4.1 Archive "Weekends"
4.1.1 First Project Archive "Weekend": Wennington School. May 17-21, 2010
The prototype "Archive Weekend" was devised and organised with members of the Wennington Old Scholars Association in 2004, and was developed with them as well as with members of the Caldecott Association in the years following. This made it a familiar quantity to many old Wenningtonians and the project director, and as part of the project design Wennington's was therefore the first to be held, as an introduction and first 'blooding' for the new project team. Wennington Old Scholar Tom James helped a great deal by joining the team in a pre-Event organising meeting a fortnight beforehand.
The "Weekend" itself was an intense event, giving the first indication of the greater-than-anticipated interest which characterised the project as a whole. At its peak, during the Assessment, Training and Advisory Event on May 16 (see 4.2.1), twenty people were involved. It gave the project team an opportunity to try out the proposed "Omnibus" training in archives, Data Protection and oral history, and to begin to see the changes that would be needed there (see 2.7.6.a); and it hosted the first Digital Stories training by outside trainer Chris Bradley, which produced the first online digital story of the project. As a "Weekend" and as a training event it seems to have gone smoothly, and was certainly an immensely positive learning opportunity for the whole team.
Responses from those taking part were not uniformly positive by any means. One Wenningtonian wrote on the feedback form "in spite of the best intensions the process is, in fact, one of normalising our experience. I.e only part of what we feel is the truth is told" and that "I think the group/P.E.T.T. and the National Lottery are creating a culture of self-censorship." Another wrote "Our group waffles far too much!", a traditional character of Wennington gatherings which is reflected in other responses ('Is there anything you didn't enjoy about this event?' "People talking over each other - to be positive, I should say these people were enthusiastic!"; "Yes. Wennington's ability to partake in never ending circular discussions - ") Another Old Scholar "felt (very) uncomfortable that we were not fulfilling the expectations of the 'specialists' brought in..." (on the Assessment, Training and Advisory day. But see 4.2.1, below).
Other responses were more explicitly positive: "What a great team you've appointed. How Frances, Gemma, and Chris, coped with us with such tact, friendliness, maturity and professionalism was awesome. And our thanks must go to Chris Bradley [trainer for the Digital Stories sessions] for his patience, the way in which he got us all involved, how he enthused the computer illiterates, and for the amount of overtime he put in to get the project completed." Pat Mitchell, Secretary to the Wennington Old Scholars Association, summarised: "Overall a good week - it's given more people a greater insight into what's possible - we'll be back for more."
4.1.2 Bodenham Manor School: July 5-7, 2010.
This second Event brought together 12 former children and three former staff from three generations of Bodenham heads, Bodenham having opened in 1950 and closed in 1987. There were also four current and past family members.
Through extensive phone conversations with a Bodenham old boy who knew the Trust and the Archive and Study Centre and had written in support of the project application, it became clear that former children from later stages of the school's history with whom contact had been made reported a very different experience from the experience reported by children of the early days. Bodenham under the wardenship of David Wills (1950-1961) seemed to have been a classically pioneering 'therapeutic community'; but children in contact with the project from later, post-Wills years reported experiences which would not be considered therapeutic. There was strongly expressed anger, and a questioning of the project, its motives and processes which were trenchant and complex. Having taken the risk to join the Archive "Weekend" anyway, informal greetings and discussions with former children and a former member of staff from the later period took place in the evening before and on the morning of the first day, followed by a pre-arranged and more formal meeting after breakfast, to share and discuss the wide range of questions and issues the later children as well as project team members had before children and staff from the earlier, David Wills years arrived. There was an immense amount of group and informal discussion throughout the "Weekend", and by the end there was, or appeared to be, a coming together of the different generations at Bodenham.
