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Story gathering events around the country
Many hundreds of story gathering events took place around the country during the story gathering phase, involving a vast array of partners, local networks and volunteers. Here is an example of these events, in the words of the learning project managers (the LPMs) who organised them.
Learning Project Manager (LPM): Caspar Mason
The MoD (Ministry of Defence) organised a week-long exhibition in St James's Park to coincide with the official commemorations of the anniversaries of VE and VJ days. The Living Museum featured many wartime installations and re-enactments, and attracted 90,000 visitors over the course of the week.
The BBC WW2 People's War presence was centred around the People's War Mobile Exhibition, the BBC Humberside Bus and the Reminiscence Theatre. The Mobile Exhibition gave people an overview of the website as well as containing information about the role of the BBC during World War Two. Computer terminals allowed visitors to browse the archive and a short quiz card based on the exhibition (a CD of BBC wartime broadcasts was exchanged for all correct entries) encouraged visitors to stop and study the information.
The Reminiscence Theatre was a shared resource, but the BBC took over the running of it for several hours every day, interviewing veterans and World War Two experts. A deliberate attempt was made to include contributions from the home front as well as the front line. Interviewees included evacuees, Women's Land Army veterans, fireman who served during the Blitz as well as veterans of active service.
The Reminiscence Theatre was also used, in conjunction with the BBC Humberside Bus, to allow national and local radio stations to have a presence at the Living Museum by accommodating presenters and interviewees. Radios Scotland and GMR (Greater Manchester Radio) broadcast live from the event. Other stations were due to broadcast but the events of 7 July 2005, when London experienced a sequence of bomb blasts on the public transport system), prevented them. The bus also allowed many short interviews to be conducted with local radio stations, helping a London-based event to feel more local and relevant to regional audiences.
Volunteer story gatherers were recruited in association with Radio 4 and CSV (Community Service Volunteers). Using the internet enabled computers on the Humberside Bus, they were able to gather over 130 stories.
LPM: Vanessa Norris
The BBC's WW2 People's War Open Day was held at BBC Television Centre in West London. We welcomed 120 guests included retired members of BBC staff, some of whom were working for the corporation during World War Two, and older relatives of current BBC staff. Many old friends were reunited and swapped stories about days gone by at the BBC.
1940s band The Laurie Taylor Quintet entertained guests with old favourites such as 'We'll Meet Again', 'Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree' and 'I'll be Seeing You' as they tucked into a wartime-inspired lunch menu. Special guest Marguerite Patten (famed for her gastronomic advice during wartime) gave a fascinating talk on rationing and her wartime experience.
Guests were also given the chance to contribute their story to the archive, with assistance from a team of BBC staff volunteers.
Some fascinating tales of wartime at the BBC were added to the archive and the day provided a wonderful chance to reunite old colleagues and friends.
LPM: Annie Keane
Leicester Square was transformed into 1940s London for 'West End at War', a free event to commemorate the war with an emphasis on entertainment - jitterbug dancing, live swing and jazz music.
Annie Keane, London learning project manager, hired a fully equipped IT bus with eight terminals from UK Online Islington, and recruited and trained 14 volunteers from CSV. During the weekend, volunteers went out into the crowds promoting the site and 55 people come onto the bus to tell their stories.
We spoke to evacuees, people who remember having fun in the West End in wartime, ordinary Londoners who carried on their working lives during the war, and people who coped with real tragedies.
Everyone left the bus with a print-out of their story. There was no internet access on site, so all stories were saved and added to the website later.
LPM: Jenni Waugh
Keen to capture stories about rural workers' experience of the war and the subtle changes it made to their lives, WW2 People's War went to the Tenbury Wells Agricultural Show.
The show is a local institution and, for regional coverage, was ideal in that it is located at the corner of three rural counties: Herefordshire, Shropshire and Worcestershire.
Many of the visitors to the show are farmers or rural workers who seldom visit local libraries or museums. For many this was their first exposure to the project and it aroused a great deal of interest. Regular tannoy announcements and simple curiosity brought over 160 visitors to the stand during the course of the day.
The stand was staffed by the outreach officer, a local IT teacher who volunteered to help out, and representatives from Wyre Forest Community Action Volunteer Bureau and Age Concern Leominster.
Seven stories were collected on the day and over 150 story forms were handed out. Many promised to look at the website once they got home or to pop into a local library in the near future.
Both the Volunteer Bureau and Age Concern planned further WW2 activities.
LPM: Debra Sloan
This was the first time a BBC Bus had ventured 'abroad'. The purpose of the visit was to link into the Isle of Man Arts Council's 'Wire and Wool' project and to increase the awareness of the BBC brand generally.
This project focused around the 4,000 people who were interned on the island in World War Two, all exploring the effect of war on the lives of the residents of Port Erin and the refugee women and children living in Rushen Camp.
