Trowbridge Song Project hands over precious heritage gift to Wiltshire

A unique community resource was formally handed over to the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre in Chippenham, by Candy Verney, founder and artistic director of the project, and Lorena Pino, who is now the new project manager.


Terry Bracher, Archives & Local Studies Manager at Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, received the CDs with 40 people’s stories of migration to Trowbridge from around the world, that now are part of 7 miles of archives dating back 800 years. Bracher considered “It is with great pleasure that we accept this archive. It is by far the most diverse collection of oral history that we have at the History Centre, it may even be the largest too.”


WSHC supported the Trowbridge Song project since the inception of the project offering Oral History training to 11 people, and are now housing the archive to preserve its legacy for future generations.


Candy Verney shared: “the vision for this idea came to me 7 years ago, when an elderly lady Emelia Kenich, who had lived in Trowbridge for 60 years, shared with me her epic story, coming to Trowbridge soon after the war, as a refugee from Poland. I learnt about the ‘Lost children of Siberia’, those children exiled to Siberia at towards the end WW2, due to Stalin’s purges. Many of the older members of the Polish community in Trowbridge have had a similar history”.


Verney added: “It has been an honour and a pleasure to collect people’s stories, why they came to Trowbridge, whether it be from Poland or Westbury, Tibet or Newcastle. It has also been 2 years of intense hard work. People do not tell you their story unless they trust you. It has really been about building bridges, building relationships, trust and friendship. I have met so many lovely people from all around the world. Trowbridge is a fascinating place, because of its rich diversity”.


During the last two years the Trowbridge Song Project has been collecting a rich audio archive of oral history and songs, which reflects the current cultural and social heritage of Trowbridge and surrounding areas. This extensive material includes epic stories of migration and snippets of multicultural life in Wiltshire. The invaluable journey in the voices of people from around the world take us to the difficulties during and after the Second World War, showing how Wiltshire received hundreds of migrants from Poland for example; but at the same time from the West Indies with an invitation of work, a promise of a five years return… As well as more contemporary stories of individuals and families looking for a better life, work or family reunification.


The stories reveal the Wiltshire county town as a multicultural and unique place reflecting the vibrancy of the Trowbridge community and representing a vivid example of the diversity of the United Kingdom as a whole.


The interviews include the testimony of people born and bred in Wiltshire, as well as voices from Uganda, Nigeria and Morocco (Africa); Nicaragua (Central America), Guyana (South America), Pakistan, Tibet (Asia); Poland, Germany, Italy and Sardinia (Europe).


The audios were collected mainly by Candy Verney with the support of Dom Argar, Celia Feane, Gwyneth Evans, Ian Fellows, Liz Parker and Lorena Pino and now are available at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre to researchers, artists, creative people, schools and members of the general public. Shorter audio clips taken from the recordings are also online on our Soundcloud account.


The Trowbridge Song Project exists to foster friendship and greater cultural understanding between the communities of Trowbridge through song, story and art. It was led by Candy Verney and Liz Lavender and funded for Arts Council England, with support and partnership with organisations including Sounding it Out choir, Wiltshire Council, Wiltshire Music Centre, Seedbed Charity, Trowbridge Arts, West Wiltshire Multi Faith Forum and other community groups, organisations and volunteers. During these two years, as well as the oral history, the project developed a series of three scratch choir workshops and three concerts, showcasing the best of the songs, performers and diversity that was discovered.


To keep its legacy alive, the TSP is undertaking a new funding application process to develop new projects related to song, stories and arts. For the next months, the schedule includes performances by the new community choirs, whose leaders were  trained as part of this program; several displays in various cultural venues of our interactive exhibition developed by Penney Ellis, and screenings of the three short documentaries about our legacy directed by Samiha Abdeldjebar.


Candy Verney & Terry Bracher

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