100 Camps: digital storytelling with the Salford Lads Club

‘100 Camps’ is a collaboration between Salford Lads Club and our Storycircle team here at Goldsmiths, University of London. This project centres on a multi-layered digital storytelling process to coincide with the recent celebrations of the Salford Lads Club’s 100th annual camping holiday to Wales. Camping remains a core part of what the club does, and offers members a chance to experience outdoor activities, learning, discipline and bonding. Over time, generations of lads and girls have participated in the club’s camping  rituals – daily tent cleaning competitions, peeling and preparing vast amounts of cooked potato, swimming in the local rivers, playing football with local Welsh teams and going dancing with Welsh girls at the Kings Hall in Aberystwth.

[Left] Denis Lewtas and an old friend at the open day. They are standing in front of the group photograph from the SLC camp at Llandulas, Wales, in 1904 (Source: L. Holmes 2011)

While the Salford Lads Club’s long history of camping in Wales has been well documented by photography and film footage, these materials have been deteriorating and becoming disorganised. This situation presented an opportunity to explore the difference digitisation might make, not only to the preservation of this rare amateur archive, but also to the possibilities of widening interaction and creative reproduction with it. Club members of all ages worked in collaboration with the Goldsmiths research team to undertake a collective exchange of stories about their memories from attending the camp. The audio from these stories was recorded, and members were supported to illustrate them with edited, remixed and recombined archival footage.

The first of three storytelling workshops with campers in July 2011. (Source: L. Holmes 2011)

Brian recording Mike’s story. (Source: L. Holmes 2011)

Those participating in the workshops have surprised themselves with their ability to work with laptops, digital media and video editing. Several of the club’s officers have shown their natural ability for recording digital audio stories with other members, while others have already begun to consider ways of filming the next camp with these ideas in mind.

Video production workshop in October 2011. (Source: L. Dickens 2011)

The Salford Lads Club’s unique archival collections and materials have proved to be a vital narrative resource for the project. But they still contain a wealth of personal stories yet to be told. The Storycircle workshops have played an important role in simultaneously encouraging greater access and exploration of this partially digitised archive, while also supporting further digitising of these precious materials. As a result of the collaboration there is a clear sense that the Storycircle project has helped to consider more explicitly the collective value of these potential stories, and we will be continuing to provide background support to their efforts to secure a safe future for them at the club.

[Left] One of the final films made. These will be available for viewing very soon!

The 100 Camps project will be celebrated with an exhibition and opening event at the Salford Lads Club in April 2012. The plan is to display large-scale reproductions of the traditional group photo from each of the past 100 camps, alongside the Storycircle films. These materials will also be hosted on the SLC website nearer the time. Further details to follow soon…

LD

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