Happenings and goings on in the Archive and Study Centre: Events, researchers, discoveries, additions. For latest articles added to the Archive and Study Centre section of the website, click here.
April 16-20, 2018: Pegasus, Phoenix, Centaur; and the new Solihull Academy takes off!
It must be one of the most productive Heritage Lottery Fund projects in recorded history. Seven years after the final accounts were submitted for "Therapeutic Living With Other People's Children", one of its earliest seeds has borne fruit in spectacular fashion: This week Solihull Academy opened its doors to thirty one Year 9 students - students drawn from across the 15 Solihull secondary schools - "students for whom mainstream education is simply not working (for a range of reasons)" - "a game changer for pupils in the borough who really need the game to change"- "the difference for our students who have an urgent need for something different."
As these students met Jes the therapy dog on their way into the school this week, they were the first adventurers into what will become, by September 2019, a community for 110 students from Year 9 to Year 11. In visits and meetings before the school opened they will already have seen the transformation of a stripped-out office complex set in the midst of a busy business park, surrounded by residential neighbourhoods. They have a gym and outside courts, a kitchen so well appointed that their food will be prepared there, and 21st century environmentally-controlled rooms and facilities, brought to life by a richly diverse and experienced (and passionate!) team - and supported, in extremely interesting and creative ways, by local enterprises (echoing the pioneering support of Birmingham businesses and industries for the servicemen and work of the Northfield Military Hospital during the Second World War). As this first group of students comes in and out of the school they are walking alongside a building and courtyard still being transformed from offices and businesses into the "structured therapeutic environment" the school will step-by-step move fully into. In their way they are pioneers.
When he set the scene at the first meeting of the new staff group on Monday, April 16, Principal Stephen Steinhaus drew a straight line back to his first meeting with PETT archivist Craig Fees and the beginning of the collaboration on the award-winning "Therapeutic Living" project back in 2009. Craig spoke briefly about the PETT Archive, and brought into the room all those people whose lives are invested there, and who gave the "Therapeutic Living With Other People's Children" project its bouyancy and anchored it in an understanding of what is possible and why it is important. Going around the circle of staff, everyone spoke of the reasons they had applied to join in this adventure, and the experiences in which their personal and professional commitments to the approach and the students were anchored. The building manager, the IT guru, the pastoral staff, the teachers, the maintenance and support members, administrator, the chair of trustees, the principal, the whole small team of people.... And throughout the day we saw time and again the thought and care that had gone into every aspect of the environment and what will go (and is now going!) on there....
In his moment in the circle, and in the conversations which happened naturally throughout that first staff-team day, Craig brought in what he had learned from Ralph Gee, David Crane, Katy Pentith and many others who have given their stories and energies to the PETT Archive, but who are no longer here to share in what they have accomplished. This note is therefore especially for the rest of you, who were also there: Look what you've done! Those of you who were involved before the "Therapeutic Living Project", and since; members of the project, or friends and members of the Archive and Study Centre family since: Look what you've done. Look what you're doing. You are helping to change the future. Those young people and staff - that surrounding team of trustees and supporters - those families whose children are discovering Solihull Academy: there is a straight line back from you and your gifts of time, memory and care, to the futures they are about to have. Look what you've done! And look what HLF have helped to make happen.
Archives in action.
A huge thankyou to members of the Caldecott Association who have given us another inspiring Archive Week of work and learning!
Gill liberated countless archive boxes for purposeful re-purposing, and helped Jen in packaging and repackaging existing Caldecott accessions.
Eileen delivered another transcribed James King manuscript, and made significant inroads into transcribing an oral history interview.
Jean shared her paintings, and broke significant ground in transcribing another oral history interview.
Gerald and Robert individually shared important insights into the Caldecott Community and its role in their lives, in their extensive oral history interviews.
Barry reviewed hundreds of photographs, negatives and contact sheets, and scanned (115 scans were made over the four days of this Weekend!).
And, along with enjoying meals and good unrecorded conversations with one another, everyone helped in identifying the who, what and where in hundreds of photographs, and for cataloguing. Craig helped.
We were told some years ago that members of one community would not contribute to the general work of the Archive or to the life and memories of other communities.
It is important to note that - although people obviously and understandably concentrate on the materials and memories of their own communities, especially during Archive Weekends - this is not the case.
The interest and generosity of community members overflows for the benefit of the Trust, and of the Archive and Study Centre, and for those others whose memories are held here. That generosity is part of the inspiration that continues to make what we do so exciting for us, and proud to work with and for Archive users and Stakeholders.
Turn the volume up and sit back for half a minute. Listen at the end, for the steam train, way at the far end of the village, a twenty minute walk away. The Kaki Tree sculpture in its environment, with the first Caldecott daffodils blooming. For the story of the kaki tree, click here.
