Ford Street, Arthur and Walter – starting points
My research with Smethwick Community and History Archives Service has begun with one road in Smethwick – Ford Street (formerly Halford Street). It is a road where both my paternal grandparents lived (next door but one) in their early years and was the location of their meeting. This starting point has been activated through conversations with my father, where we have discussed family photographs, documents, ephemera and other objects. Two relatives, both with connections to Smethwick, stand out within this history – my grandmother’s father, Arthur Wilding, and grandfather’s father, Walter French, sometimes also known as “Professor” Walter Lyon. Arthur worked at Pneulec in Smethwick. A photograph of him with his colleagues on the factory floor is dramatically lit and full of atmosphere. Walter, on the other hand, wrote music and sung in the music halls, and styled himself as a “World Famous Vitalogist”, with a stall at Cape Hill Market. One of his song sheets "Carolina Duet" shows his smiling, winking, smoking face on the cover. Arthur and Walter’s characters and lives could not be more different.
Ford Street, Arthur and Walter are starting points and anchors for the project. Conducting research through the archives service will deepen my knowledge and the context for the project, enabling me to interweave thoughts, reflections and facts through new writing.