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2.7 Project Activities

 

Establishing and sustaining a facilitating environment for the project, the project team and participants may have been a necessary condition for realising the aims and objectives of the project, but it was by no means a sufficient condition. To be complete, the project design needed to set out what the project would actually do, and specifically how it would meet in practice the Heritage Lottery Fund's three principles of conservation, participation, and learning. The Heritage Lottery Fund term for what a project actually does and is funded to do is "Activity": Activities are the project outputs - the things a project does and sets out to do which can be measured.

 

2.7.1 Archive "Weekends": Strategic aims met: Participation and Learning

The central tool and the key innovative Activity of the project was the Archive "Weekend", which began life as a new invention in 2003-2004 in discussions between members of the Wennington Old Scholars Association and the Trust's archivist. Old Scholars had discovered the Archive some years earlier, and placed Wennington records and the archives of the school's founder Kenneth Barnes there. Both the Old Scholars and the archivist then wanted the experience and lessons of Wennington to be shared as fully as possible and as widely as possible. The archivist wanted to gather more information, both in terms of oral history, but also in terms of added value information - the names of people in photographs, and the stories behind them, for example. The Wenningtonians wanted to explore the information, to learn more about themselves, the school, and its founders. The archivist wanted documents digitised, photographs sleeved, rusty staples removed, manila replaced by archival folders, labelled, and placed in archival boxes. The question was how to meet these various needs and desires.

 

The solution was a convergence: Like most members of residential schools and environments, the majority of Wenningtonians in Britain lived the better part of a day's travel or more away from the Archive; but unlike many they did have the tradition of a residential Annual Meeting, and the Trust had onsite accommodation. The Annual Meeting takes place elsewhere; but the conjunction of traditions, resources, and motivations led to the invention of the first Archive "Weekend" in 2004, in which different generations of Wenningtonians lived together at the Archive and Study Centre for several days over a long Bank Holiday (hence the name, "Archive Weekend"), sharing the making of meals, eating together, and washing up, recording memories and working on the archives. Some training was provided by the archivist; but training was also provided by Wenningtonians themselves, whose diverse skills and expertise ranged from professional photography, to teaching, to banking. The model was developed in successive Wennington Archive "Weekends" over the next few years, and included Archive "Weekends" for members of the Caldecott Association.

 

In this way, the difficulties in meeting the HLF's strategic aims for participation and training of members of communities which are widely scattered (as per 2.1 above) were partially resolved. By bringing community members and other volunteers together in Archive "Weekends" it made it possible to effectively, meaningfully and economically meet the aims of training, and of engaging as many people as possible in learning about, preserving, and sharing their heritage with others.

 

In short, during an Archive "Weekend" members from several generations of the same community travelled to the Archive and Study Centre, where there is comfortable on-site accommodation including facilities for disabled and more frail individuals. Originally designed to be self-catered, it quickly became clear that "Weekends" worked best for most groups when catered, and the project design was altered accordingly (see 6.1 below). All meals were shared. During the course of the "Weekend", which more typically took place during the week, members of the community at their own pace, supported by other members of the community and project staff, took part as volunteers in a range of activities centred on using, developing and valuing their skills, talents and unique knowledge.

 

In typical "Weekends", during the day the community members and any other volunteers taking part sleeved and labelled photographs, recording the identities of people, places, events, and the stories in the photograph; digitised and added explanatory value to photographs, slides, newsletters, texts, annual reports and other material; recorded the memories of others, and were recorded; watched films related to their community, and shared material; helped to prepare material for the Internet, and to build up the web-site related to their community; trained in oral history, archives, digitisation, web-sites or digital storymaking, and if the latter, helped to prepare short digital films for sharing on the Internet; and during a specially themed and organised "Weekend", worked with performance students to help build a better picture of their experiences and heritage for presentation to the wider public. The tasks for each "Weekend" were devised around the material available, the archival priorities, the interests and skills of the participants, and the goal of sharing an understanding of their community with their own as well as the wider community. In the evenings, after the project staff had largely gone home, the Community members socialised in various ways, sometimes with relevant films set up on VHS and DVD, sometimes continuing to work, but certainly sharing meals and time together.

 

There were wider benefits, going well beyond achieving and exceeding the quantifiable project targets (scanning might go on well into the night during some enthusiastic Archive "Weekends"): By sharing time, work, and meals together, as might happen in a family reunion, participants learned about the history of the community before and after they lived there; they gained other people's reflections of what they were like as children or young people (memories and reflections which may exist nowhere else); they gained new and different perspectives about the staff and other people who were there in their time, picked up the trails of things which didn't make sense at the time, and found out what happened to friends and others after they left. And because they are with people who knew what they are talking about, they shared experiences which they could not and often had not shared with others: from the way that birthdays were celebrated, to what happened when you 'misbehaved', to the reasons for being in the community in the first place, and leaving.

 

Handling archives and objects of their community, talking together, and sharing memories and reflections helped to create a deeper understanding and appreciation of the place and value of their heritage and themselves within the broader national community and heritage; helping to meet one of the fundamental needs set out in 2.1 above.

 

The flexibility of the project design allowed for invention and experimentation. Centred largely on former children with some former staff taking part, the Archive "Weekends" threw up a need for former staff to have an event of their own, focused on the specific memories and issues of people carrying an on-going duty of care to former children, with questions and issues of a kind which former children would not have been involved in. A day "Weekend" of former and current staff of the Mulberry Bush School was arranged, as a pilot.

