Stolen kisses recover the past

December 10, 2004

Snogging on the back seat of the local cinema is just one of the cherished memories being recorded by Christy Evans as part of a University of Central Lancashire community arts project.

Now Ms Evans, who is manager of the Routes to Roots project for the university in east Lancashire, has earned a place as a finalist in this year's Higher Education Active Community Fund volunteering awards.

The UCLan project aims to rekindle memories of life in a local town and bring old and young together to consider the future.

Ms Evans, a development officer and lecturer at the university's International Centre for Volunteering and Community Action, has encouraged residents of Todmorden near Rochdale to use old postcards of the town, pictures of buildings and other memorabilia to help them reminisce.

Residents were also invited to express their thoughts and emotions by creating exhibitions and works of art.

Young people were asked to add their thoughts about the past and to discuss future developments in the area with older people.

Ms Evans said: "Older people have some fantastic memories of these old buildings, such as snogging on the back seat of the cinema. That building is now a Kwik Save, but young kids would probably rather it was a skate park or something. They have been producing designs of what they would like to see. It's a way of bringing the generations together."

The project has been an emotional experience for some residents. It has helped Norma Thorp to recover lost fragments of her family history.

Ms Evans said: "When we started, Norma had only about five photos of her family, including just one of her mother. But once she began collecting material from her past, more and more people came forward with other photographs. Suddenly she has access to all these pictures she did not know existed. I think it has been quite moving for her."

Routes to Roots is among 50 entries selected as finalists for the 2004 HEACF awards, which were presented this week at a ceremony at Twickenham Rugby Stadium.

The awards are managed by the Careers Research and Advisory Centre. They aim to recognise higher education student and staff volunteers who have shown significant commitment to activities funded or initiated by the HEACF, which is funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England and the Home Office.

Of the 50 finalists, 22 have been selected as winners across three categories:student award, staff award and outstanding project award.

Ali Melling, project leader for UCLan's Volunteering and Community Action Centre, said Ms Evans was nominated for an award because her project had had such a positive impact on the local community. "Some of the anecdotal material that has come out of it has had a real impact on people's lives," she said.

Details: www.heacf-awards.ac.uk

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