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NELH Tuesday Meeting. Jude Murphy: Routes of Social Change (WEA Project)
February 21 @ 19:00 - 20:30
Routes of Social Change https://wea-historywalks.org.uk is an ongoing pilot project funded by Lipman Miliband Trust and WEA’s own Volunteer Innovation Fund. During lockdown, several of us at WEA were struck by the growth in interest in self-guided soundwalks. Obviously, this kind of activity was going to grow when you were limited to outdoor activity in your own back yard. As we explored the idea further, we realised there were alternative approaches that we wanted to trial. We wanted any walks we developed to reflect lesser-told stories. We wanted to show the landscape as something dynamic, affected by and in turn affecting social change. We opted to focus on four areas rich in tales of industrial and post-industrial transformation: along the Sustrans C2C route from Beamish to Consett; Newcastle-upon-Tyne’s sites relating to human rights and social justice; along the river Wear in Sunderland; and from Dunston Staithes, across the river into Ouseburn and Byker.
Considering the rich mix of skills among the volunteers in the NE History and Heritage Branch, it was clear that simple soundwalks might limit our ability to successfully communicate our message. We wanted to incorporate visual arts, photography, maps and video. This required a whole new platform and luckily we had a volunteer with superb digital skills who was seeking a new challenge. What followed was a pilot project that increased our awareness of the exciting possibilities of this kind of platform, but also the difficult editorial decisions that it brings. How to relate a nuanced social history in segments of no more than 4 minutes? What happens if some parts of the map are rich in stories while others have few points of interest? What about if every point of interest on a certain segment is quite depressing? There are as yet unexplored possibilities of digital archives to enrich the material presented on each walk, and this may address some of these issues.
The presentation to NELHS will involve sharing some of these stories and their dissemination, but also consultation with members of the society to explore ways to improve and extend these walks.
Jude Murphy’s PhD was on Tyneside Culture and the Second Folk Revival, and she has continued to explore social and cultural history of the region through several projects for WEA, WHIST, Education 4 Action and in collaboration with local universities. Her latest role is Heritage and Culture Development Coordinator with Community Opportunities Washington.