We work right across the country so it’s always a pleasure to deliver a project on our doorstep. Cue the Roots to Routes app, centred on our neighbouring parish. The project is a response to local residents’ concerns about their industrial past becoming lost to future generations.
The resulting app offers a local’s perspective of earlier coal mining and railway endeavours in Blackwell Parish, Derbyshire, via a series of walking trails.
Whilst still under the shadow of the Covid pandemic, some members of the community group were still anxious about sharing a room with others. They were also nervous about embarking on a digital heritage interpretation project. Pam Stocks captured what many of our customers often feel at the start of an app project, “When we had our first meetings about this project, I was a little apprehensive as I am not that familiar with all things IT. Although it sounded amazing, I was unsure how much I would be able to contribute.”
Through a series of workshops with the group we steadily introduced the concepts of both the app and the principles of heritage interpretation (storytelling with meaning), we tackled how to research and write self-guided trails and addressed uploading content onto the app using the content management system. At each step we built confidence and provided support where needed.
Across large maps in a pub function room the group reminisced about old shops, local legends, ‘the’ history, their own histories, ex-industry, ex-jobs, old landscapes, where they played, how they got by, ghost stories and the houses.
With these memories fresh in their minds we then let the group loose to develop trails in their villages.
How quickly can heritage be lost?
Tony Mellors discovered at the start of the project that heritage can be lost within a couple of generations, “As a local history ‘buff’ I was asked to make a short presentation…to a class of 5 yr olds, some 60 years my junior. One question posed by a youngster rocked me back in my shoes and made me think of the changes during those 60 years: the question was ‘Please Mister, What is Coal?’”
This became a rallying call and a reminder of how important heritage interpretation is to provoke, relate and reveal, and keep local stories alive.
It was important that the trails content was developed first so that it could inform the development of the app, and it was also important that each member gave their own voice to their trail. Tony devised his from the perspective of a ‘history buff’. Brian Stocks, an ex-miner, was able to provide stories straight from the horse’s (or should that be pit pony’s) mouth.
The app’s self-guided trails feature oral histories from local people, along with animated videos and archive photographs, some of which morph automatically from the past into today’s scene with seamless ease. The group plan to add more trails.
Download the Roots to Routes app
Why not give this app a try? Select one of the options below to open the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store.
Commissioning organisation PlatformThirty1 also asked us if we could design five interpretation panels for the villages involved in the project. It was a collaborative process involving a number of other local creatives: Emma Reynard provided the illustrations and Andrew Frost the unique wooden frames. Another striking element is the frame pyrography. This was done by Liz Appleby who had the following thoughts about her involvement in the project.
“This was my first jump into large scale pyrography work and I think it worked well. Having never burnt on this kind of scale before I had to just go with my gut as I had nothing else really to compare it too. So I just very loosely pencilled in where things might go and went from there. I think the interpretation boards look great. Everyone working together has produced something special and unique. I’m really proud of what we’ve all achieved. It a lovely thing to remind a community of how special it is and celebrate its historical roots.
This project has been a true medley of co-creation from beginning to end. It began from listenings that took place in the community where we heard loudly that there isn’t currently enough visibility and commemoration to our parish past history. Through working carefully with local residents, artists and professionals we have together all created something very special. With so much local knowledge, varied skills and expertise involved the project, it has taken a lot of time, consideration and resource which is completely reflected in the outcomes of this project that the whole parish gets to enjoy. The process alone was very powerful to be a part of and seeing these now stood proud and installed from a seed of an idea a few years back…well, it brings me a lot of joy as a resident in the parish to see what we all have achieved.Jodie Cresswell-Waring, Project Facilitator, PlatformThirty1