Reflecting on the significance of oral history in Leicester

Posted by ap507 at Dec 23, 2013 12:30 PM |
2013 marks the 30th anniversary of oral history collection in Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland
Reflecting on the significance of oral history in Leicester

Source: East Midlands Oral History Archive

2013 is the 30th anniversary of the start of the formal collecting of oral history in Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland. Market Harborough Museum started recording oral histories at almost exactly the same time as the Leicester Oral History Archive (LOHA), which is run by the University. The two projects, one taking in both the city and the two counties, the other concentrating on the Harborough area, were pioneering projects that led the way for other groups in the next three decades.

Before oral history recordings there had been two main sources of sound recordings in the region. The Leicester Tape Club recorded many events and musical programmes from the mid-1950s onwards and BBC Radio Leicester started in 1967, and continues recording the voices of the region to this day. However, there are always a few one-offs before 1967 - the University has a recording of Sir Robert Martin from 1956 talking about his native Leicestershire.

The Leicester Oral History Archive (LOHA) was started by Ned Newitt as part of a degree course and was originally called the Industrial & Social History Project. This received funding from the Manpower Services Commission (MSC) and was also run by Shirley Aucott and then Siobhan Kirrane who closed the Archive in 1990 due to a lack of funding. Throughout this period Steph Mastoris was supervising the recordings at Harborough Museum. In Coalville, Jeanne Carswell started the Mantle Oral History Project, which was based in the Springboard Centre and ran into the 1990s.

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Source: East Midlands Oral History Archive
After a gap of a few years the City Council started the Living History Unit in 1994. Cynthia Brown and Angela Cutting ran this until the Unit was closed in the late 1990s. As well as creating over 200 new recordings the Unit produced many excellent books. Details of some of the books produced by the Living History Unit are here, and some of them can be bought at the New Walk Museum in Leicester.

By 2000 there were a large number of recordings from around the region that were sitting in boxes and not being used or looked after. A partnership between the Centre for Urban History at the University, Leicester City Council & Leicestershire County Council gained heritage lottery funding to create the East Midlands Oral History Archive (EMOHA). Managed by Cynthia Brown, the Archive digitised and catalogued all the recordings created up to the early 2000s, and still runs today.

 

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