Oral Histories, Reunions and Great Cake

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Left to right – Jackie Robinson, Catherine Robinson, Julie Rigg and Fiona Hornby

Hello there, it’s been a while since my last blog, what with things being all go at MPA since Christmas, I’ve been keeping my head down, creating many interesting things for the digital archive which will hopefully be online soon.

On the afternoon of Saturday 1 April though I have actual photographic proof that I went into the real world and met real people! Not just any people either, these wonderful ladies (above) are three of the four Oswaldtwistle TheatreMobile Fan Club.

Van & Set Up 9They were dedicated and adoring teenagers going to as many productions as possible between 1973 and 1978. They always went a bit early to watch the theatre group set up (obviously) which was grudgingly accepted by the company.

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I want to take the opportunity, if you come along with me for a minute, to show you what oral histories actually are. When I mention them to people who haven’t had any experience of them, the reaction is always fear followed by the total conviction that they have nothing to say, or too little that they remember, to be of use. We thoroughly documented Saturday’s session, and I hope it comes across what a fun process it is, for everyone involved.

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TheatreMobile Company

When meeting up to record an Oral History I try to take artifacts with me, photos; posters; brochures etc, from the archive to help- jog people’s memories. Then the participants get a chance to access some of the actual archive. It’s the little memories triggered while looking through this that are usually the most interesting. If there is anything that sparks my curiosity I might ask a question or ask for more details. It’s not an interrogation more like a natter with tea, and on this particular Saturday very nice cake!

Looking at photographs

When I met Jackie Robinson, Catherine Robinson and Julie Rigg to be honest I was a bit intimidated because this was only the second time I’ve interviewed people I don’t know, as well as the first time interviewing three people at once. I had a feeling it might be like herding cats, but in the end it was so much fun to see the enthusiasm for TheatreMobile (remember I spend most of my time immersed in photos, posters and newspapers) it really brought that period of time alive for me.

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I always wonder what it was like to be at these productions and talking to Jackie, Catherine and Julie didn’t disappoint. The recordings we made vividly bring to life the excitement and amazement of experiencing TheatreMobile productions.

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TheatreMobile production of What You Will

I actually love the jumbly, tumbling nature of a flowing memory when one person triggers something for someone else and there’s this “ Oh oh oh do you remember…” and suddenly it becomes everyone’s for a moment, multi layered, one memory with many voices tinged with the urgency to capture or maybe relive it before it drifts away.

That is why we really need oral histories to help bring the artefacts to life whether that’s with laughter, shock, confusion or even if you didn’t like something – I’m no memory snob!

Gloria Parkinson TheatreMobile Artistic Director

What I found really interesting about this oral history was the effect that those experiences in the 1970’s had on these three women. Exploring that definitely gave a depth to these memories. Which goes to show that what may on the surface seem like just something you got up to, in this case with your mates, as a teenager can be just the beginning of a bigger conversation. Remembering Gloria Parkinson

Collage of archiving process - 2015-16.jpg

Please don’t write off your memories of Mid Pennine Arts however small you think they are, to us they have a great importance. They are the living breathing memory of the culture in our towns and how we as everyday people have experienced it. Don’t hesitate to get in touch, there might even be cake!

Fiona Hornby MPA 50 Volunteer

Email me if interested


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