Dad’s Car by Kuli Kohli


Our guest writer Louise Palfreyman has been scouring the Black Country for your true life tales... and we've had some brilliant entries. Here's our second one this week.
There's still time to submit your stories, and to give you a glimpse of what we're looking for we'd like to share Kuli Kohli's story 'Dad's Car'.
If you have a strong memory you think would make a nice piece for us, the entry details are at the end of Kuli's story...

Dad's Car
by Kuli Kohli

Deepi at Park Street South. Kuli Kohli

I am in my back garden where there are no flowers or shrubs. No trees or bushes, only sunny dandelions, nettles and grassy weeds growing through the cracks in the concrete.

In one corner, bits of timber and wavy steel sheets have been shaped into a tatty, tacky shed.  I am surrounded by honeycombed barbed wire and can see threads of my favourite brown frock caught where I tore it on the hems.

My Dad’s car, old and rusty, rests like a dead whale smashed to pieces on the shore. The door is ajar and I catch my finger on the rust as I try to climb inside. The blood from my finger stains the battered seat but I am too excited to notice it. I sit on the driver's seat, my feet dangling. I grab hold of the steering wheel and start twisting and turning it. I can't see where I am heading, I only see the dirty dashboard and switches with funny signs.

I smile and sing, pretending to drive, imitating my Dad. I don't know where I am going but my imagination takes me to amazing places...

Reality brakes, holts me to a standstill, when Mum calls, "Come out this instant! You'll hurt yourself!"


To submit your work to Real Life Stories, go to
We have a public reading of submitted work at Wolverhampton Literature Festival on Saturday 2 February, and you are invited to take part! Send us your work to be in with a chance. Louise will also be leading a workshop in life writing.

Bilston-Sur-Mer by Ros Woolner


Memories of Bilston
Our writer and editor Louise Palfreyman has been scouring the Black Country for your true life tales... and we've had some brilliant entries.
There's still time to submit your stories, and to give you a glimpse of what we're looking for we'd like to share Ros Woolner's story Bilston-Sur-Mer.
If you have a strong memory you think would make a nice piece for us, the entry details are at the end of Ros's story...
by Ros Woolner
Mimi on the beach in Hickman Park, summer 2003 Ros Woolner
The first time my daughter went to the beach was in the summer of 2003. I have a picture of her as a toddler playing in the sand. There are colourful beach umbrellas and inflatable slides. There may well have been deckchairs. More unusually, in the background you can see grass and trees – because this was Hickman Park in Bilston, and the sand had been brought in by lorry from Southport.

That was just a few months after we moved to Wolverhampton from London, so I imagine we were still finding our way around. I’m sure we’d already found our local library, which was only a ten-minute walk from home, even with a toddler. We’d take the shortcut down the alleyway next to the Oxley Moor Hotel – a pub that has since closed and been turned into a One Stop supermarket. Sadly, Oxley Library is no longer there either, and the building, which the council promised to put to ‘better use’, has been boarded up since 2009. 

In 2003 though, we were regular visitors. My daughter would look at every single picture book in there before choosing the ten she was allowed to take out. A few favourites came home with us several times a year: Hamish the Highland Cow (who hated hairdressers) by Natalie Russell, I Love You, Blue Kangaroo! by Emma Chichester Clark and Cockatoos by Quentin Blake, which must have been renewed more times than any other book in the library. 

A few months after our outing to Bilston by the Sea, my daughter started going to a day nursery just behind the library. Sunflowers day nursery was run by a woman called June, although of course the local staff pronounced it ‘Jewun’. My own kids picked up the Wolverhampton accent at nursery, but not the hinged vowels. Years later, my daughter told me that her primary school teacher didn’t comment when children said ‘ballewun’ for ‘balloon’, or ‘soowun’ for ‘soon’, but he drew the line at ‘kewub’ for ‘cube’. The nursery staff also introduced me to ‘a luv’ (cuddle) and ‘a poorly’, and taught me that wet paper towels are a magic cure for everything from a grazed knee to a headache (as in ‘Have you got a poorly? Come here and give us a luv and I’ll get you a wet paper towel’). 

June/Jewun fell in love with the man who came to the nursery to deal with a rat problem. Soon afterwards, she left and followed him back to Scotland. Now, whenever I pass that nursery, I’m reminded of another favourite picture book: The Pied Piper of Hamelin.

Just as my daughter had her first seaside experience in Bilston, my son got his first taste of France at the Newhampton Arts Centre on Dunkley Street. This was where we saw The Man who Planted Trees – a show that transported us to Provence with lavender breezes (helped along by a fan) and a fine misting of rain from a spray bottle.

Our first real trip to France several years later was not to the lavender fields of Provence, but to Paris. Both children wanted to see the ‘Thinker’ statue in the Rodin Museum because their teacher (the one who drew the line at ‘kewub’) would say ‘Rodin’ to stop his class chattering and get them to strike a ‘Thinker’ pose instead. While there, we discovered that Paris, like Bilston, has its own beach: every summer, truckloads of sand are brought in to create ‘Paris-Plages’ along the Seine. 

It is in fact over 100 miles from Paris to the sea – about the same distance as it is from Bilston to Southport.

[Note: I only moved to Wolverhampton in 2003, so my Black Country memories are all fairly recent. I do have a photo of my daughter on the 'beach' in Bilston.]

To submit your work to Real Life Stories, go to
We have a public reading of submitted work at Wolverhampton Literature Festival on Saturday 2 February, and you are invited to take part! Send us your work to be in with a chance. Louise will also be leading a workshop in life writing.

Oral History Training Day at Dudley Archives

Oral History and Photography Collections

An in-depth training day with Richard Lewis and Geoff Broadway at Dudley Archives

19th January 2019 10am - 3.30pm

We are delighted to announce a unique oral history training day co-led by Richard Lewis and Geoff Broadway.

The day will be a comprehensive introduction to the different kinds of oral history project and give you the tools you need to prepare and conduct your own recording session.

