Archive inspires project capturing stories of everyday life in Lancaster

Memories of working class life in Lancaster from 1890-1970 are being brought to life in a special project by the city's arts and heritage company, Mirador.

Thursday, 24th May 2018, 12:23 pm
Updated Thursday, 24th May 2018, 12:26 pm
A neighbourly neighbours group from a Lancaster council estate pictured in 1936. Neighbours are a theme in the archive. Picture courtesy of Lancaster City Museum.

Walking In Others Footsteps is the second project by Mirador which initiated Behind The Wall last year, focusing on the history of the Standfast & Barracks building in Caton Road.

Now they’ve moved on to commission an artistic response to the digitisation of the Elizabeth Roberts Working Class Oral History Archive.

Dr Roberts, who has lived in Lancaster for almost 50 years, was a pioneer in the field of working class oral history in the 1970s and 1980s.

Elizabeth Roberts and Steve Fairclough with some of the Moorside School pupils.

She started her project as a post-graduate student at Lancaster University, conducting more than 260 interviews with people from Lancaster, Barrow and Preston, recording them on reel-to-reel tape.

She found interviewees via word of mouth and appeals through the local press. In Lancaster, many of them were retired Storeys employees.

“I think a lot of people liked the idea that their memories would be recorded for posterity. They were very happy to talk about their lives and had a valuable story to tell,” Elizabeth said.

These testimonies of everyday life have now been digitised by the Regional Heritage Centre at Lancaster University and are available online.

Mavis Kirton from Lancaster being filmed for the documentary.

Mirador was so inspired by the archive that it commissioned artists to help share the stories with the general public thanks to funding from Arts Council England, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Regional Heritage Centre and the Sir John Fisher Foundation.

Mirador’s engagement officer, Steve Fairclough has worked in Lancaster, Barrow and Preston, capturing stories from local people inspired by the archive and delivering school sessions.

On one of his school visits – to Moorside in Lancaster – he was joined by Elizabeth whose children attended the school where she was also a governor from 1981-2002.

Her archive covered many subjects but Steve took food, football and funerals as the themes for his sessions which he has photographed and documented.

Martin Foster from Lancaster, one of the people who features in the documentary.

Award-winning poet, Mandy Coe has also been working in Lancaster schools and with other groups to produce a ‘washing line’ of poems inspired by the archive.

And one of the more unusual elements of Mirador’s project is Voices From The Hood produced by sound artist, Dan Fox.

He converted sixties style hood hair dryers into listening posts and visitors to The Dukes earlier this month, were invited to take a seat under a dryer where they could hear excerpts from the archive.

The Dukes is also the venue for a special celebration of Walking In Others Footsteps on June 3 which features the screening of a documentary film – Give Me Today, Anytime.

Dan Fox, whose Voices from the Hood sound installation has been at The Dukes recently.

Oral history meets Creature Comforts in this warm and humorous film produced by Jon Randall and Tom Diffenthal who interviewed dozens of people in Lancaster, Preston and Barrow about their everyday lives today and have combined them with some voices from the past recorded by Elizabeth.

The documentary will be screened along with archive film of Lancaster, Preston and Barrow and a question and answer session with Elizabeth herself.

The washing line of poetry will be on display as well as a mini-exhibition of memories and personal stories from people Steve Fairclough has worked with in all three locations.

The screening begins at 5pm and tickets are free but must be booked through The Dukes Box Office on 01524 598500 or

For more information about Walking In Others Footsteps, visit Follow Mirador on [email protected] and

See for details about the archive and the digitisation project.

Paul Morphet and Sandra Callender during filming at their Lancaster home.
Elizabeth Roberts.