Time was when every house smelt of cabbage.
So may times I’ve gone along to a reminiscence project expecting to find a group of chuckling Londoners telling stories about the olden days. It’s never like that. It’s always Up Your Street characters with a sprinkling of other possibly press-ganged others who are no way sociable and never want to share emails. Then there are the group facilitators who whilst managing interns who spend much of their time doing filing online take on the role of history teachers with social consciences. What do I learn? Everything that’s Googlable.
I’ve been to disorganised, student unfriendly Archives, community centres whose staff never engage with anyone, been verbally abused, been invisible, been patronised and been ignored. Yep, happens to the best of us.
Many canny Up Your Street people who have always called a spade a spade and not been hampered by diplomacy do insist on free tea at meets or workshops in community centres/hubs because they know that they are just being used to do the workload of interns. There isn’t any payment available except in tea. Lately I was at an heritage project where we were told blatantly that the volunteers aka project participants were there to do the hard-slog research for the academics. So we didn’t: we didn’t go back.
Lottery Heritage money funds these pretend community- engagement projects. Pretend communities.
After the stint of time, after the paper fliers and tweeted adverts, when the hurly-burley’s done, there is never any continuation. Everything is done and dusted. No-one is invited to share their experience in the form of a written review. Obviously evaluation sheets are filled in but they’re designed cleverly so that cracks never form. For myself, I need to know I got some fruit from my taking part so am compelled to carry on researching. That initiative is neither recognised nor welcome. A real history teacher would encourage interest and spark something intellectual.
Heritage is just big business.
It’s all stale now. So when William Morris gave out its advert about whatever today I groaned. Are we nearly there yet?
My new year resolution is clear. Stop going.