 

There was also a real desire by some members of participating communities to meet people from other communities. At the same time, in working with the students and staff of Trinity Catholic School, who were putting together a performance based on the archives and memories in the project, it became clear that a "Weekend" which brought together members of the various participating children's communities with Trinity students and staff would be valuable. A very successful Performance Archive "Weekend" was the outcome (see 4.1.7 and 4.11.2), which was followed by further cross-fertilisation, when David Crane, a former Red Hill School child, was invited by Wenningtonians to take part in a Wennington "Weekend".

 

One of the outcomes of consulting with Doreen Mellor of Australia's "Bringing Them Home" oral history project, and using information provided by her about the "Bringing Them Home" project and the complexity of the issues potentially involved in doing something similar, was a decision by Trustees to make a Trustee available during Archive "Weekends": simply as a presence, and not in any particular or pre-defined role. Over a number of "Weekends" Trustee Linnet McMahon, for example, found herself doing many things: helping to find food for newly-arriving Community members, late at night after dinner was well and truly over; recording interviews; listening to complaints and suggestions, as a Trustee; facilitating discussions; debriefing at the end of the day with the project staff. For their part, as hosts, the project staff's commitment during Archive "Weekends" was open-ended, beginning early and going late, responsive to the needs and flow of the temporary Community, which were not always boundaried by breakfast and dinner. This responsiveness, and commitment, by Trust and project team was a necessary part of the project design.

 

a.Timing

An important element of the project design was that the first Archive "Weekend" of the project involved Wennington Old Scholars. Wenningtonians had helped to invent the Archive "Weekends" and had both a strong sense of ownership and extensive experience with them. This meant on the one hand that they could act as culture carriers, helping to induct the new members of the project team into the mysteries of what was otherwise a vast and unknown quantity: Insofar as a tailored training event was possible for the project team, having been thrown into the deep end (see 5.2), this was it. On the other hand, the depth and strength of their experience meant that the Wenningtonians were best suited of all the Communities to help the project to test various innovations - the first trainings by project team members, the first paid training, and the first Assessment, Training and Advisory (ATA) Event. The experience in each case led to changes and adaptations (for example, see 2.7.6.a below), which then fed into "Weekends" with subsequent communities.

 

b. Number

Ten Archive "Weekends" were built into the original project design. Having scaled down from a three year to an 18 month (fully-staffed) project, this allowed for a clear month between "Weekends" to enable the team to complete work generated by the one and to prepare for the next; with time built in at the end of the project for completing tasks and paperwork; and with time built in throughout for archive and oral history fieldwork, and other Activities. Each Community was to have two "Weekends", the first weighted on introduction, training, and the first production of recordings and other outputs, and the second weighted on using the training and the outputs produced earlier in the project to create digital stories, build up websites, and so on. With ten Archive "Weekends", and with two "Weekends" per community, the number of communities which could take part was, by definition, limited to five.

 

The powerfully positive experience of the Caldecott Community's opportunistic third Archive "Weekend" at the end of the project suggests that this element of the project design should be looked at again.

 

c. Conduct

As the primary tool of the project, the Archive "Weekend" was asked to achieve a great deal. One of these was community-building and incorporation, creating a temporary community in which everyone took part and everyone had a full role to play.

 

Drawing on the practice and traditions of many of the therapeutic communities for children and young people, community meetings were built into the structure of the "Weekend" as the primary decision-making tool. Each Archive "Weekend" began with all the participants - Community members, project team, and any volunteers - sitting all together in a circle, going around each person in order to introduce the "Weekend", the project team, and all the Community members to one another (remembering that the Community members often came from different generations and were strangers to one another, as well as to the project team); getting a sense from the meeting of why people had come, and what they wished to achieve; and beginning to organise how all of that was going to be accomplished. Pragmatically, with uncertainties in attendance up to the last moment, it was the first opportunity to see who would actually be taking part. The project team quickly found, too, that forms sent out in advance of the "Weekend" to ascertain what participants would most like to do and to not do generated logistical paradoxes which could only be resolved in vivo, with everyone present to negotiate and delegate tasks and timings.

 

Community meetings then began each day, and punctuated each day: Getting all together sometimes after breaks and usually after lunch, to re-group, reflect, and organise the next session of activities; and usually at the end of each working day, to register its end for those who wished to move on to other things, and to gather together and reflect if necessary on any threads from the day. The closing meeting of each day marked a transition for the project team, which could then draw back, meet and discuss anything which had arisen for members of the team during the day, close down anything not being used by volunteers into the evening, and begin the process of going home.

 

In the background was the aim of the project to work with Community members and other participants as colleagues and co-workers, and not as subjects or clients; and even further behind that was the historical precedent of Harold Bridger's leaderless club experiment at Northfield Military Psychiatric Hospital during World War II, where a club space was created, but the soldiers themselves had to create it. Their creation of it was the purpose of the activity; and in a similar way the creation of the Archive "Weekend" by the participants (project team as well as Community members and volunteers), was one of the key purposes of the Archive "Weekend".

 

2.7.2 Assessment, Training and Advisory Events: Strategic aims met: Participation and Learning

The Assessment, Training and Advisory Panel, one of the key tools for ensuring that the lessons of the project were shared and disseminated as widely as possible, has been discussed in some detail in 2.4.2 above. The idea of an Assessment, Training and Advisory Panel and of Assessment, Training and Advisory Events as a means of providing a running audit and assessment of the project, delivering participation and learning to members of the project team, volunteers, and members of the wider public, was another original solution of the Other Peoples Children project; but has parallels in Australia's "Bringing Them Home" project, and echoes in the Royal College of Psychiatrists' peer review and assessment "Community of Communities" project.

