Living memories

Sussex Voices Oral History

“We old men are old chronicles, and when our tongues go they are not clocks to tell only the time present, but large books unclasped; and our speeches, like leaves turned over and over, discover wonders that are long since past.”

17th century English tract.

What is oral history?

The answer depends on who you ask and why they’re doing it, but memory gathering, story capturing, family history recording: whatever you call it – it’s all oral history.

Everyone has a story and if we’re willing to listen and record what they say, we’re doing oral history.

The Oral History Society’s definition says, “Oral history is the recording of people’s memories, experiences and opinions,” It is:

  • a living history of everyone’s unique life experiences
  • an opportunity for those people who have been ‘hidden from history’ to have their voice heard
  • a rare chance to talk about and record history face-to-face
  • a source of new insights and perspectives that may challenge our view of the past.

Who can be an oral historian?

You can! Anyone with a recording device can be an oral historian and we encourage everyone to gather peoples’ stories, memories and voices whenever they can, before irreplaceable treasures are gone.

But if you’re unsure how to go about interviewing, Sussex Traditions offers simple interview techniques training where you will gain practical advice on how to get the most from your interviewees.

Here’s some basic advice to get you started:

To get the most out any oral history or memory gathering interview you need to:

  • listen carefully
  • be interested
  • do your research

For the interview

  • record in as quiet a place as possible and remove any noisy things you can.
  • make sure your recording equipment is working (sounds obvious but can be overlooked)
  • show you are listening by using non-verbal signals – smiling, nodding etc.

Sussex people have a wealth of wonderful voices, accents and words. Sussex Traditions intends to capture and preserve these – we’re looking for volunteers willing to interview Sussex people and record their stories and memories.

Please let us know if you are interested in taking part in a Sussex Voices project.