I was so excited to hear in my final year at university that there would be an offering of a placement in a cultural institution. Having never seen the way in which a cultural organization operated, or the skills acquired through my history degree being put into practice, I was excited to have this new learning experience readily available.
The placement I selected was the Marketing and PR role provided by All Souls in Bolton. All Souls is a community centre based in the town of Bolton, and it aims to improve social cohesion throughout the area, and our placement project was to help in achieving this goal. The project itself was came from an Oral History approach, and this very experience was completely new to myself and the two other students in my team. To develop skills in oral history – meeting members of Bolton’s community, interviewing them, developing a framework of questions for them to answer – was also valuable. It allowed me to further my understanding of the application of history as a practice, rather than a theoretical concept.
My project at All Souls was to collect stories from members of Bolton’s public about their experiences in Bolton. We were to turn them into an hour long performance which we, as a team, would promote, sell tickets for, and host. The aim of this project, not only to help promote social cohesion, was also to promote the idea that history was not just something you found in a textbook, it was a person’s own personal experiences, and that no matter how trivial a person may have thought these experiences were, they still mattered in the grander scheme of things.
Our time at All Souls has been most interesting, it has allowed us to see the struggles small cultural organizations face on a daily basis, and it has enabled us to take on an independent project, but with an outcome that would also benefit the company itself. We have spent most of our time working independently, emailing organizations, meeting members of Bolton’s public. The majority of our time was spent exploring the Bolton Market, which in itself was a treat. We talked to stall holders and shoppers, and then we visited other institutions, for example Bolton University and Bolton College, as well as many ethnic food stores in the area to try and spread the word about our project and to get people involved.
All Souls community centre has provided me with an invaluable experience, by working independently it shows just how much cultural institutions are dependent on volunteers, and it is an excellent way to learn a new approach to history without being spoon-fed everything. This is something I’ve found both challenging and liberating, and I have appreciated my time on this placement.