We will look at different kinds of technology that can be used and provide a range of tips to help you make the best out of your project. As part of the day will be running a newly-developed session aimed at how to record oral histories are based around specific photography collections. 

The day will cover:

  •  The foundations of oral history: what it is and why is it important. 
  • A brief look at different types of oral history projects.
  • How to prepare for an oral history recording.
  • What about technology?
  • How to conduct an oral history recording.
  • What to do after the recording: transcribing, archiving and using the material.
  • Points to consider when making a number of recordings and developing a larger oral history project.
  • Oral History and the Living Memory project -  oral history around collections

The training day is organised as part of the Living Memory project which is a Heritage Lottery Funded project exploring, archiving and celebrating life stories and personal photography collections across the Black Country. 

About the facilitators.

Richard Lewis is the Senior Archivist at Dudley Archives and has led and supporting a number of oral history projects both across the Black Country and further afield.

Geoff Broadway leads the Living Memory project and has over 20 years of experience of working with oral history as part of arts and heritage initiatives. He specialises in using oral history as part of audio-visual presentations and immersive installations.

Booking essential: Go to Eventbrite to reserve your place

Fee: £6 (all proceeds go to friends of Dudley Archives)

Dudley Archives
Tipton Rd,
Dudley DY1 4SQ

PLACES: 15 Places Available
Date: 19/01/2019
Time: 10.00 am - 3:30 pm

Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund


Looking Back – a guest post by Brendan Jackson

Guest writer Brendan Jackson reflects on our recent event 'Looking Back - a guided walk and talk over the Rowley Hills' led by Jim Rippin and Mike Poulton. 

If you thought the Rowley Rag was an old newspaper, perhaps of ill-repute, think again. Rowley Rag is the name of a volcanic dolerite stone excavated from the quarries of the Rowley Hills. We learn a great deal about this place today, tramping over hillsides that overlook the Black Country.

The hills are actually four promontories - Turner’s Hill, Bury Hill, Portway Hill and Darby’s Hill - now a large area of grassland in the area, part of which is designated as Site of Local Importance for Nature Conservation as well as being a place of geological significance. In 1782, the stone here was chemically analysed a Dr William Withering of Birmingham (also a botanist, chemist, geologist and member of the Lunar Society). His results were passed on to the then President of the Royal Society, Sir Joseph Banks, by one Joseph Priestley (a fellow member of the Lunar Society and the inventor of soda water, among many other things).

Turners Hill by Jim RIppin, late 1950s
Particpants on the guided walk and talk.

Apart from detailing his experiments, he wrote: ‘The limestone rocks at Dudley bed up against it, and the coal comes to the surface against the limestone. The highest part of the hills is near the village of Rowley. The summit has a craggy, broken appearance, and the fields on each side to a considerable distance are scattered over with large fragments of the rock, many of which are sunk in the ground.’ He went on to note: ‘Over the whole of this tract of the country it is used to mend the roads, and lately has been carried to Birmingham to pave the streets. Some people fell it in powder, as a substitute for emery in cutting and polishing. Its appearance is dark grey, with numerous minute shining crystals. When exposed to the weather gets an ochre colour on the outside; strikes fire with steel; cuts glass; melts, though not easily, under the blow-pipe.’

A view across Tividale, West Bromwich and beyond. From the Jim Rippin Collection. Late 1950s
Jim Rippin (R) Terry Danials (C) and Mike Poulton (L) comparing archive photographs of the changing landscape.

The viewpoints on the walk today are far-reaching, Turners Hill being the highest point in the West Midlands. The ridge itself divides the Black Country into two parts, separating the Severn and Trent river catchments, and offers a tremendous panorama. In the one direction we can see the Albion ground, the Post Office tower in the centre of Birmingham, Barr Beacon, the centre of Walsall, the edge of Cannock Chase and is that Lichfield we can glimpse?

The guided walk-and-talk is based around a series of photographs taken by Jim Rippin over the last seventy years. He has made a selection of images to share with the walkers, which reveal the landscape as it was then. He has lived in the area all his life and has fond memories of playing in these hills as a child, then a place of intense quarrying - and before that mining. In 1875, there were one 26 collieries in Rowley alone. We savour the names, sourced from old maps: Ramrod Colliery, Samson Colliery, Lyecross Colliery, Randall Colliery, Newbury Lane Colliery, Rounds Green Colliery, Churchbridge Colliery, Lifter Pit, Bottom Pressure Pit, Top Pressure Pit, Dingle Pit, Topend Pit. It was a ravaged landscape. Thomas Carlyle wrote of it in 1824: ’A frightful scene... a dense cloud of pestilential smoke hangs over it forever... and at night the whole region burns like a volcano spitting fire from a thousand tubes of brick. But oh the wretched thousands of mortals who grind out their destiny there!’ There are no pikemen, blacksmiths, cranemen, hewers or banksmen amongst us today - though there’s a chap who used to work at Accles & Pollocks who vividly recalls the toxins pumped into the water-filled marlholes hereabouts.

one of the massive marlholes left behind by quarrying in the Rowley Hills. From the Jim Rippin Collection.

Mike Poulton, our other guide, is also a knowledgeable local. He has dedicated many years to helping document, preserve and celebrate the flora and fauna of this landscape. While Jim offers a social commentary, sharing his reflections on how the landscape has changed, Mike explains the importance of this place as at habitat for numerous butterfly and insect species, as well as wildflowers. As we look at a patch of grassland where the Samson Quarry used to be, where Jim recalls being dangled over the edge by his older brothers, then Mike explains that this landfill is over fifty years old, yet no trees grow here. These old quarries were backfilled with waste, which included colliery spoil and blast furnace slag, and the surface of this one only has two types of grasses which, he says, you would usually expect to see in the first stage of vegetation, in the first 10 years or so - yet no shrubs or trees have taken root here. In the winter it’s marshy and some recall seeing pools of oily water with rainbows, which suggests that there is still something lingering in the soil underneath that inhibits growth.

