Wigton Salvation army band.

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March 2021

We’ve had a long quiet time these past months at Cumbria Speaks. It’s been a hibernation of sorts, but spring is coming and we hope to get some new activity under way.

First though, the Cumbria Speaks group would like to send our condolences to the families of Sarah Thompson and William Ismay, two valued interviewees who sadly died recently. Cumbria Speaks appreciates the great generosity with which they shared their life stories with us.

In the news, our books are about to have a second wave as we send them out to Cumbrian bookshops. Tell everyone about it!

We plan to add interviews done by children, more talks and lots more about Cumbria and Wigton. We’ve mentioned doing new interviews on the children’s blog, so there’ll be some interest there.

Get in touch with us if you have any ideas for interviews or historical material that might work well on the Cumbria Speaks website. Why not think about interviewing your own elderly relatives or friends.? We can help with that and some good tips can be found by pasting the link below into a search bar.


More updates soon…

February 2020

Here’s a photo reminder of the final  exhibition where we celebrated our book. and where the artists and interviewees met. This one is of Jack Thomlinson and Joe Misselbrook. The story, ‘Threshing Day’ was based on Jack’s memories. Stinging Nettle’s Skating in Clogs and other Wigton Stories is still available in Wigton, via Free For All on Water Street and at Easton’s Newsagent. You can order a copy via our contact page too..

November 2019

We have been in pre-hibernation and now, in the coming months, The Cumbria Speaks Project will be going into a research phase. We’ve begun to look at ways in which we can develop the collection of oral history connected to young people and in facilitating accessibility to that material.

Some of the areas which we’re keen to explore are ways of enabling children able to collect heritage material of their own. This means interviewing family and community members, but perhaps as importantly, each other. We’re lucky to be exploring those issues with the expert advice of many oral historians.

Cumbria Speaks is also considering ways in which we can help make existing interviews, conducted by children, more accessible.

As part of our research phase, we’d like to be in touch with any school, youth project or group, individual who plans to, or is currently running a project The Oral History Society have a new Guide to Oral History for Schools and Youth Groups  which gives help and advice on how to do oral history with young people.  What Cumbria Speaks would like to know is how the project is going and to explore what you would like to do with the gathered material.

1st August 2019

Summertime is here, schools have broken up and Cumbria Speaks has been finishing the last few bits of our first project. It’s been much more enriching than we’d imagined. Fun too. More people were involved- more interviewees, children, more feedback and more success than we’d originally expected. The people we talked with enjoyed being interviewed and we had some great interviewers on the team. In starting out with this project, Cumbria Speaks felt that the best people to teach young people about the town was the older generation who’d lived or grown up here. Interviewees told us how they enjoyed meeting the young people who’d illustrated their recollections. Children worked very hard on illustrating the stories. Their interest in, and commitment to the project made the book what it is. ‘Stinging Nettles, Skating in Clogs and other Wigton Stories, captured people’s imaginations and sold over 400 copies – and that’s without taking it beyond Wigton into surrounding towns. Many schools and libraries have been given their copies and little by little the books continue to sell.

Now is the time for the whole team to take a few well-earned weeks off before we start putting together our next plan. More about that in September, but expect young people from a wider range of locations; youth groups, schools and clubs. Look forwards to many activities and outings. There will be more illustrations, interviews, heritage and history and research! Last but not least, there other books .

Thank you to everyone involved so far.

See you in September.

10th July 2019

The Cumbria Speaks team have been busy with meetings to discuss- where next? Our long term plan is to continue to collect interviews documenting the everyday lives of people from our community.  But in the coming year we hope to develop our book by adding a resource pack that will go into more detail about some of the stories. This supplementary information, for example about Mustang planes and the reconnaissance cameras attached, would help children learn more about elements of the Second World War and how it was fought. Researching all the stories will take some time. We’re currently looking into the support we can get for this and think about a year of work will produce a wonderful resource pack for children and educators.

18th June 2019

After a pause in all activities, we have delivered books to some of the schools and local libraries. Our sound pods are to go into public places. You might hear some oral history when you go to the library or as you wait in the dentist, or doctor’s surgery.

