Mechanics’ Institution launches new project to share Swindon’s story

By Claire Dukes - 9 August 2018

Arts and CultureAttractionsHeritage

The Mechanics’ Institution Trust has launched a new project to share rare documents and photos of Swindon's vintage cultural scene.

The recently announced summer Young Roots project sets off this week with a train journey to the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre at Chippenham, where participants can explore some of the many documents and photos which record Swindon’s cultural scene from years past.  

Becca Lewis, the project's Arts & Heritage Co-ordinator, said: “It's been so great to welcome the young people to the project today and to take them on a guided tour of the Railway Village, including a special visit to the Railway Village Museum. Then this afternoon we got to take part in heritage research skills training to pepare us for the rest of the project.

"The young people taking part are keen to know more about their local roots and how Swindon developed in its early days. They will have support to re-tell the story in their own words and images over the coming weeks, with film, drama, visual art and design specialists helping them shape their take on the past."

Hannah Parry, Community Projects Manager for the Mechanics' Institution Trust, said: “On Monday 18thAugust a second group of young people will be joining the project and there are still a few spaces left. We're really keen to fill the spaces as we want as many local young people as possible to benefit from this fantastic one-off opportunity. We'd especially encourage 15 to 17 year olds to take part as we think they would really enjoy and benefit from the experience.”

Young people can join from next Monday and take part in a week of research before the creative arts weeks begin on Monday 13 August, running to the end of the summer holidays. 

The project has been funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, with thanks to National Lottery players, and all expenses including lunches are covered.  

Hannah Parry added: “Many of the town’s cultural organisations have their roots in the Mechanics’ Institution and have survived since its decline in other locations. Other activities developed based in the town library after 1943, or in the Arts Centre from 1957.  Today’s music, dance and theatrical interests have deep roots which may impress today’s emerging generation.”

The aim is to help young people see their lives in the context of the continuing growth and development of social interests in the town over the generations.

Older Swindonians may also wish to support this project and there is opportunity to as part of Heritage Open Days on Saturday 8 September when there will be a special 'Show and Tell' held event at Central Community Centre.

Anyone who has something to share – photos, family records, medals, theatre tickets, or memories – which relate to the Mechanics Institute, the Medical Fund Society, The Children's Fete or anything else they consider might be of interest is invited to bring them along so that the young people can learn from and record them.

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