April 2006 – Remembering Wivenhoe, an update from the Wivenhoe Oral History project 

Wivenhoe�s community oral history project, `Remembering Wivenhoe�, which is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, has made excellent progress over the last few months. 

With the memories of over 150 people from all the main aspects of Wivenhoe life recorded, we have almost completed interviewing. In May we are hoping to add some children�s impressions of living in Wivenhoe today. 

The two main outcomes of the project will be a film/DVD, for which we started filming in February, and a book of Wivenhoe memories, to be published by Tempus, which is already in first draft. Editing these testimonies has brought home how fascinating they are, and powerful in conveying our own community�s special history. We shall be launching the book and DVD together at our autumn meetings. 

In the meantime, on 28 March 2006, an enthusiastic audience of some seventy Wivenhoe people enjoyed a foretaste of some parts of the book in a presentation of photographs and voices from the interviews. This was presented by Don Smith, Janet Turner and Marcel Glover, with a commentary by Paul Thompson. The overall theme was Wivenhoe�s changing social life. 

The first half began with the pubs, the different kinds of customers from trade unionists and commuters to artists, and pub culture including jokes and games but also taking care of those who had drunk too much. Like the pubs the churches have been central to village life for centuries, and one memory took us back to a time when the Sunday School outing to Walton was the one time in the year that poorer children could leave the village. But as we heard, the churches were also changing, the Congregationalists very early to have a woman minister, and the Anglicans developing music and, more controversially recounted, installing toilets � to the horror of Miss Marple.  

The performing arts societies, by contrast, are much newer: probably the earliest the Wivenhoe Players, founded in 1968, with the Pantomine, Gilbert and Sullivan and Folk Club following in the 1980s. There was a nice link, however, in that the G & S first performed in the church with then rector, Stephen Hardie, as leading baritone.

After an interval in which the buzz of reminiscence could be heard flowing freely, the second part focussed on some of the leading village clubs. Of the three sports clubs, the Cricket Club goes back to the mid-19th century, and there were notable memories of its fetes; for both cricket and football there were struggles to secure their grounds; while the Bowls Club had interesting debates on the merits of admitting ladies to membership. 

Memories of the Sailing Club went back to its foundation in 1925, and the skills of traditional sailing – including Wivenhoe One-Designs. A particularly notable point was how working together as volunteers was central to the Club�s spirit, `the heart of the Club�.  This thought was echoed in the memories of the Allotment and Garden Society, with which the evening concluded.  Here again there had been a fight to keep the ground, and there had been notable fetes, but the strongest appeal of all for the allotment holders was their mutuality, exchanging plants, advising on how to grow them, as Phil Faucheux put it, `fellowship�.

Paul Thompson

Some pictures from the evening in March when Paul Thompson updated us all on the progress of the project, played some of the recordings and co-ordinated them with slide images projected on to a big  screen.
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Above: In the William Loveless Hall

Below: Denis Sparling, a former Wivenhoe landlord 

Above: Brenda Corti who has done much of the administrative work in the project.

Below: Archie Whaley showing a prize he won when at school in Wivenhoe 
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