Thompson, Paul (22 of 22). Oral History of Oral History
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2012-11-22, 2013-03-11, 2013-05-23, 2013-07-12, 2013-08-13, 2013-09-18, 2014-09-01, 2014-12-02, 2015-04-28, 2016-03-31
British Library, London (Tracks 1-20) Poplar (Tracks 21-22)
Thompson, Paul, 1935- (speaker, male)
Wilkinson, Robert (speaker, male)
Part 22: Lists people who were invited on to be advisers including Melvyn Bragg, Robert Blake, David Butler, Thomas Pakenham’s mother, the historical writer Lady Longford. Natasha’s mother, Tilly Edelman had been married to Maurice Edelman who had been a Labour MP, and helped to get Paul access to the Labour elite like Jack Jones and Jennifer Jenkins. Tilly also put Paul in touch with Jennifer Wingate whose husband ran the Wingate rust and they were taken with the idea of life stories. Their trust offered about £150,000. Paul decided to sell the Henry Moore which went for £230,000. [05:30] Setting up the trust and appointment of an oral history keeper. Mentions Rob Perks and his background. Christopher Roads was against appointing Rob but conceded . Some confusion in role and responsibility between Paul and Rob. Mentions Alan Ward, also Cathy Courtney and her key role in developing the Artists Lives strand. She does long interviews with a lot of detailed information about people’s lives. Jennifer led the development of the Living Memory of the Jewish Community. Ricki Burman and Bill Williams were involved. They went to see Elizabeth Maxwell for funding, but Robert Maxwell died before decisions were made. Ended up as a project on the Holocaust. City Lives was the other project in which. Jennifer was crucial. They went to see the Governor of the Bank of England which was a bizarre experience. He was only willing to give £3,000 to the project. [16:30] Mentions Sir Nicholas Goodison and his support. Met him at the London Stock Exchange. With his backing they managed to get City Lives going. Eventually Nicholas became the chairman of NLS. He got money for a number of projects including the history of science. Mentions Jack Rose as a possible funder who wriggled out of any commitment. [24:00] Methuen published City Lives interviews in Rebecca Abrams ‘Woman in a Man’s World’. But withdrew for any others. Christopher Roads was interested in the idea of getting funding through people paying for their own interviews. The British Library objected to the idea. Eventually Stephen Peretz-Brown agreed to be treasurer. He started sending out letters which had not been agreed and the British Library forced him to stop. The stress caused him to kill himself. Paul and Asa resigned their positions. Anthony Seldon wanted to do a project about elites. Roads did not like him it seemed because he was partly Jewish. The idea developed into a project about the Conservative Party. The project did not take off. Talks about Peter Hennessey. [36:20] The idea of an oral history competition. Decided to try a bigger project around the Millennium. The BL took it up but with no inclusion of NLS. Difficult time. The BBC took on the project but it was given no presence at the Millennium Dome. Paul mentions some of the successful projects that have happened. Talks about Roads and problems with him as a manager. Eventually the BL got rid of him. Crispin Jewitt took over. He was not very assertive and let the National Sound Archive be dissolved. [44:20] Talks about Voice of the Past. Paul was asked to write the first edition of Voice of the Past by Keith Thomas. The technical section was always difficult due to the rapidity of technological changes. Talks about writing the section on the history of oral history. Talks about The Edwardians project, Got funding from the SSRC, Describes the workings of the project and the idea of developing an archive to house the recordings. [52;25] In 2012 Rob suggested writing a 4th edition. OUP had published the earlier editions. Responsibility was transferred to their American office which was problematic until Rob sorted it out. Talks about American publications of a high quality e.g. the McSweeney disaster series. When Paul first went to America it was on the history of great men. Academic activity is less successful in the UK as opposed to the USA. Not so keen these days on Heritage Lottery Fund. Some funded projects are ephemeral. Others producing events but little oral history heritage of long term value. Talks about the failure to get funding for a Wivenhoe artists from HLF. [1:00:47] Interviewing pioneer social researchers. Has recorded some vivid material like the work of Raymond Firth. Jack Goody spoke about his anthropological work in Ghana. Some of his key research decisions taken in consultation with the colonial authorities. Jack carried out an international retirement project on the cultural significance of flowers. [1:06:40] Had to totally redo the project section for the new 4th edition. New chapters on oral history around the world and parallel forms – describes some of them. Audio visual work can be challenging. Gives examples of projects around the world e.g. China and Latin America [1:15:20] Asked about any emerging problems in the UK. Worries around the academic situation.
Life story interview with Paul Thompson, co-founder of National Life Stories.