In feedback forms the main response to the question "Is there anything you didn't enjoy" was either "No" or a variant ("Enjoyed everything"), although there was a note that meetings "were a bit long", and another that there were too many meetings, as well as an objection by one Community member to what he felt to be censorship by another. One participant used the space to say "Yes (P.S.) There needs to be more schools like Bodenham Manor. I think with all the lovely grounds and open spaces it was good for us. I found it to be very enjoyable. It was a great pity Bodenham School closed."
In responding to the request to "Please list any way in which you think we can improve the Archive Weekend", several themes began to emerge: "The format was excellent and difficult to improve", for example, but with the respondent going on to say "Hopefully the next Archive Event in April 2011 will attract as many former pupils, staff and all others involved in Bodenham, particularly from the David Wills era", echoed by another: "Probably difficult to achieve now, but as many past pupils to attend" (in answer to another question one of the former children wrote "it was a pity there were not more of old pupils from Bodenham"): Having more than doubled the number of participants budgeted for, there was clearly a wish for still more; as well as for "More sessions like this". There were requests for more structure and direction to the Event itself and its tasks, and also for more structured information: "I would have found it helpful to know what had happened in people's lives, after they left and subsequently, what influences etc Bodenham had" ; or in the words of another participant: "I would have liked to see a final session, leading to a publishable report, synthesizing the view of all connected with the community of the events and processes that happened at Bodenham over the years." Observations like these fed into the setting up of more formal "theme" discussions later in the project (see Section 7).
Asked "What did you get out of this event? Do you feel you achieved anything?" one former student from the post-Wills era simply wrote "A lot, good to see that it can work by and large we pulled together". The general consensus was that the benefit and achievement came from meeting, talking, and putting pieces together: A student from later Bodenham: "Seeing the bigger picture, all aspects of Bodenham"; a former member of staff: "Sharing and contextualising recollections, validating and valuing part of my early career, recreating in part its community spirit"; a family member: "Some insight into the nature of the 'end product' of Bodenham Manor as a therapeutic environment and a burning desire to carry out high quality research..." ; a student from the David Wills era: "Got a great deal of knowledge and information from the P.E.T.T Team and former pupils of the same era".
The difficulty of the underlying issues for students taking part from the later era were explicitly addressed in formal and informal meetings before the event, in individual and group sessions throughout, and, for those who stayed overnight on the final day, before setting out on long journeys home, in long informal discussions with the project director throughout the morning of the fourth day. Although the feedback indicates that the members of the different eras had come together successfully into one community during the course of this first Bodenham Archive "Weekend", there was a depth of unresolved anger and other powerful feelings about their experience of Bodenham and after expressed by the later students taking part, which had no counterpart in the expressed memories and experiences of those taking part from the David Wills era; or, indeed, for the most part, of participants from other communities.
4.1.3 Caldecott Community: August 2 - 4, 2010
The longstanding relationship between the Archive and Study Centre and the Caldecott Association included two pre-project Archive "Weekends" and a series of ongoing deposits of archives by the Association. The security of this relationship, and the security of the Caldecott community members within themselves as a community allowed the project, with the Community members' permission, to invite four non-Community volunteers to take part, two of them residential; and to become a full part of the "Weekend", taking part in trainings, recording, learning about the Community. It was a special event with a number of firsts (and some onlys): Most of the Community members were taking part for the first time. One of the earliest digitisations for the project had been 8mm films taken by staff member Ley Melrose in the 1950s; she visited during the event, and these films (the first of their kind in the project) were shown with contemporaries of the films. Three generations of one family took part: A mother, two daughters who had been children at the Caldecott Community, and a granddaughter. The "Weekend" also included the youngest person to take part in the project, at 21 months, and the oldest, at 96 years.
The feedback forms were uniformly positive, but a recurrent set of critical themes emerged in the 'Please list any way in which you think we can improve the Archive "Weekend"' section, as noted below. However, to "Is there anything you didn't enjoy" there were only two variations on "No": "Overstimulation meant I talked too much instead of listening" and "Being a newcomer isn't always comfortable, but was an important experience in empathising with and while interviewed". 'Were your expectations met?' attracted "More than..." and other variations on "Yes", but also a note of positive caution: "On the whole yes but there was a lot to take in". In a sense that could be taken as a comment on one of the emerging themes, the amount of time spent discussing.
