Making Memories emerged out of conversations with two schools based in the estates of Grace Mary and Lion Farm, Oldbury, about how children can creatively use archive photographs to explore and experience the area’s rich heritage.
Both schools sit next to the iconic Rowley Hills, which, like much of the Black Country, have seen significant change over the last 80 years. During this period, major industries have declined, urban wastelands have been reclaimed, quarries filled, and housing estates have rapidly expanded. Local historian and photographer Jim Rippin spent much of his life wandering the Rowley Hills. His valuable collection contains many striking images reflecting some of these changes.
We invited artist Hannah Boyd to develop a new project with both schools, responding to Jim’s photographs and the Rowley Hills as they are now. In summer 2019, Hannah worked with 35 pupils and staff from Grace Mary Primary School and St James CE Primary School to develop the project Making Memories. This became a series of workshops exploring archive photographs and the changing physical landscape where the pupils live and go to school. They went on a series of field trips over the hills to learn about the value of research and explore mark-making, drawing and painting to reflect the Rowley Hills and the views over the towns of Oldbury, Tipton, and beyond.
Hannah was supported by staff from both schools, as well as Mike Poulton and Bob Duncan from the Friends of Rowley Hills. Mike and Bob shared their expert knowledge of the hills. The pupils learned how the landscape of the hills has changed over the millennia as well as within our living memory. Mike and Bob introduced the children to the rich flora and fauna thriving in the hills and especially in the now-protected Rowley Hills Nature Reserve.
Making Memories was publicly exhibited three times both locally and in the wider region as part of the Living Memory Project’s exhibition programme. It was part-funded by GM2LF Big Local and supported by the Friends of Rowley Hills.