We began by transcribing almost 100 interviews which had been recorded by the Willis Museum in the 1990s. Since then we have ourselves recorded and transcribed nearly 250 further interviews.
We are gathering a rich record of varied aspects of Basingstoke life. We hear from people who came to the town from elsewhere: some came as evacuees during the war, others for new jobs and homes during the town’s 1960s redevelopment, as well as for other reasons. We hear from people who saw their town totally transformed and had differing reactions to the newcomers. There are many accounts of childhood, school and games, of growing up, of shopping, of leisure time – clubs, dances, Carnival etc – and of work with Thornycrofts, Burberrys, Eli Lilly, Wallis & Steevens and many other employers, large and small. Several teachers and head-teachers have shown us how changing educational ideas and methods have affected our schools and colleges. We have interviewed a gardener, a gamekeeper, a cook and many others about their vanished way of life on the estate of Hackwood House.
Sometimes recollections impinge on national history. We hear of soldiers invalided from the Front to Park Prewett Hospital after D-Day, and a Basingstoke’s family who escaped from France as the occupying Germans advanced. We hear at first hand of personal experiences of social and medical changes that have taken place over the years.
With the permission of the people who are interviewed, some excerpts have been used to illustrate talks, in exhibitions, in newspaper articles or in our books: Taking the Pulse of Basingstoke, Going Down Church Street to the Felgate Bookshop, Happy Christmas, Basingstoke! and The Coo-p and Basingstoke – A Story of Change (to be published this year). Some of the recorded memories relating to D-Day and other aspects of World War II have been entered on the BBC website “The People’s War”.
The master recordings, with their synopses and transcriptions, are held by the Wessex Film & Sound Archive at Hampshire Record Office, while copies are available in the Resources Room of the Willis Museum.
We welcome help in recording and transcribing interviews and in carrying out associated research, publication and displays. Experience in editing sound would be particularly useful.
You can get involved by contacting the project team by email.