Comments on the need for tighter organisation/pre-organisation, and perhaps less discussion, had been made during earlier "Weekends". One Caldecott "Weekend" respondent wrote: "I feel as a group on a limited time schedule we needed to have had a plan, maybe written down, well before any session as to when and who with and in what order we would participate in each project. Being such a diverse group of people we lost valuable time trying to make last minute decisions as to who wanted to go with whom and which project." Another commented: "On balance I think we could have spent less time discussing what we wanted to do, leaving more time to do it." And a third suggested: "Just perhaps the newcomers could be placed with a member of P.E.T.T.'s team rather than trying to select from options not fully understood, in order to move things on a little faster at the beginning". Another suggested to "Make the sessions shorter with more breaks, with more sessions." At the same time, there were two comments which could be taken as introducing an element of counter-argument: "Unable to think of anything that would not compromise the spontaneity of the activities offered" and "Some might say preparation handouts including about the technology would be useful but for me I don't think it would overcome (5) above and possibly be a distraction. The staff team are so approachable and helpful and that is more important than handouts."
4.1.4 Red Hill School: September 17(18-19)21, 2010
"Thanks for a wonderful weekend, I've never managed to get to a reunion before, the atmosphere was really very reminiscent of RHS, rural, peaceful and filled with interesting people who you never quite found out everything about!
I'd certainly be interested in doing it again if you'd have us.
Thanks also for the organisation of the event which I know can be a major trial."
The Red Hill School Archive "Weekend" was both strange and productive. Strange, in that the formal Archive "Weekend" days involved only four former children, and were wrapped around a Red Hill School two-day reunion, which did take place on a weekend, and involved 30 community participants - 26 former children, 2 former staff, and 2 relatives. Productive, in the sense that there were 5 new archive accessions, 367 archival scans for a total of 23.6 Gb, 16 recordings (6 by volunteers), and three oral history selections edited and uploaded onto the Project/Red Hill website. "The Unloved", a prize-winning 1954 BBC docudrama based on Red Hill and partly filmed there was shown, with running commentaries by former children who were present during the filming and at Red Hill around that time. The Archive was open throughout the reunion weekend, which was actually organised by Terry Wilson, a Red Hill old boy who had set up a Red Hill website several years before.
The single completed and appropriately named feedback form (most responses came in subsequent emails, such as that quoted above; or in letter form, such as that by Peter Farrell in Appendix 9.5.1) responded to 'Please list any way in which you think we can improve the Archive "Weekend"' with "The cooking for the dinner was faultless. I would want to come again if only for the cuisine." The quality of food and cooking was highlighted in comments throughout the project; and clearly formed an important foundation for the sense of security, well-being and welcome which many participants expressed; and a fortunate serendipitous addition to the project design. In response to 'What did you get out of this event?' the reply "crystallisation of memories. Renewal of old friendships" focused in on two of the target functions of the events.
4.1.5 Mulberry Bush School: November 3, 2010. An Experiment.
The Activities stage of the project began with an unexpected, major accession of Mulberry Bush School archives, which included several thousand photographs. The school itself retains hundreds of photographs, dating from the 1950s to the present, which are kept to share with former children when they return to the school, often with their own children. With these available, and as part of the growing relationship between the Trust and the school (see 8.3), the project decided to use the Mulberry Bush as a test case, to try to fulfil three aims in relation to the heritage: To create an Archive "Weekend" just for staff, in response to the need expressed by participants in earlier "Weekends" for an event at which issues specific to members of staff could be discussed; to create an event bringing together former and current staff to share the heritage and generate a mutual exchange of history, current practice, and understanding; and to preserve items of the heritage, more specifically through scanning, sleeving, identifying and discussing photographs.