 

In the event, and despite the fact that the ATA Panel as a working group never coalesced as a group (as discussed above), the goals of assessment and training, and participation and learning, were achieved. Each ATA Event had an average of 12.5 participants versus the targeted 10, and successfully brought together the four or three members of the project team with volunteers and with the outside experience and expertise as represented in the Panel and the Project Management Group, as well as invited guests. The final total of eight ATA Events coincided with the target number of eight, but it too could be said to have exceeded the target of eight because the latter figured had included the project conference as an Event.

 

2.7.3 Oral History Recording and Transcription: Strategic aims met: Participation and Learning

With so much of the archival record of the heritage lost, destroyed, inaccessible or incomplete, an immense responsibility falls on oral history to build an in-depth understanding of the history and life of residential therapeutic environments for children. With so little available about the therapeutic outcomes of the communities, it is also the best tool readily available for learning what happened in the lives of people after they left a community, and for gathering their unique and experienced reflections on their time within them: what they think 'worked', so to speak, and what didn't, and why. Oral history is a tool for incorporating people into their heritage, promotes self-esteem and self-discovery, helps to build community, and generates raw material which can be used and re-worked to make their experience and the world of their community come alive for others. For these and other reasons oral history was central to most project activities: Archive "Weekends", Training, Websites, Performance, Conference.

 

The approaches taken to oral history and transcription for "Therapeutic Living" were based on established practice within the Archive and Study Centre, but reflected the results of widespread consultation by the project director through the Oral History Society Virtual Network email discussion list and directly with project leaders such as Elaine Harris of the HLF-Funded "Kibble: A Lasting Legacy" project; Sîan Roberts, leading the HLF-funded Birmingham Children's Home oral history project; and Doreen Mellor, Project Manager of the Australian Government's “Bringing Them Home” oral history project.

 

a. Interviewing style

The basis of the preferred interviewing style was a non-directive life story approach, in which the therapeutic school or community with which the interviewee was associated was clearly of interest, but as a part of the individual's fuller life story. As an ideal, having been given the framework for the project's approach, "non-directive" allowed the interviewee to unfold their story themselves in their own way, in their own language, with their own emphases; with the interviewer listening and facilitating more than 'interviewing'; although interviewing as well when asked to, and in developing specific themes in the interview and emerging through the project. The target was a narrative of the heritage defined and shaped insofar as possible by the members of it, rather than imposed from the outside. As with "Bringing Them Home" the goal was also to draw interviewees from all aspects of the heritage, giving the fullest history possible: Staff as well as children, with family and friends, and others where possible. Emphasis for recording was on the five focal communities, but the project design allowed for the recording of members of other communities if and when the opportunity arose. The main body of recording was to be done by the oral history officer and trained project staff, but supporting and being supported by trained volunteers, who both participated in the preservation of the heritage - through recording, and developing interviewing skills -, and learned about the heritage and about themselves through the listening and questioning.

 

b. Transcription

Full transcription of oral history interviews was a basic principle of the project design, for reasons of safety and accuracy. The logic tree was straightforward:

        • Much of the material being recorded would be confidential, with sensitive personal and third-party information and comment.
        • To protect the interests of the interviewees (as well as third parties), and to enable them to reflect on, take full ownership of, and clearly agree with project staff what could and could not be handled by volunteers and/or used on the website, in performance, and in other publication, it was essential that they not only have a copy of their recording to hear what they had said, but a transcript in which they could see what it looked like they'd said.
        • A full transcript would give interviewees an opportunity to work with project staff to make corrections, to add material, and to highlight any necessary restrictions or sensitivities which might or might not be apparent to an outsider;
        • Which in turn would help to protect the project, by ensuring
          • that the transcript was a fully accurate record of what was on the recording, reducing the possibility of unwelcome surprises when someone in the project or a future researcher came to use the recording;
          • that project staff had the fullest possible awareness and understanding, particularly of sensitivities which might not be immediately apparent to someone outside the interviewee's community;
            • meaning in turn that problematic material would be less likely to be inadvertently handled by volunteers, used, or published; and
            • that the interviewee knew and understood - as fully and clearly as possible - what, how, and in what way their memories and comments might and would be made available to other volunteers and the general public; minimising unintended surprises, embarrassing situations, and the potential for hurt and angry feelings.

 

c. Copyright and use procedure

The approach to copyright and use adopted as a fundamental element in the project design stemmed from the established practice of the Archive and Study Centre, which departed from standard practice and generated considerable controversy and discussion within the new project team. In standard practice, it is presumed that interviewees will assign their copyright in the recording to the recording institution, and that this will be done and the copyright forms completed at the end of an interview. In the Archive no such presumption is made, and no decision is expected of the interviewee until, as set out in the logic tree above, they have had a copy of the recording to hear what they said, and a transcript to see what someone else thinks they have said.

 

The logic of asking an interviewee to assign copyright at the end of an interview is unassailable, in the sense that it benefits the recording institution in several ways: It protects their investment, by ensuring that they own the content and can therefore make use of the recording in legally-permitted ways without having to seek further permissions; and it means that, because they own the copyright, they do not have to try to keep up with interviewees who move, change their names, or die, and this saves them in turn any hassles that might arise from family members who inherit the property and want it back or question or misunderstand or disagree with any use the interviewee themselves might have permitted. Given that copyright persists for 70 years after the year in which the interviewee dies, these are no inconsiderable considerations.