Scrambling Bikes over the Rowley Hills in Winter. From the Jim Rippin Collection. 1954.
Pieter Brueghel the Younger: Winter Landscape with a Bird Trap. 1565

We end our two and a half hour walk at the site of the former Blue Rock quarries where Mike points out examples the igneous rocks with their vertical columnar jointing and ‘onion skinning’ which were formed as the molten mass cooled, contracted and cracked. He tells us this is the same type of rock that forms the Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland. According to the geologists, these basalts and dolerites were extruded in a molten state into the strata of the Coal Measures and Etruria Marls late in the Carboniferous period. Slowly cooling, they then formed this hard crystalline rock called the Rowley Rag, which has shaped and reshaped the landscape over the centuries. (The Romans were believed to have first excavated here). Though I’ve walked these hills myself in the past, I’ve learned a lot today, and enjoyed seeing a tremendous selection of photographs. One in particular stays with me - a black and white photograph taken on a winter’s day in the 1950s, looking down towards the Wolverhampton Road, the curves of a slagheap obscuring the Portway junction. On the left, snow-covered roofs, away to the right a the dark outline of a blast foundry. Dotted around the landscape in the foreground are little figures on scrambling bikes, the whole recalling a much earlier classical composition, ‘Winter Landscape with a Bird Trap’ by Pieter Brueghel The Younger.

Film Commissions

Call for Submissions: 2 x Film Commissions

Living Memory is a Heritage Lottery Fund-supported project that is working across the Black Country to record and celebrate people's own photography collections and life stories. These collections and family albums contain a wealth of important photographs and life stories that we think should be recorded, preserved and shared as part of our cultural heritage. The project launched in January 2018 and finishes early 2020.

As part of the Living Memory project we are:

  • Recording 30 new oral histories with collection holders and photographers to provide first-hand meaning and context to these photographic collections. 
  • Creating over 100 public sharing and training events, workshops, and temporary exhibitions across the region 
  • Working with and training up to 60 project volunteers
  • Producing a Living Memory book 
  • Producing a comprehensive website
  • Producing a DVD of the commissioned films
  • Producing a final Living Memory exhibition late 2019

Film Commissions

We are now looking to commission two films that will tell the story of the Living Memory project and works directly with some of the life stories and photography collections.
We are looking for an experienced creative/documentary filmmaker/s who have a demonstrable interest in heritage, life stories, and photography collections.
Ideally (but not essential) the commissioned filmmaker will have local knowledge of and/or a strong interest in the history and culture of the Black Country.
For an interesting perspective on the Black Country go here.

Film Commission 1


  • To produce a visually rich documentary film that tells a comprehensive story of the Living Memory project: what the project is about and why it is important.
  • To be able to communicate this in an engaging, contemporary style and be accessible to diverse audiences.
  • To capture and illustrate the different aspects of the project through various means, e.g. film, interview, conversation, text, sound, images.
  • To feature people’s stories, the range of photographic collections, and the process of the project including an agreed number of events and workshops.
  • To provide a bank of media footage that can be used to form short standalone pieces for the website and on social media.
  • To provide a bank of material that may be used at some of the show back events scheduled over the next 16 months.
  • To provide a visual record capable of being used for project evaluation purposes.
  • To prepare the film for final screening, final exhibition and hard-copy publishing.


October  2018 - Dec 2019


£3500 to include all travel, materials, and subsistence.  The commissioned filmmaker is responsible for their own NI and tax contributions.

Commission 2 


  • To produce a film that engages directly with the participants and the range of recorded material including: individual photographs; family albums; private photography collections; the recorded oral histories; other related documents. 
  • To create a film (or series of ‘shorts’) that may use more creative approaches 
  • To provide moving image material that can be used to form short standalone pieces for the website and on social media. 
  • To provide moving image material that can be shown back at events scheduled over the next 16 months.
  • To provide a visual record capable of being used for project evaluation purposes.
  • To prepare the film for final screening, final exhibition and hard-copy publishing.


£3500 to include all travel, materials and subsistence.  The commissioned filmmaker is responsible for their own NI and tax contributions.


October  2018 - Dec 2019

To Apply:

Please submit via email:

  • A cover letter detailing your interest in the commission/s and an outline of your skills and filmmaking experience.
  • A brief summary of how you would approach the commission/s.
  • An online link to your showreel or up to 3 specific examples of your work. Please remember to including any passwords.

Submission Deadline: 14th September 2018

Please send your submission to

To download this call as a .pdf document please go here. 

From the Will King Collecton.

Living Memory at The Tipton Canal Festival 2018

We are looking forward to taking part in this year’s Tipton Canal Festival and sharing some of the rich photographs and life stories that we have gathered so far as part of the project. 

Bring along your own canal memories, stories, and photographs.

Do you have any canal-related photographs and stories from the Black Country that you would like to share?  We are having a Living Memory stall at this year's festival where we will be on hand to digitize photographs and record your stories.  We will also be showing examples of the many stories and photographs that have been submitted so far as part of the project. 

Our canals have made a significant contribution to shaping the identity and the landscape of the Black Country. We want to help celebrate the role they have played in the life of our communities through sharing everyday stories and photographs.  We know there are many important untold stories and unseen photographs about the canal in our communities that will be lost if we don't take the opportunity to capture and record them now.  

We look forward to saying hello and talking about canal photographs and life stories as part of Tipton Canal Festival.

School boys on cycling trip around Oldbury,early 1980s. From the Bob Mansell Collecton.
Canal Scene, 1975. From the Keith Hodgkins Collection.

Will King exhibition at Tipton Library

To coincide with this year’s festival we have created a temporary exhibition featuring a selection of iconic photographs from the Will King collection. Will spent his working life on the Black Country canals and during this time took Free event - talking about WIll Kings photographs

For more information on the exhibition and Ruth's talk please see our related blog post.

Canal scene at Darby End, Netherton. From the Ron Moss Collection.

Will King Exhibition at Tipton Library


We are delighted to announce that our next temporary exhibition will be a selection of canal photographs from the Will King Collection and will be on show at Tipton Library between 15 - 29 September 2018. 

