— Lucy Worsley (@Lucy_Worsley) August 25, 2016
We’re on our way! I’ve had to be very quiet about this one, whilst it was in development, but I am now happy to report that Pershore WI and Pershore Heritage & History Group (alias the WW1 in the Vale team) are celebrating the award of £10,000 each from the Heritage Lottery Fund First World War: Then and Now programme.
It’s been a long journey and a lot of hard work all round since Maggie Andrews and I produced the first public consultation event back in October 2014 at the Almonry in Evesham, but this grant award means that we can now get cracking on our research and events programme to find out more about life in the Vale during World War One.
Over the next year, each group will follow a particular theme:
Pershore WI members will celebrate the centenary of their branch, founded in November 1916 as one of the first Women’s Institutes in the county. They will uncover the lives of its original members, including Viscountess Deerhurst of Pirton, Mrs Beynon, wife of the manager of the Pomona Jam Factory, and the wives, daughters or servants of engineers, bricklayers, tradesmen and market gardeners in the area.
Pershore Heritage & History Society will be investigating ‘How the Pershore Plum Won the War’. The fruit and vegetables grown in the Vales of Evesham and Pershore were essential to the nation’s food production. Many local residents combined market gardening and fruit growing with other trades such as pub landlord or wheelwright.
The project team will be co-ordinated by Jenni Waugh Consulting Ltd (me!) and supported by Professor Maggie Andrews, students from the University of Worcester, the Voices of War and Peace World War One Engagement Centre, Pershore Library staff and Pershore Town Council,. We will also work with artists, an oral historian and a film-maker to record our discoveries, and have a year’s worth of exciting events and activities planned.
We also plan to produce touring exhibitions, a WW1 Pershore Town Trail and films of Food Preservation Demonstrations. We will also host a number of craft activities for children in the local library and other public events.
A book based on our research, How the Pershore Plum Won the War, will be published by the History Press and available for sale in time for the Pershore Plum Festival in 2016.
Researching and writing evaluation reports is fascinating and enjoyable part of my work. It is a privilege to be able to follow project teams and volunteers as they deliver complex community activity and then to be able to reflect back to them the impact their work has had.
This week, I finished work on the evaluation report for MEDIEVAL ABBERLEY REVEALED, an HLF-funded Medieval Abberley Revealed community archaeology project which took place over 12 months, and built upon the enthusiasm for local history sparked by the popular Abberley Lives 20th century history project of 2012-2013.
Participation levels on this project were really high, with over 13% of the village either volunteering or attending an event. The social and well-being outcomes were very strong – even long-time residents expressed how much they had enjoyed meeting new neighbours and volunteering with friends.
The activities seemed to generate a genuine sense of occasion, drawing volunteers aged from 9 to 90 years. As a local resident and member of the AHPS said later:
‘We joined Abberley Hills Preservation Society but it went dormant for a while. This activity has revived it all and we have met a lot of people we had never met before. It’s brought us together to fight against [the proposed] houses. I would absolutely do it again.’
This was the first project evaluation where I was able to use multi-media sources to provide evidence of activity. Several of the participants have very active social media feeds, so I was able to collate real-time responses during activity and save them using Storify. I also trained project volunteers to be able to blog so that they could encourage each other to share their reflections online via the Abberley Lives website.
Furthermore, with the advice and assistance of Clear Picture Productions, I have also recorded and edited my first short films for the project website that capture the excitement and curiosity generated during live events.
Thanks very much to Abberley Hills Preservation Society for hiring me to do this lovely piece of work, and for giving me the chance to explore new means of gathering evidence.
Download the report: Medieval Abberley Revealed evaluation