A first public meeting of York’s Alternative History was held in the York Central Library on Saturday 4th February 2012. This was attended by a wide range of people, some York born and bred, others new to the City, some young and some well seasoned, although less than a dozen in number.
Helen introduced the meeting, as she and Laura have been talking about this project for over two years. The publicity surrounding the York 800 ‘celebrations’ had helped move this project forward, as the York 800 activities are likely to focus on the mainstream, and governance, and risk missing out some of the more colourful, interesting, influential and ordinary-person-centered history. Helen explained that this blog and a facebook page had been started, and a certain amount of other preparatory work, but that only a few people had so far been involved, and now it was time to open it up to more people, and gather ideas about how the project might take shape.
The meeting participants introduced themselves, with some brief information about their particular interest or involvement in York’s Alternative History. Amongst the group was a publisher of green and alternative literature who holds a vast personal archive, a committed anarchist, an archaeologist with a keen interest in social history, a fan of punk music involved in York Stop the Cuts, a feminist who’d been involved in innumerable social justice and equality protests and groups, a Union member intent on correcting the accepted history about a strike which happened in the 19th Century, an environmentalist active in poverty reduction and for many years, the drug subculture and its music, and a young student ‘doing politics’.
We then discussed ways in which peoples’ stories could be collected and shared. Helen had organised a widget on this blog called Soundcloud, which would allow interviews to be recorded and played back. The video-sharing site Vimeo was also suggested as a tool. Laura had already been collecting some oral histories as part of another project, and these could be used. It was suggested that we could interview each other, as a starter!
We are aware of the Jewish History Trail which has made use of a podcast which members of the public can listen to whilst walking round the City. We wondered about doing something similar, but would start with a paper map for people to put pins in with information about places of interest, such as York Arts Centre, Gillygate Wholefood and Alligator.
A question was raised about moderating and editing/proofreading posts, and it was decided that if an author wrote something in their own name, their spelling and syntax should be left as they wrote it. However, we could offer a proofreading/editing service, and if someone wished to make use of this, then group members would be available to do this.
We wondered if we would need funds for some of our activities, and a fundraising event was discussed. We decided that a small fundraiser and awareness-raiser would be a good first step, using a City centre venue and asking for a band, poet or singer-songwriter to come and perform, alongside some information being presented about the project. We aim to have this in late April or early May.
We discussed a logo and one participant said that they would put something together and bring that back to the group to see if it was suitable. We also discussed our links with other institutions, such as the York 800 team, the York City Archives, the University. It was thought that we ought to retain some independence, but work with these bodies where it was prudent.
We agreed to meet monthly and the next meeting will be on 3rd March, 1.30-3.30 at Miller’s Yard.