Posts Tagged ‘Lakeside’

I’m spending the day at Nottingham University’s Lakeside Pavilion in the company of some inspirational young people. It’s the Youth Heritage Conference – Make History Happen 2012 – organised by Nottinghamshire Archives and the Nottinghamshire Local History Organisation.

So far we’ve heard from Professor Colin Heywood on When Did Youth Happen?, and I’ve attended a workshop where three exciting projects created by young people were presented. Now it’s nearly the end of the lunchbreak and I’m trying to hammer out a blog post in five minutes flat. Not something I’m very good at, I tend to burble on…


Prof Colin Heywood and Cllr John Cottee

Professor Colin Heywood preparing for his talk as Councillor John Cottee introduces the day

When did Youth Happen?

The question isn’t as easy to answer as you might think. In fact, it isn’t as easy to define as you might think either – what is youth? when does it start? when does it end? I scribbled down a lot of thoughts and ideas, which are far too nebulous to turn into anything coherent. So I’ll just list some of them here:

  • Youth is a period of transition from dependence on others to independent adulthood.
  • The form that transition takes varies from culture to culture – how long it is expected to last, how much responsibility you have to take, the particular customs and rites you need to follow.
  • It starts at puberty – easy to tell for women, but how to define this for young men?
  • When does it finish? when you get married? when you move away from home? what about people who ‘never grow up’?
  • Recent ideas suggest it’s a process of ‘looking for your identity’, whatever that means. Judging by my boys, it’s partly about distancing yourself from your parents.
  • Society (and the state) often protects ‘youth’ from making mistakes – too much protection? too little?
  • Youth involves ‘storm and stress’ – GS Hall (1904) saw it as moving from the barbarism of childhood to the civilisation of adulthood. Hmm.
  • I wasn’t sure about the idea of the Abbayes de la Jeunesse – groups of young men who maintained the morality of their neighbourhoods. Only happened on the Continent though.

Lots and lots of questions raised, and like much of history, not many answers. Food for thought in my creative writing workshop this afternoon, I think.

Youth Projects Workshop

I was bowled over by the enthusiasm of the young people who presented their projects in this workshop. The first group was four home-schooled kids (Molly, Iona, Athena and Seirian) who’d been researching the green spaces created in Nottingham as a result of the 1854 Nottingham Inclosure Act – as part of the ‘Olympiad Journals’ project. They’d made a film about the information they’d discovered, and had produced a fantastic display and journals of their photos, essays, pictures and maps. This is all now kept at the County Archives and I’d recommend you go and have a look.

Cultural Olympiad Journals project

Cultural Olympiad Journals project – the McMillans’ journal.

Jenny came next – she said she was very nervous, but her talk was fascinating – about a trail she’d created around Brinsley – an old mining village near Eastwood. She knew so much about the history of the area, she was able to add information to a tour guide’s spiel on an open day at the Brinsley national heritage site. The story of the Brinsley headstocks alone was fascinating – since the mine closed they’ve been taken all over the place – to Retford, back to Brinsley, to Chesterfield, back to Brinsley again… and at some point along the way they shrank a couple of feet, because they were set in concrete and had to be sawn off at the bottom to be moved.

Finally (and I must apologise, I didn’t get their names), two young ladies talked about the Illuminate project which is run by the Nottingham Museums Young Arts group. They’ve worked on an exhibition of silks at Nottingham Castle, with many associated events and activities, supported by professional specialists. I’m definitely going to check out their work.

A Load of Old Rubbish

Strange ObjectsAfter typing away furiously over the lunch break to get the first half of this blog post written, Pete Hammond’s ‘A Load of Old Rubbish’ session was most entertaining. He told us about how he became interested in history after finding lots of strange objects in a local field. He handed some out and asked for ideas of what they were (see the picture on the right). Guesses included bones, straws, tiny water pipes… no-one who didn’t already know guessed their real identity.

After this Pete talked a lot about cesspits and privies and night-soil men. Highlights (?) included:

  • A photo of a three-holer privy in Keyworth, and general agreement that the audience would rather use the privy alone, thank you.
  • Pete said, ‘particularly at nighttime you’d tend to go together anyway, of course… spiders, darkness…’
  • What do you do with what’s in the bucket under the seat?
  • A photo of a village night-soil man with his horse, the latter was called Hyperion, but we don’t know what the man’s name was.
  • Nicknames for the night-soil cart: ‘Ten o’clock ‘osses’, ‘honey-cart’ ‘lavender-cart’.
  • Night-soil men got a free warm bath every week, and Nottingham men had an annual half-day out to Gunthorpe.
  • A cartoon of a couple of archaeologists… “One good thing about excavating a cesspit, it’s stopped me biting my fingernails.”

He also showed us a couple of ointment jars he’d found, which purported to cure such ailments as:

  • gout
  • rheumatism
  • bad legs
  • sore heads
  • sore eyes
  • boils
  • inveterate ulcers
  • broken breasts
  • chopped hands
  • scurvy
  • venereal sores

I think my kids would have called his jokes ‘grandfather jokes’, but everyone needs a good groan every now and then! It was a good session to get everyone interested and thinking again in the notoriously difficult after-lunch spot.

Creative Writing

My creative writing workshop was wonderful. I mean that I enjoyed it immensely – I couldn’t possibly speak for the young people who came along! We started by talking about the last argument we’d had – what better way to find out what people are passionate about? And how about this for brilliance – one of the girls had recently argued with a friend about how it’s daft not to use Standard English! Don’t let anyone tell you there’s no hope for the younger generation. I have yet to meet a young person who didn’t have anything interesting and surprising to say. So anyway… we wrote about how we’d react if a stranger came up to us and was offensive about our clothes, then we wrote Facebook conversations we might have if we’d been trapped in our homes by flash floods. Some lovely words came out of the session.

Billy Richards

The final session of the day was Kathryn Rooke, who’d discovered the diary of a young man who’d written a detailed journal of his life in Sherwood just before the First World War. The story Kathryn told was funny and sad and fascinating. Billy was above average intelligence (he’d been to boarding school) but he had a troubled family life and was somewhat lacking in direction. He was madly in love with a girl called Doris, who treated him appallingly – in one instance she agreed to walk to the Arboretum with him as long as he wrapped a scarf around his head so no-one would know she was with him! I wish I could remember everything she told us about him. I’m definitely going to the archives to read that diary at some point.

Loaf On A Stick

Philip from People’s Histreh, with his loaf on a stick…


All in all, it was a fantastic day, and I was honoured to take part. The young people who attended were inspiring, and I spent so much time chatting to everyone I’m quite hoarse today. I hope it happens again next year.

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