Learn to dig where you stand

There’s nothing unique about Milton Keynes. Living Archive offers a consultancy service to enable others elsewhere to celebrate the place where they live. This help includes feasibility studies, project management, running training courses and advice on project design and the use of new technology in ‘publishing’ local history projects in innovative ways.

But what relevance has Documentary Arts to your area? Living Archive is the child of a new town, but its Documentary Arts approach is relevant to other areas too.

1. Engendering community pride

Documentary Arts projects celebrate the life and achievements of the local community. This engenders local pride, not just in the final event, but in the process of research too. We believe that “everybody has a story to tell”, and this respect for the experiences and opinions of local people in itself engenders confidence and pride.

2. Digging Where You Stand

Documentary Arts projects rely on a pride in your own place and the talents of local people. You look for inspiration within your own community. The memories of local people (as well as other research) give you rich inspiration for your arts products. You also use the talents of local people (assisted by the support of professionals where necessary). The forms of the final outcomes will normally be dictated by the particular strengths of the members of the community – perhaps it’s in music, in theatre, in dance, or in video.

3. An on-going process

The Documentary Arts process is a long-term community development process, which grows and develops.

4. A bridge builder

Documentary Arts projects build bridges. They give old and new residents the chance to share a common interest in the place where they live and an excuse to come together to be sociable and to celebrate. Documentary arts projects are intergenerational. Young people can be involved in the research phase and get a new appreciation of older people. Documentary arts are all about co-operation, not competition, about providing a context where people can learn new skills, achieve something they can be proud of and make new friends.

5. A high quality product

It is important to respect those who gave you their memories to ‘return’ them in a form that enhances rather than diminishes them. It is important that the people who give their time creatively should end up with something of which they feel genuinely proud and which amazes the audience with its quality. These standards can be achieved by setting high expectations and by using professional artists as enablers and facilitators.

6. An educational resource

The process of Documentary Arts involves investigation, interpretation, experimentation and expression, all of which skills have particular value in education, but the archive material which is accumulated can itself be a very valuable resource for education at all levels and within all subjects. There are commercial possibilities of producing teacher packs and CD ROMs and websites from such material too.

7. An economic development resource

The processes of collecting material and producing educational and other resources can be focuses for job creation and training. Living Archive has pioneered an exciting and innovative part-time ICT courses that are inspired by people’s memories and local history.

8. A tourist resource

The products of Documentary Arts projects are not all as transitory as a play or dance production. Exhibitions (including those involving multi media interactive presentations), videos, radio documentaries, websites, DVDs,CD-ROMs and books can all help to provide a tourist attraction explaining the history of the place the visitor has come to see, as well as products to sell to them.

In conclusion

We believe that there is nothing special about Milton Keynes, that what Living Archive has achieved in this brand new city can be replicated anywhere else. We are only too willing to help others do this. We will not offer to come in and do it for you, but we will offer to give advice, training and support to enable you to dig where you stand.

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