The view from Bristol…

Grace Swordy describes her first month as History of Place co-ordinator in Bristol – including meeting volunteers, and visits to MSHED and Bristol Record Office.

Grace Swordy describes her first month at the History of Place project.  She will be leading work in Bristol.

An uphill cycle to Kingswood brought me to my host offices, WECIL, the West England Centre of Integrated Living. A hive of activity, the offices are buzzing with those hard at work helping people access disability services and provide peer support across Bristol. Settling down in a temporary desk, I began to get my head around the action plans, budgets, meetings and links I wanted to make.

Martha at WECIL introduced me to the peer support team and how everything works. We discussed how the Accentuate History Of Place project might link up with WECIL, and its volunteers and networks. I was inspired by the focus and commitment of the team and WECIL, and the friendly atmosphere provided for their clients and participants.  A meeting with Christine Davies at the Architecture centre, brought some interesting ideas for collaborations, and we look forward to discussing the bubbling creativity more soon!

Week 2: join the Bristol Volunteer and Research Archive group

My second week on the project focused largely on promoting the Volunteer and Research Archive group. A new poster and all the techie versions were created and disseminated far and wide. The Bristol networks opening up before me, I hope that those who might be interested in being part of the important research group are reached!

I attended my first of WECIL’s peer support groups, The Creative Challenge. Enthusiastic and friendly barely covers the wonderful energy that the group emit; I hope all those who listened to keenly and spoke so well about the history of Bristol will be able to join us!

My week also held a meeting with Jackie Winchester at MSHED, one of our key partners in the project and where our HOP exhibition will tour to in Bristol. Jackie clarified ideas on  project in relation to museums of Bristol and how to link with all the fascinating work they are doing.

Week 3: volunteers start to emerge

A range of interested volunteers began to come forward in my third week. I continued to meet new people and groups who might be able to link up the HOP, and was privileged to attend a drop in Yate. After hearing some important information about support for disability allowance from Mike in Peer support, the group listened receptively to my explanation of HOP and how they could get involved. There were some great shared conversations on the History of Buildings in Bristol, and how places and buildings supporting disabled people have changed over the years.

At The Bristol Record Offices

On Thursday, I had a date with The Bristol Record Offices, and my first tour of the archives. It was a real treat to be shown around the four huge strong rooms and see such a wealth of information stored in the warehouse. I was really interested to see how the record offices were so carefully organised and logged, with such detailed systems and codes. Julian Warren, archivist at the BRO was a great tour guide, showing me how information can be accessed and how best to approach researching with records. We discussed diverse ways to approach the research, and thought about methods of engaging with the information. It was thought provoking to see how other groups such as the LGBT community had been using the archives to direct a research project into their history in Bristol. Perhaps we can take inspiration from their approaches!

At the end of this week, the peer support team at WECIL and me along with them, moved offices down to the Vassall centre in Fishponds. The move was as ADWUK (Action on Disability and Work UK) combined with WECIL. For the HOP of place project this means we are placed within a large centre of people working to support people with disabilities and their families in a wide variety of ways.

My fourth week involved a lot of organisation. As well as chasing references and contacts, I set a date for the first induction meeting with the Volunteer and Research Archive Group! We will be meeting on the 14th of April, at the Bristol Record Offices. I hope that we get a good turnout and everyone who attends enjoys this initial induction.

We are also organising a Partners advisory group, who will meet a couple of times a year, to discuss the project’s direction and how to keep it on the best track. My first month feels like it has put down some good roots and connections, now to feed them for growth!


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