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Working with archived materials, and archiving new materials

Working with archived materials, and archiving new materials. Dawn Lyon (University of Kent) and Graham Crow (University of Southampton) Collaborative Methods in Community Research University of Nottingham, 11 April 2011. What we’ll do in this session.

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Working with archived materials, and archiving new materials

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  1. Working with archived materials,and archiving new materials Dawn Lyon (University of Kent) and Graham Crow (University of Southampton) Collaborative Methods in Community Research University of Nottingham, 11 April 2011

  2. What we’ll do in this session • Presentation: Describe the Living and Working on Sheppey project and the original project it relates to • Discuss the materials we are working with and how we accessed or collected them • Talk about our experience of collaborative working with a small community organisation and volunteers • Exercise: Ask you to work in groups to consider some samples of our material • Discussion: Explore the issues raised

  3. The original study 1 • Ray Pahl headed team of researchers to explore different aspects of life and work on the Isle of Sheppey in north Kent in the late 1970s and early 1980s • He was especially interested in the ways in which work might be both paid and unpaid, formal and informal • The study found evidence of ‘social polarisation’ between work-rich and work-poor households • Published as Divisions of Labour (1984)

  4. The original study 2 • The research was based on mixed methods: • historical documentary research • survey data on households and on employers • interviews, including oral histories • ethnographic observations • visual methods • Material is now archived at UK Data Archive (University of Essex)

  5. Context: Location of Sheppey

  6. Map of Sheppey

  7. The original study 3 • Pahl’s project was a community study made up of a number of sub-projects • One sub-project was about the ‘occupational community’ that arose from the presence of a single large employer at Sheerness Naval Dockyard • This brought people together in shared sense of purpose and belonging – something which was lost after the dockyard closure in 1960 • Another sub-project was future-oriented – 142 essays were written by school leavers in May 1978 (mainly 16-year-olds, 90 boys, 52 girls), imagining themselves towards the end of their lives and looking back

  8. The re-study 1 • Funding: South East Coastal Communities Project (SECC): http://www.coastalcommunities.org.uk/ • Dates: June 2009-September 2010; March-May 2011 • People involved: • Universities: Kent (Dawn Lyon, Peter Hatton, Tim Strangleman, Clive Arundell), Southampton (Graham Crow), Essex (UK Data Archive) • Community groups: Blue Town Heritage Centre (Jenny Hurkett, Alice Young), Swale CVS, Sheppey Matters • Volunteers: from the Blue Town Heritage Centre and beyond • Artists: ‘Tea’: http://web.mac.com/p.n.murray/www.teaweb.org/Home.html

  9. (Some of) the project team outside the Blue Town Heritage Centre, Sheerness

  10. The re-study 2: oral histories • Focus on memories of work connected to dockyard – an addition to Pahl’s ‘occupational community’ interviews (n=8, including 1 woman) • 33 new interviews, including 8 women • Half of the interviewees worked in the dockyard (including 2 women) • 8 have memories of the dockyard without directly working there • 7 of the interviewees worked in Blue Town in shops (butchers and newsagents), hotel, launderette etc

  11. The re-study 3: oral histories • Interviewers included members of Blue Town Heritage Centre, mature students, other members of the public • Recruited through local advertising • Often motivated by interest in specific historical times or stories • Tensions between interview styles, including ways of listening • Benefits of local knowledge of interviewers

  12. The re-study 4: imagination • Re-analysis of young people’s imagined futures • Allows previously undiscussed themes contained in the essays to be explored, e.g. health • Opportunity to discuss new themes with Ray Pahl directly • New research – 106 essays collected in 2009-10 • Comparison of 2 cohorts now possible

  13. The re-study 5: imagination • Worked with local school and youth groups • Difficulty of ensuring consistency of instruction • Lack of appeal of essay-writing to young people today vs methodological need to generate comparable data • School-leaving age more variable in 2009-10 so difficult to access group in similar relation to future • Searched without success for 1978 essay writers…! • Material provides important counter to critics of young people as ‘lacking aspiration’

  14. Opening access • Project developed website (not yet live) to be dynamic archive of oral histories, essays, visual and other materials on living and working on Sheppey • Artists, Tea, produced DVD on Blue Town High Street - brought together memories of older people (voices) with old photographs of buildings, imagined future of buildings drawn by young people, and present-day footage along the street

  15. Exercise • What do the essays make you think about the following themes and issues? • Place and belonging • Gender relations • Aspiration • Viewpoint of young people • Ethics • The usefulness of imagination as a method

  16. Reflections I like to watch the kids play across the road in the park. It gives me a sense of satisfaction, not that they realise it mind. There too locked up in their own fantasies to a dam anyway, shut away in their private worlds of solitude, free from the arms of reality. They dont know how lucky they are. But lets face it, they dont care anyway, well why the hell should they? It’s not their turn to suffer; not yet. They will realise, as I did all those years ago, that time is not the illusion that they have created within themselves, when it can free its self, it will burn them first, then run away. Maybe I was like them once; not so free though, I think they have love, neighbours, perhaps a little honesty. Me? Well I was alone, unafraid yes but alone, and it hated me and I it, because like time it burned me. It still does. […] I had contemplated suicide. It was away, as I had explained to a friend, she begged me to reconsider, I did. I loved her. […] My first job was meaningless and obscure […] Packing crates, that was it. Hundreds of them, day after day. Straw, cups, straw saucers and my hands wept with the sweat of my labours and the offensiveness that surrounded them. There was, again, no satisfaction, no streak of content, biting me, no memories able to save me, and I sacrificed my last ounce of sanity for a measly 20 pounds a week. Hell, I earnt it. Those crates were so heavy, a burden, took two of us and a lot of stress and strain to shift them, but we managed. […] That it really. Not much is it. Those kids playing now are tomorrows losers, but they’ve time to work things out, think and plan ahead. They have got a chance; it’s a dam shame really. […] This is, perhaps, my last message to the world, and, like before, no-one has heard. Boy – 1978/17

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