Smart phones, iPads, digital cameras, allow us to photograph indiscriminately, leading us to amass hundreds if not thousands of images. How many of these escape the memory card and find their way to the old-fashioned album? How many of us spend lost hours flicking through page after page of nostalgia, family members and friends long gone, some forever nameless and forgotten? This digital world is creating a host of problems for archivists. How do they access the intangible? How do they record the virtual? It’s a problem.
Did you ever think of the act of question asking as a skill? Actually, I never did until my time with Catcher Media. How can something so basic be so fraught with possibilities - both good and bad? Over the last several months, I have learned that a good question can open up wells of emotion, anecdotes, unwritten histories and genuine human connection - whereas a bad one could create an awkward or even antagonistic atmosphere, shutting down conversation and distancing you from your interviewee. A lot of what I have learned has come via osmosis, from watching Marsha and Julia conduct oral history interviews, but a lot of it has also come from direct experience and some very good advice. So, what are the key lessons I have learned so far?…
Long-lost wedding photos come to light after nearly fifty years buried in the Derek Evans' archive
Over the winter months, editing of our upcoming film: ‘Carousel’ A Herefordshire Life Through A Lens Film’ has been in full swing. The name ‘Carousel’ comes from a type of slide projector; something which echoes the nature of the project. Assisting with this film does feel like sitting in the centre of a whirl of pictures and stories. How do we choose which stories to share?
In the pre-mechanised days of hop picking, workers arrived in droves from the industrial heartlands of the Black Country and South Wales. The effect on the children must have been startling: the sights, smells, tastes. It is still felt by many former hop pickers, even some 60 years later. It was a whole new world.
A chronicler of Herefordshire life, Derek Evans was also a dyed-in-the-wool Liberal, and stood side-by-side with Liberal parliamentary candidates for nearly half a century. His knowledge of the county and his impressive range of contacts, must have been a useful tool in any electoral battle.
At first light, early on Oak Apple Day, a small number of die-hard villagers trek up the steeply wooded hill above their village on the River Wye in Herefordshire. They are in search of an oak bough. But not just any old bough. They will have been on a recce in the days leading up, identifying THE one, which are grown especially for the walk.
‘That special moment is when it all lights up and comes to life and you see the children enjoying the rides and the mums and dads having a wonderful time watching them. And that’s what it’s all about, a magical moment. ‘
We often wonder who were the people in Derek Evans' photographs, what their lives were like, when did they abandon their lives on the road? We felt we would never know and had begun to accept that the figures frozen in time in the photo would forever remain an enigma. But then life has the habit of sneaking up on you and, when you least expect it, you start hearing echoes from the past.
Far from being the outcasts they are so often represented as, gypsies have long lived alongside settled communities quite companionably, providing niche services to isolated rural economies.
While there are various themes and elements to the whole Herefordshire Life Through a Lens project, it also seems to be having the positive effect of bringing to the surface other stories that have been largely forgotten with the passage of time. And there are some crackers. Take Oliver Treherne. He appears in one of Derek Evans’ cuttings files, tucked neatly away among dozens of other items that have made it to press. But Mr Treherne stands out.
Derek Evans' cuttings files are a treasure chest of local stories. Among them one young footballer from 1962, who used a novel, but highly effective, way of 'broadcasting' his team's football results.
Christmas approaches and we reach the half-way point of this project, new images continue to emerge from the Derek Evans Christmas-stocking-of-an-archive. Some catch the eye more than others. With Christmas lunch shopping lists being hastily compiled, visions of roast goose, mince pies and lashings cream piling up, it is a relief to the digestive system to step away from these frenzied festivities and have an indulgence of a different kind, this time in the his ample and varied photographic archive.
If anyone could represent the ‘wise old man’ persona, then surely hop farmer the late Barry Parker must be it. His memorable, delightful, and philosophical phrases are remembered long after his interview has finished.
In his eye-catching violet cassock, he ascended the spiralling stairs of the Helter Skelter, placed his large frame on the mat, and slid to the bottom...
I’ve been a ‘migrant’ of sorts myself I suppose, picking apples and boysenberries in New Zealand, and filling shampoo bottles in Australia. In the 1970s, my school, a Catholic Secondary, was a microcosm of post-WWII migration, you just had to take a look at the names in the register to get the picture: Irish of course, then the Italians, the Portuguese, Ukrainian, Lithuanian, Latvian, and Polish.
We are pleased to be able to offer DVD copies of Herefordshire Life Through a Lens: Stories from the Hop Yards and other titles
I am not a football person. I have never been athletic, never came from a family who supported a team, or even watched an entire game. But it is impossible not to get swept up with the romance and excitement of the 1972 Hereford v Newcastle match.
"It occurs to me that there is something fascinating in taking a photograph of a photograph, capturing an image within an image. Each one of Derek's images so striking in it's own right, telling it's own story, when photographed within a modern context, in turn creates another story, an interaction between past and present." Clova gives us an insight her experience as one of our project volunteers.
Ivor was a sprightly 95-year-old with a firm handshake, and the perfect host; producing a beautiful victoria sponge for our visit!
