this rather handsome, smoke belching dinosaur) and the quality of the songs we all sang devised by Pete Churchill were outstanding.  I may not have known much about the Pageant before, but now, me and my family will never forget.

What's more important is the archives, the play, the way community drama works, has really been about bringing people together.  In the audience was someone who really had been to the Pageant in 1938, and remember the dinosaurs to be bigger, but every bit as dodgily put together, spouting green smoke.  I met a whole range of people, both actors and audience, all discussing various aspects of Balsall Heath, Birmingham City Council, how things have changed, what's stayed the same, have things got better for women, is there still a sense of community? The archive material has created a 'buzz' from which so much could develop.

For the past 18 months I've been working to develop Paganel Archives - the first ARCHON registered UK repository archive in a state run primary school.  Today I've been replying to emails sent from previous pupils from when the school was first opened, to arrange interviews led by children.

Paganel School are spending a whole week off curriculum to interview more local residents and pupils, and then to represent them creatively.  We want all children in the school to have experienced interviewing, and then creating their own Paganel stories inspired by the interviews to showcase on the Friday, alongside more archive materials.  Birmingham Archives and Heritage outreach team has been training Yr 5 to support younger children to conduct interviews.  We have some really fantastic creative practitioners to work with each class during the week to help students represent the stories the way they want to - Bobbie Gardner (with sound/music), Roz Goddard (Poetry), Brian Homer (photography), Tom Jones (drawing), Pyn Stockman (drama), Clare Chapman (creative outdoors), Richard Albutt (digitally).

But again, even though the archive room will be awesome and the archive will inspire creative learning across the whole school, what I'm most looking forward to is the archive inspired conversations, meeting and talking, putting heritage at the heart of our community.

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