At the moment we’re in the process of developing a heritage resource associated with the book. It will mean people can go from reading the story about Wigton’s gasworks in the book, ‘Stinging Nettles, Skating in Clogs and other Wigton stories’, and then go online to read more about how gas was made. The pages will describe the development of the gas industry in the UK and there’ll be new pictures by children, quizzes and clips from the people we interviewed. The intention is that the resource will show how Wigton is part of the bigger national picture. We will develop this resource for this book and then we hope, for more books about Cumbria and beyond.

22nd May 2019

The exhibition of young people’s work went down a storm. Children from Thomlinson Junior School and St Cuthbert’s Primary Schools, year 6 came to see the work of the children who did the pictures for the book last year. How impressed there were with the drawings and paintings. You can hear some of the clips and soon there will be some great pictures of the work posted for you to see a gallery of the work the children did last year.

9th April- We’re still working on getting the missing interviews back up and streamlining the pages.  Please bear with us. In the meantime the In the Press page has our most recent news items with a good piece by Border TV who came to the launch celebration

We’re now beginning to think about the next steps, the first of which includes getting all the interviews into the Carlisle Archives, along with transcriptions of the interviews. This will mean that the public will be able to listen to and research things about the way the Wigton community lived. Following this, volunteers will distribute a copy of the book to local libraries and schools in the area so the heritage of Wigton will spread further out into Cumbria.

28/o3/19 Apologies. Some of our interviews are not available. We’re doing our best to get them back on quickly.

27th March 2019

The calm after the excitement and success of the weekend launch and exhibition. A smaller exhibition is currently in the MASONIC HALL, Water Street (through the archway) until Thursday 28th March at noon.

In the following weeks, keep a look out for the sound posts in and around Wigton. We’ll announce locations here, on facebook and Old Wigton facebook page.

The exhibition and grand get together was a great success with the interviewees and young artists meeting and sharing lunch and life experiences together. A great day. Click on the image to see the launch event.

Some pictures of the quiet before the festivities….Comfy sofas with sound posts and two sets of headphones to listen in pairs.

More to come In The Press

12th January 2019

Thank you for making the book; Stinging Nettles, Skating in Clogs and other Wigton stories -so successful. The book, out since before Christmas, has sold out twice and we’re waiting for a third run in early Feb. Feedback from the interviewees is that they like the book and the young illustrators are pleased with their work.

Our next big event will be an exhibition at Market Hall from Friday 22nd to Sun 24th March 2019. Following that is a 2 week placement in the Mason’s hall. Put the dates in your diaries! Young people’s original artwork will be shown, there will be interview extracts to listen to and recordings of the stories read by the children who illustrated the book. Plus much more. We’ll keep you posted…

19th December 2018

Great news. We had a print run of 300 and sold out within a week. The enthusiasm for the book has been brilliant. Children and adults alike have expressed how good it is to have a book about Wigton for children. We’ve started thinking of ideas to make this book more useful to the local schools. Any ideas from anyone would be very welcome. Use our contacts form. But that’s for 2019…

So another 90 books are out on the shelves as from today. They’re available at the same locations as before. Hope you all have a great festive season and many thanks to the whole of Wigton for making the book such a success.

8th  December 2018

You can buy, Stinging Nettles, Skating in clogs and other Wigton Stories from the following places in Wigton – Easton’s newsagent, Knoxwood Charity shop, Free for All shop, St. Cuthbert’s Primary School and Thomlinson Junior School. The book costs £6 which goes back into the Cumbria Speaks project

7th December 2018

The day has finally arrived when the Children’s heritage book is completed and out in the world. So much effort  from so many people has gone into the book which went on sale today in Wigton and has already been selling like hot cakes, well, mince pies. Over the next couple of weeks Wigtonian’s will be seeing the book everywhere and the children from St.Cuthbert’s and Thomlinson Junior, – who did all the beautiful illustrations should be ready with their autograph pens. Below is a story based on the clip of Sarah Thompson’s interview and the illustration that goes with it

Picture by Diego Arzate-Lightfoot for story One Spoon  

One Spoon

Father died when I was small. There’s nine of us living in three rooms in Proctor’s Square. We’ve not got a lot of money. For our tea we gather round the stove fire and eat standing up. Mam has a pot of bread and milk simmering and when it’s ready she takes her spoon, dips it into the pot and feeds us each a mouthful in turn. One by one she goes around until the pot is empty. Sometimes by the end I’m still hungry but there’s nothing left and we go to bed. The only time Mam puts the spoon to her lips is to check it isn’t over hot.