Planning began with the premise of a conventional 2 1/2 day "Weekend", but this was scaled down to one day when it became clear that anything longer would make it impossible for current staff to take part, during holidays or out. Indeed, with children to be looked after during term time - the time free within the project calendar, given the availability of key participants - even one day proved difficult. In scaling down to one day, the decision was taken to focus on identification and discussion, and to set aside for the time being scanning and sleeving. Two current and three former members of staff took part. One outcome, along with recorded discussion and identification of photographs, was the recollection of a Mulberry Bush Christmas song, a copy of which was subsequently located and added to the Archive collections.
4.1.6 Shotton Hall/Westhope Manor: November 22-24, 2010
Westhope Manor was opened for maladjusted children by Fred and Ursula Lennhoff in 1950. They then bought Shotton Hall and temporarily ran two communities, closing Westhope and moving children to Shotton Hall in 1953, remaining at the head of the community for another twenty years. The school closed in 1994, having had another set of three heads in the interim, presenting an interesting profile of continuity and change from an Archive "Weekend" point of view. It was also one of the least "anchored" of the focal communities in relation to the Archive and Study Centre. More than many, it was an unknown quantity.
"You have a most impressive outfit there and I wish you all the best for the future."
In the event, five former children took part, representing the book-ends and middle of the school's history: There was one former child who had joined Westhope Manor soon after it opened in 1950, and made the transition when it moved to Shotton Hall; there was another who had been at the school almost at the end, until 1992; and three others spread across the middle years, whose times overlapped, and included among them the transition from the Founders to their successors.
This spread gave a fascinating view of the history of Westhope/Shotton, but was also an issue, as the two former children at either end had no one from their eras to directly relate to or to re-discover and share with - as opposed to talk about - memories and experiences. The second Archive "Weekend" was better in this regard, and a third might well have been better still, but the experiences reported in the feedback forms were nevertheless still positive. Asked to list any ways in which the "Weekend" could have been improved, "Clearer expectations at the out-set" was suggested, as was "Make it longer"; dissatisfaction with the computers was expressed ("Dell Hell"); and the person who, under 'Is there anything you didn't enjoy' answered "I enjoyed every minute" (the other responses being a "No" and two "Not reallys" ) commented "A very relaxed couple of days, meeting some very interesting people - I can think of nothing to suggest by way of improvement." The question 'Were your expectations met?' raised "Yes 100%", but also "Hoped for more people/otherwise fine."
In response to 'What did you get out of this event? Do you feel you achieved anything?' there was an expression of sadness at a lack of reference points - other people from the same era, and material -, but otherwise an indication that the "Weekend" broadly achieved many of its various aims: "The Weekend brought back long lost memories and I've made some new friends. Inspirational"; "Had a great time made new friends"; "Reflection, energization: Roots sprouted on a certainly interesting and potentially useful project".
4.1.7 Performance: March 4-6, 2011
The Performance Archive "Weekend" was another experiment, which provided a very positive hinge between the first cycle of Archive "Weekends" and the second. It was so thoroughly a part of the project and the progress of the Performance Activity as such, that it is discussed in greater detail in 4.11.2 below in its Performance context. It arose as a practical response to feedback from a number of community members that they wished to meet and interact with members of other communities, and the desirability of finding ways for Trinity Catholic School performance students to meet, interview, and work with former staff and children from therapeutic environments. A Trustee, four former children from three different communities, and one former member of staff from a fourth gathered on Friday the 4th of March. Over the Saturday and the Sunday three Trinity teachers and 16 Trinity students joined the project team, ten former children, one former member of staff, one family member, two Trustees, and a trainer/participant.
