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Oral Histories

Published on 30 May 2024 01:25 PM

Read on to discover more about our exciting history project

Over the past 7 months, Age UK Wakefield District, with support from Wakefield Council Heritage Fund have worked on a new project, Oral Histories. Aimed to capture stories and voices of those who grew up, played out, worked and socialised in Castleford and the surrounding areas, this project is a slice of history through the voices of those who lived it.

This exciting look at the history of Castleford means we now have recordings of over 30 people to share with future generations.

The project took on a life of it’s own as people started to suggest who to speak to, word of mouth and an enthusiasm around the process meant we were able to discover a wonderful source of local content.  We are so grateful to everyone who got involved and reached out to be a part of this history project.

Our daily life has changed over the years, and the nostalgia of speaking about our memories had a profound effect on people. For some people, it gave them a place to leave a little bit of their life story somewhere.

“I have had a great time reminiscing”

“It’s surprising what comes back to you when you get talking”

“It’s important because my daughter was born here and doesn’t know the history – it keeps things alive for future generations. We should write down our stories.”

“Nice to think we’ve preserved a bit of history – letting people know about our town and where we live and the history of it”

In listening to people’s everyday stories, we heard about living next to the River Aire and watching the cellar fill up with water as the river got higher and higher after heavy rain. We heard about people signing their names on the walls down in the mines, even though no one will see them anymore. We heard about gritting the roads of Castleford by hand, long before the modern day gritting trucks came along. It was also great to capture the different dialects of the wonderful Yorkshire accent with all the local words we use.

Once the interview process was finished came the challenging job of turning around 30 hours of conversation into 5 ten minute soundscapes. There was so many wonderful things people shared, it was hard to leave anything out! The themes we chose to focus on were: Childhood, Working, Mining Industry, Socialising, and the Town and Markets.

On Monday 29th April we held a celebration event for people to come along, listen to the stories and meet with others involved. It was important to give our story tellers the chance to meet others who had shared thier story and have a chat with them. One of the quotes that was left in the guestbook was:

“Knowing where a town has come from is so important to how it is today where it might go in the future. So often the memories this project has preserved are lost. It has been a fun and a privilege to contribute to this project and I hope it will be used widely.”

We would like to thank everyone who volunteered on the project at varies times. They played a key part in the process, from coming out to meet groups and engage with people about the project, to listening to the recordings and make notes of what was spoken about.

Reflecting on being involved in the project, two of our volunteers said:

"I enjoyed listening to people talking about Castleford in years gone by. I’m not from Castleford, and it’s fascinating to hear the differences and similarities between Castleford and where I’m from. Things like the mining industry were similar, but the games that were played were different. When they spoke about the foam on the River Aire – I’d never come across anything like that before!”

“It was interesting listening to things that are familiar. I enjoyed hearing peoples stories and thinking about how things have changed over time – such as the games people played as children. It was great to be involved in a project by the community for the community.”

We really hope that we can continue this project around the district and continue capturing the everyday moments. As well as being available online, the 5 soundscapes will be included in the Centre For Positive Ageing that will be developed in Castleford, giving them a permanent home, and we also have plans to tour them around the area, connecting with other creative organisations in the district. Finally, we hope when you listen to the stories it sparks conversations with your families and friends.

Listen to the stories we captured as part of this amazing project

List of audio credits for video - Stories from Castleford