Friends in the community: project participants led by Jenny Cartwright on an outing to Blists Hill (Pic: S. Williams)
In January 2010 the ‘Know Your Place’ Project began. The idea for the Project, funded by Heritage Lottery, came from members of the Local Community 50+ Forum. Forum members saw that the Blakenall area was changing, especially during the New Deal for Communities programme developments, and thought they would like to do something to capture the memories of local people about life in Blakenall Heath and the surrounding areas.
Tracey Gould, the Older Persons Worker for Bloxwich Community Partnership, worked with the Forum and other interested local organisations to develop a project idea to apply for a grant from Heritage Lottery. Bloxwich Community Partnership would ‘host’ the Project and the Co-ordinator would be based at Blakenall Community Centre. The application was successful and Jenny Cartwright was appointed as Project Co-ordinator from January 2010.
In the first 6-8 weeks Jenny spent time meeting individuals and groups in and around the Blakenall area to talk about the Project and was pleased with the response; everyone had stories to tell and many of them suggested others in the community who would be interested in finding out more and getting involved. She met with Ruth Vyse, senior manager at Walsall Local History Centre. Staff from the Centre have supported the Project in many ways; staff members delivered workshops, attended the Project launch and spread the word about it to their users.
Project participants and Jenny Cartwright meet historian and broadcaster Prof. Carl Chinn of Birmingham University
Other groups and organisations contacted at this time were staff from New Deal for Communities, Housing 21 (Mattesley Court), staff from Bloxwich Community Partnership’s centres, the Co-operative Women’s Guild in Bloxwich (who invited the Co-ordinator to their February meeting), Blakenall Library 50+ Club, the Museum and Library in Walsall, The Gathering (a men’s group in Blakenall) and the Local Community 50+ Forum.
It was at this time that individuals started to get in touch. The Express & Star carried a photograph of the Co-ordinator and details about the Project and they wanted to talk about their memories of Blakenall.
The first was Robert (Bob) Hyde. He called into Blakenall Community Centre unannounced and spent a couple of hours talking about ‘growing up in Blakenall’. The Co-ordinator did not yet have recording equipment so took notes.
Soon after this digital recorders were purchased. The first recording was with John Ireland, who was born and brought up in Blakenall. Other recordings followed, the notes from these are included in these web pages. The recordings have now been passed to Walsall Local History Centre at the end of the Project.
Overall the Project has been a success. Many Blakenall, Bloxwich and Leamore people have been in touch with the co-ordinator, either through taking part in trips, attending workshops or coming along to the two photo exhibitions that have been organised. Their participation has been the key to achieving the Project’s aims.
‘A Blakenall Eye’ Photography Workshop led by Stuart Williams at Blakenall Community Centre (Pic: Jenny Cartwright)
The aims of the Blakenall Know Your Place Project were as follows:
- To build inclusion within a socially isolated community.
- To encourage local residents to participate and learn about local history.
- To create opportunities to gather photographs and memorabilia about Blakenall, Leamore and Bloxwich.
- To add to the minimal archive material at Walsall Local History Centre.
- To generate interest from the general public on the history of the area.
- To develop intergenerational opportunities between young and old.
Life story workshop led by Vicky Rimmer, Oral Historian from Walsall Local History Centre (Pic: Jenny Cartwright)
Notes transcribed summarising the digital Oral History recordings made of local peoples’ memories for this project are available in pdf form via the link below, which will will take you to the project’s Oral History page.
A sample recording is also linked from that – and the full set of recordings and text have also been donated to Walsall Local History Centre.
Project Co-ordinator Jenny Cartwright shows off a small section of the exhibition on 25 May (Pic: S. Williams)
A significant collection of rare photographs of the area was collected by scanning originals loaned by members of the public during the Blakenall – Know Your Place Project.
A set of high resolution scans of these images has been donated to Walsall Local History Centre, and is also in the possession of The Bloxidge Tallygraph.
A small book Blakenall Memories – Know Your Place – has been published based on these photographs. You can download a copy for personal use – see the Publications Downloads section below.
A special public exhibition concluding the project was held at the Stan Ball Centre on 25 May 2011. Pictures of the event and other selected pictures taken during the project may be found on the following page:
For your interest, a set of unedited screen-resolution scans has been placed in an online exhibition on Flickr.
The Flickr exhibition may be viewed via the following link:
The books linked for download below
The following link will take you to the Publication Downloads page, where you will be able to download pdf versions of the following two small but fascinating books:
Blakenall Memories – Know Your Place
Where Numbers Cease to Count – The Parish of Blakenall Heath 1872-1972.
The first, a book of photographs, was published as a part of the project, the second, a history of the parish, has been republished in digital form for the first time ever, by kind permission of the author.
Project participant Stan Lyons gives a talk on World War II to Lower Farm Primary School (Pic: Jenny Cartwright)
The following links will take you to sub-pages with further information about the project.
Beyond these pages
If you would like to contact Jenny Cartwright, the Project Co-ordinator, please email your enquiry via the Bloxidge Tallygraph Contact page and we will forward your message to her.