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Project Archivist’s Blog: The Intergenerational Jazz Reminiscence Project

Wednesday 13th April 2016

Project Archivist Layla Fedyk reports on the next steps of the IJR Project and on the Reminsicence Workshop.

Early spring engages new activity and participants for the project.

We are looking forward to the Loughton Youth Project (LYP) facilitating the IJR Project Launch Event on 15 May in a public Open Day as part of the Loughton Festival.

Also, project partners, staff and volunteers were greatly enthused from specialist training delivered by the Oral History Society in March where we learnt what’s involved in capturing spoken accounts in the interview process. In the spirit, LYP’s Nick Robinson got together some of the team from the day to host an impromptu radio interview, which can be listened to here!

Through LYP radio broadcasts and the Open Day we hope to generate local awareness and interest in the Project’s activities.

Last week the first Reminiscence Workshop was held with Age UK in Hornchurch. Much work had been done to gather suitable and diverse artefacts to spark memories and conversations of personal and social investments made in music culture.

Social history items from Chelmsford Museum represented the kind of things people used and wore for ‘going out’ during the 1940s, 50s and 60s. Material sourced from the National Jazz Archive included: photographs and articles of icons in jazz and popular culture and of local bands and their audiences; concert and theatre programmes and mementoes; music journals, posters and vinyl records. Together with contemporary items brought in by the youth participants themselves this all illustrates the diverse and creative styles bound in jazz and related music in the 20th and 21st centuries.

This material set loose boundaries, which allowed workshop participants freedom to speak from any perspective and memory the items prompted. As Age UK and LYP youth participants shared conversation on how they access, enjoy, experience and invest in music past and present, some interesting reminiscences were captured, which we look forward to sharing later in the project.

NJA Volunteers are to be thanked for their hands-on input in the preparation process. The volunteer team has recently expanded with three new recruits, who are interested in archival skills as well as in jazz.

One of our volunteers, Judy Atkinson, gives her own account below of her involvement and experience in recent weeks. She has been a volunteer at the NJA for two years, and took an active role in the workshops.

Layla Fedyk

Judy’s experience

Before the event project staff and volunteers had received oral history training, which was very helpful in prompting conversations, though it proved harder to just listen rather than join in. I had contributed to planning the session, producing a draft session plan and ideas for gaining informal feedback. It helped to have been involved in the planning and to have a plan, as inevitably when things had to change on the day we all knew where and why we were moving away from the plan.

The session began with introductions and two tunes from pianist Pete Corrigan and his colleague. This was very well received: heads were nodding, fingers and feet tapping to the music.  It was followed by music from the 40s onwards played in the background. Once we started to use artefacts from Chelmsford Museum and photographs, programmes and books from the Archive, the memories started to flow.

I was very pleased to meet two ladies who had amazing war time memories about jazz music. They recounted how until then they had never experienced anything like the American army big bands. One of them described a thrilling dance competition where her African American dance partner quickly taught her competition-winning jitterbugging skills!

As we began to pack up it was obvious how much the Centre visitors had enjoyed the session. Many people made a point of shaking hands or calling out their thanks as they left. As project members we’d enjoyed ourselves and come together as a team to achieve our aims despite it being the first time we had formally worked together.

Judy Atkinson

April 2016