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Living Memory project launched to record photo collections and life stories

Published 10th January 2018

Launch of Living Memory project

A major new project based around photography collections and life stories from the Black Country has been awarded an £85,200 National Lottery grant. 

Sandwell Advocacy has been awarded the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant for a photography and oral history project called Living Memory. The award represents 83% of the project total, with fundraising continuing.

Over the next two years this exciting project will work with communities and groups across the Black Country to explore and celebrate their unique photographic collections such as those kept in family albums and hidden away in shoe boxes.

It will also work with some of the many significant but little-seen private collections created by dedicated amateur enthusiasts such as Alan Price of Walsall and Ron Moss of Old Hill. The project will also record many oral histories around the life stories and memories represented in these collections. 

Geoff Broadway from Sandwell Advocacy has developed the Living Memory project in partnership with Sandwell Community History and Archives Services (CHAS), with significant support from Dudley Archives, Black Country Living Museum, Sandwell Council, Sandwell College, Big Local at Grace Mary/Lion Farm, the Black Country Society and many other groups and organisations. 

The project will host more than 100 public and school-based workshops, training sessions and celebratory events, exploring different aspects of the photography collections and related life stories.

The Living Memory project will see the creation of a new touring exhibition, the production of a series of short films and a book containing some of the photographs and life stories.

There is also a new project website that will showcase many of the gathered photographs and life stories, commissioned films and interpretative texts and learning materials for schools and colleges. 

Staff from CHAS and Dudley Archives will be working closely with the project team, more than 60 recruited volunteers and wider community members to raise awareness of the importance of these collections. Working together, they will choose more than 1,000 images that will be professionally archived and feature in the final exhibition. 

Councillor Syeda Khatun, Sandwell Council's deputy leader, said: "This is a very exciting project to capture people’s memories, stories and photographs from the past 80 years.

"This will celebrate the Black Country, its history and most importantly local people. We are very pleased to be supporting what will become a fascinating record."

Maureen Waldron, senior archivist at CHAS, said: “We are really excited to partner with Sandwell Advocacy to make this exciting project come to life through working with our many diverse communities.

"We are convinced that this project will make a much-needed contribution in raising the awareness of how important it is for all our Black Country communities to treasure and preserve our shared photographic heritage. In doing so, it will celebrate Sandwell’s unique identity, its cultural diversity and some of the many important life stories of our communities."

Keith Hodgkins, president of the Black Country Society, said: "Living Memory is an important and timely project that will preserve and share many of the rich photographic collections held by family and private collectors.

"Precious historical images and family collections are often discarded with the passing of those who treasure them. We need to spread awareness throughout our local communities of their wider importance as well as the rich memories that accompany them. 

"The social and physical landscape of the Black Country has changed beyond all recognition in the space of a lifetime and much of it was never recorded in a formal or systematic way, not least because of the area’s overwhelmingly working class and unfashionable nature.

"Through gathering and sharing some of the many photographs and personal stories that exist in our communities this project will enrich the cultural heritage of our often neglected region.”

Vanessa Harbar, Head of HLF West Midlands, said: "We are delighted to support this project which, thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, will mean that more people will be able to get involved with, protect and learn about the exciting heritage right on their doorstep."

You can also follow the Living Memory project on Twitter @LiveMem_Project and Facebook.