 

The first response in defence of the approach adopted in the project design is that, even if copyright is not assigned, and even if an agreement is not signed, there are still uses that can legally be made of the recording; it is not useless. Copyright refers to copying and publication, and does not restrict private individual use, notes, or transcription. Nor, in the scheme of history, and given the paucity of documentation of the heritage, is 70 years post-death an inordinately long price to pay; it may mean there are limited uses in the present, but even with those limitations the recording is a precious document, and worth having and preserving for future generations.

 

For a project which intends to work with members of the community as colleagues and co-workers rather than subjects, however, there are positive, practical reasons for taking an alternative to the standard approach. In the first instance, insofar as the assigning of copyright as a gifted transfer of property requires informed consent - an informed awareness of what one is freely, and without undue influence, giving away - it is difficult to see how this can be achieved at the end of an interview, when neither interviewer nor interviewee can know precisely what was said (much less how it will be transcribed), and when the interviewee is very likely to feel a bond with the interviewer which may make it difficult to say "No" to the request to sign the copyright contract. Sales made in the home now have a statutory cooling off period for this reason, and with reason.

 

Further, in a sector of the heritage where some of the individuals involved may have been abused and badly treated by people in authority in the past, and not only have no reason to trust authority but deep reasons of survival and experience to actively distrust it, even the procedures adopted by the project - especially if it asserts authority over the interview in some way - may not be sufficient to persuade an individual to commit their story to recording. Even when, as in the case of the project protocols, complete control over the content of the recording and the transcript are explicitly placed in the hands of the interviewee; even when it is explicitly stated that the recording and transcript will be treated as confidential and will not be made available to anyone else unless or until the interviewee him or herself agrees to it, in writing, having first had a copy of the recording and of the transcript; even then there will be individuals who will not feel enough trust or safety to record. But giving that control over to the interviewee can make the difference between a relatively conventional and surface oral history, and one which begins to break new ground for the interviewee, sharing a level of experience and detail which are essential to a fuller understanding of the heritage and its history. Where the individual is or feels vulnerable, the approach and the cooling off and reflecting period built into it offer levels of consideration and protection which some find essential.

 

There are other practical reasons for the approach taken by the project. The practice of preparing a full transcript for the interviewee helps to ensure fully informed consent. The time involved between recording and receipt of transcript, and the ongoing contact and discussion which follow - sometimes for a considerable period of time - is part and parcel of the Archive belonging to the community, and vice versa: apart from anything else, both parties learn; it is a learning process. Because a full transcript allows the interviewee to see and correct mistakes, which (and/or others) would go uncorrected in some distant future transcript, the process results in a more accurate and more authoritative document, as an historical document. The process also requires the Archive to try to stay in touch with interviewees, and sometimes their families; which is an enriching process, and weaves the Archive more thoroughly into the the lives of the people who make up the community.

 

d. Integration of transcriptionist as part of the project team.

With transcription at the heart of so much of the project's work, it was felt important to the project design that the transcriptionist be an integral part of the project team, learning with and from the other specialist members of the team, and in return feeding back into the project team the unique insights which would almost certainly come from someone who was listening in intimate depth to numerous interviews from across the communities, carried out with different individuals from within each community, and conducted by different interviewers. The scope for insights and cross-fertilisation was substantial. Being a full part of the team, taking a full part in all meetings and Events, was essential.

 

Financially, however, it was not feasible to have both a transcriptionist and a Secretary/Administrative Support person on the full-time project team, so the two sets of roles were combined into one. The resulting Secretary/Admin Support/Transcriptionist position became the most complex in the project, with responsibility not only for transcription, but for a wide range of secretarial and administrative duties: Welcoming visitors and answering the phone; supporting the project oral historian and the project archivist in managing and processing oral history recordings, transcripts, and copyright and release forms; liaising with the Trust Finance Officer over spending and budgets; supporting the project director secretarially and administratively; taking responsibility for project typing and mailing; supporting project staff and volunteers in the development of the website and other Internet-based activities and resources; being aware of, advising on, and ensuring that the project met the requirements of the Data Protection Act and other relevant guidance and legislation; helping to publicise the project, including helping with the newsletter; writing reports and minutes; and taking part in Archive "Weekends", Assessment/Training/Advisory Events, the mid-project Conference, and the Final Event, "with a view to learning and sharing experience as widely as possible".

 

The assumption in the original project design was that demand for transcription would be heaviest in the first nine months of the project, to produce transcripts in time for use during the second nine months. The services of an external confidential transcriptionist was therefore built into the project design to help deal with the anticipated initial workload, with additional help when and if needed during the last nine months, when it was anticipated that the Secretary/Admin Support/Transcriptionist would be devoting proportionately greater time to the follow-up work required to bring copyright and consent to completion before the end of the project, while also ensuring as far as possible that all recordings had been transcribed. The aim was to help ensure that the Secretary/Admin Support/Transcriptionist's workload remained balanced, stable and secure through the lifetime of the project. In the event, the take-up of interest in the project in almost all areas was greater than expected, with consequently heavier secretarial and administrative demands; the involvement by the Secretary/ Transcriptionist in project Events was far more demanding; and many of the consequences of the complicating contexts described in Section 5 fell disproportionately on her shoulders. The project was as successful as it was in part because she managed the additional demands; but there was a knock-on impact on transcription, with greater use of the external transcriptionists than projected, and with a shortfall of 15 in the number of transcripts achieved by the end of the project: 119 against a projected 134. Ideally, in a revised project design, the two sets of roles would be teased out and funded separately.

