Sharing Swindon’s Story with local teachers and school children

By Jamie Hill - 17 March 2020

EducationHeritage

The Sharing Swindon’s Story project, coordinated by the Mechanics’ Institution Trust in partnership with Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre and Swindon Local Studies, has turned out its final product – a Schools Resource Pack to teach our local history in primary and secondary schools.

This pack can guide teachers to a collection of teaching ideas and materials which will make Swindon’s heritage more widely accessible to pupils for years to come. The pack can be downloaded at https://swindonstory.uk/schools-pack

Project manager Hannah Parry believes “This extends the learning and enthusiasm of the young people who took part in the project to benefit school children across Swindon for years to come.  It will help teachers shape lessons, in a range of subjects, using information gathered by the young people involved.”

Sharing Swindon’s Story was a heritage youth project that ran from 2018 to 2019. It engaged 35 young people from across Swindon and was funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, with thanks to National Lottery players, and the Police & Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire & Swindon. The young people spent time researching the community and cultural history of our town related to ‘New Swindon’ and the Great Western Railway and shared this through creative arts and media.

Their project culminated in two murals supported by Artsite - which have been fastened to the hoardings of the Mechanics’ Institution, a theatre production supported by Prime theatre, a short documentary on the life of Swindon Railway Workers supported by Viewpoint Community Media and a website which brings together the stories they discovered through interviews with elders and archive research, supported by Oikos. The heritage they researched and shared includes the Mechanics’ Institution, the Medical Fund Society, the Milton Road Baths, Trip Week, The Children’s Fete and much more.

Ruth Butler is Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre’s Heritage Education Officer, who introduced the young people to the archive in Chippenham. She produced the Schools’ Resource Pack using funding provided by the National Lottery Heritage Fund grant.

Ruth said “It has been a great project to be involved with – the Mechanics’ Institution Trust does amazing work to preserve and promote the fascinating history of Swindon’s Railway Village. This is Swindon’s heritage and everyone can now access it through the website and the Schools’ Resource Pack.  For teachers, this website is now a one-stop shop for background information and classroom resources.”

The Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre holds GWR archives, as well as school log books for Swindon, and other extensive local studies collections. The Swindon Local Studies team also contributed to the project, welcoming the young people to trawl the astonishing holdings at Central Library in Regent Circus.

Young people enjoyed exploring archive materials – which they wove into a short play and other artistic materials, including colourful murals which grace the southern side of the Mechanics’ Institution’s hoardings, bringing new life to an area that has sadly seen decay over many years. In 2018 the Railway Village was voted ‘England’s Favourite Conservation Area’ in a competition run by the national Civic Voice charity.

The pack can be downloaded at https://swindonstory.uk/schools-pack 

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