A friend who lives in Shirehampton told me about A Forgotten Landscape. Given my long involvement with family history research, and interest in social history, the idea of becoming an Oral History Volunteer really appealed to me. Following the application process, I was able to join the second training session in my area and after several years of retirement I enjoyed being back in a professional environment.
I started talking to friends about the project and before long I had an introduction to a farming family in Pilning Street, and from this first contact I was able to set up two more interviews with more to follow.
The interviewing process is really a long conversation, with the interviewer guiding the process from earliest memories to the present day, whilst trying to remember to refer back and ask the interviewee to expand on particularly relevant memories to the project area. Of the three people I have interviewed to date, two have been well into their seventies and one nearly ninety. They had all clearly thought about what they wanted to say, and their recall was phenomenal. So many parts of their lives came to life for me, and I was deeply fascinated by their experiences, whether it was describing living in a house without running water, gas or electricity or staying up night after night trying to save livestock. At times the interviewee became emotional recalling dark or difficult times, especially in war time, or where life and death is concerned, or simply recalling experiences in life which have gone forever, so the challenge is to be empathic without losing track of guiding the interviewing process.
I have been lucky that another member of the group has been able to give me technical advice with regard to the recording equipment, and help with computer software, outside of the training sessions. I have learnt new skills!
I feel very privileged to be able to listen to someone describing their lives in such detail, and from time to time I have been moved by what I have been told. The experiences have been quite profound and thought provoking, and I look forward to more interviews and being involved with the project until 2018.