Project Archivist’s Blog: the Intergenerational Jazz Reminiscence Project
Project Archivist Layla Fedyk reports on the next steps of the IJR Project and on the Reminiscence Workshop.
Following the Project Launch Event on 15 May hosted by Loughton Youth Project, the team headed to Leigh-on-Sea for a blustery day at the seaside for the next intergenerational workshop arranged with Age Concern Southend on 31 May.
Wesley Methodist Church was a wonderful venue for live performance and exhibition, for recorded interviews, and for tea, cake and reminiscing!
There was a lot to talk about between youth and elderly participants from the moment the tea hit the table. Often exchanging ideas about the different ways people enjoyed music in different generations, the styles and fashion, changing popular tastes, and the musicians in families and social networks. The best surprise for the project team was to meet an original Bluebell girl, who brought along a fascinating and meticulous archival record of her own travels dancing round the world! We can’t wait to learn more from her unique experiences and share with you later.
We heard once again from our participants, not only their own experiences, involvement and musical tastes, but also that it was “the best day they’d ever had at the venue”, finding hearing and talking about music an experience “to lift the spirit”.
This month we hear from another of our project volunteers on their involvement and experience on the project. Elizabeth, an aspiring archivist from London, gives us her perspective on the research preparing for the workshops, as well as her direct experience of the day in Southend.
Early in 2016 I was lucky enough to become involved with the National Jazz Archive as an archive volunteer. Since that time volunteers like me have been hard at work making preparations for exciting oral-history workshops aimed at bringing together different strands of the community, young and old, to reminisce about personal experiences of music in the Essex area. Searching through the Archive’s books and boxes, we have been selecting material such as photographs, concert programmes, tickets, posters and magazines to spark conversation, ignite memories and have a good conversation about. Our aim was to collect some of the interesting stories that might emerge, record them and preserve them in the Archive for generations yet to come, as well as to bring together sections of the present day community that don’t always get a chance to meet up with each other.
I have really enjoyed the detective work involved in looking through all of the Archive’s material; perhaps my favourite discovery has been an evocative photograph of Southall Swing Club on a visit to London Palladium in 1948. The photograph shows a group of around 50 or so young men and women posing on a staircase at the theatre and music venue with bandleader Ted Heath. I love the effort that has gone into these young people’s outfits and hair-dos, so evocative of the era, and their cheery and playful expressions on what I imagine was a really fun night out in London.
We were able to use this photograph and others like it in our recent workshop at the Wesley Methodist Church, Leigh-on-Sea. There I had the privilege to meet and talk to many people who remembered fashions similar to those in the photograph either from their own youth or perhaps that of their parents and I loved hearing stories of travelling to ballrooms and theatres to socialise, dance and, for the bold, perhaps even to perform!
Thanks to local musicians ‘Southend Bob’ Allbut on banjo, Dave Woodcock on piano, and NJA trustee Vic Hobson on bass.