1. High Speed Audio Cassette Tape Duplicator
Purchased through Audio Visual Services of Gloucester in 1994, the high speed audio-cassette tape duplicator cost a bundle in relation to the size of the budget, but revolutionised life in the Archive overnight.
Imagine the task.
From 1989 to 1996, and leaving aside a few reel to reels, all of the confererence and oral history recordings made by the Archive and Study Centre were recorded on audio cassettes, over 750 of them: Maxwell Jones, Harry Wilmer, Harold Bridger, the ATC Windsor and Arbours Crisis Centre conferences...hundreds of individuals and events recorded on 90 minute (45 minute a side) audio cassettes.
Each of these recordings had to be backed-up for preservation purposes, and every interviewee was given at least one copy of their recording: for groups and conference break-out sessions these numbers could multiply! Leaving aside back-up and donor copies of tapes which had been made and given to the Archive by others (not an inconsiderable number), we're talking a mimimum of 1,500 to 2,200 hours of duplication.
Moving from the tape-to-tape system which copied one side at a time in real time, to a high speed duplicator which copied both sides of the master tape simultaneously, was therefore genuinely revolutionary. An hour and a half of monitoring and duplicating time was reduced to minutes. We could offer researchers our support service - providing back-up, interviewer and interviewee copies of their recordings in return for deposit of the master in the oral history collection - without blanching. It became quicker and less onerous to get copies to transcribers, and speeded up the turn-around time for getting copies of their recordings and transcripts to interviewees. We could even, as we did, venture into small-scale audio-tape publication. It was wonderful.
2. Printed letterhead
A more or less immediate investment on initiation of the Archive and Study Centre, professionally-printed letterhead on high-quality paper was not only a labour-saving device, but set out the stall of the new Archive and Study Centre in the pre-Internet, pre-email world of letter-writing and snail-mail. It was printed for us a ream at a time by Rapid Print of Cheltenham, then in two premises on the Upper High Street (shop-front with commercial photocopiers on one side of the road, printing and binding plant on the other). It used the Garamond type face which PETT had adopted in the years when it too had professionally-printed letterhead, thereby grounding the new Archive and Study Centre in the past and carrying forward a tradition, while looking to the future: it said "We are here to stay, we are serious and professional about what we do and how we go about it, and presentation and attention to detail are important."
Among the details was the job title for the new archivist - "Research Archivist". This was a research archive. The implications of that were and are immense. The title changed in later versions; but the nature and purpose of the Archive and Study Centre itself have remained the same: not simply a repository; not simply a place to receive.
3. Address Stamp
We got our self-inking stamp from a specialist corner shop, run by a young couple in an old residential part of Cheltenham, which we found through the yellow pages - the real yellow pages, which used to come as part of the massive telephone directory which strong-men tested and sometimes broke themselves on, trying to tear in half. A quarter of a century on and the stamp is still going strong, imprinting "Planned Environment Therapy Trust Archive and Study Centre, Church Lane, Toddington, Glos. GL54 5DQ" on countless envelopes and labels. It is almost impossible to convey how many hours and cramped fingers this stamp has saved, and what an immediate relief its purchase was. It is a small thing, but has had a disproprotionate effect on efficiency and job satisfaction. In an improbable office fire, it would be one of the first things we'd rush to save.
We subsequently bought library and a few other self-inking stamps from the shop. The fact that the stamps have survived intact and working so very many years after purchase may help to explain why the shop itself is no long there. The couple would no longer be young; but if you come across this, and if you know who you are, thank you.
They were recorded a year apart. They are both attempts by David Wills OBE, to record a narrative for a silent film made in 1943 at Barns Hostel and School in Peebles, Scotland, one of the earliest therapeutic communities for children in the United Kingdom. The film, remastered with David Wills' final version of narrative, was later released for viewing by Concord Films.
The first is a reel to reel tape, recorded in 1972. The second is on audiocassette, recorded in 1973, and far more polished. He had had more time to think about what to say, to become more familiar with the recording of his own voice, and perhaps responded to feedback.
The reel to reel was given to the Archive in 1990 by former Trustee Robert Laslett. The audio cassette is one of a number of tapes which were simply inherited when the Archive was formed in 1989 as part of the Planned Environment Therapy Trust Collection. They have emerged and been identified during the ongoing programme of digitisation of the audio-visual collections, and are brought together here for the first time.
These recordings are remarkable instances of early oral history by one of the leading pioneers in the therapeutic care of children, about one of its earliest successful experiments: Shaping, reflecting, changing the memories, caught in flight through the magic of the technology.
"The film that you are about to see is, in more than one sense of the word, a bit of a museum piece...It is thought to be the very first visual record, apart from still photographs, of a special boarding school for maladjusted children..."
"The film you are about to see is thought to be unique, in being probably the first visual record ever to have been made of a school for maladjusted children..."
Image above: David Wills with children on steps of Barns House.
Image below: The opening pages of the 1943 Barns Hostel and School Annual Review
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