N21 Festival Memories Project
Memories of a Lost Village
Having become a Festival volunteer in September 2011, I soon developed a clear understanding of the possibilities of the Festival and my creative juices started to flow...
I felt the Festival's main aim was to 'bring people of the new village together' and increase knowledge and appreciation of our history. I came up with the idea of uniting the generations through a literary project - "Memories of a Lost Village" (the title of Henrietta's book).
To read the memories with stories, click here (NB not all memories had a story)
In the village of Rainford where I grew up, about 15 miles from Liverpool, I once stood at the foot of a neighbour’s garden, looking out over the fields at the Liverpool skyline. The lady explained how she used to stand in the same spot during the war, watching the skyline ablaze, as the bombs rained down upon the city and it's people. My mum, dad and their families would have been trapped in the city during that time and I tried to imagine their fear. I also tried to imagine being the person standing at the foot of the garden – watching this horror before my eyes, yet being unable to help. This story created such a vivid memory, that I've held on to it ever since and it was the inspiration for this project.
The Memory Project involved inviting people (born prior to 1945 or thereabouts) to complete a Memory sheet with an early memory, which would then be given to local school children. The children would then write their own story incorporating that memory - preserving the memory, teaching history and making a connection between the two generations. I was keen to capture memories that children in 2012 would find hard to believe eg the boy who was so poor he had to wear his mother's skirt, cut and sewn up the middle, as his trousers on his first day at school - can you imagine! I felt the children might benefit from trying to visualise these memories and comparing them to the lives they lead now.
I approached Pat, the manager of Blake Court, Highlands Village who kindly gathered memories from some of her residents; I then attended a meeting of the Winchmore Hill Residents Association where Brian Foyle and his colleagues wrote some interesting stories; then Christine Murphy, who is a great gardener, kindly collected numerous memories from some of her more mature clients, sharing memories handed down by her own parents; Debbie Hanley rang her mum, who is in her early 80s, and harvested some gems; Zoe Ryder gathered stories from her friends and neighbours; some people dropped their stories off at Mistress Appleby’s; Cyril Jones – active supporter and contributor to the N21 Festival – gave a wonderful account of his early life – 94 years ago! I still hadn’t gathered enough memories, so I finally sat with my own parents and collected some interesting, amusing and very moving stories. Although they were not brought up in this area, they shared some wonderful anecdotes, which I thought the children would find very interesting. It took months to gather 50 memories because, I feel, people maybe thought that their stories wouldn’t be interesting to others – but how wrong they were!
I was very fortunate to secure the involvement of two wonderful English teachers - Maria Pavlides of Winchmore School and Catherine Doe of Palmers Green High School. They, along with their talented and enthusiastic pupils, brought this project to life. Despite both teachers agreeing to get involved at the beginning of the year, it took until May before I had enough Memories collected. By this time, the students and teachers were in the midst of revision and exams and they worked extremely hard to have all their stories written just before the start of the Festival.
The feedback from the teachers, about how the project was received by the children, was fantastic - I believe the children thoroughly enjoyed the project, with many moved by some of the stories and lots wishing they’d had far more time to work on them.
This proves that the children of today ARE interested in what the older generations have to say and we should encourage this interaction between the two.
I bought a Comments book to accompany the Memory exhibit at the Historical exhibition as I was interested to see what memories or emotions this project evoked for others. We received some wonderful comments and some more little memories, some of which have been typed up for you to read.
I actually cried over the memory of the two little sisters, sitting quietly on the bottom stair waiting to be evacuated – having two children myself, I can’t imagine the agony these parents felt.
I am keen to do something further with the Memories and Stories, with some people suggesting making a little book from them – do you have any interesting suggestions?
I think it’s so important to pass on our memories and stories to the younger generations, so that they may pass it on when they’re older.
Thank you to everyone who participated in this very special project – particularly to the children and their amazing teachers, who took their time, in the midst of busy exams, to bring back to life some otherwise forgotten moments – Well Done!
My special thanks to all who participated, particularly the schools, the Memory writers including Brian Foyle of the WHRA, my parents and Christine Murphy - talented gardener and memory collector extraordinaire!