Over a period of 30 years Will King took over 2000 significant photographs that captured everyday life on the canals of the Black Country and beyond. Will spent much of his life working on the canal network working as a Lengthsman and then a Toll Clark for the BCN (Birmingham Canal Navigation). He died in 1962 leaving behind a trove of remarkable photographs that capture a time of great change as working boats were being faded out and the canals went into a temporary period of decline.

The Will King collection is now held by his daughter Ruth Collins who has been working with us to curate this first public exhibition of his work. Ruth will be joining us at Tipton Library on the 22nd September to talk about her father’s life and work. More information below. 

The exhibition coincides with the 2018 Tipton Canal Festival which runs over the weekend of 22nd and 23rd of September. We will also be having a stall at this year’s festival where we will be inviting people to bring in their own photographs and stories of life on and around the canals.

Free exhibition event: Ruth Collins in Conversation

11 am - 12.30pm
Saturday 22nd September
Tipton Library

Ruth Collins will be talking about her father’s life and work as well as sharing her own memories of growing up around the canal. As part of the talk, Ruth will be sharing some outstanding photographs from Will's collection for the first time in public. 

All welcome! 

The exhibition runs from the 15th - 29th September.

The Library opening times are:

Monday: 9.30am - 6pm
Tuesday: 9.30am - 1pm
Wednesday and Friday: 9.30am - 5pm
Thursday and Sunday: Closed
Saturday: 10am - 1pm

Looking Back: A guided walk over Rowley Hills with archive photographs.


Led by Mike Poulton and Jim Rippin

10-30am 13.00pm, 15th September 2018.

Cost: £6 (all proceeds go to the Friends of Rowley Hills)

This specially designed guided walk-and-talk is based around a series of remarkable photographs taken by Jim Rippin over the last seventy years. The walk will invite us to see the area in new and fascinating ways, helping us to reflect on the many changes that have taken place within living memory.

Jim Rippin has lived in the area all his life and spent much of it exploring and documenting with his camera. Mike Poulton is also a native of the area and has dedicated much of his life to help document, preserve and celebrate the flora and fauna of this unique landscape.

Working together to lead this walk-and-talk they will be sharing their own rich insights and historical information about this much-loved landscape. We invite you to come along and share your own views, photographs, and experiences of this icon area.

Panarama of Oldbury taken from the Rowley Hills in the 1980s by Jim Rippin.

Length: 2 miles approx

Time: 2.5 hours, depending on the conversation and weather.

Please note the route is at times undulating and steep and is classified as moderate.
We are very sorry that the route is not suitable for wheelchair users and people with mobility issues.
We recommend you wear sturdy footwear or walking boots. The route may be slippy in wet weather.

The maximum number of participants is 15. We advise booking early as we expect the walk to sell-out quickly.

Assembly point and further details will be sent to booked participants.


To book onto the walk please go to our Eventbrite page here. 

Edale House, Tividale taken 1956 by Jim Rippin

Scramblers meeting on Rowley Hills, 1950s. Photo by Jim Rippin

Real Life Stories with Louise Palfreyman


We are delighted to announce that Louise Palfreyman from the Arts Foundry will be working with us over the next six months to lead a special programme of writing workshops and events called Real Life Stories. 

We’re on the lookout for the best tales from the region… and we’re using personal photography collections as inspiration!

Real Life Stories will work with writers and writing groups across the Black Country to develop new works for publication – based on responses to everyday photographs.

Louise Palfreyman, Arts Foundry Editor, said: ‘Sometimes the best stories come from glimpses into real lives, and we feel a collection of Black Country tales would be a great read!’

Run by Living Memory and the Black Country Arts Foundry, anyone with an interest in writing can take part in the workshops and submit their work. We hope to collect new real-life stories inspired by your own photos or images from our extensive Living Memory project archive.

We’ll be touring local writers’ groups with images from the archive to inspire new creative responses and invite you to work around your own personal photographs. Writers can also send us existing real-life tales.
We can also provide technical advice and some assistance in scanning your own photographs ready for publication.

Stories will initially be published on the Living Memory website and at the Black Country Arts Foundry.

Details of particular workshops and timing will be announced over the coming weeks.

If you are interested in independently submitting to Real Life Stories, please send us your work using the form on the Arts Foundry website.  Stories should be between 1,500 and 3,000 words.

Louise Palfreyman is a published writer of fiction and non-fiction, and has worked extensively in the Black Country through a recent residency at the University of Wolverhampton. If you'd like to find out more you can email her here.


Howard Berry's family collection.

Louise Palfreyman (left) leading the 'In Perspective' Creative Writing Workshop at Haden Hill House Museum in June 2018

Living Memory Exhibition at Haden Hill House Museum

Our first Living Memory temporary exhibition took place in June 2018 at Haden Hill House Museum in Cradley Heath, Sandwell. We worked closely with the team from Sandwell Museum Services to make the most of our eight-day residency at this splendid Victorian-era house. 
We recorded just under 1,500 visitors to the exhibition over the eight-day period. 

The exhibition had four parts to it:

- A selection of personal photographs and stories shared during the first six months of the project from the across the local area
- Previously unseen photographs from the Ron Moss Collection
- 'Seven' by St Micheal's School in Rowley Regis
- Samples of work-in-progress by students at Sandwell College in West Bromwich

As part of our residency we also hosted two photo and story collection sessions, took part in the ‘Midsummer Music in the Park’ event, and hosted a creative writing workshop with Louise Palfreyman. To round off our time at the house we organised a special day of talks and presentations around different kinds of photography collections.

Haden Hill House Museum

Anand Chhabra speaking about the APNA Archive

The Oak Room at Haden Hill House Museum

From the comments book:

“A wonderful exhibition of ‘ordinary’ pictures by ‘ordinary’ people presented in a way that make it extraordinary”

“After seeing the exhibition I really appreciate the significance of photos to value the past and reignite the power of memories”

“I don’t normally respond emotionally to photographs in an exhibition but I found this ‘pop up’ show very moving. I liked knowing that were taken by, and have special meaning for, an ordinary person. This gives it a special way of working with the photos to connect with the subjects.”

