Film premieres, poetry, and the opportunity to listen to the stories of the people of St Helens from past generations and today will create the St Helens Oral History Festival between 4th and 9th July 2022.
Made possible by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, and Arts Council England - St Helens Oral History Festival celebrates the collection of these stories of ordinary and extraordinary people through a week of events in libraries and other venues in St Helens, including the premiere of Charlotte Bill's film Coal and Glass in the historic and atmospheric Tank House building at the World of Glass.
Oral histories record the voices and emotions that aren't captured by the documents and photographs that usually fill our archives. Filmmaker and photographer Kevin Crooks has recorded 40 new oral history interviews with people from across St Helens, which you will be able to access as part of the pop-up archive which will tour selected St Helens Libraries during the festival and be accessible from anywhere via St Helens Community Archive website.
St Helens has changed in the 35 years since Oral Histories were last added to the archives, and, to make sure we're representing our broad St Helens community, St Helens Arts Service has commissioned artists to create new oral history-based documentaries. Our Generation by Ben Hodge will share the experiences of LGBTQ+ people from different generations and WA9 by Cameron Jones will highlight the experiences of families who live on a council estate. Buzzhub have been interviewing residents of Reeve Court and working with children at Eaves Primary, and will increase the visibility of disabled people within the archives.
Audio-visual events across the week will be accompanied by talks with the artists and interviewees, a training course, a live poetry evening and will finish with a special event at Lucem House Community Cinema especially for National Lottery Players, to thank them for their contribution to the funding received from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.
Discover all the week's events below...
St Helens Oral History Festival: Launch Event
Monday 4th July, 2.00pm - 6.30pm at St Helens Library, The World of Glass
The launch event of St Helens Oral History Festival will bring talks, a film premiere and access to both new and old oral history recordings to The World of Glass. The introductory talk at 2pm from St Helens Archive service will give more information about their recent drive to add new oral histories to their collection. Find out why oral histories are so important to preserve the memory of our experiences and how St Helens Archive Service collect, preserve and use them.
Throughout the day there will be our touring pop-up archive where you can hear the stories of people who were recorded in 1985 and the stories of St Helens today that have been recorded by filmmaker Kevin Crooks and by schools and community groups in St Helens in 2022.
From 4:30pm you're invited to the premiere of the film Coal and Glass, by artist Charlotte Bill. The film will be screened in the historic and atmospheric Tank House building where the innovation of these industries of energy and glass production met and features the lesser-told stories of two women who worked as a Pit-Brow lass and at Pilkingtons during the 1930s. Charlotte has created a film that combines the oral histories recorded in 1985 with archive footage and reenactments of those stories by two actors from Young Wonders. Be inspired by their stories and get an insight into the lives of St Helens teenagers in the 1930s and today
As part of the evening screening we will be sharing a selection of stories of women in St Helens recorded in 2022. What are their career achievements, experiences of education and the feeling of being welcomed to St Helens from elsewhere. Along with access to the 1985 audio recordings, this evening will celebrate the stories of women who have lived in St Helens' past and present.
Listen to Me:
An Oral History Recordings Touring Archive
4th - 8th July. Various times & libraries:
- Monday 4th July, 2:00 - 4:30pm, St Helens Library
- Tuesday 5th July, 2:00 - 4:00pm, Eccleston Library
- Wednesday 6th July, 10:00am, 1:00pm, St Helens Library
- Thursday 7th July, 2:00 - 4:30pm, Chester Lane Library
- Friday 8th July, 12:00 - 3:00pm, Newton le Willows Library
As part of the Oral History project funded by the National Lottery Heritage fund, St Helens Archive service have been working with filmmaker Kevin Crooks and with community groups to record oral histories from people across St Helens. These will be accessible through St Helens Archives and cared for into the future. During the Oral History Festival a pop-up archive will tour St Helens library venues with excerpts from some of the 2022 recordings and recordings made in 1985.
Re-live your 1980s listening experience (or discover out how those machines on Stranger Things actually work) by listening to cassette recordings of remembered stories from 60 years before; see the equipment that is available from St Helens Archives in 2022 to record your own Oral History and use it to listen back to stories that have been told today; and watch clips from some of the filmed oral history recordings that have been made as part of this project.
You do not need to book to visit the Touring Archive. Please just drop in.
