The public talk scheduled for Wednesday 30 April has been cancelled due to illness. Please let anyone know who was intending to come but may not see this notice.
The next open planning meeting will take place on Wednesday 23 April at 7.00 – 8.30 pm in the Bar Billiards Room at the Golden Ball, Cromwell Road, York.
We will be discussing arrangements for the Public Talk (see post below) at the Priority Street Centre on Wednesday 30 April. Help required please, so volunteer if you can’t be there this week.
There will be an update on plans for the First World War Day School in November and a catch-up on progress with the Living with History project and the successful enquiry day regarding Stonebow House.
History Talk with York Alternative History & York Social
Date: Wednesday, 30 April 2014, at 7.30 pm
Venue: Denham Room, Priory Street Centre
Speakers: Pat and Martin Bashforth
Title: Diverse Evill-Disposed Persons
Behind the modern, comfortable presentation of Cannon Hall Country House Museum lie tales of war, revolution, murder, migration, poverty, theft, injustice and the role of women in the social turbulence of 17th century Yorkshire.
Can we combine history research with contemporary art practice to represent the past in today’s landscape?
Do these ignored stories surrounding Cannon Hall have any relevance to life in the 21st century?
What chance does such an ‘alternative history’ have of being seen and heard?
Pat and Martin Bashforth will use a variety of media to explore and present their research into the past and present of Cannon Hall and its surrounding landscape and invite your answers to questions like these.
[Free entry on the door, with a collection]
Thanks to the hosting by IPUP (Institute for the Public Understanding of the Past), the meeting yesterday evening was a huge success. There were about 50 people who turned up. Martin set the context by showing what YAH has been doing, how we like to engage with the public and how we might be about ‘dissent’ but that it emerges from mainstream society.
Helen introduced the Living with History project, which is concerned with how heritage fits into the decision-making process, how that process works and how we ( i.e. the general public in York) might improve that. How can we make good decisions out of complex and messy issues and what would count as a good decision?
Using pending decisions to be made about the buildings at Stonebow House, she stimulated a lively debate and multiple conversations around the room. We will be able to use the ideas generated in getting this project off the ground in a bigger way. Many thanks to the generous participation of those who came along.
In the interests of transparency, what follows is the unedited raw data generated from the flip charts at the end of the meeting, expressing concerns about the Stonebow site itself, the values and issues involved, and concerns about how decisions are made:
- What would go back?
- Story of site and architecture
- Why not suitable letting?
- Is it useful?
- It’s an example of its type?
- Parts in use e.g. York Music Scene – where would they go?
- Affordability for users
- Opportunity for something new e.g. green space
- What is the current allocation on York City Plan?
- Are decisions therefore limited?
- What consultancy has there been?
- There is a different York constituency involved – is this perceived negatively?
- Who values it?
- How is it valued?
- How is value measured?
- It is difficult to get people involved until too late
- There are 300 community organisations offering a potential way in to effective consultation
- People are directly involved – what do they want?
- It is not just about buildings
- What about housing needs
- There is a sense of a ‘democratic deficit’ in that the consultation processes adopted appear alien and false (i.e. not actually listening, just going through the motions)
- What was there before and why was it changed?
- What is the relationship of the specific site to the wider locality
Proof positive, if it were needed, that, as YAH tries to highlight – past, present and future are live issues and go beyond mere ‘preservation’ into the daily lives and concerns of people here and now. There will be more to come. Watch this space!
Now we are 2! York Alternative History will celebrate its second birthday with a new challenge. What does it mean for the average person in York to be surrounded by history? Should we take the idea that heritage tourism is necessarily the best thing to promote about where we live? Who makes the decisions, on whose behalf, on what evidence base and to what purpose?
Changes are being made to the face of the city with bewildering speed. The opportunity to influence the outcome of these changes seems beyond the control of the average citizen. The impact of the decisions made and the principles on which these are based can influence your everyday life in ways you might not realize – not least the availability and quality of homes and jobs.
Join us at King’s Manor at 6 pm on Wednesday, 22 January 2014. Martin Bashforth will give a quick tour of what YAH has achieved so far. Helen Graham will introduce the ‘Living with History’ project. This will be your chance to influence the direction the project takes.
Trying to get to grips with the historical, social and psychological construction of any sort of identity is difficult enough: almost impossible in the case of that slippery customer ‘Englishness’. Nick Smith set us neatly on our way on 30 September at the Golden Ball with a useful tripartite approach. This was the second of the joint meetings with ‘York Social Ideas’ led by York Alternative History.
After a short survey of the way in which the EDL tries to construct their idea of what constitutes being English by referencing back to some strange misreading of events in the early medieval period, Nick went on to deconstruct the wider concept of identity formation. The main content of his talk was an explanation of how a version of what constitutes ‘English’ was created as part of moves by the rulers of Wessex to assert hegemony over the vast variety of different groups that then inhabited what became eventually defined geographically as England. It was created in cultural opposition to what was considered foreign and had to be fought or held at bay: the Welsh, the Vikings, and so on. No mean feat to go through all this in less than half an hour.