A selection of 30 participants photographs and stories were presented on easels throughout the House Museum

Ron Moss: The Wedding of Margaret Gwilliams and Jake Watson at Laurel Road Methodist church in August 1967.

A view of some of the Ron Moss exhibtion in the Hall

Ron Moss
We were delighted to host a retrospective of the personal collection of Ron Moss from Old Hill. We showcased a selection of 24 photographs of his previously unseen private work made between 1950 and 1970. Working in collaboration with Ron and his daughter Cheryl, we chose photographs that demonstrate his developing eye as he informally captured his family and friends and their day- to-day lives. We also included a few later iconic images to pay homage to his love of the Black Country to which he has dedicated so much of his life.

You can see the images we presented at Haden Hill in The Collections section

Ron Moss as young man, photographed by his wife Sylvia. 1952

Stories and Photographs from local participants
Throughout the house we carefully presented some of the personal photographs and related stories that have been shared with us as part of our work in the area, particularly from Rowley Regis and the estates of Grace Mary and Lion Farm, and around Oakham. The stories and photographs were taken from recorded oral histories of participants speaking about their own collections in relation to their own lives.

Cheryl Aston (nee Moss) stands in front of a photograph of herself taken by her father Ron Moss in 1967

Hillary Kidd

Jacky Garbett

Sharon Offley

Sharon Offley

Gary Watton

Marianne Monro

Above: A sample selection of the image and story panels shown throughout the house.

The Student Voice at St Michael’s Senior School, Rowley Regis, worked with members of the local community to produce their own exhibition at Haden Hill House Museum.  They were supported by artists Richard Franks and Gemma Ince of Blue and White Creative and Kerry Whitehouse from St Michael’s School.

The project was an opportunity for participants to share key moments in their life narrative while finding rich and surprising common ground in each other’s understanding of family, relationships, successes and critical turning points. Some were celebratory, some poignant, some deeply personal, and some had a historical resonance.

Some of the students from St Michael's School, Rowley Regis, stand in front of Seven that they produced for the Living Memory exhbition.

In this context, the project allowed the group to explore the relationship that different generations have with photography, and also the way we capture, remember and recount an event or moment.

The group was then challenged to come up with just seven words to represent each person’s chosen image and its significance to their lives. Their creativity was expressed further by a workshop exploring typesetting and how we can use the arrangement of words to represent their meaning. Each person in the group chose, cut, stuck, copied and scaled their own text to develop their artwork.

Working with Birmigham-based Ropepress, the group took their artwork through this final process to create the final colourful versions of their work. This has given the final results a bright, playfulness and rich poignancy.

One of the pieces created for 'Seven' freshly printed at Ropepress in Birmingham

Students preparing files to print at Ropepress, Birmingham

One of the students preparing to make her final print at Ropepress, Birmingham

Sandwell College
Photography Students from Level 3 extended Btec at Sandwell College have each produced sets of photographs in response to The Living Memory Project. After initially discussing themes of the family album with tutors John Edwards, Richard Franklin and Helen Sweeting, they researched photographers who have also produced work on the topic. They were given an open project brief to create photographs in relation to either their own family albums from relatives, or photographs from the Living Memory Project website. Using the studio or on location, then processing their photographs using the darkroom, digital and a variety of post - production techniques, they have explored and developed their ideas to produce work in response to their original images.

A slection of work-in-progress made by students at Sandwell College

A student at Sandwell College shows off her project book featuring work made with her family collection as part of the Living Memory project

A student at Sandwell College shows off her project book featuring work made with her family collection as part of the Living Memory project

Midsummer Music in the Park
During the exhibition we hosted a stall and temporary display of collections in the house grounds. It was a chance to talk with a range of local people about the project and invite further participation. We met some fascination people including Mike Poulton who brought along an album of his father’s wartime experiences based on an oral history interview, and Nancy Cooper who was a land army girl from Old Hill. She wrote a book about her experiences called Down to Earth which you can find for sale here.

We were also delighted to welcome local history enthusiast and Living Memory volunteer Mike Fenton who crafted his own display of image from his own vast personal collection.

We were also assisted by project volunteers Jim Rippin, Juanita Williams and Cath Mansell who all shared some of their own collections as part of the event.

Former Land Army girl Nancy Cooper talks to Living Memory project vollunteer Jim Rippin at Midsummer Music in the Park event

Mike Poulton shows off the album he made about his father's experiences of WW11.

Mike Fenton presents his own personal archive of collected images as part of the Living Memory display

In Perspective- A day of talks about different kinds of photography collections.
We hosted a lively day of fascinating presentations and spirited discussion around different kinds of photography collections from across the Black Country.

Geoff Broadway, our Living Memory project lead, presented an overview of the project to date.  He spoke in detail about the value creating opportunities for the sharing stories and photographs from everyday life.

Keith Hodgkins spoke about a selection of photographs from his own extensive personal collection that span from the 1960s up to until the present day. You can see more about Keith Hodgkins and read his own story here on the website

Maureen Waldron from the Community and History Archive Service Sandwell gave us an fascinating outline of what kinds of photography collections that are kept in the archives. She also spoke about why the Living Memory project was helped to fill the significant gap in the local archives of photographic material taken of everyday life over the last 70 years.

Anand Chhabra presented The APNA Heritage Project which is an archive of photographs of the Punjabi community of Wolverhampton taken between 1960 and 1989.

Brendan Jackson presented story of The Jubilee Arts Archive that captures the work of Sandwell-based Jubilee Theatre and Community Arts Company between 1974 and 1994.

Anand Chhabra talks about the APNA Heritage Archive at the 'In Perspective' event

Brendan Jackson presenting the Jubliee Archive at the 'In Perspective' event

Members of the 'In Perspective' audience

In Perspective - creative writing workshop with Louise Palfryman
Louise led an exploratory session where participants were invited to respond and explore some of the images from the Living Memory growing archive. This intense and stimulating workshop explored different aspects of story telling around different kinds of personal photographs.

