Bournemouth University

The Media School

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Radio students capture Bournemouth history

20 January 2010

Students in one of BU's professional audio studios

Bournemouth’s new virtual museum will come to life with stories from local people thanks to BU’s radio production students.

Radio Production students at BU are helping to record the town’s oral history as part of the ‘Streets of Bournemouth’ project, a unique virtual museum.

‘Streets of Bournemouth’ will form a central part of celebrations to mark the town’s bicentenary when it is launched later this year. A substantial award of £440,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund has made the project possible.

Using the University’s professional audio studios, students on the BA (Hons) in Radio Production have recorded the original stories and recollections of people who were born and raised in the area or moved to the town at some stage in their lives. The recordings capture the personalities and recollections of the storytellers to help bring the history of Bournemouth to life.

“This project has been a very successful meeting of two generations of Bournemouth residents and has produced some wonderful insight into the area we live in,” said Jo Tyler, Lecturer and Programme Co-ordinator for the Radio Production degree.  “Inviting the participants to the radio studios in The Media School allowed students the opportunity to lend their production skills to this innovative community resource, a very valuable experience alongside their practical programme making.”

Sean Burns, one of the Radio Production students added, “The interviewing experience was wonderful. Like many people, I had never stopped to think about the history of the area. It was a real eye opener to meet someone who has witnessed so many changes. Hopefully this project will allow many more people to open their eyes to the history that's all around us.”

One of the more extraordinary and certainly the oldest of those interviewed by the students, is Frances Woodsford. The 95-year-old from Bournemouth is the author of the book ‘Dear Mr Bigelow’, based on years of correspondence between Ms Woodsford and a retired American civil engineer, Commodore Paul Bigelow. Ms Woodsford was working as a secretary in the Public Baths Department of Bournemouth Town Council and Mr Bigelow lived in Long Island, New York. Their correspondence lasted for 12 years, between 1949 until Mr Bigelow’s death in 1961.  At one time, the correspondence was feared lost but in 2006, Ms Woodsford’s letters came to light and were returned to her. The book followed some three years later and was recently featured on Radio 4.

“We were fortunate to hold a question and answer session with Ms Woodsford which the students found very inspiring,” said Tyler. “She gave us all a lot of great advice and she really helped students to ‘frame’ the area in which they study and live.”

The BU students join scores of volunteers who have come forward to make the ‘Streets of Bournemouth’ a virtual reality. In recent months, volunteers have assisted with different aspects of the project such as transcribing tithe map apportionments, inputting data, identifying historical images, securing copyright clearance, creating learning material and recording and transcribing people’s memories.

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