The project involved a promenade play with a cast of local residents, exhibitions, talks, films and school workshops. Much of this activity was held at the Port Erin Arts Centre, which saw internees and/or their families being brought together again. The BBC Bus was in attendance for both days encouraging people, with the support of the bus team, to add their story to the People's War archive.
For the other two days, the project was linked in with an over-60s 'Walk and Talk' event at the National Sports Centre and a major supermarket in Ramsey (north of the island).
Around 100 stories were collected over four days, a fantastic success not just for People's War, but for the BBC as a whole. This visit subsequently helped to secure funding to enable the bus to visit the island three times per year. A fantastic legacy.
LPM: Eleanor Fell
Over 80 volunteers gave up their time for the story-gathering marathon which happened simultaneously at 50 venues across Kent, Sussex and Surrey. Despite the tragic bombings in London on the day of the event, many schools, libraries and community venues were flooded with people wishing to share their own first-hand memories of bombings that they had witnessed 60 years ago. It was a busy day for everyone involved - over 800 stories were submitted to the website.
This was an enormous community event which raised the profile of the project and brought volunteers, centres and contributors together on a massive scale.
LPM: Paul Corcoran
A joint BBC and NHS (National Health Service) project involving five secondary schools in the North East resulted in over 100 stories being submitted to the WW2 People's War website. Many of the stories focused on health in wartime Britain, and the NHS aims to examine these as a research archive.
The pupils were provided with a website guide and journalism training session by the learning project manager - and local veterans aided the youngsters to practice role play interview techniques.
The pupils interviewed family members and visited local residential homes to find out more stories throughout May 2005. For one week in June, the Radio Newcastle BBC Bus visited and broadcast from each school for a day. Pupils and contributors came along to see their stories and photographs being submitted to the site.
LPM: Margery Quinn
The partnership of CSV (Community Service Volunteers) Media NI with BBC WW2 People's War focused predominantly on gathering stories from groups and individuals from across Northern Ireland, reaching cities, towns and villages in all six counties. Through the course of interviewing one such group of veterans, we were made aware of a commemorative service for World War Two veterans to be held in Dublin.
Preliminary steps were made to contact the Irish representative of the Royal British Legion, to ask permission to attend the event as this was taking place outside Northern Ireland. Having been assured that our WW2 People's War team would be sincerely welcomed, it was agreed that a team of volunteers would travel together to interview, record and photograph as many veterans as possible during the day.
The service included addresses by members of several churches, wreath-laying by a number of ambassadors to Ireland, and representatives from various veterans groups. As the service ended, the team was able to record interviews with many of these guests, before moving to the reception area where they had access to service personnel, veterans, and civilians who had attended the service.
The importance of attending this event was reinforced by the opportunity of recording a different perspective from Irish veterans, 50,000 of whom had volunteered to fight in World War Two. Civilian stories or memories that were recorded here also add a rich, new layer to those gathered in Northern Ireland.
The effort required to bring the WW2 People's War team to Dublin was richly rewarded, not only in the wealth of stories, photographs and memories it yielded, but also in the appreciation shown by so many of the servicemen and women in attendance. The goodwill generated by the People's War project will serve us well in the future.
'This event offered a unique opportunity to interview a cross-section of the Irish community, which was previously unavailable to us.' - David Mc Burney Manager CSV Media Northern Ireland.
LPM: Madeleine Forrester
Two victory tea parties were held in the Lancasterian Schoolroom at the British Schools Museum, Hitchin. They were funded by the Big Lottery Fund's Home Front Recall Grant to Hitchin Museum.
Approximately 30 children from Offley School and 50 from Camp's Hill School, Stevenage, invited local older residents to the party. The children performed some favourite wartime songs to entertain their guests. Together, they played 'pass the parcel' and took part in an egg and spoon race.
World War Two-inspired refreshments included fish paste and spam sandwiches, served with tea. A 'Victory Cake' from an authentic recipe, was cut by Mrs Greta Underwood, a recipient of the Burma Star for her service in the Far East.
The children had the chance to speak to their guests about their wartime memories and learn about the war from first-hand experience. To close the proceedings, the children were led in a flag-waving victory parade by Mrs Yvonne Limbrick of the British Schools Museum. The tea parties were part of a series of World War Two-themed events organised by Hitchin Museum.
Guests were pleased to be able to share their experiences with the younger generation and recognised the importance of passing on and preserving these memories. They also had a great time. Several stories were added to the WW2 People's War archive and the children were given a rich learning experience from first-hand accounts.
LPM: Non Richards
Thousands of people from Wales and beyond came together to commemorate the end of World War Two in Cardiff - yet another opportunity to meet the most fantastic people and listen to their stories. One couple wrote to each other as pen pals during the troubled war years. Having fallen in love through corresponding with one another, they met for the very first time at the end of the war and married very soon afterwards. This year they celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary - as much in love today as the moment they met each other all those years ago! A very emotional story, submitted onto the WW2 website - with a very happy ending.
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