In a familiar pattern, the feedback was generously positive. The answers to 'Were your expectations met' fell into three categories: 'No expectations': "I had no expectation", "I had no expectations other than bewilderment"; 'Yes': "Yes"; and some elaboration of 'Yes': "More", "yes and exceeded", "far exceeded", "completely". Interestingly, unfamiliar and familiar responses appeared in 'Is there anything you didn't enjoy' and 'Please list any way in which you think we can improve the Archive Weekend'. One respondent, whose answer on the 'expectations' question was "110.00%" , cited "lack of biscuits" as something not enjoyed; another put "circle time", and another "lack of planning"; the other answers being a variation of "No": (e.g., "Not that I am aware of"; "Nope!:)". There was a very interesting echo of the "biscuits" response in an 'improve the Archive Weekend' answer: "Very intense longer or more food". Most people either left this section blank or answered "No", but one answered "Hold more", another "More time for oral history", and two focused in on planning: "Have a chart or statement of the objectives for the Event" and "limit the objectives, better planning".
The answers to 'What did you get out of this event? Do you feel you achieved anything?' indicate that it achieved its different objectives, at least for some people. Responding Trinity students came away with a better understanding of the project and what they were doing, with ideas for the performance as well as training: "A better understanding of scripting transcripts!"; "Really, really, really useful!"; "I think we can use a lot of new information and contact links to make our 'happening' better and do these stories justice"; "I have learned so much about the project and heard loads of stories - Awesome." The adults - former children and staff - focused on the social/inter-generational experience, the sense of the heritage being shared and passed on, and the pleasure of learning about other communities: "It was good to be able to have a positive interchange with the group as a whole, and be able to converse with younger members of this group openly (a refreshing change)"; "Social interaction in cohesive group. Encourage and empower young people with the project being able to witness learning process facilitated by motivated people"; "I gained a greater understanding of present day adolescents. I find they were very little different to my adolescence."; "Re-assurance that experiences will not be lost"; "An assurance that Red Hill will survive in other than academic form and that I've contributed to adding to another generation"; "Great to know our story will be told and the wisdom of Otto Shaw not lost"; "An opportunity to learn more of the history of other communities and to make a contribution to mutual understanding."
The motivations for people getting involved in the project and its Activities will be discussed in more detail in an Appendix, but the nature of this Event drew clear responses from former Community members: "It sounded a great opportunity to see our communal story shared with Trinity Students and to help with planning an event"; "Why? - To pass on the benefit I have had"; "Because I feel the help that I had at my time at school has made a success of my life and that the positive results of this should be passed on to others and an example not forgotten about".
In practical terms, the success of this event made it very easy to arrange a subsequent visit of former children to Trinity School itself on short notice (see 4.11.2.b, 9.5.3).
4.1.8 Bodenham Manor: April 4-6, 2011
Two communities in one place: By the end of the first Bodenham Archive "Weekend" in the July preceding (4.1.2) it was generally felt that there had been a coming together of the different generations of former Bodenham children and staff, and on that basis invitations and welcomes for the second Bodenham Archive "Weekend" went out to members across the different eras. On this occasion, however, the differences in culture and experience among the former children and staff from the earlier and the later periods of Bodenham who joined us came to the fore, and made it very clear that the accident of a shared building, shared grounds, and even shared management in the Birmingham Society for the Care of Invalid and Nervous Children did not result in a shared community. There were, in effect, at least two Bodenhams, critically divided by time, ethos, and experience.
It also became clear during the course of the "Weekend" that the needs, demands and requirements of each community could not both be fully satisfactorily addressed within the same event, certainly not with the resources available, and certainly not while trying to approach them as members of one Community. Although it was a rich and productive Archive "Weekend", which included three life story recordings, a digital stories training, several digital stories, and generally positive feedback, it was exhausting for the project team, and ended with the feeling that both Bodenham communities deserved and required a dedicated event of their own. They each, certainly at this stage, required their own separate Archive "Weekends".