Out of the Earth - VR Experience
Tuesday 5th July. 2.00 - 4.00pm, Eccleston Library
During 2021 Leo & Hyde composed 'Out of the Earth', an original song that dreams of a 'solarpunk' future that is climate conscious, positive and connected to our heritage in the earth. This utopian view of St Helens was painted by VR (virtual reality) artist Rosie Summers and now you can experience these imagined spaces through a Virtual Reality headset in St Helens Libraries.
Workshops, conversations and the ideas of people who live and work in St Helens Borough inspired this work which features soloists Katie Hughes & Phill Campbell, and, in partnership with St Helens Borough Music Service, a virtual community choir of over 100 adults and children from across St Helens Borough, who contributed their voices to this project!
'Out of the Earth' - was created as part of the award-winning Cultural Hubs programme funded by Arts Council England and delivered by St Helens Borough Council's library service. Leo & Hyde are working on a continuation of this project with Buzzhubs, exploring how VR technologies might be utilised to help disabled people to tell their stories.
You do not need to book for this experience. Please just drop in.
Days in the Life of - A Soundscape
4th - 9th July. Daily 9.00am - 5.00pm, Entrance Cone - The World of Glass
During 2021 artist Rebecca Ainsworth worked with people who are visually impaired, spending time having conversations over the telephone, listening to the stories of their working and personal lives. From these experiences Rebecca crafted a soundscape, visiting particular locations from their conversations to record the sounds they remembered, combining those with archive sounds and interweaving the multiple stories into an abstract audio piece that touches on each person's very personal story.
This audio piece will be presented as part of St Helens Oral History Festival, in the fabulous acoustics of the Entrance Cone to the World of Glass where you can feel surrounded and comforted by the sound.
'Days in the Life of' was created as part of the award-winning Cultural Hubs programme funded by Arts Council England and delivered by St Helens Borough Council's library service. Rebecca Ainsworth is working on 'Perspectives', a follow-on commission with people who are visually impaired. If you are interested in more information about this project, please contact email@example.com
You do not need to book for this experience. Please just drop in.
WA9: Film Premiere & Workshop
Thursday 7th July. 4.00 - 6.00pm, Chester Lane Library
WA9 is a documentary shot on location in a deprived area in St Helens capturing the voice of the young people who live there, what they care about and how they experience the space that they live in. The film attempts to highlight the ignored beauty of these spaces, challenging people's perceptions of Clock Face and representing the people who live there. It will also serve as a nostalgic window to those who grew up in a comparable area, the kind of people who say: "You don't see kids on the street anymore, we used to always be out, we'd only come home for our tea".
Following the screening of the documentary, director Cameron Jones will lead a creative, interactive workshop that explores identity and how that is connected to the place where we live. WA9 was created as part of the award-winning Cultural Hubs programme funded by Arts Council England and delivered by St Helens Borough Council's library service.
Open-Mic Poetry Night
Thursday 7th July. 7.00 - 9.00pm, Lucem House Community Cinema +
The Cut Glass Writers Group will host an evening of poetry performances in the welcoming auditorium of Lucem House Community Cinema. Poetry has a long history of being a way of passing stories from one generation to another with its rhythm and repetition being a way to fix those stories across time. This evening we will hear original poems, prepared by poets from the Cut Glass Writers Group who meet at St Helens Library, who will welcome poets from across St Helens and beyond to take up open mic slots during the evening.
In addition to the live performances, we will hear recordings from St Helens Archive made in the 1980s of poetry delivered in Lancashire dialect. If you'd like to perform poetry on the night, either turn up and let us know, or get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
The Writers For Wellbeing programme (The Cut Glass Writers Group) is supported by the award-winning Cultural Hubs programme funded by Arts Council England and delivered by St Helens Borough Council's library service.
Introduction to Oral History -
A Two-Day Training Course for St Helens Artists
Friday 8th and Tuesday 12th July. 9:30am - 12:45pm, Online
Have you ever considered using oral history as a starting point for your artistic work? Personal testimony is often the inspiration behind creative responses that range from art to dance, sculpture, mime, film, animation, soundscape, music and much more. This course, run over two mornings through zoom, will teach you how to set up and conduct an oral history interview and get you thinking about how you can share the stories you gather in different ways.