Now you can listen to the clip which inspired the story

22 May 2018

Having worked on turning our sound clips into short stories we’re now about to go into the schools to start work on the book. The plan is to give these factually and historically accurate stories to the year 6 children of Thomlinson junior school and St Cuthbert’s Primary School so they can illustrate them.

Our first meeting with St Cuthbert’s in April was a great success. The children listened to the sound clips and we talked about how life in Wigton was very different in their grandparents and great grandparents time.

Tomorrow we’re off to St Cuthbert’s to begin our painting and drawing workshops with the children.  I’ll have pictures to post!

Take a look in our brand-new Schools section of the website where you can keep up to date with the work on the book and how the children are getting on.

10th March 2018

The schools are now on board and the making of our heritage children’s book has begun!

Last week we had productive meetings with the headmistresses of the Wigton primary and junior schools. We met with Paula Holden from St Cuthbert’s and Brenda Fyrth from Thomlinson Junior school, along with some of their staff members. Everyone is keen to begin this second part of the project. The teachers feel the book will become a fun and valuable educational resource for children now, and in the future.

So, these are the next steps to turn extracts of the interviews into a book. First, we choose the extract, then we turn each extract into a short story. The story should correctly reflect the events and facts from the interview clip, but at the same time be enhanced with descriptions that make the story exciting to read. Then the busy artists of the Wigton schools get to work illustrating each story.

Here’s a little taster…

Listen to the clip – These clogs are a bit modern, but you get the idea


Now read a bit of the story…

There was pond behind Wigton cemetery. Every winter we’d watch it grow and wait for ice to crisp up the edges then freeze enough for ducks to slide clumsily over it. Eventually, brave children, all of us in clogs, would risk one foot and if there wasn’t a heavy, dangerous creaking, risk the other one before taking off like Olympic ice skaters over the pond…

10th February 2018

These few weeks have been spent updating the website with the new interviews and looking at the extracts we’ll be using for the children’s book. So many interesting stories to choose from! We’ve heard about Wigton cinema when films were still silent in Mary Ashurst’s interview, a pink steam- powered threshing machine in Jack Thomlinson’s interview, shared outdoor toilets in George Scott’s interview. These are just a few which we hope the children of St Cuthbert’s school and Thomlinson junior school will be illustrating. Keep an eye out for upcoming 8-minute talks.

Anyone with any pictures of Wigton’s cinema?

20 January 2018

A Happy New Year! Just before Christmas, the Cumbria Speaks group had an afternoon tea where the people interviewed and the interviewers met up in the Market Hall in Wigton, for tea and cakes. It was no surprise that many people knew at least one other person and the occasion was great fun with many stories shared and a lot of laughter.

2018 brings in a new phase to the project. For the next few weeks we’ll be listening to the interviews again and choosing some of the great little extracts that represent some of Wigton’s history. We have a collection of memories that include Wigton cinema, playing down at Speet Gill beck, and a two seater toilet, Tenters’ way! The plan is to take these extracts to the primary schools so that the children can begin thinking about doing illustrations for them. Then, over the coming months, a book of these stories will start coming together. We’ll keep you posted.

There are also plans for some more short talks by Wigton people about aspects of the town and it’s history. Anyone out there who’s interested, please get in touch!

15th November 2017

Look out for another 8-minute talk coming soon, this time on George Moore, a patron of Wigton. We’re also working on a compilation of interview extracts. If you find a bit you think is interesting or funny, drop us a line via contacts. In December the interviewees are getting together for the first time to meet to listen to the compilation and see how the website is working. Already we know interviews have been listened to in Australia!

   George Moore 1860

November 1st 2017

Please do check out the first in a series of ‘8 minute talks’ on this website. Here we have Charles Dickens in Wigton by Trevor Grahamslaw.

  Charles Dickens circa 1857

October 31st 2017

Lots of people have visited this site today. Please get in touch in you have anyone you think would like to talk about their lives. Word of mouth works best. If you think someone might be interested, ask them. If they say yes, then give us some details we can get in touch with them. Or how about if you did the interview? Do you have someone in mind? With a bit of training (it’s easy and fun) then you could do it!

Soon we’ll be planning the children’s book that will be based on some of the stories told in interview. Primary school children will be doing the pictures for it. If you’re interested in getting involved, then get in touch via the contact page.

October 30th 2017

A group of volunteers went to the Wiza club in Wigton this week. Some of our interviewees were there and talked about how it was to be interviewed; mostly enjoyable! Over coffee and biscuits, we chatted about the project and looked through Trevor’s great photo albums of Wigton past. There are so many more memories and stories there.

We now have 17 interviews, though not all are up on the website yet. There are plenty of new plans in the making. One aim is to have local historians do an 8-minute talk about some aspect of Wigton life or history. The first one, on Charles Dickens’ visit to Wigton, will be here soon, with many more to come. Old Wigton facebook page now knows about the project and with such a community minded town, we’re already getting interest. Watch this space for dates for a presentation where we hope to have sound extracts of the interviews.

June 05 2017

More interviews conducted this week with new people coming forward to tell us their powerful memories and life stories of Wigton. Listen out for misbehaving boys, marble-playing girls, descriptions of overcrowded buildings, toilet facilities before plumbing, evenings at Wigton cinema and stories of all the dances everyone went to! Keep in touch for the new interviews to be added next week.

May 22, 2017

New interviews added, you can listen by clicking on this link: Interview with Mary Ashurst

Mary Ashurst 3rd from right with Rita Irving’s Dance Class at 1935 Coronation celebration in the Market Hall.

March 28, 2017

On Friday 17th March, St Cuthbert’s Church in Wigton, Lord Melvyn Bragg, the famed writer and broadcaster, and Lord Roger Liddle held a lively and interesting talk celebrating Wigton’s rich history.

Melvyn Bragg, native of Wigton, stressed the importance of valuing community and is an enthusiastic supporter of the new ‘Cumbria Speaks’ oral history project. In speaking of the project Lord Liddle expressed his enthusiasm for “the important job of recording local people’s life stories.”

Both Lord Liddle and Melvyn Bragg are patrons of the project.

Local celebrity chef John Crouch provided an excellent meal at the event.

March 23, 2017.

A very busy couple of days tweaking the website, as always your comments are welcome. Meanwhile, news to follow very soon about a meeting with our patrons Lord Bragg and Lord Liddle. Exciting times!

March 01, 2017.

As you can see the development of this website is now well underway (and we have various logos which we are trying out.) This will be a comprehensive website and, at the moment, is changing all of the time, please bear with us while we’re making changes. Your comments are always welcome.

The following list is of our current funders, supporters and people who have pledged support.

Heritage Lottery Fund £31,000

Wigton Town Council £750

Neighbourhood Forum £750

Carlisle Archive Centre and Whitehaven Archive and Local Studies Centre

Ambleside Oral History Group (our central contact and mentors)

Carlisle Library have offered advice and support including help with the publicity of this project.

Tullie House Museum has stated an interest in storing material that might pertain to Tullie House.

Oral History Society (advice and training.)

Cumbria Community Foundation.

Caldbeck History Group with advice re. their own oral history collection.

Advice and support from Jenni Lister – Project Leader for Sellafield Oral History Project and currently working on ‘Hidden Stories’ oral history project.

We are currently establishing liaisons with local schools in relation to producing a children’s book.

Almost all of the above organisations confirm our findings that there are no known oral interviews of this nature pertaining to Wigton life and its immediate surroundings. It is also apparent that there are a very limited number of life-story oral history recordings for the whole of North Cumbria.

November 2016.

Some pictures from our training day with Ambleside Oral History Group.

The people in the pictures are:

Kath and Dennis Graham – Directors of ‘Free For All’
Isanna Curwen – Cumbria Speaks Project Manager
Volunteers – Trevor Grahamslaw, Dave Gowers and Angela King
Trainers (from The Ambleside Oral History Group) Jane Renouf, Paul Renouf, Judith Shingler

Thanks to Trevor Grahamslaw for the photographs.

Volunteer Angela King
Isanna Curwen – Cumbria Speaks project manager with volunteer Dave Gowers