Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Some More Serious Stuff

Firstly thank several of you for the cryptic insults, I actually am pushing thirty, I just didn't specify from which direction!
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Now that my contract is coming to an end I would like to take the opportunity to introduce those of you with an interest in history to the results from the fifteen months I have been involved with the Block Capital project (although those of you who access Brownhills Bob's blog may already know most of it).
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Block Capital is a heritage lottery funded project that commenced in August 2013 with an aim of setting up a digital archive about peoples experience of high-rise housing across the Black Country. Originally it was intended to be a one year project but it recently received an extension to the end of 2014.
Although local studies rooms and archives often have a lot of information about social housing, there is rarely a dedicated section dealing with it so a major aspect of the project has been the training of volunteers to undertake this research and put together an easy access resource for any future historians who may want to look into this particular aspect of Black Country Life.
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High Rise blocks were very much a twentieth century phenomenon, with many blocks being built in the 1950s and 60s to replace old and unsuitable Victorian properties and also to fill the gap in housing stock that arose following the Second World War. For a variety of reasons many of these blocks were demolished within thirty years of being built and it was felt to be important to capture the experiences of high rise tenants so that an accurate picture of this way of life could be assembled and recorded for posterity.
An individual tenant’s experience of these blocks might vary depending on when they actually lived in them. Moving from a Victorian terrace to a modern flat with indoor Bathroom and central heating was a major life-style change for those involved. However ten years down the line poor building techniques or changes to local authority policies may have resulted in a very different experience. In order to capture the real testimony of these individuals, many Block Capital volunteers have been trained in interviewing skills and recording Oral histories, allowing high-rise tenants to give their personal views on what it was like in their own words.
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All of the Volunteers have been offered free training in a range of relevant subjects. As well as Oral History, sessions have been run on how High Rise fits into the context of social housing and also how we conserve architectural heritage for future generations. We have also arranged comprehensive archive visits supported by Wolverhampton and Sandwell Archives all of which have been well received and have given the volunteers a much wider awareness of what resources were available and how to access them.
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As for the volunteers themselves, at the beginning of October 2014 we currently have forty-two volunteers, many of whom are actively donating their time to undertaking research and interviewing former tenants. The chemistry between the volunteers has been excellent with individuals from both academic and non-academic backgrounds coming together to support the venture.
We have attended and promoted the project at local events such as Open Days and celebrations in Wolverhampton and Walsall and even arranged a very successful event at Tipton where tenants from the demolished Bolton Court Flats were invited to come in and give their memories. This was supported in no small way by Sandwell Libraries who provided the venue and made us very welcome.
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The project is still going forward and we are keen to hear from anyone who lived in or worked in Black Country High Rise developments. There are many ex-council employees we would love to hear from and we still want to hear from any tenants or ex-tenants who may be willing to contribute. If you don’t want to be interviewed then put your story in writing and we will be happy to receive them and add them to the archive. Please have a look online at the Block Capital website. You will find some fascinating documents that have been donated to the project, interesting photographs and can also listen to some of the remembrances that have been captured by our volunteer researchers.
For me one of the nicest aspects have been the people who were surprised to know that their every-day life was of interest , but then that’s what history is, millions of tiny events that happen every single day. The big events are always recorded but the little individual stories are often lost. Hopefully, Block Capital will have ensured that some of these events will now be captured and become a real part of Black Country history. If I have captured your interest, check out the online archive at;
http://distinctlyblackcountry.org.uk/blockcapital


Chaz

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

And while we are talking about Chip Shops...

OK, While I am rambling on about Chip Shops (see previous post) can I just say a word about a chip shop in Leamore?
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I went to secondary School in Leamore (Yes - that one!) and started in 1968. We used to go and get our chips from a chip shop called The Copper Fish and then catch the lift to the top floor of Dover House and look out the windows at the world below us as we ate our lunch (no mischief or vandalism and yes, we took our chip papers out with us).
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Do you know that chip shop is still there and still called The Copper Fish? Now I don't want to give too much away about my age (you get sensitive when you are pushing thirty) but that has got to be some kind of record? Even the wonderful Majors (praise-be to the batter bits) was only established in 1975, the Copper Fish must have been going for about fifty years without a change of name. Fifty years of service to the community and not shouting the odds about it. I am just saying, that's taking modesty and reserve a bit far, if my company had been going fifty years I think I might shout about it a bit?
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I haven't been in there for more time than I can remember (probably mid-seventies) so I cant comment on the quality of the product, but from my experience if there are two things that the people of Leamore can talk about with authority its chips and ale and you don't get to stay open for fifty years without doing something right!
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Well done Copper Fish, fifty years acknowledged by someone you don't know! Come on, it must be better than nowt? - Chaz

Up for it and had a go!

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I have just been on Twitter and sent a deep and meaningful Tweet.
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Don't worry I haven't gone soft and fuzzy I just took pity on the eleven (yes ELEVEN) people who have apparently been following me and waiting patiently for me to say something. Even Twitter were surprised, they sent me a welcome back e-mail and told me that they haven't heard from me for a long time (actually it was once in July 2012) I even know what my Twitter address is (and yes I really didn't know that until today, apparently I am: @ChazMason1.)
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Do you know, I am so excited about this that I think I can feel another Tweet coming on, oh, hang on, no, it was just wind (I knew I shouldn't have eaten all that Garlic Bread). Actually you may be wondering why I was on the aforesaid website, well it was to follow up on a kind e-mail from Vivian Emery who advised me how to try and get my Staffs Bird News back, nothing has happened so far but a big thank you to Vivien for her kindness in trying to help.
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And NO - I wasn't rude to those eleven people who enhanced my life by making me believe (just for a glorious moment) that someone somewhere believes that I have the potential to say something meaningful and worth reading (you lot know better!).


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My contract with Wolverhampton City Council is soon to end and today I found myself in Bilston, that last bastion of genuine Black Country life. For fifteen months I have resisted temptation but this lunchtime I thought 'What the heck' and succumbed to a bag of chips and batter bits from the best Chip Shop in the Black Country (Yeah, you can think different but who's blog is it, eh?). To be honest if you can find a better Chip shop than Majors in Bilston you are doing really well (last Christmas they apparently did deep-fried Mince Pies - now that's nouvelle cuisine!).
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See how well off you are? If I was social and not Anti-Social I could have sat there in beautiful Bilston and Tweeted you all:
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"Hi, I'm outside Major's Chip Shop eating Chips and Batter Bits"
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Wouldn't that have enhanced your day? - If it makes you happy then do it, but for my eleven followers I have to say, thanks guys, but if you are waiting for another tweet you may end up with a beard down to your knees (and that's just the ladies!) - Enjoy the rest of it - Chaz