Centre for Life History and Life Writing Research

'Deprived White Community'? Social Action in Three Norwich Estates. 1930-2005

Organised by: Ben Rogaly and Becky Taylor, University of Sussex, January 2007

This research project is part of the ESRC's Identities and Social Action programme. It has involved long-term engagement with people resident in three Norwich housing estates, often referred to collectively as the Larkman, as well as archival work. Both of us knew estate residents before the research, as we had lived, worked or studied nearby, and had friends living in the area. The Larkman is seen by others in Norwich as a 'white working-class estate', and its residents have been stereotyped in the past as poor, criminal, and of low educational potential. The project aimed to explore the relation between such categorisations by outsiders and residents' individual and collective identifications, in the context of social, economic and cultural change in the period 1930-2005.

Working with the local history group, we wanted to explore myths that had grown up about the Larkman, through collecting oral histories from residents, old and new, as well as from people who had left the area. Seventy-eight people were interviewed in all, and their stories reveal a much more nuanced and dynamic picture than the stereotypes convey. We found social identities to be in flux rather than static, and influenced by relationships between classes, generations, genders and ethnic groups, and by the categories used about people by others and by organisations, including the state.

Further details of this research project can be found by visiting their website.