I wonder, when he was first took over the family’s Dormington farm, if Peter Davies ever thought one day he would be crowned ‘hop king of Europe’? He was frail when we met him, recovering from an operation following a fall, but you couldn’t help notice the steely glint in his eye when talking about the ‘business’. He must have been some operator in his time.
If you're just getting started in filmmaking, or even just thinking about it, we'd say, 'Give it a go!' Rick has written a blog about some of the things to think about when making a film, so read on for his useful 'Recipe for a Successful Film".
Which brings to mind one of my favourite interviewees, the retired haulier, John Griffiths. I think even John would admit to being a ‘hard nut to crack’ when it comes to interviewing. And, again, I admired that in him: he is a proud man, who has had to work very, very hard
It’s easy to see why Derek Evans returned to it again and again to create his photographic record. Before the merciful advent of the Welfare State, a ‘safety net’ offered by the Friendly Society was sorely needed
‘It was a tremendous atmosphere. Every public house in the county was abuzz with hop pickers. All of a sudden for one month a year, there was an absolute buzz, it was incredible.’
Sometimes a story captures the public imagination for all the right reasons. ‘Stories from the Hop Yard’, the film from Catcher Media, seems to have done just that, that is if the sell-out audiences are anything to go by.
After the snow severely impacted our sold out premiere event on Saturday 3rd March the weather on 6th March at Malvern Theatres was much more in our favour and packed audience of over 420 people came to watch the film as part of Borderlines Film Festival.
We are delighted to announce a whole new list of dates where you can see the first film from this project and the accompanying exhibition of archive and contemporary images from the Hop Yards.
A hop picker from Ross-on-Wye, now 83, recalls the annual hop pilgrimage with a smile and a far-away look behind his eyes.
We heard the story of one sprightly 93-year-old, whose beloved son was the result of a one night stand with a Canadian airman during the War...
The imminent screening of ‘Stories from the Hop yards’ has invited stories around English beer and the rapid growth of microbreweries. Could wooden casks be set for a revival? We can only hope so.
Our film, Stories from the Hop Yards has caught the public’s imagination. It seems everyone, of a certain age, has a memory connected to the hop yards of the county, and most of them want to share their memories.
‘He had all these old trestles, it was like a big old shed. And he used to drink cider and take snuff. He wore a brown smock and he used to tip his snuff in his top pocket, and he had a habit of dipping his finger in and snorting.’
The Derek Evans’ archive continues to spring surprises. Most delicious among them are his scrap books, page after page of newspaper cuttings, documenting news from the ‘front line’ of rural life.
Speaking to the BBC in the run up to his retirement he said: “The FA Cup as a tournament was very good to me. I’d like to think I can still have some association with that because it was the Ronnie Radford goal for Hereford against Newcastle which really put me on the map in 1972.”
Waiting with perhaps more anticipation than most, was the ex-Hereford Times photographer, and friend of Derek’s, Ray Lloyd, and his wife Elaine
The grand premiere screening of ten local school films at the Hereford Odeon saw Screen 4 packed with expectant school-children on Monday July 10th. The aspiring historians and film-makers were there to present and screen their films, which all used the Derek Evans archive as their inspiration.
This entertaining and warm-hearted film revisits the past in interviews with farmers, auctioneers, townspeople, breeders, traders and council workers, and contains lots of archive film footage and photographs.
She vividly recalls the peace of being away from the bombing, and paints a rich portrait of the sights and sounds that made those few weeks hop-picking the country so precious.
A family’s long-standing connection to this age-old Fownhope village tradition.
Eminent Herefordshire photographer Keith James who worked with Derek for many years, talks about how he had an easy-going charm that could lift the spirits of everyone in the room.
John, whose family have been in hops for many generations, talks about the bushellers, tallymen and bookers, and how the hop-pickers were paid in the farmer’s own coinage, which could be spent in the village.
Influential hop farmer Peter Davies talks about the hop picking - by hand - on his farm.
“The club took over the skittle alley of the pub and we had live music every week. It was very loud, very crowded and extremely smoky."
Ron Parrott, knowledgeable archivist and long-term fan of Hereford United, discusses how that epic match against Newcastle, in the FA Cup third round replay of 1972, changed things for the club.
In this short clip Leominster Councillor - Pauline Davies - talks about her experiences hop picking as a child. Pauline was just 4 years old when she first went picking with her mother.
John Bulmer, eminent photojournalist and film-maker, talks about what newspapers want and how Derek Evans helped him realise what that was.
Colin Addison, former manager of Hereford United, talks about the surprise draw between Hereford United and Newcastle United on 24th January 1972, held at St James' Park, Newcastle upon Tyne.
Abie Danter, chairman of the South Wales and Northern Ireland section of The Showman's Guild at Hereford's May Fair, explains how the May Fair has changed over time.
We'd like to say a big thank you to Ross Town Council as last night they approved our grant for the Herefordshire Life Through A Lens project.
If you would like to visit the photography exhibition of Derek Evans images at the Herefordshire Archives and Records Centre, which is a great place to see them, it's open this Saturday 12th March 9.15am to 4.45pm.
Upcoming Exhibition dates 2016
Take a look at our other oral history media projects that we have completed in the county. Both of these projects have been so well received by Herefordshire people that we have been inspired to keep exploring and recording the rich heritage of the county.
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