As a full-time MA Theology student eager to pursue a career in Arts and Heritage, I decided in September that I would take as many opportunities in the academic year as I could to get experience in the sector. The ICP placement module promised 20 days in a cultural institution and required a 6000 word report – an opportunity to gain invaluable experience as part of my degree.
The placement I chose was ‘oral history project assistant’ at The Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Education Trust, which works from The Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre in Manchester Central Library. The ‘oral history project’ is part of the Heritage Lottery Funded ‘The Legacy of Ahmed Iqbal Ullah’ project which will culminate in an exhibition at Manchester Central Library on the 14th October (Ahmed’s birthday) marking 30 years since his racially provoked murder.
As part of the placement, I and another ICP placement student created indexes and summaries for two previously recorded oral histories. These recordings were each approximately an hour long and producing the documentation (which will be archived after the exhibition) for future researchers to consult meant learning how to conform to conventions and to the oral history projects already archived by the Trust, to ensure uniformity. These recordings contained memories of members from the Lonsight-Sylhet Link group, a multi-agency group who had visited the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Memorial School in Bangladesh in 2003. As project assistants, I and the other placement student had to summarise the recordings, drawing out quotes which were both representative of the entire recording and suitable to extract as sound bites for the ‘project updates’ blog and for the eventual exhibition. I therefore learnt how to: use software such as Audacity, concisely summarise whilst retaining the ‘voice’ of the interviewee’s oral history recording, and how to identify aspects which should be highlighted and carried over to other areas of the project (web and exhibition content) on the basis that they best suit the project objectives.
Having learnt the stages involved in an Oral history project, I and my peer placement student were entrusted to organise and undertake oral history interviews and documentation on behalf of the Trust. We worked together to research, contact and record the oral histories of two individuals who contributed valuable memories pertaining to ‘The Legacy of Ahmed’. I learnt in abundance about race-relations and community cohesion in Manchester from a range of professional perspectives and conveyed our findings from our independent interviews on blog posts which were uploaded by the Trust to their ‘project updates’ section of the website: http://www.racearchive.org.uk/legacy-ahmed-iqbal-ullah-2/project-updates/
Interested in alternative aspects of ‘The Legacy of Ahmed Iqbal Ullah’ project which were focused on community engagement, I took the opportunity to assist the project manager’s planning and delivering of a reminiscence session at Ananna – the Manchester Bangladeshi Women’s Organisation. This aspect of the project also revolved around memories but was less orientated on documentation. This experience taught me how projects such as the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Education Trust worked with and had the potential to empower other organisations at a time when Austerity challenges/threatens their survival. The photo below is of the reminiscence session, Jennie (project manager) and I were kindly lent saris for the occasion by the women who reminisced about their memories and experiences of life in Bangladesh and Manchester.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my placement, am eager to critically reflect upon my experience in my report and am excited to see the fruits of the project in ‘The Legacy of Ahmed Iqbal Ullah’ exhibition on the 14th October 2106.