Living Memory Wiltshire and The Creative Libraries Project
Living Memory Wiltshire is a project that I am working on with Louise Rennie from Curious Company. Louise and I have been commissioned to develop Living Memory projects with three Wiltshire libraries and their communities – Royal Wootton Bassett, Warminster and Durrington.
Living Memory Wiltshire is one of four Creative Libraries projects set up by Wiltshire Council, through a partnership between the Arts Development Service and the Libraries Service, funded by Arts Council England. The other projects include work by Hoodwink Theatre researching and developing site specific, library-based performance, and a project devised and managed by dancer and arts in health practitioner Rebecca Seymour working with mobile libraries and older people. The fourth project is a peformance charting and celebrating the history of Trowbridge Town Hall, which will take place in April in the Trowbridge County Hall/Library atrium, also devised and produced by Louise Rennie (see the Creative Libraries link above for dates and details).
For the last couple of months Louise and I have been working with two Wootton Bassett Ladies, Lucy Dixon and Dora Spackman, and on Monday we held our first event, ‘Playing in the High Street’ at RWB Library.
The event focused on Lucy and Dora’s memories of life before the Second World War, the amount of freedom they felt and made use of as children, how food was grown or farmed in gardens and bought or traded within the town, what food was available in the shops and how packaging didn’t really exist in the way that we know it now. We heard about how rubbish was composted, sold to the Rag and Bone Man, burnt or buried, and what home remedies were used for which ailment.
The audience were the invited to share their own memories, in visual (collaged) or written form, or to represent their hopes for the future of RWB. These will now be included in a Royal Wootton Bassett project scrap book, alongside a visual representation of Lucy and Dora’s memories, and held by the library for other to contribute to over time.
The RWB Museum played a really important role in allowing us to copy and use some wonderful images from their archives at the event, and to borrow a range of objects for people to look at, hold, and spark further conversations. The Museum is alike a little Aladdin’s Cave within the old Town Hall building and is well worth a visit.
At the heart of the projects is a desire to enable older people’s voices to be heard by their communities and prevent memories of everyday life being lost. There are important lessons that we can learn from Lucy and Dora’s experiences in terms of environmental sustainability, the growing of food locally, the minimisation of waste, etc, and as others come forward, supported by RWB library and Museum, there is much scope for sharing this learning with the younger people of the community.
We’ll be moving on to Warminster next, whilst liaising with RWB library to enable the scrap book to act as a focus for future Living Memory events there too. To keep up to date with progress, visit the Living Memory Wiltshire Facebook Page.