Featured image: Nelson the Clown and the Suspension Bridge Disaster researched and made by Russel Hughes
The Island Project Research team, funded by Heritage Lottery Fund, have been capturing migration stories from local Yarmouth people in clay, video and writing since January. The team was formed from six children (from Priory St Nicholas, Edward Worlledge and Hillside) along with their three teachers and another twelve adults from the town. The citizen research community was led by Dr Jeannette Baxter, a senior lecturer and researcher, at Anglia Ruskin University (Cambridge).
Last Wednesday the team had its exciting final research session at Gt Yarmouth library, led by Jeannette Baxter (Anglia Ruskin University) and Caroline Fernandez (Gt Yarmouth Library Community Librarian) with support from the Silver Darlings’ Charlotte Dickens and Kevin Hunn. Each member of the team had researched at least one story, which they read out to the team. Grace Edwards said the project had helped her to realise that, ‘Many people have suffered hardships and came to Yarmouth to improve their lives. I have been very fortunate as I was born here.’
Jamie King said he felt differently about Yarmouth after taking part in the research process, ‘I am coming to realise that many people have a story as to how they came to be in Great Yarmouth, as I myself have, and I feel it’s important to share these stories as it is a part of the history of the growing town’s origins.’
Some of these migration stories will be available on the New Routes Old Roots website, and the stories and clay models based on the stories will be included in a final Island project exhibition at Great Yarmouth Library in September.
The six research sessions have involved learning about research, developing documentary research skills, a tour and introduction to the library’s local archives, a visit to Time and Tide’s archives with great actors imparting information about the Dutch influence, Captain Manby and the Scott’s fisher girls, and several research intensive sessions at the library.
Jeannette Baxter, the research lead, said that this was one of the most rewarding research projects she has worked on, ‘All of the researchers showed great engagement and initiative, and the migration stories they have uncovered present us with a very different picture of Yarmouth, past and present.’
At the final research session, the stories of Captain Manby, Fall the pirate, Snowy Edwards, other famous locals, family histories, and many more were read by the research team members and captured on video.
The researchers were also joined by invited guests Miriam Kikis, Eddie Hunn and Michael Julian. The team interviewed them and heard stories of how their families arrived in Yarmouth, struggled, thrived and contributed to the culture and economy of the town.
Michael said, ‘Our family of six arrived in 1971 and, as my step Dad’s job fell through – we slept up at South Denes in a Ford Anglia for months until we moved to a caravan; it was a real squeeze.’
Miriam told of the terrible Turkish invasion of Cyprus, her escape to Athens, London and eventual arrival in Gt Yarmouth where the seafront reminded her of home and the locals warmly received her. She said, ‘I first heard of Great Yarmouth at ten, whilst reading David Copperfield and I thought what is this – the tide going in and out? – our sea didn’t do that!’.
Eddie related how he had been a far East prisoner of War, after the war worked as an accountant in Wells and eventually arrived in 1960 to start a new family life, building up a guest-house business and really enjoying the town and local people.
All three talked of their affection for the town and how their families have thrived and contributed in so many ways.
The Island project will now move into its second phase, where Kevin and Charlotte will share the project videos, models and stories in heritage sharing sessions, assemblies and workshops in four local schools – Priory St Nicholas, St Georges, Edward Worlledge and Hillside.
Charlotte said ‘We will take the great stories, researched by the team, along with some of the models made so far, and show local school children something of their town’s history and inspire them to tell their own family stories in clay and video. Workshops for adults and children begin next month.’
Alongside the research workshops, the project artists, Kevin Hunn and Charlotte Dickens, have led four free community workshops at the library supported by HLF. These workshops have taught the participants new skills in clay modelling, and group members produced models of fish, houses, the town walls and some models to go with the research stories. These models will also be exhibited in the Library Island Exhibition in September.
If you have any interesting stories to tell of how your family came to be in Yarmouth we would love to hear them – please email the team at firstname.lastname@example.org