 

        • An extension of the incorporation of the transcriptionist into the project team was the close working relationship which developed with the external transcriptionists. Christine Foley, for example, began transcribing for the project before the project team came together and continued into the final months of the project, becoming almost an adjunct to the project team: drawing attention to relevant publications and Internet sources, replacing recordings lost in the RAID disaster (see 5.4.1), and adding value through observations on things she was picking up through the process of transcription. Sandra Frances and Helen Moore, the latter a volunteer, worked closely with the project, and took part in the Assessment, Training and Advisory Event devoted to transcription, as did Christine Foley, from a distance (see 4.2.6).

 

2.7.4 Archive cataloguing and preservation, including digitisation: Strategic aims met: Participation and Learning

The origin of the Archive "Weekend" lay in the wish by former students of Wennington School to learn more about the school and themselves, and to build up an accessible resource which would help others to learn about and from the Wennington years (see 2.7.1 above); while the Archive wished to use the former students' skills and labour to preserve, document, catalogue and make the Wennington-related materials more available to others. The "Therapeutic Living" project focused on five communities including Wennington whose records - or substantial archive and/or oral history material related to the community - were held in the Archive; and the aim of the project design was to take the experiment of using Wenningtonians's help with the archives and to extend it: How could you develop protocols for safely, effectively and legally combining volunteers, preservation, cataloguing, and access, which could then be rolled out across the Archive's sensitive holdings generally?

 

The unavoidable problem was the archive collections themselves, many of which were confidential or might contain highly sensitive and confidential information at any point within them. Added to this were the existing catalogues, which had been made for the use of Archive staff, and themselves often contained confidential and sensitive information. To make the collections better known and more accessible there needed to be a set of non-confidential catalogues; but involving volunteers at any stage of archives work, from the basic conservation of removing rusty paperclips to cataloguing to digitisation, required a hands-on audit, assessment and selection of tasks by a qualified archivist. For a fuller discussion of the complications encountered by the project archivist, see 5.5 below.

 

The project did achieve substantial progress in digitisation, while volunteers at the second Wennington "Weekend" processed and catalogued a full collection themselves, and in a return series of visits Wennington Secretary Pat Mitchell added significantly to the computerised database entries of another. Significant inroads into the intellectual organisation and future cataloguing of the series of accessions relating to the Caldecott Community were made in the concluding Caldecott "Weekend", with the help and involvement of Caldecott Association Secretary Gill Cook, the Association's archivist Robert Clark, and Committee member and P.E.T.T. liaison Barry Northam. The project also enabled the Archive to pilot making the files relating to them directly available to four former students from three different communities, developing processes and procedures which conform to the Data Protection Act while meeting the needs of the individuals, with experience and feedback contributing positively to future practice. This consequence of the project and of the project design in itself marked a watershed for the Archive.

 

2.7.5 Training for Staff: Strategic aim met: Learning

Staff training and development are essential to any growing enterprise, and where members of a team are being asked to learn as much in a new field and in a new way of working as was being asked here, where (as discussed in 2.3 above) specific familiarity with the heritage was not an expected criterion of employment, it takes on a greater significance. Data Protection and related issues were essential, and were addressed in a joint training day of the whole team with the Birmingham Children's Home oral history project team, facilitated by Birmingham Archive's Rachel MacGregor. Richard Rollinson conducted a training day on the history and nature of therapeutic communities, and on the distinctive features of therapeutic communities and therapeutic environments, especially those for children. Each of the Assessment, Training and Advisory Events had an element of training, and Trustee Rosemary Lilley conducted regularly scheduled meetings of the project team which were regarded as a form of training and were designed, without agendas or themes set in advance, to allow team members a protected reflective space in which to raise and explore together any emotional, practical, or other issues which might arise. Team members arranged a short series of trainings for one another based in their own specialisms.

 

Project staff also benefitted from more conventional trainings, including the Internet and Digital Story trainings shared by volunteers, attending conferences, and taking part in the British Library/Oral History Society 'Transcript to Script' training and 'Lives in Focus' video history training, the skills from which were fed back into the project.

 

2.7.6 Training for Volunteers: Strategic aims met: Learning and Participation

Training for volunteers - gaining tools for gathering, preserving, and sharing the heritage - was an essential feature of the project design. By and large, trainings in Data Protection, archive handling and preservation including digitisation, oral history, and website design and management were conducted by members of the project team. Making digital stories, and transforming transcripts into scripts were conducted by outside trainers.

 

a. Trainings taught by the project team

In the original project design, each of the early Archive "Weekends" was to begin with an omnibus training day in which the team introduced Community members to Data Protection, archives, oral history and websites. This proved fraught and inefficient, with training becoming more like familiarisation, and swallowing up a disproportionate amount of the available working "Weekend". The trainings therefore differentiated:

 

        • The project archivist found it more productive to approach archive, Data Protection and digitisation opportunistically, with individuals and small groups, when there was a specific set of concrete tasks to illustrate and engage with.

 

        • The introductory oral history training was based on the British Library/Oral History Society model, and therefore required a full day with a small group in the first instance, to cover all the practical, legal, ethical and project issues. These trainings were scheduled between Archive "Weekends", and were followed where possible by one-on-one sessions before and/or after an interview.

 

        • Website design and management pose special problems when it comes to training, and were approached in three ways. Trustee John Moorhouse conducted an introductory day training for project team members and volunteers in the Content Management System used for the project's websites, and followed up with individual sessions with members of the project team at later dates. Trainings were given by project staff during the course of Archive "Weekends", with individuals and small groups, and when there were specific tasks to illustrate and carry out. Individual sessions conducted by project staff were held between Archive "Weekends" with volunteers as well. There have also been extensive phone and email consultations between volunteers and the project director in particular; but the conundrum of effective training and learning has not yet been cracked. Mooted, but not carried out in the course of this project, are Archive "Weekends" bringing together members of different communities, and focused entirely on websites.

