"The Family Album" - a social history project funded by Contour Homes
January 16, 2014
The Family Album - a social history photo book and exhibition
Over the last few months I've been meeting residents from two areas of new housing in Bolton and collecting photos from their family albums. The aim is to create a book full of photos, stories and memories of growing up in and around Bolton.
The project began like many of my projects at the archives of Bolton Museum. Looking at old maps I discovered old railway lines and mills that are no longer in existence. One of these railway lines is behind Vernham Walk one the streets I've been asked to work with. By knocking on the doors I soon discovered residents who remembered the days when it was in existence, many spoke of sneaking through the tunnels that ran under the nearby Bobby Heywood's Park. I wondered who Bobby Heywood was and a futher trip to the museum revealed he was the second Mayor of Bolton and that he had donated the park to the people of Bolton in 1862. His family had made their wealth in the cotton industry and many of the residents could still remember the latter days of this once booming industry. Many of them had parents who worked in the mills and the foundries that cast the machine parts for the industrial revolution. A few of them remember the lodges and the mills that stood in the area, they spent their youth 'fishing for tiddlers' in the streams that fed the lodges.
All the older residents shared a common view that although they had very little when they grew up "they were happy" - these were "the good old days", "..you could leave your doors open". I listened to their memories and collected photos from them, holiday photos from Blackpool, beautiful black and white photos of their weddings and family moments through their life times. I also spoke with people who were born in the seventies, they remembered flared trousers, holidays abroad, mobile phones that were "the size of a brick", the first ZX Spectrum and Amstrad computers and how the internet had suddenly changed the way they lived and socialised.
Many of the residents were migrants to the UK, some of them were refugees from Sudan, Somalia or Iraq, they shared their life journey and some of the turmoil that they had experienced but they also spoke of cultural celebrations such as weddings and Eid.
The teenagers I met contributed their opinions too, they told me that they put their photographs on Facebook. Although they had X boxes and the internet they spoke of changing times on the street and the feeling that their was nothing for them to do these days. This was contradicted by nearby Youth Centres offering regular activities and facilities, so with the help of Insyt Media Productions I invited the young people to contribute their life stories using creative writing, music and MC workshops. The workshops were a great success and after eight weeks they had made their own track, CD and CD cover. This will be showcased at Bobby Heywoods Centre in March along with the photographs and stories the residents have contributed to the project. All the people who contributed will also be presented with their own copy of the book to read about each others lives and to share with family and friends.
In the coming weeks a date will be set and all the invites will be sent out for the exhibition, in the meantime a Facebook page has been created that has elements of the project and links to other resources discovered during the making of the project: