The Global Centre Devon is asking for contributions to Telling our Stories, Finding our Roots: Exeter’s Multi-Coloured History a research project on Exeter’s multi-cultural history from Roman times to the present day.
A team of volunteers are seeking to get people to look at Exeter differently by exploring its varied history. From North African Roman soldiers, the Jewish community from the 1th century, William of Orange’s Black soldiers, GI’s in the Second World War, to present communities telling their stories, the researchers seek to reveal the diversity through time, as an intrinsic part of Exeter’s cultural history.
By the end of the project, researchers will have produced an informative website, guided tours, and educational resources. These resources will help build an appreciation of Exeter’s diversity. The work will culminate with a story-telling event at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum on Saturday, March 16.
In all the project is working with 22 volunteers, from a variety of backgrounds, who have been trained to carry out interviews and historical research. They would like to hear from anyone with interesting facts about Exeter’s multi-cultural history, or people from a minority group living in Exeter who would like to tell their story. In taking part volunteers will build connections within and with communities, as well as building bridges to key organisations. Assistance has been kindly provided by, amongst others, members of staff at Exeter University, the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, and the Devon Record Office, as well as local councillors and those already interested in this area of research.
The research team has already found many fascinating things. During the Second World War GI’s were divided by the Exe, black GI’s stationed in Exeter were one side of the river, and white GI’s the other . This project will bridge divides between people of differing backgrounds living and working in the city. By providing a learning experience, Exeter can look at itself in a new light. The research will help provide a public understanding of a varied cultural-history to nurture positive attitudes, and implicitly, tackle issues such as racism.
Ghee Bowman, the project coordinator, told the PRSD: “Exeter will look at itself in the mirror in a different way, will be able to understand the city in a different light. We will provide the knowledge and understanding that will help to develop positive attitudes.”
Ghee went on to say: “In 1875, the Fisk Jubilee Singers from Nashville Tennessee gave a concert at Victoria Hall – this may have been the first time that Swing Low Sweet Chariot was sung in Exeter! In addition, in 1522, for example, there were 30 resident ‘aliens’ in Exeter – people from France, Germany and the Low Countries.”
It is fitting that the Global Centre’s Telling our Stories, Finding our Roots will launch their research findings with story-telling at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum. One of the museum’s most reproduced paintings was titled Portrait of an African. For a long time the image was thought to be of Olaudah Equiano, an African abolitionist, and author of the Interesting Narrative, who spent time in Exeter in 1777.
Today the painting is thought to be that of Ignatius Sancho, an 18th century composer, actor, and writer, and the first Black Briton to vote in a British election, who may have also visited the city. The museum is home to a varied collection of artefacts from around the world, with a Designated Collection of national importance, placing the social history of Exeter in context; a fitting backdrop to the varied histories of Exeter’s people past and present revealed by this research.
The team would like to hear from anyone who has stories or interesting facts about Exeter’s multi-cultural history, or people from a minority group living in Exeter who would like to tell their story.
To tell your story, or find out more on Telling our Stories, Finding our Roots: Exeter’s Multi-Coloured History, please go to www.globalcentredevon.org.uk for research findings, classroom resources, city tours, and other special events.
Telling our Stories, Finding our Roots is a project run by Devon Development Education, a charitable company that aims to provide a wide range of global learning opportunities for communities and schools in the South West of England. Funding for the project has been provided by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The project started in June 2012, launched by Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, The Black Farmer, and finishes in winter 2013.