Fourteen people took part, eight of them former children, three former staff, and three family members. Comments in the feedback forms on the "Weekend" itself, from a limited sample (five of fourteen people taking part: two children and one staff-member from the Wills era; one child and one member of staff from the post-Wills era) were more positive than negative ("Were your expectations met?" "Yes", "Yes. Everybody was sociable and talkative", "Certainly", "Yes", "Not precisely"), although the low response rate may indicate that those with more difficult or less positive experiences did not complete forms. Rather unusually for "Weekend" feedback, under "Is there anything you didn't enjoy?" one respondent referred to "completely negative and unwarranted criticisms" and another to formal sessions being "highjacked by people who obviously feel they needed to continue their therapy", while two others responded "No", and a more complex response was reflected in "Covered in previous correspondence".
In answer to "What did you get out of this Weekend" one of the students from the David Wills era wrote: "It was so nice to be reunited to-gether after so many years apart it was a pity there were not more of old pupils from Bodenham. However it was so nice to see all the rest of you all." This theme of the need for more participants, expressed in feedback from the first "Weekend", was echoed by the student from the later era in response to the "What could be improved?" question: "The only improvement I can think of it would be better if more people got involved (staff & children) knowing how many people are members of Friends reunited Bodenham. Somehow we need to reach out to them"; and by the second student from the earlier Bodenham: "It would be good if more pupils from Bodenham, particularly the David Wills era, would attend, but probably all avenues have been explored now."
In response to "What did you get out of this event? Do you feel you achieved anything?", the themes of meeting, talking, and contextualising also re-emerged. The later Bodenham student responded "Hearing more stories of peoples times at Bodenham and feel like we have taken more steps closer to resolve issues surrounding Bodenham", while the later member of staff wrote "I got a better sense of the fundamental difference between Bodenham in its earlier years and the post-Wills era". One of the students from the earlier period reflected: "I always feel the success of Bodenham at the time of David Wills did so much to help pupils in life after Bodenham."
4.1.9 Caldecott Community: May 9-11, 2011
"Every time I come here I learn more about the general subject of child care and understand better my own experience of Caldecott." (Feedback response, former child)
With the Archive "Weekend" on Monday to Wednesday and the Caldecott Community's 100th anniversary celebrations almost 200 miles away in Canterbury on Friday, and with a third and final Caldecott Archive "Weekend" scheduled for August, the numbers of people attending were surprisingly high. Ten former children and staff took part, two of the former children for the first time. Fortunately for the balance of the project, the latter both expressed reservations about their experience in the Community. During the course of the three days eight life story recordings were made, as well as several digital stories, and feedback indicated that progress had been made in learning about the website, as well as interviewing and transcribing. One participant who indicated that what they gained most from the "Weekend" were "Increased listening & interviewing skills, transcribing" wrote, under "Is there anything you didn't enjoy?", "I found listening a profound & moving experience." The importance of food and the contribution to "Weekends" made by the whole P.E.T.T. team emerged again in a postscript to one of the feedback forms: "PS My thanks to everybody involved and to the lady who provided me with a packed lunch." Another "found it well structured, sensitive and flexible to suit different needs. I do not know how it could be improved."
4.1.10 Wennington School: May 16-20, 2011
As per established tradition, Wennington gave themselves a full five-day week, and the project took the opportunity the use the stability and continuity of the Wennington involvement to experiment.
Fourteen Wenningtonians took part, three for the first time; and along with the usual tasks - seven life story recordings were made, the entire school Senate Minute Book of 572 pages was digitally photographed, substantial additions were made to the photographs and documents on the website - a very rich and positive formal group discussion took place, facilitated by the project oral historian, exploring the subject of 'themes': What worked at Wennington, what didn't work, why (see 7.4)? Among other illuminations, the last head at Wennington took part, and his discussion of the very difficult conditions in the school at the time he took over, the struggle to retrieve it, and the ultimate failure, led to a significant sense of resolution for a student whose memories of the difficulties of that time had been challenged in the past by students from earlier days: His recollections confirmed and affirmed hers.
