That was what this was about. There are people out there with stories that will never be heard and this project was a way to tell them, a chance to be a part of something bigger in the long run.
There was uncertainty when this project began, a sense of unknowing, what we would do? Where it would take us? Who would be involved? We kept going. There were three of us to begin with, the three musketeers if you will, students of Highfields School, yet it gradually decreased to one, me. Three had gone down to Derbyshire Record Office, were introduced to the project, some of the people involved, it was interesting.
Wirksworth was the first event, a chapter covering two days. Placed on the vicarage lawn, tents housing a storyteller, dramatizing a mother’s opinion of her lady’s maid daughter’s letters from France, on how she hated the country, the food and the people. Another housed documents linking to the church and the town and the intrepid people who were faced with the task of deciphering the swirling handwriting. The sun shined over the people that day, but the wind bit the people within.
That day was the door to a wider space, one that would allow us to expand what we were trying to achieve, a collection of stories.
The second chapter was a car boot. One place where there was a greater sense of unknowing. There was a Lady of the Car Boot, collecting bits and bobs, nicks and knacks. There was cake and objects that people could find fascinating. One story told was that of the man who asked “what was being sold?” and in return was “records” to end with “have you got any Elvis”… what a day!
Next chapter was Ripley Music Festival. People of different backgrounds, professions and ages converged together to witness local music. Some visited our bright yellow tent near the playground opposite the stage, a tent that you could see from the end of the street. Filled with documents, maps, performers and archivists that wanted to hear your stories about the man that lived in the butchers at the end of the street from where you lived or that strange women that collected tins of sweets or even about how your cat escaped. It was fascinating. Everyone had a story to tell, most heart-warming of all was a man who had found a relative, one that he knew of but had never seen documentation of and a child who kept coming back for more with the promise of taking our accordion player on Britain’s Got Talent with her!
That day gave us the push that was needed to go into new places.
The final chapter was that of Gamesley. A place that was so closely intermingled yet so far apart. A divide between the new and the old, an estate so close that you could sneeze on one side to be offered a tissue at the other. There was a bucking bronco, barbecue, animals fluffy and feathered gathered together with this bright yellow tent placed in the centre. Stories collected there were intriguing, a man who remembered as a child playing on the tips, collecting circuit boards and taking them home to later in life becoming an electrician in New Zealand. Another of a man who as a boy played in an old hospital for diseases and turned to his mother when realisation kicked in to question “why?!” This was the last of the Amazing Pop Up Archives adventures, but one that rounded everything together. The efforts of the Musician, Storyteller, Poet, Student, Archivist, Photographers and Lecturer joined together to complete a story within its own right.
To end this story, there is the beginning of a new one. One that has become bigger than it was, one that would involve more people, collecting more tales and objects to have a place in history. Wirksworth was the beginning and Gamesley was an end.
But was it really?
We collected stories.
We gained knowledge.
We learned something new.
It’s the beginning of something more….
Volunteer, the Amazing Pop Up Archives Project