“Oral history” is the collection and study of information about individuals, families, important events or everyday life using audio, video or transcriptions of interviews conducted with people who participated in past events and whose memories are to be preserved as an aural record for future generations.
The Witleys’ Oral History Group was formed in 2013 and applied for financial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund. A grant of £20,000 was eventually achieved and the project was formally launched at a meeting in Great Witley in January 2014.
In February 2014 we held four half-day training sessions at Little Witley Village Hall for the 18 who had volunteered by then to work on the project as interviewers collecting the stories of local people.
Following those training sessions, run by experts from Worcester’s ‘The Hive’, we purchased professional recording equipment with our Heritage Lottery Fund grant and started collecting those stories.
Our colleagues from The Hive have worked with pupils of Great Witley School and Chantry High School to engage them in making oral history.
We developed the systems for editing and filing all our recordings. Many of those volunteers involved to date have learned new skills and techniques to make this possible.
Our first Open Day in April 2014 was at Little Witley Village Hall. On that day we were able to scan many photographs and maps which people brought in to show us. We also made some recordings of people’s stories and memories on the day.
On 25 October 2014 we held our second open day at Great Witley Village Hall. We explained how we intended to publish our results online and people were able to hear examples of the 20 or so recordings we had made so far, and encouraged potential interviewees to work with us to record their memories too. We also displayed a sample of fascinating local photographs and other media which people from the Witleys had provided to us since the project started. More photos and documents were brought in by visitors on the day and we were able to scan these and add them to our expanding archive.
At the end of 2014 we began to build this website and launched it formally in February 2015 as a central resource for all our archive material and information about the project.
A further open day in March 2015 at Little Witley Village Hall provided an opportunity for people to drop in and see how the project was progressing, provide more photos and interesting documents and even make their own recordings.
The project progressed steadily over the next two years as local people continued to come forward with new stories and photographs and by mid 2017 we had recorded over 60 people resulting in 90 recordings, some interviewees having made several recordings.
We have been heartened and encouraged by feedback from people who now live overseas but also want to share their memories and photographs of the Witleys, as well as those who have been delighted to find photographs or memories of their relations which they had not seen before.
We now have created a 70 min collection of ‘snippets’ from our recordings which cover some of the common local themes that evolved – Farming, the Second World War, School Days, Village Businesses & Redmarley Hill Climb. This will be made available on CD and we are also working on putting our whole collection onto a DVD.
We are still keen to hear from anyone who has memories that they would like to share – whether these are their stories or if they have photographs and other memorabilia (letters, diaries, trade documents etc), but the main phase of the project will draw to a close in 2017. A celebration event was held on 17th June 2017 to include all those who have contributed to the success of the project.
The website will be maintained for a further five years and all material will be provided to the Worcestershire County Archive team at the Hive in Worcester for long term safekeeping and research.
This is a community project and we do want its future to continue to be shaped and influenced by the community. If you feel you would like to be involved in taking the project forward in new ways, please do Contact Us.