Community Outreach: A Two Way Learning Process
Whilst undertaking the Resilience Syndicate Internship, I have been fortunate to meet so many different people within the Mansfield area and feel privileged that they have chosen to share their memories with me during different outreach projects I’ve undertaken. Taking after my Dad, I love to listen to stories and chat with different people, especially if a drink and cake is also included.
Outreach programmes are designed to take a Museum exhibition or activity out into the community, whether it is to engage with a new audience or provide access to the Museum for individuals who are unable to get to the site. It is naïve to think that this engagement activity, and the learning process that accompanies it, is only one way. I have learnt so much about the Mansfield area, as well as different objects, interests and peoples lives, and this has helped to shape future engagement opportunities and project delivery.
Although I have spoken to a variety of people with a range of different ages, I have engaged with the older population more and enjoyed their company greatly. They have a wealth of knowledge and a myriad of life experiences but some of these stories and memories may become lost or unexplored if we don’t have these conversations and engagement opportunities.
Below are a few memories, stories and tips I have been told over the last 6 months. Let’s hope there is many more to come.
Reminiscence Tea Room
Although I shouldn’t have favourites, there is one woman who comes to the Reminiscence Tea Room at Mansfield Museum that always has a smile on her face and tells the best stories. During her time as a Social Worker, one of her clients turned 100 years old and she asked her what she wanted to do to celebrate. The client’s dream was to fly a plane. Not to be deterred by a challenge, she contacted Tollerton Airfield and it turned out she had babysat the owner when he was a child, so the wish was granted.
During one of my library workshops I met a woman who was full of character. Her husband loved Matt Munro and played drums for a dance band who performed at Princess Anne’s 21st birthday party. Bob Monkhouse compèred the event and other performers included comic artist and actor Lance Percival. Being granted backstage access due to her husband playing in the band, she stumbled into the changing rooms and revealed to us that Lance Percival had the filthiest socks she’d ever seen!
Health and Wellbeing Festival
Whilst delivering my ‘Mansfield, Music & Me’ project during the Health and Wellbeing Festival run by Mansfield Museum, visitors shared their music favourites, loves, memories and stories.
- ‘I love that crackling sound at the start of the record’
- ‘Life without music is like food without gravy- bland!’
One visitor divulged the secret that her Grandma married her Granda because he looked like Elvis, and still does today, with his now, much greyer quiff.
Whilst singing along to the record player, one visitor introduced me to the Operatic vocal singing style of Bel Canto. Loosely translated as ‘beautiful singing’, Bel Canto has many different interpretations but it was explained to me as how the whole body is used to project the voice to emphasis words and expressions within a melody an the smooth transition between octaves.
Many of the people I talked to about music have recounted the times they met someone famous. One woman’s father, an avid fan of Clare Teal, a personal favourite of mine too, travelled to see her at different performances and venues. He became so well known to her that seats were reserved for him and they met several times.
Whilst singing in the Navy, one man met Adam Faith, whose real name was Terrence Nelhams-Wright and got his stage name autograph. He also explained how he created a working turntable for his son made out of a cereal box, Dairylea box, needle and motor.
As part of our second Module at Culture Syndicates we ran two handling sessions at a local residential site Poppy Fields, in Mansfield. During one of the sessions we used items from a loan box with the theme of ‘Saturday Night Out’. I was taught how to use suspender straps on stockings and how you can use a small coin if the button on the suspender strap broke. There was also a fit of giggles from the participants regarding the name of the top of the stocking by the suspender straps. It became known as the “giggle band”, because once you got past it you were laughing!
One participant recounted her first day as an apprentice bookbinder at the age of 14 years and 3 months, remembering the age precisely as it was written on the back of her first day photo. As well as making and repairing books, she learnt how to emboss and affix gold leaf to the book covers. In the middle of the room where she worked was a fire that was used to heat the glue to bind the books. On the same fire a pot of peas was placed, so that the workers could have mushy peas for lunch.
After this session I was given homework by one of the residents, just two names, Bessie Sheppard and Charles Thompson. Upon doing some research I found the stone monument on the A60 by Harlow Wood, my daily commute to work, marking the location of where Bessie Sheppard was murdered by Sheffield Soldier Charles Rotherham on 6th July 1817.
I also visited Berry Hill, the location of Charles Thompson’s grave. This wealthy international businessman was buried on top of a hill surrounded by trees and a wall, which is still in place today over 200 years later. Following an earthquake in Lisbon in 1755 that Charles experienced, it is said that this event influenced his decision to return to his hometown of Mansfield and request to be buried on a hill, as to avoid destruction from similar natural disasters.
Listening to these fascinating stories and facts makes me realise we have more in common with each other than we first thought. We have shared interests, stories and beliefs, and all it takes is a conversation to unlock these connections. I hope there is always someone to listen to me and to share my memories with, whatever my age, and that Museums continue their valuable outreach programmes.
By Anne-Marie Rooney, Resilience Syndicate Intern at Mansfield Museum