Tuesday 30 April 2013

Wanted: Sopwell Memories website developer

Do we have any professional website developers in Sopwell?

As part of our Heritage Lottery funded Sopwell Memories project, we are recruiting someone to build a new website for visitors to discover the history of Sopwell.

The website will contain our archive of memories, history and events collected from residents on life in Sopwell. The site will be based on a content management system and will have text, images, audio and video recordings. A detailed specification will be given to applicants.

Please apply by email to info@sopwell.org.uk.

Friday 26 April 2013

Gathering the troops

Brainstorm at Mandeville school
Last week, I held a meeting at Mandeville school for the Project helpers. I called it a brainstorming meeting as I wanted them to steer me in the right direction to get the project underway.

There were twelve of us around the table. Three people couldn't make it.  It is good to know that I have an adequate pool of helpers as I cannot do it all on my own.

I filled them all in on the details of the grant and outlined what we have done so far. Amazingly, we have accomplished a lot considering the project has not yet officially started. Then we discussed next steps.

At the meeting, I received a pack of completed forms from Mandeville schoolchildren who had been required, as part of their homework, to talk with their families over Easter about their memories of coming to and living in Sopwell. The idea is to make the migrant communities aware of the project and hopefully to agree to being formally interviewed at a later date. So we had fun looking at the forms to discover the many countries where their families originated. I will do some analysis later.

Brainstorm at Mandeville school
Inevitably, a lot of the discussion was on the forthcoming launch party on Saturday 18th May at St Julian's Church, Abbots Avenue.

There is such a lot to think about if it is to be a success!

We have agreed to have a professional filmmaker make a five minute film of the occasion for our digital record and which will double up as publicity for the project.

We agreed that it was a good idea to use some of the residents who contributed to the book.

This all needs careful planning: how many shall we interview; who will be interviewed; and where is the best place to do the filming. I am reluctant to approach potential interviewees too soon in case they are put off and fail to turn up on the day.

Then there are the decisions about the venue: what space can we use; where can we display photographs; where to put the winning entries of the painting competition; where to put the rolling display of digital images; where is the cake going to go; where is the quietest place for the video booth; where will the magic show be held if it rains? It is all very worrying and it keeps me awake at night especially when another problem comes into my head which we haven't discussed!

Anyway, it was a very productive meeting and my team are behind me, which is reassuring. Once the launch is over, we will be planning oral history training and then starting to interview residents. But first we must make the launch a success!

Sandy Norman

Wednesday 3 April 2013


On 26th March, Peter and I attended a workshop held at the University of Hertfordshire on the possibility of using the Historypin website to enhance our project.

Historypin calls itself "A global community collaborating around history" and so could be useful for groups exploring the history and memories of their locality, such as us. You can watch a 90 second introduction video here.

I found the morning session difficult to follow as it was all general stuff about what Historypin was and its global following, and I couldn't see how it would be relevant to us. Added to this, as I was sitting at the back, I found I couldn't catch everything that was being said. Neither could I see the screen very well.

I know I wasn't the only one who found it all very difficult to take in. There were loads of questions from the other participants, and, as usual, the problem of copyright reared its ugly head. I kept quiet on that although I could have contributed lots. The other delegates seemed to answer each other's questions anyway. I learnt more over lunch and was reassured to hear from the team leaders that there is no obligation for us to use Historypin. It is likely to involve a lot of work in any case.

The afternoon session was more practical - I sat at the front (much better) - and then the pennies started dropping!  I began to see how it could be an advantage to become a "Channel" - Historypin speak for someone who joins up and adds images. I think most people understand practical stuff; if it can be seen working in practice, then it is easier to see the relevance, or not. I could see that simply adding a few photos with a link to our website would provide us with another shop window for our site, another way for people to find our site!

We were then told that we can link images into a "Tour", maybe a walking tour, and another penny dropped. Yes, we could put our five planned walks around Sopwell up on Historypin! As we are restricted on text, we cannot add all the history detail but we could direct visitors to our website to find out more, and try to persuade them to read our book! Alternatively, we can link to audio recordings on YouTube, so we could add a spoken commentary. Historypin also provide a free Smartphone app, so users could access the information while they were walking, using their mobile phone as a virtual tour guide!

Since then, we have opened a "More Memories of Sopwell" channel on Historypin and have started uploading a few photos and pinning them onto Google Maps. It's early days still but it has been very straightforward so far except that if an image is not on a street, such as the ruins of Sir Richard Lee's Tudor house in the Nunnery Open Space, it is automatically allocated the nearest street and house number. Often, this information is not helpful to a potential visitor. At the moment, we are not sure how to get round that problem.

We are now advertising for help with the project, some voluntary and some paid. Specifically, we need oral history interviewers, transcribers, help with publicity, website entry and most important - a website developer.

If anyone is interested, please send your details to info@sopwell.org.uk.

Sandy Norman