Louise Palfreyman (left) leading the 'In Perspective' Creative Writing Workshop at Haden Hill House Museum in June 2018


Haden Hill House Museum in Residence:
Produced by Living Memory project and supported by Sandwell Museum Services

Produced by:  Kiera Grigg, Ellie Vernum, Mia-Darcy Garcha, Lucy Clifford, Rosie Smith Chloe Gladwin, Holly Palmer, Linda Russell, David Russell, Jackie Garbett,  Don Whitehouse Jane Proud.
Supported by Kerry Whitehouse, Richard Franks and Gemma Ince.

Ron Moss exhibition:
Curated by Ron Moss, Cheryl Aston and the Living Memory team.
Printed by Sandwell College.
Many thanks to Ian Bayliss of Sandwell College for support and re-touching work.
All files digitised from negative and slide by Keith Hodgkins.

Participant's exhibition:
Prepared and designed by the Living Memory team, with support from
Rich Franks at Blue and White Creative.

Sandwell Museum Services:
Many thanks to:

Jane Hanney, Alison Hyatt and the team for enthusiastically supporting the Living Memory residency.
Mark Prestage for his great help with installation, exhibition upkeep and take-down.
Jack Whitehead for interpretation support.
Anne Willetts, general support.

Living Memory Project volunteers:
Mike Fenton
Juanita Williams
Cath Mansell
Jim Rippin
Keith Hodgkins


Ron Moss and Family self-portrait, 1962. Courtesy the Ron Moss Collection

Upcoming Event: Haden Hill House Museum

The Living Memory team is pleased to announce that our first temporary exhibition and a related programme of activities will take place at Haden Hill House Museum in Cradley Heath, Sandwell, 21st-30th June.

We will be presenting a selection of photographs and stories that have been shared with us from the local area with a special spotlight on the Ron Moss collection. The exhibition also features new work around the collections by Walk Works, first year photographic students from Sandwell College and pupils of St Michael’s CE High School, Rowley Regis.

We have organised a special celebration day that includes talks, archive sharing sessions and a creative writing workshop. We will also be in residence at Haden Hill House on several days to talk about the project and record more stories and photographs around local people’s collections.

Our programme has been developed in collaboration with the wonderful team at Haden Hill House Museum, which is part of the Sandwell Museum and Arts Service.

Read on below to find out more about what we have planned at Haden Hill House Museum.

Haden Hill House Museum: Exhibition

Ron Moss

A selection of previously unseen work from the Ron Moss Collection curated by his family and the Living Memory Project team. His photographs of family life taken between 1940 and 1970 are a unique and outstanding collection that captures the lives of his family and friends.

Family Stories

First year photographic students from Sandwell College have been busy producing their own creative responses to the project and will be showcasing some of their work-in-progress as part of the exhibition.

Local Collections and life stories

A showcase of some of the rich photographs and stories shared over the last few months during our workshops and events that took place in Rowley Regis, Grace Mary and Lion Farm.

Then and Now

Fran and Vicki from Walk Works share samples of their work-in-progress currently in production as part of a series of community workshops around Cradley Heath and Blackheath.


Pupils from St Michael’s CE High School, Rowley Regis, have been collaborating with local residents and project worker Rich Franks to create their own exhibition called Seven.

Pupils will be on hand to discuss their work on 24th June, 11am-2pm.

Exhibition opening times:

21st, 22nd, 28th and 29th June - 10am - 5pm

23rd, 30th June - 2pm - 6pm

24th June and 1st July - 12-6pm

Keith Hodgkins: Kates Hill, Dudley looking north east across the Black Country, 24th March 1977

Haden Hill House Museum: Talks

In Perspective - Photography Collections and The Black Country

Saturday 30th June 11.00am - 3.30pm

A day celebrating some of the key photography collections and archives from across the Black Country.

We are delighted to bring together five specialists to discuss the unique collections that they have created over many years. We want to share some of the stories behind these collections and explore what the future may hold for these collections.

Booking is essential as places are limited due to room restrictions.

  • Geoff Broadway leads the Living Memory project and will be talking about what has been achieved so far and shares our exciting plans for the next 18 months.
  • Keith Hodgkins, President of the Black Country Society, will talk about his own extensive personal archive of over 25,000 images that re ect changing face of the Black Country landscape from the 1960s onwards.
  • Anand Chhabra from the APNA Heritage project will be discussing their award winning work around photography and Punjabi migration to Wolverhampton between 1960 and 1989.
  • Brendan Jackson will share the story of the Jubilee Arts Archive. This online and physical collection documents the work of Sandwell based Jubilee Theatre and Community Arts Company between 1974 and 1994.
  • Maureen Waldron from Sandwell Community History and Archives Service (CHAS) will talk about some of photo collections held within Sandwell’s own archive.

Moya Lloyd with part of her photographic archive. Photograph: Geoff Broadway

Haden Hill House Museum: Writing workshop

Louise Palfreyman: Writing around collections

Saturday 30th June - 2:00pm - 4:00pm

Louise Palfreyman will lead a short story writing workshop using archive images as a starting point. Expect fun exercises to get your creativity owing, expert guidance and come away inspired. If you have a personal image that you want to write about then we encourage you to bring it along on the day. Louise Palfreyman is currently Writer in Residence at the University of Wolverhampton and the force behind the writing hub Black Country Arts Foundry.

The two hour session costs £4 and booking through Eventbrite is essential to reserve your place.

Archives Collections on view

Saturday 30th June - 11:00am - 4:00pm

Sample materials from the Living Memory project, The Jubilee Arts Archive, The APNA archive and Sandwell Archives will be on view on Saturday 30th June. You can come and talk to us about each of the collections, look through some of the work and learn more about the background stories.

Midsummer Music in the Park

Sunday 24th June, 12-4pm

We will be taking part in this year’s 1950s-themed event that takes place throughout the lovely park grounds. We be running a Living Memory stall and sharing some more of the fascinating stories and photographs we have collected. Bring along your own favourite photograph to share with the project or just come and say hello and arrange a time for a more in-depth sharing session. We will also be giving guided tours of the Living Memory exhibition.

In Residence at Haden Hill House Museum

Thursday 28th June, 11am-3pm

Our team of skilled volunteers are setting up a special recording and photo digitising studio within the Haden Hall House for the day. We are inviting you to book for a special session where you can talk about your own album, photography collection and record your story in your own words. You will need to make an appointment rather than simply ‘drop-in’.

Contact Rachel at to book your slot. We will also be available on the day for guided tours of the exhibition and to talk more about the project.

John Henry Price (back row in sailor’s uniform) and his family photographed outside their house in Warley Road, Oldbury, in 1950.

Project volunteers James Ribble and Juantia Williams at the Lion Farm Action Centre

Guest blog by volunteer Juanita Williams


Juanita Williams shares her experience of working on the Living Memory project.

On Saturday 13th May I went along with fellow volunteer Jim Rippon to the Lion Farm Action Centre open day as part of the Living Memory project.

I lived on the Lion Farm estate when I was just 18 and I was surprised how much it has changed and yet much of it is still the same.  The row of shops are still there next to the library and the pub on the corner has had a refurb, but it’s still there serving the community.

We were there to help celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Lion Farm Action Centre whose team works hard to support the local community. As part of the event we shared stories and images collected as part of the project from Lion Farm and Grace Mary area over the last few months.

We also had a pop-up exhibition of specially printed photos that we presented around the centre. Everyone was really keen to talk to us about the images and the photographs that we presented as a slide-show the screen. 

The Lion Farm Action Centre have been in their new building since September last year and it was really friendly and welcoming atmosphere.  There was a slow but steady stream of people passing through, many of them spending time in the sunny garden. 

Going out into the community as a volunteer for the project made me realise just how interested people are in old photographs and the stories behind them.  Most people comment when they see something they recognise from their own life experiences and this is why this project is so important. I love listening to people's stories. and feel it's so important to create the space for others to share their memories. One photograph can trigger thoughts about a time that we had forgotten, recalling people, places and feelings. 

At the event I met so many different people and talking about their lives and their own photographs it's clear to me that although we all have our differences we always have so many things in common. Talking about our own photographs and those of other people can helps us talk about our lives and share what really matters to us.

Part of our temporary exhibition at the LFAC

Part of our temporary exhibition at the LFAC

Sharon Ofley with a photo of her father and his friends from 1968

Sharon Ofley with a photo of her father and his friends from 1968

James Ribble shared some of his own family photographs. We are doing a feature all about his collection over the next few months.

If you want to get involved in any way with this project you can come along and do as little or as much as you are able.  You don’t have to have advanced technical skills to volunteer, just coming along to our events and helping people share their own stories and photographs is a really important part of the project.  Do get in touch if you would like to help on the project.

Workshops with Walk Works

Walk Works are offering the opportunity for keen photographers to reinterpret some of the Living Memory collection through five creative photography workshops, led by Vicki Smith and Fran Wilde, around Rowley Regis.

Each workshop will begin with exploring archive images and learning more about Living Memory’s collections so far, then going out and about in the area to recreate the images using camera phones.  These images will be showcased as part of Living Memory’s Summer programme of exhibitions and events.

You are welcome to bring your own photos and stories from life in the Black Country to explore and recreate.  During the workshop you will look at examples of how other photographers have reinterpreted older photographs, think about why
they did this, work out how they took the photos and any adjustments they made.  You will then spend time visiting sites, planning reinterpretations, producing simple props where needed and taking photos.

Details are below – please follow the links to Eventbrite to book your free place on each workshop.


Geoff Broadway talking about the Living Memory project.

Are you intrigued by the Living Memory Project?  If you want to learn more about what we are doing, what we are planning and how you can contribute, then come along to a free illustrated talk by Project Manager Geoff Broadway as part of the Reclaim Photography Festival.


Thursday 10th May, 7:30pm-8:15pm

Light House Media Centre, The Chubb Buildings, Fryer Street, Wolverhampton.

Booking is essential via Eventbrite.

About Reclaim Photography Festival

Reclaim Photography Festival is a community arts project dedicated to promoting the very best in art photography, through an annual programme of events and exhibitions, in collaboration with children, young people, photographers and partners, here in the West Midlands and internationally.  There is a full programme of events happening across the Black Country over the next month - check their What's On page for more details.

‘Growing Memories’ with Boundary Way Allotments and Community Garden


Howard Berry and Holly Pleydell with the Living Memory pop up exhibition.

‘Growing Memories’ with Boundary Way Allotments and Community Garden

On Sunday we teamed up with Boundary Way Allotments and Community Garden to participate in a day of sharing and creative activities around the theme of ‘Growing Memories’. 


The Boundary Way garden and allotments sit on edge of the Warstones estate in south-west Wolverhampton and has beautiful views across the rolling Staffordshire countryside and towards the hills of Shropshire. It’s a unique site where community members, plot-holders, artists and many others often come together to share in activities and spend time together.

The Boundary Way Allotment and Community Garden, with the Camera Obscura in the foreground (blue shed).

Geoff Broadway talking about the Living Memory project.

Moya Lloyd talking about the Boundary Way project

The day was part of their ‘Sharing Nature Open day’ to mark International Earth day and to share our investigations into the history and heritage of our site, supported with funding from HLF.

We took the opportunity to present our first Living Memory ‘pop up’ exhibition at the Growing Memories event, making use of the fabulous multi-purpose poly tunnel. We spoke about the project and shared some of the many 100’s of images we have gathered, telling some of the rich stories behind them. 

Howard Berry's family collection.

Moya Lloyd and Clare Wasserman look through a photography collection lent to the Living Memory project.

Wherever we go we find people who are fascinated by the project, and there is always someone who wants to share their own photographs and stories.  Several people had brought along their photographs to share and we spend time recording their stories and scanning their images.