 

b. Trainings taught by outside trainers

Over the course of the project professional film maker and trainer Chris Bradley conducted three trainings in Digital Story production, in three different Archive "Weekends", with three different communities, during which he trained volunteers and project staff in assembling and producing short and succinct digital narratives for online broadcast. Originally funded as one-day trainings, it was found more effective where possible (it was not possible for the final Caldecott training) to have two day trainings spread over the course of three days, with introduction and training by Chris Bradley on the first day, preparation of content and structure on the second with the help of project staff, and further training on the third in editing and production with Chris Bradley. Having two rather than one day trainings doubled the project target for digital story training days; and having the same trainer working with three different communities over the course of the project not only brought Chris Bradley into the project almost as an adjunct member of the team, but provided the team with his additional insights and observations on the development of the project, and on the three very different cultures of the communities with which he had worked.

 

Playwright and trainer Rib Davis joined the Performance Archive "Weekend" both as a trainer and as a residential member of the event, providing two trainings in taking "Transcript to Script" with different sets of student volunteers over the two days, and providing insights and observations as, effectively, an adjunct member of the team; adding value to the project, as with Chris Bradley, far beyond the training itself.

 

2.7.7 Internet Development: Strategic aims met: Learning and Participation

As indicated in 2.6 above, the use of the Internet for access and engagement was part of the original project concept, with attempts made to build a specialist programmer into the project team to devise bespoke solutions for a radical system of gathering and making information available. Given the geographical memory that so many former children and staff have as part of their identity and history, and the productive debate it engenders (e.g.,"This is the landing where so-and-so lived" - "No, it was such-and-such; so-and-so lived in the Annexe" - "No that was later. I'm talking about before you came" - "And that was before the new window was put in" - "New window?..."), early project drafts envisaged teams of young people helping Community members to rebuild their therapeutic schools and grounds on the virtual reality world Second Life: Populating them with reminiscence and commentary as a means for former children and staff to reconstruct memories together, and to share their heritage in three dimensional form with the wider public. IHWTE member Ian Milne gave considerable help and guidance; but the possibility foundered in the end on understandable child protection barriers and complexities around Second Life and its counterpart for young people.

 

All of that early searching and consequent discussion led to the laying down of two basic principles in approaching the project design in relation to the Internet: The first was to use the project to explore how much might be possible, given the limited resources that most projects might have at their disposal: This led to the almost exclusive use of open source Internet tools and software. The second was to do everything possible within the compass of an integrated website, rather than using separate specialist blogging or audio-video delivery sites, for example: In part this was for security reasons; in part it was to simplify management and training, and to open up the widest possible set of integrated tools to potential Community member website-builders; and in part - harking back to the early concept of a comprehensive information storage, management and delivery system - to bring all of the online resources of the project together into one searchable and functionally-integrated website.

 

A question that initially created a great deal of controversy within the new project team, engendering many discussions, was the proliferation of websites they were encountering, both across the Trust and within the project: At the beginning of the project both the Trust and the Trust's Archive and Study Centre each had its own website with its own url - pettrust.org.uk and pettarchiv.org.uk; to which the project had added a third, otherpeopleschildren.org.uk. On top of that, the plan was to have not only a main otherpeopleschildren.org.uk site, for general project traffic, but to add to this an additional five nested sites, one for each of the project communities, and each fully-appointed and independently managed. It was confusing enough to have separate domain names and websites for the Trust. Why should "Therapeutic Living" have still another website with still another domain name; and why should each participating community in the project have its own complete website nested within the "Therapeutic Living" domain?

 

The question of the separate urls for the Trust and the Archive and Study Centre was an artefact of history, and like other elements of i.t. within the Trust which had grown up historically (see 5.4 below), was addressed during the course of the project and as one of the outcomes the project facilitated: There is now the single pettrust.org.uk website address.

 

The decision to buy a separate domain name for the "Therapeutic Living" project was an essential part of the project design, and rested on two propositions. The first was that members of potentially participating communities could very well have the reasonable expectation, based on personal and group experience of institutions, that the Planned Environment Therapy Trust was attempting to use the Heritage Lottery Fund grant to lay claim to the history and heritage of their communities - that in some sense the Trust wished to engage Community members' participation in order to appropriate the history and heritage that was theirs, for the Trust's own gain and purposes. A website subsumed under the "Planned Environment Therapy Trust" banner and domain name could only help to confirm such suspicions. The second proposition was that the "Other People's Children" name and project had been midwifed with the help and support of a cross-section of Community members, that it was in some sense neutral, but that it was also, in some sense, already theirs, or some of theirs. It was a potential joint transitional space, belonging as much to one as to the other, where Trust and Community members could meet, work and get to know one another; where both could take ownership and build; and where the project and the Trust could at least try to demonstrate their bona fides to Community members of whatever community and wherever they might be in the world. It was felt that a separate domain name could facilitate community-building processes while working under the P.E.T.T. banner could hinder.

 

The idea for individual, complete and independent websites for each individual community was an extension of these propositions. The websites would each have the name of the community built into the url - e.g, "www.otherpeopleschildren.org.uk/wennington"; and while there would be fully public areas of each website, where the community's heritage could be shared with the general public, there would also be sections of each community website which would only be accessible to community members themselves, for their own discussions and their own sharing of their heritage. In each website there would be facilities for social networking - having tested various Content Management Systems the project had decided to use the open source Content Management System Joomla, which was versatile, robust, reasonably intuitive and relatively easy to learn, into which social networking tools such as Community Builder and Kunena Forum could be easily installed. There would be various tools for uploading photographs, for uploading and playing audio as well as video, and comment facilities, among others. Community members would be trained in adding material to their website, in the hope that Community members themselves would feel able to take on the management and building of their sites. As with the style of oral history interviewing, the aim was to establish tools and an environment in which Community members themselves would determine the shape and nature of their history and heritage as presented to one another and to the public.

