Wednesday, 26 October 2011

News - Write your page in city’s history (Sheffield)

IT was the decade of The Limit, cheap bus fares, the council Egg Box and the miners’ strike.

A time of recession, of mass unemployment and of pivotal events that would change Sheffield forever.

Now a new Sheffield University programme is seeking to capture the essence of the 1980s as the starting point of a major oral history project.

People who lived through those turbulent times will be interviewed for an online record which will become part of a new permanent archive of the city’s recent past, to be titled Witness.

Historians Dr Andrew Heath and Dr Charles West are appealing for Sheffielders to to share their memories. The 1980s will be the starting point. Each year a team of students trained by the Oral History Society will research a different topic or period.

A sample of the interviews, with an accompanying historical report, will then be posted online for free public access.

Dr West said: “There’s a proverb that says, ‘When an old man dies, a library burns to the ground’.
“History isn’t just books in the library, it’s also people’s lives and experiences, at home and at work. That’s the starting point of the Witness project.

“Preserving the voices of Sheffield’s citizens, helping train a new generation of historians and creating a historical resource for the future – Witness aims to achieve all these things by bringing together students, staff and Sheffield’s wider community.”

David Holland, aged 47, a mature undergraduate history student, said: “I’m coming to higher education quite late and, as I’m in my 40s, I can remember Sheffield in the 1980s very well.

“Anyone who lived in Sheffield in the ’80s will remember the huge changes to the city’s industry and economy wrought by both recession and government policy and the massive impact on life they had, with the closure of much of the steel industry, the miners’ strike, mass unemployment and the shadow of the Cold War.

“There were also the other fascinating insights into people’s lives in the Sheffield of the 1980s.

“The music scene was world renowned and clubs such as the Leadmill and The Limit were booming.
“The buses were incredibly cheap and frequent too.

“Long-gone bits of civic architecture such as the Hole in the Road, the Wedding Cake and the Egg Box made up an important part of Sheffield’s skyline, as did the massive housing developments of Park Hill and Hyde Park.

“For me, it is people’s experience of such events and buildings that help give a three-dimensional picture of them. I think our role is to help add this human dimension to what has often been reduced to a dry list of ‘historic’ events, where the people who actually experienced them and felt their effects have been written out of the story.”

Dr West said: “The 1980s seemed suitable as a starting point partly because it gives us a very wide pool of memories to draw upon and partly because there may be some parallels with the Sheffield of today - job cuts, recession, tension between local government and national government.”

n To help the Witness project and share memories of Sheffield in the 1980s, get in touch by emailing or call the Department of History on 0114 222 2555.


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