James Williams building a strong room for the Shah of Iran at the Chubb Lockworks

Plot holder Howard Berry talks about his own family collection.

Maria Billington's mum Katherine and her uncle Stephen in the garden taken in the late 1940s.

Clare Wassermann has some wonderful photos of her grandfather James Williams - you can read about him in our snapshot section. Maria Billington also shared a series of her own key images from her life and the journey she made from growing up in Manchester to living and thriving in Wolverhampton where she runs the Gatis Community Space. We will be publishing her story soon on the website.  Howard Berry also brought in his own family collection and will be working with him very soon on his fascinating story. 

Many thanks to Boundary Way for inviting us to come along as part of the Growing Memories Day.

Want to join us and help us talk about the project and gather people stories? We still have a range of volunteering opportunities open on the Living Memory project.

Richard, one of the plot-holders at Boundary Way. (photo Geoff Broadway)

Where to start? And then what?


Where to start? And then what?

How to tell the story of a photograph collection? Where to start?

A guest post by Mandy Ross

As a writer, I love meeting people with stories to tell (which I do believe includes just about everyone). So it was a treat to meet a bunch of keen and thoughtful people and their photo collections at a Living Memory writing workshop at Tipton Library in April. 
And what a treat to share some of the stories in their photos. We glimpsed family history touching on world events, pupils invited to sing at their teacher's wedding, and photobooth fun in Smethwick, immortalising a diverse group of young friends.


Moya Lloyd's family slide collection

Part of Vee's friendship album.

A selection negatives ready for scanning

So how to start writing the stories?
Each person picked a single photograph from their collection, and started writing the story it showed - including some of the sounds, secrets and unseen mysteries the photo might hint at.

Then we set off on a bit of time-travel. Choosing an earlier photo in the collection, we stepped back in time, writing a flashback. What was different back then? How had things unfolded? What changed in between?

And then we stepped back into the future, choosing a photo from a much later date, and zipping through time to see - and write - how the story had moved on.
Would this approach work for your collection? We look forward to reading and sharing the stories that emerge.

The session ended with another batch of questions to think about:
Why do we collect photos? How do we choose what to keep?

What does the collection tell us about the collector?
And how is technology changing the process?

Answers welcome!
Mandy Ross

Seven Little Words at St Michaels CE High School


Blue and White Creative are currently working with St Michaels CE High School in Rowley Regis. The Student Voice Group and members of the local community and the LINKS project are working together create a series of unique artworks inspired by seven photos selected from their family albums.

Each participant was asked to bring in seven photographs that are important to them in some way. They then shared the stories behind each image through intergenerational conversations. The group then developed one story and one photograph each to base their final artwork on.

Developing the theme of ‘seven’ further, participants are now in the process of creating bold typographical collages that tell their story in just 'seven little words'. These will then be juxtaposed with their photograph.

In the next few weeks the group will be discovering the relationship between photography and the written word. They will explore how using both together can add meaning and impact to a story – to become poignant, intriguing or just funny.

It is hoped that the culmination of all this hard work will be presented at the upcoming Living Memory exhibition at Haden Hill House in Cradley Heath.

Food for Thought at Impact Hub


Each week, the folks at Impact Hub Birmingham host Food for Thought, aimed at feeding bellies and minds during the mid afternoon slump.  We went along with a collection of Living Memory prints to speak about the project so far and invite reflections on some of the images.

We received a warm welcome (as well as a cuppa and cake) and spoke about the aims of Living Memory, as well as talking about some specific collections, including photos of Bill Mansell and his travels overland to Australia, which have just been added to our website along with an account of his life by his niece.

It is clear that the project has real resonance, both for people with connections to the Black Country, and for people with a more general interest in photography and life stories.  We spoke about some of the stereotypes around the Black Country, and how this project redresses the balance by allowing the public to share aspects of their lives, histories and experiences.  We also identified how common themes emerge, that we can all relate to, really highlighting how we have 'more in common than that which divides us'.  We also spoke more generally about our own photo collections and the need to preserve photos as artefacts in a digital age.

We hope to return next year to update folks on the progress with the project.  We will next be presenting the Living Memory project at the Central Library, West Bromwich on Tuesday 24th April at 10:30am.  Come along to look at some of the collection and find out how you can get involved.

Every Picture Tells a Story: Dudley Trade School


We will be teaching a class on how to preserve your personal photos as part of the Spring programme for Dudley Trade School.

'Every Picture Tells a Story: Preserve your Personal Photos

Venue: gather, 65, High Street, Dudley DY1 1PY (see map)

Time: 7:00pm - 8:00pm

Trade School is great way of sharing skills and talents. Anyone can teach something they are skilled at, or passionate about. Participants pay for classes with a barter item (like food, supplies, or advice) that the teacher requests.

Do you have photographs and memories of life in the Black Country that you think should be recorded and treasured for future generations?  Learn how to digitise your photos, slides or negatives for others to enjoy.  If you don't have photos, please feel free to bring an item which provokes a memory for you that you could talk about.

Bring one of the following:
A photo from your personal collection (we will give it you straight back!) and the story behind it
An offer to teach a Trade School class yourself

Book your place at Trade School

Talk at West Bromwich Library 24th April 2018

Please join us for a free illustrated talk by about the Living Memory project.

10.30am, Tuesday 24th April 2018

Central Library
316 High Street West Bromwich, B70 8DZ 0121 569 4904

Everyone Welcome!

Do you have any photographs and memories from your life in the Black Country that you want to share and talk about? Please bring them along as there will be an opportunity to share them after the talk.

Untold Stories: Writing and photography collections

Writer and poet Mandy Ross will lead a workshop that explores different ways to capture untold stories around our photographs and collections.

In the workshop we will explore and interpret our photographs with questions such as: what does the collection mean to the person who gathered it? How can we tell a story that spans several photographs, or an entire collection? How can we work with gaps, absences and the unknown details?

Bring your own photos, or you can use some of ours.

Booking through Eventbrite is essential.  Places are free, but limited to 15 participants.


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