The Roadshow event at Romsey Blind club was thronging with people and altogether a very enjoyable afternoon. We brought along with us two pupils from Toynbee School, Michael and Vishal, to help the blind and partially sighted members get to grips with the iPads. Michael, who is blind himself, demonstrated how you can turn on the voice settings on the iPad and it will literally read web content to you.
The session got off to a lively start with a presentation of some of the weird and wonderful objects on the Heritage100 website, after which, we handed round some of the items in our pop-up ‘Days Out’ themed museum and invited people to share their related memories.
The Souvenir Coronation tin prompted memories of how it rained at the Coronation of queen Elizabeth in 1953 and so the street parties had to be held indoors - bit like the jubilee celebrations this year.
The box of old money prompted the following reflections from Joyce Monk Romsey: “In 1935/6 I collected half pennies, pennies and farthings for a missionary work in Africa. It was so much that I went to the Methodist Church in Plaistow East London to receive a medal to thank me for all the work. It is very precious to me. I had a new dress that Mum made. It was an exciting day out. I saw a tall African man who was an organist. I remember his name; it was Fellasuwandi. Funny, that I remember his name after all this time.”
The conversation inevitably turned to the war, as many members had first-hand stories to tell. One woman told how her husband was in India as a serviceman; he went out as a Corporal and came back as a Company Sergeant Major. He started in Burma “fighting the Japs” but still found time to send back 1000 letters.
One man was in an Ace shooting unit in Sydling St Nicholas: “We swept the board with everything,” he said, “All four classes of gun - machine gun, sten gun, revolver, standard 38 brenn gun, Enfield 303.”
Someone else told how he finished his apprenticeship when he was 21 and was then called for National Service and sent to Davizes, Wiltshire. Shortly after, he was told he was going to Hong Kong training for Korea. He went to many new territories. Chairman Mao was telling everyone to make most of it - it could be your last day.
Lots of people brought along their personal objects, which reminded them of good times or special people. Bertha Wells brought an ‘African Head’ money box which her father gave to her when she was one year old. It's very heavy, made of cast iron. Bertha showed how you put a penny in his hand and press a lever and it pops into his mouth. You can take the back out to get the pennies out. The Money Box might be viewed as culturally insensitive or even racist by today’s values but it is treasured by Bertha, who says she has as much respect by a black man as a white one.
After a coffee break, people enjoyed having a go on the iPads and the stories and memories kept on flowing. The afternoon was rounded off with an impromptu poetry performance from our own guest poet Matt West, which went down a storm with the group. Everyone agreed that the reminiscing had been a very enjoyable and therapeutic activity, and many people said they would like to talk more about the past. We left feeling very pleased at how the Heritage100 website could stimulate so much memory sharing and enjoyment.
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