The team are at the Dean Heritage Centre for a day of training with oral history expert Craig Fees from the Oral History Society. I’m thinking ‘how can he possibly fill a whole day out of training a group of people to switch on a voice recorder and chat?’. Turns out, quite easily…
The day is packed with unexpected and brilliant insights into the heritage and importance of oral history. We look at the ethics behind the whole process; the weight of responsibility that comes with asking someone to open up and talk about deep-rooted memories. The careful balancing act between letting the interviewee ‘just talk’ and prompting with just the right amount of questions to keep the dialogue flowing. Not to mention how to build up a carefully constructed rapport so that interviewees feel they are in safe and trusted hands. And then the technical requirements involved in making sure you actually capture these important stories, right there and then.
But the day goes further than that. Craig looks at our own histories, our own reasons for wanting to be part of this project, and crucially how we transfer that energy and enthusiasm to our young team who will be tasked with conducting these chats alongside us. We look at the challenges inherent with placing two different generations in the same room as each other, and ways to help them connect and to feel rewarded from the experience.
We all open up about own own connections to history, to our own family’s past. It’s what I imagine a pre-production research meeting would look like on ‘Who do you think you are!’ And the end of the day we are all changed in some way. We are armed with the information we need to light the blue touch paper on this project and fuelled with the energy to succeed.
[So, as it turns out it’s not just as easy as ‘switching on a voice recorder and chatting…’]
Next stop: To find some willing interviewees willing to open up about their past.