Sheffield has a rich history of civic and social activism. It is a diverse one, with a near countless number of campaigns and community groups, involving people from a variety of social, economic, political, religious, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Behind each campaign banner, leaflet or badge, behind each meeting and letter, and every success and failure, there is a person, or group of people who worked and continue to work for local, national and international causes. Behind each action there are stories and personal accounts of obstacles and struggle, of anger and feelings of injustice. All these experiences and stories are important parts of Sheffield’s history, shaping, often without realising it, the City in which we live. This project, which has been running since 2011, is a collaboration between activists and the Department of History at the University of Sheffield to collect and archive the materials and stories that have made up these experiences.
We collect and archive campaign paraphernalia, and perform interviews with activists. We are interested in the period from around 1960 to the present day, and we aim to incorporate a diverse range of people and experiences into the project. We collect all kinds of campaign materials and stories, and store them at Sheffield Archives, where they are accessible to the general public.
The aims and activities of the project are defined, informed and shaped by activists and academics working together to ensure comprehensive coverage of a range of causes, campaigns, groups and individuals that have characterised activism in Sheffield since the 1960s. We are proceeding in several phases, identifying and prioritising particular themes that should be included at each stage of our work. We have held a variety of events to ensure activists can participate in the shaping the guiding principles of the project and its areas of focus. Over the course of the project, we want to involve as many people, helping us to tell some of Sheffield’s hidden stories of activism.
More than just collecting and archiving…
We believe that the project should be about more than just collecting campaign documents and items or activists’ oral testimonies, and storing these in an archive. The processes of collecting and interviewing are equally important. We have offered opportunities for people to participate in archiving material and interviewing local activists. Working with the WEA, we have provided oral history training to activists wanting to record the stories of their predecessors and contemporaries. The project will become a developmental resource, available for everyone to learn about the activism in their area, and to understand the act of activism itself.