 

In 2.4.1 above it was commented that the latter - Community members having the confidence and know-how to take over their project websites - proved to be one of the least successful elements of the project, with the consequence that more was required of project team members throughout the project than was anticipated. As a whole the websites have flourished, but not surprisingly, those that have flourished most are precisely those in which Community members have taken the most robust lead. It is probably no coincidence that these 'website leaders' were people who were able to visit the project outside of Archive "Weekends" for individual tutorials, and that part of the solution to greater participation in website building and management may simply be more training opportunities, and more time.

 

2.7.8 Visits to Current Communities: Strategic aims met: Participation and Learning

The idea to include visits by former children to current therapeutic environments into the project design came from a variety of sources, including people who had watched the impact on children still in care of the return to the community of former children: For some there was a sudden realisation that they too had a future, that there was something enduring to which they belonged; that they and it mattered. There was also the benefit for current staff, who could learn from a former child about his or her reflective understanding of what had gone on for them while in care; what had been effective, and why; what might appear as a significant episode to a member of the staff, but would not register with the child at the time. There were observed instances too where infusion of history and others' past experience opened a staff-worker's horizons of possibility, hope, and creative solutions in their work with children today. The hope in the project was that visits by former children to a current community would give them an opportunity to learn more about themselves, and their past experience; and that it would also give them an opportunity to learn about contemporary practice, on which they would then be in a unique position to reflect: to share those things which they felt might be better, and also to draw attention to important things which they felt may have been lost.

 

There were effectively two visits to current schools, each by groups of former children, rather than singly. The first was a visit to Trinity Catholic School as part of the Performance work, the experience of which was very much like going into a therapeutic community for the former children who visited and reflected on it. The second, with several of the same former children, was to the Mulberry Bush School, as described in more detail in 4.8 below.

 

As pilots, it became clear that it can be difficult for current therapeutic environments to host visits without considerable preparation, and also that it may be more comfortable and rewarding for former children and staff to visit in pairs or groups, rather than alone. Although the project met the project targets for visits, there was a very real desire expressed by former children taking part to visit more current communities.

 

2.7.9 Information Plaques: Strategic aims met: Learning and Participation

The proposal, as part of the project design, to place information plaques at or near the sites of former communities for children had multiple origins. It arose independently in a comment by Owen Booker, the last Head of Shotton Hall School in Shropshire; in discussions between the Project Director and HLF Development Officer Kelly Spry-Phare; in conversation with Wennington Old Scholars; and during a Project Management Group meeting, in a suggestion by former Bodenham Manor child Peter Cottle. It reflected the fact that former children often returned to the sites of their communities, to reflect and reconnect, or to share with partners or children, but that there was often no marker or in some instances even evidence that the school or community had been there. A plaque marking the site of the community would confirm that it had indeed existed, and indicate where. That in itself would be enough for many former children or other visitors, but a plaque giving details of where to go for further information would have a value not only for former children and their families, but would help to raise awareness about their local history and heritage for the local community.

 

The project aimed to work with local property owners, authorities and schools to place information plaques at or near the sites of five former therapeutic environments, which would record the former use of the site, acknowledge the funding and support of HLF, and give an enduring url for people wishing for more information. The plan was to include an installation ceremony involving local schools and media, telling the story of the place, and involving former children and staff in unveiling the plaque and sharing their stories. In the face of growing demands on project staff time arising from a greater-than-expected interest and participation in other areas, it was agreed to commission five plaques and to develop permissions and installation once the project proper had completed (see Section 6).

 

2.7.10 Publication of Out of Print Texts: Strategic aim: Learning

The aim of this Activity was two-fold: to work closely with the National Centre for Excellence in Residential Child Care (NCERCC), based at the National Children's Bureau, to identify, select and re-publish online five significant book-length or equivalent out-of-print texts in the field of residential therapeutic child care chosen from the Trust's archive and special library collections; and to use NCERCC's networks and website to make these texts freely available to practitioners and the general public, as well as to have an accordance with Training and Development requirements for the Professional Standards of Residential Child Care Workers. Five texts had been selected, and permissions to re-publish had been obtained for two of these, when, in 2010, the government withdrew its funding from NCERCC and transferred it to another organisation. This threw scanning and dissemination of the texts into doubt.

 

The uncertainty about realising this Activity seemed to have been resolved when the National Children's Bureau decided to take on much of the work which had been done by NCERCC, including the scanning and re-publication of the texts. It created and funded NCBRCC - National Children's Bureau Residential Child Care - to take over the work of NCERCC. Unfortunately, NCBRCC then became a victim of the economic downturn. It closed, and in consultation with the former NCERCC and NCBRCC manager, Jonathan Stanley, it was reluctantly agreed to set this Activity to one side.

 

2.7.11 Performance and Workshops: Strategic aims met: Learning and Participation

At the heart of the "Therapeutic Living" project is the immensely exciting, vibrant, daunting and disturbing heritage of residential therapeutic child care, at the centre of which is distress, and folded into which is every possible story of human being within its time, joyful and otherwise. The conundrum for the project was how best to enter fully and honestly into that heritage world, in order to make it accessible and comprehensible to the widest public 'outside'. A great deal of reliance was placed on Community members themselves to tell their stories, with trainings to facilitate it, and staff and Archive "Weekends" to support it.

