Teasing out an idea at WDYTYAL 2015

Posting this overlooked draft belatedly.  I can’t work out why I delayed uploading it.

Despite the ridiculously tiny font on the floor plan for WDYTYAL 2015, before the train reached Birmingham International, I was eventually able to highlight the location of the stands and tables that I would on no account allow myself to miss. It’s useful in focusing the mind when you’ve got a ticket cheap enough to demand return travel on a particular train, though my careful plans were somewhat scarpered by the 69 minutes in the queue at Ancestry’s Customer Service, about which I have grumbled already.

Everything else was rosy.  I’d been dubious about the shift to Birmingham, but the day was rewarding enough for the information, announced in the course of Thursday, that it’s going to be Birmingham again in 2016, was not too disappointing.

Plaudits go to Richard Morgan of FIBIS and Chris on the TNA desk who were helpful with regard to Singapore records.and to Paul, Mark and Ian on the AGRA stand for providing welcome encouragement. If there was a specific highlight, then it’s the BALH representatives, who knew exactly to whom I ought to speak, and provided me with the opportunity to explore some options with an inspirational historian, Dr Gill Draper.

My prime target this year was to sound out the local historians on the BALH table about my plans for a local history related outing that I’ve been invited to provide for Cubs (age group 7½–9) in the early summer.

In weighing up the options, I’ve been anxious to avoid the themes and even the approaches that seem to dominate and recur in the coverage of local history at Key Stage 2—for example, Victorian Schools or the Industrial Revolution.  In creating a useful and positive experience that will foster an interest in the local landscape and its buildings in children, I have also had to to consider what is easily accessible on foot from the Scout hut.

I was looking for a theme and an approach  that would inspire me in my planning.

And I found it, when I eventually caught up with Dr Draper and sketched out what I saw as possible options in the landscape and the parish’s history with her.  While chatting to her, an idea came to me, which I felt could be the key in drawing together the various strands that I’d been playing with over the previous fortnight.

I think our conversation somehow teased that idea out of me and I greatly appreciate having been given the opportunity and time to have that conversation.  When later I wondered why that idea hadn’t surfaced earlier, I realised that I have been much distracted recently by a community project.  I needed to be able to have that conversation and to explore this challenge in a relaxed way. Perhaps it could be as simple as that a chair was drawn up and I was invited to sit down and that also switched me into a more relaxed frame of mind in which ideas could surface and gel.

I’ve been reflecting, since my return, on how rarely I am able to have that type of conversation with other local historians.  When I’m contacted about local history by other researchers, it’s usually a request for information about a specific matter, place or event, or about a source that I have consulted or mentioned e.g. in a talk.  In the role of family historian, I’m more frequently listening to others and being asked questions, and in my role as tutor, I’m facilitating learning.

So, this morning I’m having the fun of preparing what I hope is an engaging experience.

Now, what if it rains on the day?  (!)