Old photo of people in a pedestrianised shopping street
A view from Queensway down Market Place, Stevenage on a busy shopping day in 1963 © Stevenage Museum
A view from Queensway down Market Place, Stevenage on a busy shopping day in 1963 © Stevenage Museum

Funding for 57 New Projects Across England That Will Tell the Untold Stories of Our Nation’s Working-Class Heritage

The untold histories of West Yorkshire’s boxing clubs, Leicester’s hidden nightclub scene and Deptford’s 19th-century slaughterhouse workers are amongst 57 new projects that Historic England will be funding through its Everyday Heritage Grants: Celebrating Working Class Histories.

Following an open call for applications in February this year, the projects were selected from more than 500 passionate, creative proposals. The total amount of funding awarded by Historic England will be £774,000, ranging from £6,000 - £25,000 per individual project.

Heritage should be for everyone. But not everyone’s stories are told and not everyone’s history is remembered. The Everyday Heritage Grants continue to address this imbalance by engaging with the widest possible range of heritage.

These community-led and people-focused projects all aim to further the nation’s collective understanding of the past, with a focus on heritage that links people to overlooked local historic places and celebrating working class histories.

These new projects will reveal and celebrate fascinating untold stories from across England: from the distinct history of the Dunston Staiths - a coal drop for ships in Gateshead, to the stories of the colliers, iron workers, and traveller communities that used tin chapels in the Forest of Dean. Led by people that might not normally engage with their local heritage, these projects will support them to tell their own stories, in their own way, and to connect with others in their local communities.

I’m excited to see the wide range of creative approaches and subjects proposed for Everyday Heritage Grants: Celebrating Working Class Histories. These community-led projects demonstrate that heritage is all around us and accessible to everyone. They will highlight that wherever people live they are surrounded by historic buildings, landscapes and streets, industrial and coastal heritage that can help bring communities together.
Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive Historic England
This inclusive and accessible project clearly demonstrates that heritage belongs to all of us.

This is a fantastic initiative that will help communities from across England engage with the working-class heritage in their area in new and exciting ways and see these untold stories being put into the spotlight.
Nigel Huddleston, Heritage Minister

Historic England invited applications from community or heritage organisations for grants up to £25,000 to fund projects that will celebrate the working-class heritage of the built or historic environment near them.

Historic England has selected projects that provide innovative volunteering opportunities for young people or those facing loneliness and isolation, and projects that contribute positively to participants’ wellbeing. Local heritage gives people a sense of pride in place, a cornerstone of the Government’s levelling up agenda, and can act as a powerful catalyst for increasing local opportunities and prosperity.

Everyday Heritage Grants: Celebrating Working Class Histories is the next of many cultural projects that Historic England aims to deliver to shine a light on the diversity of our heritage. The grants are being delivered in support of Historic England’s Strategy for Inclusion, Diversity and Equality published in November 2020 and outline the organisation’s commitment to ensuring that a diverse range of people is able to connect with, enjoy and benefit from the historic environment.

Some projects that will be funded by the Everyday Heritage Grant:

Peel Street Mill and its people, PossAbilities, Heywood, Greater Manchester, £10,000

This project will highlight the stories of former workers from Peel Street Mill - a former textile mill in Heywood, Greater Manchester. It is led by PossAbilities - a social enterprise supporting 400 people with learning disabilities. Their HQ is based on the site of the mill. Co-created with the people PossAbilities supports and the local community, this project will build a picture of the working-class lives that lie buried beneath the places where this community lives and works.

Outputs will include web content, a publication, teaching resources for schools, films, animations and artworks, a physical model of the site as it was, and a walking trail in their local wellbeing garden.

Staiths & Me, Dunston Community Centre, Dunston, Gateshead, £7,000

The Tyneside river frontage at Dunston, Gateshead, is dominated by the Staiths: an iconic wooden structure built in 1893 to drop more than 5.5 million tons of coal from Durham into ships for transportation around the world. Led by Dunston Community Centre, this project will engage with local young people aged 15 - 20 to celebrate the Staiths.

Using film, sound, story boards, song and pictures, young people will express what the Staiths means to them as well as learning about how it shaped their local area and what value it holds today. This project will highlight the importance of the Staiths to local people, tell the stories of working people, and offer a rich, enjoyable and fun experience to the public.

Northern Souls - Going Down the Welly, Creative Lives, Easington, County Durham, £10,000

Northern Souls - Going Down The Welly is a co-created project led by the national charity Creative Lives, working in partnership with Easington Social Welfare Centre in Easington Colliery and BBC Radio Tees.

The project will focus on Easington Social Welfare Centre, in County Durham, built in 1929 to support miners’ welfare and referred to locally as ‘The Welly’. They will run a series of workshops to record and celebrate the significance of Social Welfare Centres to working class communities locally and nationally.

