An ambitious project to gather audio and film testaments about Brixham’s traditional industries and historic events and use them to launch a Brixham social history archive supported by a mobile app and film has won an £8,100 Heritage Lottery Fund Grant (HLF), made possible by National Lottery players.
Local organisations hold some records of Brixham’s historic industries and events, but much anecdotal local history detail is lost or degraded as it passes down the generations. This year-long project will capture as many of these stories as possible to preserve and share them as a community resource freely accessible to all.
The National Lottery grant will allow the Brixfest team (in partnership with many local organisations, including Brixham Museum, Town Council, Chamber of Commerce and South Devon College) to initiate and produce this archive. Its contents will also be used to enhance the physical Heritage Trail being launched as part of this year’s BrixFest (Whitsuntide Bank Holiday, May 27th to 31st).
“The first step is to identify elderly people who have worked in the industries for which the town is famous – for example, shipbuilding, rope and sail-making and of course, fishing – and who are willing to pass on their recollections, which in some instances span more than 80 years,” says BrixFest chair Sophie Bower, who has lived in Brixham for more than 25 years and heard many such fascinating stories. ”
“Many Brixham families have worked in a single trade for generations. Some have as many as three surviving generations of, say, fishermen or Lifeboat crew members and we hope to involve these in joint conversations about the changes they’ve experienced.
“We’re also seeking people who were involved in local events such as exploring or visiting the now-closed Brixham Caves; or with WW2 memories of life in Brixham – for example, the extension of the Breakwater, building or manning The Battery and serving here while in the Forces.
“And we would like to hear from individuals who are willing to share their own relevant historic audio, radio or film recordings or photographs,” adds Bower.
Committee members have identified some candidates, but there must be dozens of others who would like to help to preserve Brixham’s folk heritage. Those who would prefer not to be filmed or recorded can instead provide a simple written testimony or tell their story to a BrixFest volunteer.
Anyone who would like to participate is invited to free afternoon tea hosted by young volunteers at The Edge, Bolton Street, Brixham, on Sunday April 2, when BrixFest committee members will explain all. Those interested in providing testimonies can obtain a ticket by phoning 01803 858488 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org Anyone with mobility problems can use the same contact details to make an initial contact so that home visits or phone interviews can be organised.
At the end of the year-long project, all material – print, audio, film and photographic – will be digitised and stored on the BrixFest website where it will be freely available to students, historians and the merely curious. BrixFest’s intention is to extend the scope and depth of these archives over the years
BrixFest, which this year has taken Heritage as its theme, is funded by local grants, fundraising events and donations from Brixham organisations and businesses. Material from the National Lottery project will be used to humanise the historic events which took place at each location on a Brixham Heritage Trail which will be given a spectacular launch during the festival.
The launch will include enactments of historic events by local theatre groups; church choirs; musicians; and voluntary groups displaying and discussing, for example, historic artefacts, WW2 events and Brixham Cavern archaeological finds, in pavilions placed around the trail.
Information about the Trail will be delivered to participants in a mobile phone app which will include out-takes from the recordings and the film (to be premiered at The English Riviera Film Festival in June). There will also be a printed map/guide and a dedicated Brixham Heritage Trail website, which will include links to archived material held at other locations. The website will also be enhanced and expanded in future years to create an enduring publicly-available legacy.Follow