BREAKING THROUGH BRAMBLES

PIMhd20                                                                                                                                         Happy New Year everyone!  I’m very pleased to be back in the blogosphere after what seems like a decade of lying low. 

New Year always brings a wave of optimism for me, and I like turning the corner at the end of December ready to face a new leg of the journey – where anything is possible.  There is something cathartic for me in placing 2012 in the archives box.  The Past in Mind project which took off in 2012 continues to be a real treasure, and it will be featured on display later this year at the National Trust’s Brockhampton Estate.

But the latter part of 2012 became a personal struggle and there were times when I honestly thought I would never find a way out of the darkness.  During this period I lost the ability to write.  I literally shut down and became lost in a very frightening world.  But the pit I fell into wasn’t bottomless, for with help from friends and professionals I managed to cling on to a ledge and prevent myself from sinking out of reach.  I am now slowly climbing out into the open again, and glad to be alive.  January 2013 has brought me some clarity and some hope.  It has been therapeutic surveying the bleak despairing weeks of late 2012 and sending many aspects to the archives.  Having regained possession of trowel and spade, I am ready to discover what lies ahead.  I have been given another chance, which is why I genuinely mean; “Happy New Year everyone”. 

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend the Symposium on December 8th 2012.  This was an important moment for the Past in Mind project.  The Symposium is an annual day-long event in Hereford where all the County’s archaeological projects are shared with the public.  Archaeological finds, progress and academic interpretations are all aired with lively question and answer sessions throughout the day. 

Past in Mind was given a platform during the Symposium.  Obviously our project aims to make an academic contribution particularly in relation to (so-called) Deserted Medieval Villages, of which there is comparatively little knowledge nationally.  But Past in Mind also has a historical research strand, so the project brings together the two disciplines of history and archaeology.  Pushing further boundaries, Past in Mind is interwoven with mental health recovery and the individual odysseys of all the Community volunteers whatever their background or experience.  At times it has been challenging finding the right balance between the many strands linking the Past in Mind project, but it has always been our aim to promote inclusion and reduce some of the stigma that people with mental health troubles face in everyday Society.  This has been the underlying current running through our project and it is what makes this project very special to us.

From what I understand the Past in Mind Project caught the attention of the audience, many of whom were amateur or professional archaeologists.  The presentation was given by Jenny, Ian, Kate and the volunteers – all of whom were on the stage.  This clear demonstration of inclusion is the essence of the Past in Mind project, and it also makes it evident how archaeology, history and mental health are entwined.  It is heartening to know that many people would have gone away and given some thought to the concept of archaeology/history and mental health recovery linking together in a really positive way. 

One other significant event in December 2012 was the broadcasting of live conversations recorded during the excavation last Summer, on Radio 4’s “All in the Mind” programme hosted by Claudia Hammond.  This audio snapshot really captures the magic of Past in Mind:   http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01p71gx

The Past in Mind project has funding for a few more months.  As mentioned earlier, we will be working towards creating a display which will be housed in the Brockhampton Estate later this year.  We also have more historical research to do so that we can increase our understanding of some of the people who once lived in Studmarsh.

Please check the blog for updates as our programme of Events will be posted on here shortly.

WE WISH ALL OUR READERS A VERY HAPPY AND PEACEFUL 2013    

    PIMP 045

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To Belong

Our slowly increasing band of volunteers met last week in the aptly named Volunteer Inn in Harold Street, Hereford.  We took over an inside corner of the pub, which was already filling up with dogs and humans by 4.45pm.  The atmosphere was genial and I felt heartened that so many people had turned up.

The project historian, Dr Kate Lack, gave an engaging introductory talk about how to approach historical research.  Much of our research will involve accessing County records such as the Bishop’s Register and Parish Records, and most of the volunteers have never done anything like this before.  Kate demonstrated (with the aid of an eider duck drawing) some basic principles in processing and recording information as our research progresses.  The male eider duck has unwittingly become a motif for the Past in Mind project.  Since his appearance (photographically) at the volunteer Taster Day in Bromyard, he has ventured into many conversations and demonstrations.  If I learn nothing else from this project, I hope that I shall be able to distinguish an eider duck from a mallard.

Hereford Records Office is a short walk from the Volunteer Inn.  I have never been there before and was excited at the prospect of being amongst so many ancient documents.  Once inside, it was as if we had entered an Argos store in the middle of Diagon Alley.  Now I know where Harry Potter really bought his “Magical Drafts and Potions” text-book for Hogwarts school..

This Victorian warehouse is stacked with documents, maps and historical records.  I could lose myself there quite happily and emerge in twenty years time.  We were given a talk about how the records are stored and what types of documents are kept.  So much history: so much to discover.

We came across a Record book relating to Brockhampton, which detailed all the different occupations of residents from the mid 1800’s until 2004.  In beautifully scripted handwriting the entries slowly changed from wagoners, farm labourers, millers and the odd butler – to motor vehicle drivers (1920’s) and computer analysts (post 2000).  This was an incredibly rich source of social history.  For me the thrill was intense.

Some volunteers were mesmerised by antiquarian maps of the Brockhampton area.  Everyone was starting to find their personal preferences as regards research.  I felt really at peace in the Records Office.  When you’re standing amid centuries of historical records in one sense you feel very mortal and quite vulnerable, yet in another you feel grounded.  It is strangely comforting to feel so insignificant and so human.

The historical research for the Past in Mind project will be carried out by five different groups under Kate Lack’s supervision.  Having studied Classics in the past I have agreed to assist with translating the Latin entries in the Bishop’s Register.  I am so glad I still have my Lewis and Short dictionary from the days of yore..  Although I have not done any serious translating for over twenty years, I can feel a rush of adrenalin at the thought of being reunited with Latin text (albeit Medieval).  In all seriousness, I never thought I would be translating again.  It is both daunting and exciting. 

The other groups will be studying records and documents from the Medieval, Tudor and Victorian periods.  And finally, one group will concentrate on historical maps.

It is amazing to think that this is just one aspect of the project.  Already I can feel it gathering momentum.  Today Hereford and Worcester Radio’s Andrew Easton interviewed our Project Manager Jenny McMillan, and the Senior Archaeologist Ian Bapty.  http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p00sqc35/Andrew_Easton_06_06_2012/ 

BBC Hereford and Worcester will be covering Past in Mind’s official Launch this coming Saturday.  Anyone interested in registering as a volunteer or in finding out more, is welcome to attend the Launch which will take place from 10.30am – 4pm at the Brockhampton Estate (situated on the A44 near Bromyard).