Stockwell Stories #1

Bill Sainsbury

Bill has lived in Stockwell for most of his life. He has worked locally for the Royal Mail, giving him a unique perspective on the area as it has grown and changed over the years. In this interview, we discuss the changing industrial landscape of Stockwell, and look ahead as to where the local economy might be heading.

I’ve wanted to put together a Stockwell socail history project for some time now. The area that I have called home for the past fifteen years is rich in characters and stories. It is also extremely transient, with new communities coming and going over a short period of time.

An online talking heads video project was initially the plan. But then my experience of using video content in schools has taught me that your subject matter often freezes, once the camera is put upon them.

So audio is the way to go. Technically it is incredibly simple to set up and manage. All that I would need is the access to the locals of Stockwell who have a story to tell.

“Um, excuse me mate. You look like an interesting character. Can I buy you a cuppa whilst you tell me your life story, and I record it and then publish it to the world via the modern interweb.”

Bugger off.

But then along came a timely call from the lovely Stockwell Community Resource Centre, enquiring about the possibility of setting up a social history project. The initial plan wasn’t for an online presence, but for all interviews to be stored away at the Lambeth Archive.

Like most historical libraries, the Lambeth Archive is rich in content, although slightly lacking in pro-activity. Data is gathered, and then stored away from the community it often seeks to serve.

For me, social history should be all about participation and exploration. Which makes any social history project perfect to be presented online. And so I approached the Stockwell Community Resource Centre with the plan to combine my online publishing experience with their access to local interviewees.

I get a steady flow of subject matter, the Resource Centre gets an online archive, and somewhere down the line, the Lambeth Archive can have a stash of CDR’s full of recordings to place away in an old shoebox for the next fifty years, by which time data storage will no doubt be carried out biologically.

And so it was with some excitement on Tuesday lunchtime that I made the short cycle across SW8 to the home of my first interviewee. Bill had very kindly volunteered to come forward as the guinea pig for the Stockwell Oral History project.

We’re still very much finding out feet, in terms of subject matter, length of the recordings and even style. But yeah, technically we’re up and running and have an empty server, just waiting for content from the good people of Stockwell to populate.

Much of our focus for the first interview was on the changing infrastructure and industry of the area. Bill has a great personal perspective on this, and was able to pass on his knowledge and memories of some of the major manufacturing industries that used to operate out of Stockwell. Finally I have some more information on the long, lost Marmite factory of SW8.

So yeah, this is a start. The plan is to record weekly podcasts, and hopefully build up a better understanding of the area I have called home for the past fifteen years. It’s probably my final big online project before we leave London, and so I have the enthusiasm and ambition to try and make this work.

If you would like to be interviewed as part of the Stockwell Oral History project, then please get in touch. The format is open ended, simply having a chat about anything and everything that has a Stockwell strand running through it.

Many thanks to Bill for welcoming me into his home for the first recording.

It’s not where you’re from; it’s where you’re at…

2 thoughts on “Stockwell Stories #1

  1. A great idea, obb, will publicise it on the Stand up for Stockwell blog. I’ll also mail you some suggestions of who would be good to interview, there are certainly lots of residents I’ve met who’ve been in the area since the second world war.

  2. I have done extensive research into the history of the area behind Freemans and would be happy to share this and point you in the direction of a couple of locals who have been brought up in this bit of Stockwell, best elaine

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *