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A Map of Words: stories and poems of Somerset and its residents

Bath Record Office, local people and St John’s Foundation to create a selection of poems, stories and essays

Bath Record Office has worked with local people in association with the St John’s Foundation to create a selection of poems, stories and essays based on its extensive collection of historic documents relating to the local area.

The thought provoking and creative results of the historical project – along with images of the archives that inspired it – can be viewed online here: [url=http://www.batharchives.co.uk/creative-writing-inspired-archives]http://www.batharchives.co.uk/creative-writing-inspired-archives[/url].

How did this come about? Regular creative writing classes organised by the St John’s Foundation had been taking place since July 2017, in Bath and Radstock, with a group of about 30 writers in total.

Workshop leader and author/editor Michael Loveday hoped that by teaming up with Bath Record Office, the writers would be able to engage more deeply with the history of their local community and landscape, by responding to materials from the archive.

 “Through responses to the writing exercises, the writers’ engagement with social and environmental history was deepened. And through engagement with archival material, the writers’ experience of creative writing was also deepened.” Loveday says.

A total of 10 workshops were designed by Michael and Bath Record Office staff and covered the themes of: maps, weather, the Bath Chronicle, crime, retail through the ages, and mining at the Combe Down quarries.

Artefacts explored by the group included 17th-century maps of Bath and Somerset, an 18th-century weather diary by the Rector of Bath, photographs of floods from the early 20th century, Victorian crime reports and police files, copies of the Bath Chronicle from over 200 years ago, and a number of other gems from the archive.

 

The writers produced a wide range of responses to the project, including:

a poem about a mythical 'man of Mendip'

a monologue by a policeman trapped in floodwater

stories of 18th and 19th-century shopkeepers

personal memories of living on Camden Crescent

a poem about the Blitz

an acrostic poem about graffiti

a story of refugees in southern Africa

 

Michael Loveday said: “This project shows what amazing results can arise from creative engagement with historic materials. We all learned things about Somerset and about the Bath Record Office that we hadn’t known before.

The project was launched at an online event attended by Councillor Lisa O'Brien, Chairman of Bath & North East Somerset Council.

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