Wednesday, 21 August 2013


Yesterday as part of the project Making Memories, I visited Oldham Local Studies and Archives, on a mission to gather resources to stimulate reminiscence. It's a wonderful place to visit, the staff are all friendly and knowledgeable about the archives and the local area, and the collection seems endless. There are archive collections of original documents relating to Oldham, property and buildings histories, Parish registers, maps, census records... and information to build your family history.
Pince Nez, Photo Lois Blackburn, courtesy of Gallery Oldham

Whilst I was there putting together a collection of photos of such things as local pubs, Whitsunday celebrations, boating lakes and charabanc's... the man sat next to me was carefully going through census records, seemingly frustrated- whist an 'older' women a couple of seats down from me was nearly jumping out of her seat, brimming with excitement. It turns out she had come into the Archives with a couple of names of family members written on a paper hanky, she had quickly come across her family tree already worked on, and was busy printing out old photos of her mother, grandmother and more. They're experiences replicate my time spent on researching my family tree, the addiction, the highs and lows.

There is a wealth of information out there for stimulating reminiscence, just need more hours in the day.

Flavourings, Photo Lois Blackburn, courtesy of Gallery Oldham

The afternoon I spent looking and photographing Gallery Oldham's handling collection. For Memory Boxes to remain relevant, they need to be regularly updated and thought through to meet the needs of the audience. Our next block of sessions are with members of a Caribbean group and an Indian Association, I'm looking forward to hear what they suggest for the next set of boxes.

Friday, 2 August 2013

You, a photograph of

a picture of Lol

frozen almost a statue posing so as to get a perfect picture wants to please a smile bright eyes looking straight at you dressed in her lounging gear of vest and PJs and a big flower in her hair sat in the nest a chair by the window perfectly placed to people-watch sun casting a shadow across her face time to make a brew one of many to pass the hours the kettle clicks the chatter stops someone gets up to pour the tea a tropical vest purple flower and pink hair a brand-new snap full of colour and sunshine

23 July

Philip writes:

Tuesday 23rd July was our last session at Warrington Museum and I felt a big push-me-pull-you of sadness and pleasure. The group of carers we've worked with have been a delight – creative, resourceful, involved and appreciative both of Lois and myself and of each other. We'll miss our Tuesday sessions with them, without a doubt.

But I also was struck by how quickly they worked today, how clear and focussed they've become - and supportive of each other, too. Their work is becoming more confident and they're developing more skill as they get stuck into each workshop. The work today was especially strong - touching and articulate. They are also becoming articulate as a group, encouraging, responding, and gently critiquing one another. It's a pleasure to see.

The writing they did this week was the simplest of ideas – take a photograph of someone important to you, using only your memory and a pen. See Josie’s above, Colin’s below.

All the pieces of writing and art-making that they've produced over the weeks we've worked together will now be handed over to the museum, for inclusion in the exhibits, as interventions. Some of the pieces will be linked to relevant objects via QR codes so that visitors can call up a poem or image that reflects on the artefacts in the glass cases. We’ve made a couple of sound recordings of the work. There will also be a tour, using their creative writing as a script, a kind of emotional journey through the museum.

On days like this I can't imagine a better job to be doing, or better people to be with. My own image of that day - people grouped around a table, happily making.

photo of Frank David Millington two years before he died

Frank as ever is trying to start his motorcycle pushing it down Gorsey Lane but with that ever-present enigmatic smile it is the mid-1960s so his uniform is blue jeans and a t-shirt stained with motor oil the lane outside the family farm long enough and rural enough not to attract the attention of the authorities [if the motorcycle started he then rode down the lane returning with a satisfied expression until the next mechanical problem] the roar of a BSA Gold Star fills the air with the smell of Castol R the image is monochrome but I see it in glorious colour a two and one quarter inch square image

23 July

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Still life with label

We've been working with a group of carers at Warrington Museum, trying out ideas for re-labelling museum objects, using emotional connections with the artefacts rather than historical ones.

