Young People Asked to Make History in Northern England
Today (23 May), Historic England is asking young people in the north of England to help mark their local history through History in the Making – a brand new programme, led by 13-25 year olds, to create ten place markers that celebrate overlooked local histories.
Historic England is asking youth organisations, and community groups who work with young people, across northern England to apply for funding to unearth and celebrate local histories that speak to young people. The aim of the programme is to improve young people’s wellbeing, from increasing connection to and pride in their local place, to gaining skills, confidence and social connection.
Grants of up to £15,000 will be given to ten different organisations who will work directly with young people, using creative methods, to co-create their projects over 18 months. Alongside a newly formed Historic England youth panel, who will help make decisions about funding, History in the Making is putting young people’s voices at the heart of how we collectively celebrate and remember our history.
The experiences of those who came before us have helped to shape the places we live in – and continue to offer new insights as we shape their future. These grants will enable young people to learn more about their local history, giving them valuable skills and knowledge for the future. I look forward to seeing what they uncover and share in the process.
What is place marking?
Beyond a traditional plaque scheme, the successful projects will use arts and creativity to animate public spaces to tell the fascinating and unheard stories of local people, places and events. From art works and murals, immersive walking trails and poetry to community-designed gardens, young people will decide who to celebrate and how to remember them through a range of creative methods. These projects will provide new, creative ways for everyone to learn about, and remember, their local histories.
Historic England is especially interested in applications from groups that are not heritage organisations, for example youth-led organisations that are rooted in local communities and those that represent Black, Asian and other minority ethnic groups, LGBTQ+, disabled, neurodiverse, working class and women’s history.
History in the Making is all about asking young people to discover what matters to them when it comes to their local history and identity. We want to help young people across northern England remember local people, events and histories and physically connect them to the places and spaces they occupied, and then share those stories with the wider community.
Pilot projects in Yorkshire
Historic England has funded three projects as part of a pilot scheme to inform History in the Making. Working with 30 young people, the projects – Canal? What Canal and Manningham Stories – both in Bradford – and HerStory: A Walk Through Time in Doncaster, were each given £7,000 by Historic England to research and create a place marker to celebrate a part of the city’s hidden history.
Across six months, young people worked alongside staff, facilitators and artists to research and design a place marker to be displayed in their local community. As well as interpretation boards, the projects created large scale artwork, illustrations, poetry and immersive audio walks. The pilot showed it helped youth-organisations to reach young people they hadn’t worked with before, shape future work programmes and strengthened connections between youth and heritage organisations.
Canal? What Canal
Run by Ignite Yorkshire, Canal? What Canal celebrates the hidden history of Bradford Canal in Shipley, which existed between 1744 and 1922 but has since mostly been built over. All that remains today of the 3.5 mile waterway is a short section, together with a few bridges and walls.
A group of nine young people aged 11-14, known collectively as The Informal Busing Society of Bradford (TIBSOB) have been working with Marie Millward from creative education provider IVE, Nicola Murray from Shipley-based Sponge Tree and playwright James Varney to create a series of audio stories recorded at Bradford Community Broadcasting inspired by three moments in the canal’s history.
Set in 1774, the opening story focuses on the first coal-laden boat to travel along the canal. This is followed by an episode centering on a very pungent trip on the water in 1851, while the final story takes listeners to 1922 and the canal’s imminent closure.
In addition to the stories, TIBSOB also worked with Bradford-based artist Ben Holden to create a place marker plaque, which has been installed on the former Bradford Canal bridge on Leeds Road in Shipley.
Not many people walking along the section of Leeds Road where our place marker has been installed knew that they were crossing a bridge and that there was once a canal there but now that information is uncovered for all to find. I love that the thousands of people crossing that busy bridge will learn stories from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries told by young people born in the 21st century. We all learned a lot in the process of creating this project and feel proud to have made something that uncovers a hidden layer of Shipley and Bradford’s story.
Mind the Gap worked with learning-disabled and autistic people aged 18-25 to uncover the history of Manningham. Working alongside local creatives they explored streets, landmarks and stories through a series of weekly workshops.
Creative ideas were brought to life in a writing workshop with Antony Dunn from the People Powered Press. This culminated in the group visiting the Press and creating a large, hand-printed art piece that is almost five metres tall. This artwork will be installed publicly on a building in Manningham in the near future.
Manningham Stories has been a valuable and interesting project that has helped us connect deeply with the many layers of history in our local area. We are proud to be based in Listers Mill in Manningham and young people who took part in the project now feel more aware of local history and would like to continue to explore and meet new people who live and work here.
HerStory : A Walk Through Time
This project was part of a pilot to find new creative ways for young people to recognise important aspects of their shared heritage. The project was delivered as part of the Heritage Doncaster research programme Changing The Record.
Throughout 2022, community researchers explored the lives of women from Thorne, Mexborough and Edlington. A shortlist of six women was drawn up based on their research.
A group of young people worked with illustrator Phil Sheppard and Heritage Doncaster staff to vote on which stories should be displayed on panels in their communities. Interpretation boards and short videos were created for three selected women: Katy Richardson, Marie Singleton and Gill Coultard.
The HerStory Placemarker content is now live where you will find both the Herstory social clubs, and the Walk Through Time content.
Our pilot work in Bradford and Doncaster showed the potential of empowering young people to explore their local history in creative ways. We invite young people to reflect on what their local history means to them and find imaginative ways of recognising important local stories for their communities to enjoy.