Working collaboratively with local residents, historians and BBC producers, they will unearth stories of the working-class communities in Easington and produce oral histories, radio and online content and develop a range of celebratory events, all to foster pride and enjoyment within the community. By working with local residents, the project hopes to increase wellbeing, reduce isolation and deepen local understanding of working-class history.

The Tin Chapel at the Edge of Town, University of Gloucestershire, Cinderford, Forest of Dean, £10,000

Revealing the history of Bilson Mission chapel, a ‘tin tabernacle’, this project will explore its origins and importance in serving colliers, iron workers, their families, and traveller communities.

Iron buildings are a unique part of the local architecture of the Forest of Dean, emerging when a rapidly growing working-class community used them as utility buildings to cope with an expanding town.

This project, led by the University of Gloucestershire, will engage people in Cinderford to trace the history of this particular building; train volunteers in digital storytelling and work with them to write and record their own stories about their family’s relationships to the building.

Exploring Leicester’s Hidden Nightlife, 2Funky Arts (2FA), Leicester, £10,000

2Funky Arts (2FA) will use a £10,000 grant to explore 50 years of Leicester’s nightlife. The focus will be on Music of Black Origin (MOBO), including hip hop, soul, reggae and jazz, with 45 volunteers creating a portable exhibition of photography and personal anecdotes.

The exhibition, initially in Leicester, will examine the city’s cultural landscape and nightclub venues and also highlight 30 first-hand oral histories about the era. This is a celebration of culture and music which has been strongly influenced by working class people, particularly those with Black, African and Caribbean heritage.

A Cornish Camera, Bodmin at Work, Kresen Kernow and IntoBodmin, Bodmin, Cornwall, £8,000

Led by Kresen Kernow and IntoBodmin, this project will connect local communities with the working-class histories of Bodmin, Cornwall. It will use previously unseen photographs of buildings and people from the George Ellis Collection, one of Cornwall’s foremost photographic collections, to inspire people to explore the history of the town.

Workshops hosted by IntoBodmin, a community and arts organisation in the town based in the Old Library, will be designed to engage people from the local area with the untold histories captured in the images.

This work will culminate in a celebration event, an exhibition, online content and 200 digitised images. The collection contains 95,000 glass plate negatives, covering 1939-1982, and will spark discussion and sharing, that aims to have a positive impact on wellbeing, creativity and connection.

Hidden Deptford, Capture Art & Creative Projects Ltd, London, £11,000

This project will focus on the origins of the slaughterhouse girls who worked in the Cattle Markets in Deptford at the end of the 19th century. Over 500 women were employed in these offal yards, including Grade II listed Olympia Convoy's Wharf. Fiercely independent, they had a reputation for raucous behaviour, and were nicknamed the ‘gut girls’.

Led by Capture Art & Creative Projects Ltd, in partnership with The Albany and Deptford Library, this project will work with young people in Deptford to produce arts and crafts, and photography that explores the working class histories of those who worked in the docks, mills and tanneries and other industries along the Thames and Deptford creek, with a particular focus on celebrating the largely untold legacy of the ‘gut girls’. This content will be available online and locally to help bring the hidden working-class history of the area to life for local communities.

The Landladies of Morecambe, Morecambe Heritage, Morecambe, Lancashire, £10,000

The grant will fund a project by local organisation Morecambe Heritage, which will create 20 oral histories, 12 films, an exhibition at Morecambe Heritage Centre and further web articles exploring the lives and stories of the landladies (and landlords) who ran bed and breakfasts in Morecambe up until the 1980s, when it was a favourite holiday destination for working class families from Northern England and Scotland.

Famed for their no-nonsense reputation, gruff manner and strict rules and regulations, there are many stories about Morecambe’s landladies and landlords from the experiences of holidaymakers over the decades.

Through searching out landladies and landlords, their children and customers, and through interviewing them and recording their memories, the project will aim to record this valuable working-class archival information before it is lost forever.

Youth Blacksmithing Programme, Winson Green/Handsworth, Birmingham, Newbigin Community Trust, £10,000

Through this new project, young people aged 15-19 in the Winson Green and Handsworth area will be given the opportunity to learn traditional blacksmithing skills. Newbigin Community Trust’s blacksmithing group ‘Smashing Metal’ aims to celebrate the community, its young people and local industrial heritage.

Blacksmithing was once the mainstay of Birmingham’s economy, leading it to be nicknamed the ‘workshop of the world’. Newbigin Community Trust is located at the heart of the canal network that serviced the city’s metalwork industry. Its project will celebrate the city’s working-class heritage as well as providing its young people with facilities to explore new creative skills and will train them to teach these new skills themselves.

Throughout the course of the project, the young blacksmiths will make jewellery, ornaments and trinkets and eventually transform knives donated by the West Midlands Police into a public art sculpture to be displayed at a local community hub.

Disabled People and the Ripon Workhouse, Ripon Museum Trust, Ripon, North Yorkshire, £11,000

This project aims to uncover the stories of disabled people who were inmates or staff at Ripon Workhouse from the Victorian times to the 1940s. Disabled people were part of the Workhouse, including people experiencing homelessness receiving temporary relief, long-term inmates, and staff working in the kitchen and gardens.

Using archival records and collections, a group of people with physical & learning disabilities within the community of Ripon will research and produce written and other creative responses to engage visitors in new stories, supported by curatorial volunteers.

They will also work with an artist who specialises in co-curation to create artistic responses. Their work will help create powerful and personal new interpretation materials for Ripon Workhouse’s permanent display integrating disabled people's stories into the museum.

Halifax Stars, Verd de Gris Arts, Halifax, West Yorkshire, £10,000

Halifax Stars is an intergenerational project which aims to innovatively explore and celebrate the working-class culture of boxing clubs around Halifax. It will record the stories of older fighters and the gyms that used to be a prominent feature of the area.

Led by the boxing fraternity and young people, the project will produce filmed oral history interviews and maps of key sites as well as an exhibition and an events series.

Talking Shop: Stories from Stevenage Town Centre, Stevenage Museum, £10,000

As the first New Town built after the Second World War, Stevenage has been ­widely revered for its architectural importance and innovations in town planning. A recent publication by Historic England presented new research charting the significance and development of the town centre, yet less acknowledged are the lived experiences of the many generations who have lived, shopped and worked in the town since it opened in 1959.

Through engaging people of all generations, Stevenage Museum will celebrate the everyday lives of working-class people who have played their part in shaping the town centre’s heritage. The museum will recruit and train volunteers comprising of local students and older long-term residents to conduct research and record oral histories.

The project will document these stories of the town centre for future generations as well as work with its volunteers and local artists to co-produce creative celebrations for the local community through an exhibition, workshops and drama performances.

Everyday Heritage Grant recipients

A Cornish Camera - Bodmin at Work, Kresen Kernow
Answering the Call, Glenside Hospital Museum
ART History, Fund a Fest CIC
Beneath Our Feet, Queens Hall Arts
Bengali Photography Archive, Four Corners
Birkenheads Working Class History, Convenience Gallery CIC
Blackpool's African and Caribbean Community Archive, Aunty Social CIC
Building Bourneville, Selly Manor Museum
Disabled People & the Ripon Workhouse, Ripon Museum Trust
Downstairs, downstairs, Godolphin Cross Community Association
Exploring Leicester's Hidden Nightlife, 2FunkyArts
Fault Lines, Starling
Fountains of Tales, History In Action CIC
Gwenda's Garage: The Untold Story of Lesbian Mechanics, Out of the Archive CIC
Halifax Stars, verd de gris arts
Hidden Deptford, Capture Art & Creative Projects Ltd
Holbrook's Hidden Heritage, MSDS Heritage
Home of Metal - Grindcore at the Mermaid, Capsule
Lost Farms of Brinscall Moors, Wildwood Days CIC
Making History, Birmingham Peoples History Archive
Mildmay Stories, The Mildmay Club
Moments of Grace, On the Record CIC
Morland & Baily's, Red Brick Building Centre
Navvies, Mediale
Northern Souls, Creative Lives
Out of Sight, Out of Mind, Friends of Horton Cemetary Charity
Out of the Blue, Blue Bermondsey BID
Out of the Woods, Stomping Grounds Forest School CIC
Peel Street Mill and its people, PossAbilities
People of Jane Pit, DigVentures
Rags to Riches, The Sikh Development Academy
Remembering Greenhey's & Len Johnson, Steam Hubs & Pubs CIC
Show People of North Staffordshire, Philip Astley Projects CIC
Staiths & Me, Dunston Community Centre
Stowmarkets Stories, Footprints Theatre Company CIC
Tales of Tyseley, The Active Wellbeing Society
Talking Shop, Stevenage Museum
Temples of Industry, Gunnersbury Park Museum
The Bristol Girls, Show of Strength Theatre Company
The Fog Bell, NW Heritage CIC
The Golds: 125 years, Littlehampton Town Football Club
The Kathleen Project, Stitched Up Community Benefit Society Ltd
The Landladies of Morecambe, Morecambe Heritage
The Stark Reality of Rural Living, MED Theatre
The Tin Chapel at the Edge of Town, University of Gloucestershire
The Work Furnace, Eastern Angles Theatre Company
Trains Gone By, Live Well in Braunton
Transhipment Tales, Whaley Bridge Canal Group CIC
Unearthed: Collective Histories, Studio Voltaire
Unearthing Pendleton's Past, Friends of St Thomas Pendleton
We.Are.Derby, Writing East Midlands
Welcome to the Hippodrome, Acta
What the places tell us, Creative Youth Opportunities
Women & Work, Multistory
Working from Home, Great Yarmouth Preservation Trust
Youth Blacksmithing Programme, Newbigin Community Trust

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