There followed a long and wide-ranging discussion lasting the best part of an hour, though in the nature of things it was hard to come to any other conclusion than that the whole idea of any ‘nationality’ continues to be elusive the closer you look. It seems to have to do with a felt need to assert difference, which may or may not be inclusive or exclusive or perfectly neutral, depending on the social and psychological factors behind the ‘need’. The role of the State and its ruling class has, historically, been a great deal more important in hardening the edges of national identities than any presumed cultural or linguistic factors. In the creation of these identities there seems to be a complex interaction between generally benign cultural differentials and the activities of specific interest groups (political, commercial, psychotic) seeking to use these for some other purpose.
Well done Nick for such a good introduction to the subject and well done to those who came along for their often profound contributions to the discussion. A very civilised, entertaining and illuminating evening!
Watch out for other York Social events on their website and keep track of York Alternative History’s ongoing efforts, as well as out next foray with York Social in about three months’ time.
Readers of this blog might like to check out ‘The Many Headed Monster’ website, especially the tab ‘History from Below’. Here you will find a host of articles coming from a new wave of historians reconnecting with the radical tradition in history-making in fascinating and critical new ways. No review from me, just check it out for yourselves. Great stuff!
There will be no open meeting during August. The next one is scheduled for Wednesday 25 September, so pencil it in your diaries and watch out for the notice.
Meanwhile, various things are being organised. On Monday, 30 September at the Golden Ball from 7.30 there will be the next joint meeting organised by York Alternative History and York Social. Nick Smith will be leading a discussion on ‘A History of Englishness’. It will look at how and why England was created as a kingdom/country; the political motivation, spin, propaganda and creation myths that established England and what it means to be English. He will link this to how nationalist groups use these ideas from the early Middle Ages. If you have been watching the recent series on TV about ‘King Alfred and the Anglo-Saxons’, this will be a fascinating alternative view.
On 17 October, there will be an Anti-Slavery Film Evening. Put that date in your diary and watch out for more information.
Some time in the autumn, there will be a new initiative that will get us out into the public domain in a high profile way. We will be involved in a project that will critically engage the public in thinking about York and how ‘Heritage’ affects the city and its people. Watch this space for further announcements. This will give us the chance to challenge the ‘authorised heritage discourse’.
Two big things for autumn 2014. We are helping out with events to do with the commemorations of the ‘Great War’ that was supposed to end all wars and in fact laid the foundations for most of the ones ever since. On our own efforts we will also be doing something similar to only different from our Luddite event last January: we will be looking at the way Guy Fawkes has been characterised through ‘heritage’ and used by the activist movements in recent years.
The next open meeting of York’s Alternative History will be at the Golden Ball, Cromwell Road, York on Wednesday 24 July from 7 to 9 pm. You are all welcome!
During the past week, the Rowntree Foundation, the York Press and the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, have each drawn attention to the poverty and hardship that underlies and, through high rents and low pay, underpins the superficial prosperity of the City. York continues its transition from a manufacturing centre to a twin-track economic structure in which a low-paid sector provides services to tourism, finance and a high-tech and academic elite. As factories close, cafes and restaurants seem to mushroom.
Much of this false economy, which includes the East Coast Main Line commuters attracted to live here while working in London, exploits a fanciful and skewed interpretation of York’s historic fabric. What is superficially entertaining and good to look at is foregrounded, while submerging and ignoring the ordinary people of York and their experience – not just in the past, but equally in the present and in formulating policies for the future.
Challenging this ‘chocolate-box’ version of York’s past is what YAH is all about. We campaign about history and heritage in parallel with other forms of social and cultural activism. How the past is presented is part of today’s social problems and the prevalent inequality. We are planning events for more than a year ahead and welcome new ideas to help us shape our agenda and make our small voice louder and more colourful. Help us plan this year how to challenge the way Guy Fawkes is presented and next year how the ‘Great War’ to end all wars is going to be commemorated. Help us devise a programme of public talks, events and interventions. See you on Wednesday!
Those readers who followed our events in January to commemorate the execution of 17 Luddites at York Castle 200 years before, will remember Alan Brooke. He was one of our speakers during the afternoon discussion at the Guildhall and, dressed dapperly in early 19th century dress, added a splash of colour to our commemorative event at the Castle, along with his comrades. If you are alert to the mass media, you may have heard him eloquently represent the Luddite cause on Radio 4 (Looking for the Luddites) and on BBC TV (Nick Crane’s programme on Huddersfield in his Town series).
Now you can find more of his quietly authoritative words on the blogosphere. Check him out on ‘Underground Histories’ at http://undergroundhistories.wordpress.com – it’s well worth the visit.