With the permission of all concerned, a Board meeting of the Child Care History Network was held during the course of the "Weekend", at the end of which Wenningtonians were invited to join the meeting for a presentation by Board member Charles Sharpe on pioneering psychoanalyst and social scientist Isabel Menzies Lyth: "Some observations on her life and work, and the struggle with primitive anxieties". An extremely interesting and engaged discussion took place, interrupted only by lunch. After lunch an Assessment, Training and Advisory Event was held (see 4.2.4), taking advantage of Wennington's long involvement with the Archive and the "Weekends" and the perspective this gave them on changes and progress, and taking advantage of the presence of the diverse expertise of the CCHN Board, which included the Care Leavers Association's Darren Coynes at his first Board meeting: an interesting day of induction.
Negative feedback for this "Weekend" focussed, as had been the case before, on the amount of time taken on discussing what would be done, on the need for "a better prepared agenda", and the need for the archivist (who was not able to take part in the "Weekend") to "know what material exists which our members are able to do."
4.1.11 Westhope Manor/Shotton Hall: July 22-24, 2011
A great deal seemed to fall into place for this Archive "Weekend", which was both the penultimate "Weekend" and the last for the full project team before the project archivist left to change career direction and return to education. It was immensely productive - 29 recordings were made during the event, including 11 life stories -, as well as positive in terms of feedback. Nine former students, two former staff, and two volunteers took part. It also redressed the imbalance of the first Westhope/Shotton "Weekend", in which one member from the early Westhope period and one from the late pre-closure period sandwiched three from the middle Shotton Hall era. For this second Archive "Weekend" (which did take place over a weekend) there were three former children from the Westhope Manor/Shotton Hall period, four spanning the middle years, and two from the later Shotton, as well as the two staff members, one of whom as Deputy Head and Head spanned the middle and into the later period, and the other, as a house-father, supported the representation of the later years. This depth of presence made for a very interesting event where the full lifetime of the community could be discussed, drawing comparisons and sharing experiences across a period of over forty years. The group was reflective and seemed keen to explore the ethos, nature and experience of the community against a social backdrop, one commenting, 'There won't be another Shotton now.'
Having 'adults' at these gatherings - former members of staff - brought another perspective to the discussion, and some very interesting insights emerged. Some of the 29 recordings were made by project volunteer and ESRC Ph.D. Fellow Jenelle Clarke, who noted, "Attending this archive event felt more like being at a family reunion...What struck me as the most endearing feature that has stayed with everyone is their sense of belonging and identity that has come from being part of Westhope/Shotton" (see also 9.5.2).
The feedback forms were unanimously positive, with "Yeses" and "Exceededs" under 'Were your expectations met?', and uniform "Nos" under 'Is there anything you didn't enjoy?'. Under 'Please list any way in which you think we can improve the Archive "Weekends"' the suggestions themselves expressed the positive experience: "I'd love to have seen more exBoys appear for the reunion. A 5 Star experience!" and "If it had been possible, it would have been good to have more participants". An apparently flippant but serious "More photographs with me in ta" expressed the drive for self-discovery behind the events, and one of the former staff members' comment "I cannot think how it might have been any better - it felt as if I was amongst friends from the minute I arrived!" captured an ethos the "Weekends" attempted to achieve. A similar fulfillment, a falling-in-to-place of discovery, mutuality, realness, and a growing community emerges in responses to 'What did you get out of this event? Do you feel you achieved anything?'
- "A lot of revived memories and background on my time at Shotton. Made new friends and reacquainted with old ones"
- "I got a great deal from the Weekend I only hope I was able to give enough back"
- "Useful antidote to nostalgic pleasant reunions with people I don't know"
- "I hadn't realised before how our ex-boys, in contributing to this project, can continue to work on their personal development and come to terms with their past stories "
- "A chance to meet up with a great bunch of people, including ex-pupils of Shotton Hall. A chance to reflect on how my experiences and learning at Shotton influence me now."