The course tutor, Julia Letts, is an accredited trainer for the Oral History Society and has been recording and creatively using oral history for more than 20 years. She will take you through the oral history process, giving practical guidance at every step of the way from selecting interviewees to successfully completing an oral history recording. She will also share her experience of using oral history in many different creative forms with local organisations, schools, care homes and community groups. You will get the chance to listen to examples of oral history, take part in discussions and do a practice interview. At the end of the course you will be eligible for a certificate of participation from the Oral History Society. You don't need any experience to come on this course, but you do need a curiosity in exploring people's stories, and a willingness to get stuck in!
This training programme is part of the Oral History Festival delivered by St Helens Archive Service and St Helens Arts Service (St Helens Borough Council Library Service). 10 free places on this course have been funded by National Lottery Heritage Fund.
If you have any questions please contact Claire Weetman via email@example.com
Our Generation: Film Premiere & Panel Discussion
Friday 8th July. 2.30 - 5.00pm, Newton-le-Willows Library
St Helens has a rich history of the glass and mining industry, which is retold through our museums, monuments and the stories passed on by the townspeople who experienced such cultural importance. However, this is not something that is done as much with LGBTQ+ people. With the town now hosting 'Over The Rainbow', an LGBTQ+ youth group, the young people have a right to know what came before them, and the progress that the town has made to make strides to provide safe, inclusive spaces.
Our Generation is a 20 minute documentary in which young (~under 25) LGBTQ+ individuals are talking to elder (~over 40) LGBTQ+ individuals in a relaxed and open conversation about their personal experiences of being LGBTQ+ in St Helens. Discussions around the education system, social opportunities, community spirit, pride, legislation and access to healthcare/sexual health services are explored.
At this event we will premiere the film and be joined by participants in the film and advocates for LGBTQ+ support for a post-film discussion around the themes and experiences raised.
Our Generation was created as part of the award-winning Cultural Hubs programme funded by Arts Council England and delivered by St Helens Borough Council's library service.
Friday 8th July. 7.30pm, Lucem House Community Cinema +
During the week of St Helens Oral History Festival Lucem House Community Cinema+ are screening a thrilling documentary made with a blend of animation and archive footage which tells an immensely powerful tale of a gay Afghan survivor.
Local artist, animator and activist Alexis Maxwell has been commissioned by the award-winning Cultural Hubs programme funded by Arts Council England to co-produce an animated film documenting the experiences of the Refugee & Ayslum Seeker communities of St Helens. If you would like to find out more about this project, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Behind the Scenes: Film Screenings & Meet the Filmmakers
Saturday 9th July. 2.00 - 5.00pm, Lucem House Community Cinema+
To conclude a week of events for St Helens Oral History Festival we will bring together the collection of new films that have been part of the programme along with an opportunity to meet the people who created them. This screening programme, specially curated as a thank you to Lottery Players (without whom funding would not have been possible) includes:
- Coal and Glass by Charlotte Bill: a film about women and their experiences of the coal and glass industries as teenagers in the 1930s.
- WA9 by Cameron Jones: a documentary about a community in Clock Face.
- Oral History Interviews of St Helens residents in 2022 by Kevin Crooks
- Our Generation, a documentary about LGBTQ+ experiences by Ben Hodge
- BuzzTV: Oral History and chat-show style interviews by members of Buzzhub's media group.
The directors and filmmakers who created these works will be present and will take part in a question and answer session that reveals some of the behind the scenes secrets of film making and working creatively with Oral Histories.
Book a FREE ticket for Behind the Scenes: Film Screenings & Meet the Filmmakers. Don't forget to present a National Lottery Ticket or Scratchcard upon arrival.
You can also get involved with St Helens Oral History Festival online:
St Helens Community Archive
From Monday 4th July. Online
As part of the Oral History project funded by the National Lottery Heritage fund, St Helens Archive service have been working with filmmaker Kevin Crooks and with community groups to record oral histories from people across St Helens. These will be accessible through St Helens Archives and cared for into the future. During the Oral History Festival we will release excerpts from some of the 2022 recordings onto St Helens Community Archive website.
Everyone is invited to contribute to the community archive and help define St Helens local heritage for future generations.
Do you have an oral history recording of your own? You can share it on the community archive.
BuzzTV - Oral History Special
Streaming from Thursday 7th July, Online
To coincide with the Oral History Festival Buzzhub (St Helens Coalition for Disabled People) will host a special edition of BuzzTV featuring interviews they have featured in and conducted as part of St Helens Oral History project and some of the wider work that they do interviewing local and national figures.