Philip writes:

Caring has been there as a sub-text in our conversations for much of the time and in our final sessions we've brought it to the fore, asking people to look at the museum as a metaphor of their own lives. Among other approaches, we invited participants to write a museum-styled label describing someone they'd cared for.

The beauty of this exercise, it seems to me, is that it forces the writer to be concise and matter-of-fact in describing complex emotional attachments - an area where people tend to gush cliches, or become sentimental. There is a poignancy too in trying to condense an entire person into a tiny description - we all know that they're too big to fit and so the piece is more about what's left out than put in.

I particularly liked the following:


Jon (my son)

First observed
Being born – he was leaving the womb.

Lived with my wife and I for 32 years. Semi-detached home with garden. Garden with nesting boxes and bird tables.

Significant incident
Mental incident at 24.
Became depressed – then pulled out of it and became innovative.

Other information.
Left house at 2 am one morning, felt he was in a bubble. Walked from Warrington to Stretton. Eventually realised he wasn’t in a bubble anymore and found his way home. His mind travels to places we don’t know.


Derek with 'Mary & Peter Stubs' by J.Warrington Wood. Warrington Museum & Art Gallery
 Derek interviewed

Care- it's what you do to help, human or animal. 24/7. Maintain the quality of life to what's natural. It's hard to explain, you just do it.

My son – I always think of the worst possible time and what followed that – care. Care is a job. If it's a member of your family you'll perceive they need more care than you. But actually you need help too, you've got to look after yourself.

They know you care, but it's difficult for them to respond. Especially in a family, things are taken for granted. My son didn't appreciate us at first when he got ill. He just wanted to get better and couldn't. But when we got him to the psychiatrist he started to realise and appreciate. Put it down to one word: empathise. You have to step back and think did I do the right thing, was I caring today?

16 July

A fulfilment

Dave "modelling" his badges

We've been working with a group of carers at Warrington Museum, trying out ideas for re-labelling museum objects, using emotional connections with the artefacts rather than historical ones. This week we focussed on writing. Participants were interviewed about their lives as carers. They then inter-cut lines from these interviews with descriptions of objects that attracted them around the museum...


family smashing

the happiest times, relaxed in themselves

we're not going to be here long

let's enjoy ourselves

trumpets, tapping, making noise

sitting round in a circle tooting

they feel secure in themselves

the whole family were smashing


16 July


(Care) A fulfilment of what my parents did for me. They weren’t perfect but they dealt with the problems as they went on. Most of what I do, it's from things passed on.

Fostering. We had 5 members of one family, their mum had gone into hospital - there was no dad - we were on the emergency list, so at any time the blue and white could turn up and kids would roll out. "I’m Marc with a c… " The whole family were smashing, they were secure in themselves- we’re not going to be here long, so lets enjoy ourselves. Its one of the happiest times, they were relaxed in themselves.

It starts with them feeling happy in your surroundings. Take the percentage away that they feel strangers - it's not a straightforward job.

The idea of giving someone something that they didn’t have before, I don’t mind a being a little tired when I come home.

It's hard sometimes, you can't give children everything, but a bit of love and security goes a long way.

Caring, it's made me appreciate what I’ve taken for granted.

Fostering; I’d tell them not to be afraid of it, the courses are good, they’ve got their mind round it. You can only be honest. We’re the wall to fire questions at. There are no hard and fast rules. Be yourself, they will find you out otherwise whether theyre 5,7 or 12, If they’ve got love coming in they’ll be alright.

Don’t go in with a presumption of being God with a capital G. Give them a chance to come and speak to you.

Its made me look at them differently, I’ve got my own situations, its like looking through a fencing mask and gradually opening it up. I’m not a doctor but I can ask have you tried this or that.

There are a group of people who are prepared to sit and suffer. If someone was struggling with a situation I’d try and help, but not charge in.