Bishopsgate Institute is a cultural institute based in an impressive Grade II listed building in central London. The Institute has been providing a space for people with a thirst for knowledge to learn and flourish since 1895 and we continue to do this through our courses, library and cultural events. Our Library has also become an essential reference point for anyone interested in the social and cultural history of the East End with an extensive London Collection of books, pamphlets, archives and photographs. Other collections include the papers of Charles Bradlaugh, George Jacob Holyoake, historian Raphael Samuel and the records of the London Co-operative Society, British Humanist Association, Stop the War Coalition, the Parliamentary Profiles Archive and the Lesbian and Gay Newsmedia Archive. Further information on the Institute and the Library can be found at: http://www.bishopsgate.org.uk/library.
Morning Star Photographic Archive
The photographic archive of the Morning Star newspaper containing a wealth of images regarding protest, politics and social conditions both in the UK and a large range of images regarding international affairs from the 1940s to the 1990s. It was deposited at Bishopsgate Library in 2011 and a digitisation project is underway to make the 15,000 available online.
Bishopsgate Voices is an oral history archives project organised by Bishopsgate Library that aims to collect and record documentary, oral, visual and photographic memories from those who have lived or worked in the Bishopsgate and Spitalfields area of East London.
Stefan Dickers, Archivist Bishopsgate Foundation
HISTORYtalk, the local community history group in north Kensington, first became involved in the Britain at Work Programme in 2009 and HISTORYtalk launched its own project at the House of Commons with a keynote speech by John McDonnell MP in the same year. The organisation had been collecting local history for nearly twenty years, including a major Notting Hill Carnival oral history project in 2004. Britain at Work offered an opportunity to engage with a national perspective as well as to develop an important aspect of its own activity around work and trade unions. This was an ambitious attempt to build a snapshot profile of working lives across five boroughs in west London, to explore various industries and public services over a 50 year period, and to create a lasting archive of material for the TUC Library Collections website. The project was initially funded by the Heritage Lottery and the Amiel Melburn Trust and later augmented by a number of trusts, individuals and trade unions.
There were 3 strands to the west London project. Collecting the interviews required the recruitment and training of a group of interviewers from amongst HISTORYtalk’s existing volunteers, developing a set of guided questions and providing a background historical briefing for the period 1945- 95. Secondly, the commissioning of research in the 5 local boroughs documenting industrial trends, industrial relations, disputes and many other local issues. This would also include a timeline for the period that would link west London events to the wider history of industrial relations and trade unionism throughout the five decades. Thirdly, the collection of memorabilia such as wage slips, leaflets, union membership cards, photographs and pamphlets which could be used alongside the interviews. The 3 strands could then be combined for the website, and other means of dissemination.
HISTORYtalk’s main aim was to collect 100 interviews from people who had worked in west London in the period 1945- 1995. This demanded a geographical approach spanning five key west London boroughs: Ealing and Acton, Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea, Brent and Hillingdon, but not exclusively confined to the borough boundaries. The area covered runs from the Edgware Road in Westminster westward to Heathrow, southwest to the Thames in Hammersmith and north to Willesden and Harrow. The project therefore differed significantly from most work- based oral history projects that focus on one sector, industry or factory. For HISTORYtalk, this also represented a different kind of project because local history groups usually confine their projects to their own locality. The methodology was provided by a statement drawn up by Professor Nina Fishman for the Britain at Work steering group in 2008. Work and trade union activity were clearly the two key questions but, inevitably, interviews would also include questions on family background, industrial relations, discrimination, community activity and, significantly, the question of locality. The study of west London’s industrial and public sector development in the post- war period required the identification of broader social and economic trends affecting inner and outer London, covering roughly the old Greater London Council boundary.
Dave Welsh, HISTORYtalk project coordinator
With the closure of HISTORYtalk in 2012, the Britain at Work West London Project was taken over by a new oral history group called Britain at Work London. The new group is currently completing the full transcription of the 100 interviews carried out by HISTORYtalk (supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund) and will be publishing a booklet entitled 'All in a Day's Work'. It is also carrying out a new programme of interviews in North and Central London.
Read more about HISTORYtalk's work on the project.