Centre for Life History and Life Writing Research

Summer Term 2012

Working with Narrative, Memory and Life History: A Postgraduate and Graduate Afternoon for Sharing Projects, Skills and Job Experiences.

The Centre for Life History and Life Writing Research (University of Sussex) and the Centre for Research in Memory, Narrative and Histories (University of Brighton) are co-hosting a mini-conference on Friday, 25 May 2012. The event will begin at 1pm and finish at 5:30pm (refreshments will be provided). For those able to continue, discussions will then move on to a nearby pub in central Brighton.

This open event will take place at Grand Parade, University of Brighton and it will be free of charge although places are limited. To book please email Sara Duffy sd164@brighton.ac.uk

The conference theme considers what to do with a postgraduate degree in life history, narrative or memory studies. Graduates from the University of Sussex MA in Life History Research and the University of Brighton’s MA in Cultural History, Memory and Identity will offer mini-presentations on paid or voluntary work they have done since graduation. The afternoon will allow for networking and also for hearing about projects by MA students currently studying at Brighton. It will also serve as a reunion event for life history graduates that have moved on from the two universities.

Presentations include:

Daisy Asquith (University of Brighton)
Nothing Worse Should Happen: Making a Documentary about Holocaust Survivors

Daisy intended her MA as a way out of her established job making documentaries for television where she found telling stories to order frustrating and demoralising. This course made her regard her work in a different way; reinvigorating it with new ideas and approaches. Daisy recently applied for a history commission with Channel 4 on the present day lives of Holocaust survivors. She will discuss how her work and study have interacted and how she has learned to be robust about the way she wants to tell a story. She will show a short clip from the film in order to demonstrate how it was hugely enriched by further study.

Jenna Bailey (University of Sussex)
Can Any Academic Help Me? A Personal Perspective on Balancing Academic and Commercial Interests in Life History Research

Since graduating, the two main projects that Jenna has worked on have been her first book, ‘Can Any Mother Help Me?’ and forthcoming second publication, a band biography about the Ivy Benson Band. Jenna will discuss her experience of researching and publishing life history based books that are geared toward a popular audience. She will focus on the lessons learned while transitioning between the academic arena and the world of commercial publications, looking both at issues of content selection and research practice. Finally, she will touch upon her experience of working as a consultant on both a theatrical adaptation and television screenplay of her first book.

Frances Cornford (University of Sussex)
Crafts Lives at the British Library

Frances will give an overview of the Crafts Lives project, which is part of National Life Stories at the British Library. She will focus on what the project interviewer's job involves, the nature of the collected interviews and discuss some of the challenges of interviewing craftspeople. She will suggest some approaches to encouraging the interviewee to speak about ingrained habits and skills that operate at a non-verbal level.

Sarah Hitchings and Jenny Stewart (University of Sussex)
Turning an MA in Life History Research into a business.

Sarah and Jenny will talk about their Life History business 'Spoken Memoirs'; their motivation for setting it up, how it evolved and some of the challenges they have faced along the way. They will also share their successes and the positive support network established with other students. They will discuss the discrepancy between the academic world and the ‘real ‘ world and some of the strengths and limitations of an MA course in preparing students for a future career in life history.

Sue Maclaine (University of Sussex)
The me in you and the you in me.

Sue MacLaine is a writer and performer. Her artistic practice is located within the auto/biographical construct and has been informed and influenced by her MA Studies in Life History and Life Writing at the University of Sussex. For this presentation she will focus on her current production ‘Still Life: An Audience with Henrietta Moraes’ to example the journey from autobiographical impulse through academic research to biographical creative product.

Noelle McCormack (University of Sussex)
Life History and Disability

Since graduating in 2007 Noelle has been involved in a variety of life history projects concerned with recording the stories of people with disabilities and dementia. One funded project supported her to record the story of a mother of a profoundly disabled child, resulting in a multi-media exhibitionInside My Dance at the Jubilee Library. Noelle will discuss her present project work where she supports mixed ability learning disabled adults to tell their stories using sound, film and photography.

Fiona Murrell (University of Sussex)
Working with archives

Since graduating, Fiona has been involved with two projects. The first is working with West Sussex Libraries who have been awarded Heritage Lottery funding on a project about West Sussex during WW2. Her role involved researching material from the Mass Observation Archive including several diaries that will be used as evidence on Sussex life during this period. Her second job is archiving the documents of a leading primatologist, Alison Jolly, known for her studies of lemurs in Madagascar. Fiona will present on the the pleasures and pitfalls involved in working with archives.

Catherine Page (University of Sussex)
A Licence to Explore

Since graduating Catherine has written a street history 'My House, My Street' and has interviewed for the 'Speaking Up for Disability' project. She is now working up her own oral history research concerned with the disappearing lifestyles of West Sussex. Catherine is on the management committee of QueenSparkBooks. She will discuss how the MA in Life History Research has given her natural inclination to enquire in to other people’s affairs, a quasi-official status.

Jo Palache (University of Sussex)
From individual experience to public perception

Jo Palache shares her experience of working on oral history projects in the museum environment, and in particular collecting interviews to engage the public and provide an exhibition narrative. She will discuss the tension that arises in achieving the archival depth appropriate for future researchers and upholding the integrity of the individual story whilst providing the brevity of expression required for museum displays.

Lucy Pearce (University of Brighton)
Moving between two worlds - activism and academia

Since graduating with a degree in African and Caribbean Studies, Lucy has worked as a professional campaigner. Fifteen years later she returned to study part time, alongside continuing to work part time in campaigning. Her talk will explore how she has experienced these two separate yet connected parts of her life, their complementarities, and tensions. Key words will include reflection and language. Lucy does not know where her studies will take her, and looks forward to questions, comments, and thoughts on this creative tension between professional activism and academia.

Don't forget to book a place as soon as possible to avoid disappointment
Email Sara Duffy

Biography and the morality of style

Professor Robert Fraser (Open University) 

16 May 12:30 to 14:00, Seminar, Fulton Building 212,University of Sussex.

This seminar will examine the craft of biography from the historical, ethical and stylistic points of view. Does biography possess a justification, and wherein lies its wide appeal? Is it motivated by curiosity,or something more? What are the particular challenges involved in writing the lives of poets, especially of recently dead ones? Does it make any difference if one knew the person whose life one is striving to evoke? Has the biographical form changed over time, and does it continue to mutate? What exactly are the pressures bearing down on the biographer, and how does one cope? In grappling with these questions, a few glimpses will be offered into the biographer’s study, even into his or her storm-tossed mind.

Robert Fraser FRSL has published biographies of the twentieth-century poets George Barker (2002), and David Gascoyne, his life of whom, Night Thoughts: The Surreal Life of the Poet David Gascoyne, came out with Oxford University Press in February 2012.

Open event. No need to book, just turn up.