MEMORIES OF WEDNESBURY HIGH STREET
Between January and March 2021, Multistory produced High Street Stories, a digital community engaged arts programme that was developed with, and for, Wednesbury residents working with local artists. 12 Black Country based artists were commissioned to work on the programme that explored the past, present and future of the town. The work created is presented online at We Are Wednesbury, an interactive community map that outlines hidden histories and stories of the local area, drawing lines from the past and exploring new, collectively imagined possibilities for the future.
Memories of Wednesbury High Street is a collaboration with the artist Jo Löki, involving participation from a variety of Wednesbury residents. Commissioned to document the heritage of Wednesbury, through oral history recordings and photography, we focused on the areas in and around Wednesbury Conservation Zone. This covers Market Place, Upper and Lower High Street and some adjoining streets such as Union Street, Walsall Street and Russell Street.
Historically a centre for the manufacturing industry, through the 19th and early 20th centuries Wednesbury had a thriving town centre that supported hundreds of businesses and market traders. However, like many British high streets, Wednesbury is in a state of decline. We were interested in documenting the history of some of the buildings and businesses, through the personal stories and memories of the people who lived and worked there.
The people who have contributed to this project have a meaningful connection to Wednesbury High Street. Some are from families with long-established businesses, others were employees. All have lived, or worked, in Wednesbury for a significant part of their lives. Their oral stories, combined with photographs from personal collections and photo-albums, give us an insight into what it means to own a family business, not only to these people and their families but to us, the surrounding community.
Memories of Wednesbury High Street was produced under challenging conditions during the national lockdown of 2021 that required us to work remotely. I was responsible for recording and producing the oral histories which were conducted as interviews on Zoom and Messenger.
The audio tracks and photographs presented here are just a small selection from the work. You can access the complete work as an online installation on the dedicated project website WeAreWednesbury.uk.
This project launched on 27 April 2021 on the WeAreWednesbury.uk website. It was commissioned and produced by Multistory as part of the Wednesbury High Street Heritage Action Zone Programme funded by Sandwell Council and Historic England.