4.1.12 Caldecott Community: August 1-3, 2011
'Is there anything you didn't enjoy?': "No - The food and members of staff were fantastic. Food was fit for Kings and Queens. Thankyou."
The second Caldecott "Weekend" in May was immediately followed by the Caldecott Community 100th anniversary celebration at Canterbury Cathedral in Kent. The third "Weekend", in August 2011, was followed exactly a month later on September 2nd with the Caldecott Association's own celebratory reunion - generally a biannual reunion - at Lambeth Palace in London. In a year of celebrations of longevity, continuity and community, it made some sense that the Caldecott Association should manage to arrange, uniquely of the participating communities, a third Archive "Weekend".
It was also the final "Weekend" of the project, and felt in many ways special. One of the participants wrote to the project team afterwards: "What I'd always searched for, possibly without even knowing it, every time I went back for reunion, suddenly was there with you all at P.E.T.T.. I felt I had regained my roots, my Caldecott family in you all and our togetherness over that weekend."
Why? Unusually for an Archive "Weekend", the clear majority of participants were female, whether counting just Community members (former children and a parent) at 7:2, or counting volunteers and project team members as well, at 10:4. There was also an interesting balance between the numbers of an established group, who had been to Archive "Weekends" before, and those for whom it was an entirely new experience. Three of the Community members were taking part in their third Caldecott "Weekend", and two in their second, while four former children were taking part for the first time: A balance of 3:2:4. If we include project team members and volunteers, the figures were 7:2:5, with the volunteer taking part for the first time being a young student, and the volunteer taking part for the third time being a Trustee; and with the age range of participants stretching from 15 to 97. There was a demographic richness and a combination of continuity and novelty which might contribute towards answering the "Why"; but as one of the project team remarked "the event felt very relaxed", and a great deal of work was certainly achieved: Preliminary sorting of the extensive Caldecott Association archives, which would have been impossible without the hands-on participation of Community members; 326 photographs and 57 documents were scanned; five life-story recordings, two group recordings, and five digital stories were made.
Continuity and depth were enhanced by the participation of Chris Bradley as a digital stories trainer, having worked previously on separate "Weekends" with members of Wennington and Bodenham Manor, and having seen the project from start to finish - running trainings during both the first and the last Archive "Weekends" of the project. Although only a day training on this occasion, the group produced five digital stories using photographs and drawings along with written recollections. These were extremely moving, and showed, in Chris Bradley's words afterwards, "that there is enormous potential, not least of all because there are some amazing stories to be told!"
Participants' feedback was generally positive, as well as constructive. Under 'Were your expectations met?' answers included "'Far Out' - Excellent 3 days (Not long enough!!!)", "More than!" and "Far away and beyond, thank you". 'Is there anything you didn't enjoy?' produced the straightforward "Not able to feel enthusiastic about 'oral stuff'", and 'Please list any way in which you think we can improve the Archive Weekend' produced "Not sure. The technical stuff is a lot to take in for me. Especially the website tutorial right at the end. I got a bit lost there. But it was a wonderful 3 days." There was also the creative "1)0 2)0 3)0 etc." and the more extensive "Not really - But perhaps show Archive Cabinet and box files on 1st day! It all made sense to me when my eyes feast on these areas!!! All in All I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for all your care and love throughout the 3 days of Memories. Will come and Volunteer for you all so that projects like this keep going."
Under 'What did you get out of this event? Do you feel you achieved anything?', the final Archive "Weekend" of the project generated answers which made it feel as if the project design, and its realisation by everyone involved, had achieved much that it had set out to achieve: "Wonderful connection again with my Caldecott family"; "Getting together with other Caldecott people was as always very enjoyable. I was also able to progress a little with cataloguing"; "Eating wonderful food laid on by P.E.T.T. staff - and other lovely 'achievings' too numerous to name"; "Too much to list!"; "A lot of love, feeling of family, friendship and solidarity, feeling that I do have roots after all and these have been honoured by P.E.T.T.. Wonderful welcome and food and environment."