 

The idea for a performance troupe with students to explore the heritage and to devise a series of performances from it came from discussions between the project director and Project Management Group Member Stephen Steinhaus, who was then Director of the Performing Arts College at Alcester Grammar School. The craft most at home with exploring complex social, emotional and political landscapes and then translating them into shared and shareable experience is theatre, or more broadly, performance. Tools and precedents exist to enable performers to enter into other people's lives with balance and security, with immense rewards in terms of personal understanding and social and professional growth. In association with the Archive and Study Centre, students would gain exposure to and experience with archives of various kinds, as well as oral history; their exploration would enliven the project; and the return on the investment from the Archive's point of view would be their creative interpretation and use of the history and the heritage they had encountered. They would have rich opportunities for experimentation and learning.

 

In the event, the project had the benefit of two performance troupes. Stephen Steinhaus moved to become Assistant Principal at Trinity Catholic School in Leamington Spa, a Specialist Arts and Technology College in Warwickshire, and with the support of Principal Dr. Jim Ferguson took the project with him. At Alcester, however, he midwifed an A-Level drama project which culminated in April 2010 in performances of a new production entitled "Other People's Children" (see 4.11.1 below). At Trinity, he initiated a campaign which resulted in a student theatre troupe of 27, which has worked closely with former children, staff and family members, and is preparing to perform and to take the performance on the road in March 2012 (see 4.11.2 below). The intention is to combine this with workshops, to enable the members of the troupe to share their skills and learning with others.

 

2.7.12 Project Conference: Strategic aims met: Learning and Participation

A project conference was built into the project design as a kind of amplified Assessment, Training and Advisory Event: A tool for opening up the project and involving a wider public in it. In the original design it was to be a one-day event, held in association with the Institute for the History and Work of Therapeutic Environments (IHWTE) at the Planned Environment Therapy Trust premises in Toddington, Gloucestershire. It would have taken place mid-project, between the first and second rounds of Archive "Weekends", in order to incorporate any insights and other results of discussion into the second half of the project. Students and other volunteers would be encouraged to present their experiences and findings alongside academics and members of the Assessment, Training and Advisory Panel, with three experienced speakers balanced by three student/volunteer speakers.

 

Instead of a mid-project conference in Toddington, the Committee of the IHWTE (a co-operative venture between the Planned Environment Therapy Trust and the History of Medicine Unit at the University of Birmingham, established in 2007) decided to hold the conference later in the project year, and to make it a joint venture of the Trust, the IHWTE, and the History of Medicine Unit at the University of Birmingham, which agreed to take on the administration for the conference and arranged for the conference to be held over two days in the Continuing Professional Development Centre of the University's Medical School. The Director of the History of Medicine Unit, Dr. Jonathan Reinarz, and his Secretary Kiran Hallan formed the organising group with Dr. Tom Harrison, Chair of the IHWTE, Richard Rollinson of the Planned Environment Therapy Trust, and Dr. Craig Fees of "Therapeutic Living With Other People's Children", with the result being "The Struggle of Memory Against Forgetting: Telling the story and sharing the experiences of residential child care"; held on September 16-17, 2011. Against the originally planned six there were 18 presentations as well as a panel discussion, involving 26 speakers in total, three of whom were young people, and six of whom were Community members/project volunteers. The performance on Day 2 involved eleven young people from Trinity Catholic School, presenting work-in-progress selections from the production on which they are working (see 2.7.11) . Outcomes from the conference were further enhanced by the booklet about the project produced for delegates, which subsequently formed the main part of the third project Newsletter, and will be used in future meetings and exhibitions to introduce and publicise the project and HLF's contribution to it. A copy of the conference programme is included as Appendix 9.4.

 

2.7.13 Newsletter: Strategic aims met: Learning and Participation

Every oral history project contacted in the development phase stressed the importance of regular communication with participants and stakeholders, and both Andy Vivian of BBC Radio Gloucestershire and Doreen Mellor of the National Library of Australia had demonstrated the usefulness of newsletters in their projects (see 2.7.14, below). The aim was to produce three hard-copy newsletters within the course of the project, and to publish a fourth six months later, to benefit from post-project communications to summarise the results and feedback from the project further, to share ongoing developments, and to seek further feedback, on the basis of a post-conference 'cooling-off' period. To this was added the circulation of the newsletters in e-form. It was predicted that up to 200 hardcopy newsletters would be needed, but interest required 350; with another 200 circulated electronically.

 

2.7.14 Final Community Event: Strategic aims met: Participation and Learning

The life and importance of regular newsletters and a Final Community Event were masterfully demonstrated by BBC Radio Gloucestershire's Andy Vivian, who directed the local BBC/British Library "The Century Speaks: Millennium Oral History Project" in 1999; and the role of newsletters and final community events was again emphasised by Doreen Mellor, Project Manager of Australia's “Bringing Them Home” oral history project. Culmination, closure and celebration were essential features of any project.

 

The Final Community Event at the end of September 2011 brought together members of each of the participating communities, as well as Trustees, P.E.T.T. staff, and volunteers, in a day of discussion and review, punctuated by a celebratory meal and a sample of their performance-in-progress by Trinity Catholic School students, with an end-of-project report by the project director, shared memories, a gathering for the press photographer from the Gloucestershire Echo, and reflection and discussion about the future. From this came a new email group, pettconnect, to create a place for ongoing discussions for the Trust and Community stakeholders; the proposal for a Community stakeholders Advisory Group; and the suggestion of Community members on the Board of Trustees.