Oral History Project
HS2 offers an opportunity to explore the stories of communities living and working close to the HS2 route. We invited people to share their stories with us as part of an oral history project.
The project has captured the local voices across 12 locations along the HS2 route between London and Birmingham (Phase One). The result is a soundscape of stories, experiences, commentary and history.
The Decorators delivered the project on our behalf in 2018 and 2019, interviewing community members and groups who were passionate about their area. Additionally, people came to venues in Birmingham, Stoke Mandeville and Camden to record their personal memories as part of the Heritage Open Days festival.
The interviews include personal accounts of what it was like working in the Old Curzon Street Station building 56 years ago, how the radical movement of the 1960’s created new ways of living in Camden, what life is like living on a canal boat and discussions around how a community preserves itself in the face of change.
You can navigate our virtual exhibition room by clicking on the arrows to listen to each of the recordings. For more help please click the button ‘How to use our virtual room’ at the bottom of this page.
Thank you to everyone who was kind enough to generously share their time and memories with us.
Birmingham is located in the West Midlands.
This recording took place at our events as part of the Heritage Open Days Festival. The Festival is an annual event coordinated by the National Trust. In this recording we hear what it was like 56 years ago working in the Old Curzon Street building, lunchtime dancing and the very first banana delivery.
We also listen to the archaeologist’s unearthing Birmingham’s history in the excavation around Curzon Street.
‘Yeah, every, every office was packed and there were so many different departments. I’d say there was a 200 and something. It must have been.’ – Shirley Norton
Birmingham Young People’s Voices
Birmingham ‘Ignite’ Transformation Centre is a youth centre based in the heart of Aston.
Birmingham ‘Ignite’ Transformation Centre is a youth centre based in the heart of Aston. The centre is run by a vibrant team of passionate, committed and socially aware youth workers, educators, mentors, and coaches.
In this recording we hear how young people experience life in the city, including discussions of differences in areas, civic duty, and the changes they would make if they were Mayor of the city.
‘Every single thing that we do as individuals helps push Birmingham forward.’ – Alex Morgan
Washwood Heath is located two miles north-east of Birmingham city centre.
In this recording we hear from several lifelong residents who recall memories of gardens with chicken runs, the communities first MELA Festival and experiences of immigrating from Pakistan. We also learn about how the St Margaret’s Church Community Trust, the Unity Hubb, and the Dolphin Centre are delivering projects to support, inspire and unite their community.
‘It is about building friendships, relationships, knowing your neighbours, and the key ethos of that is women raise their confidence here and it has a ripple on effect because they are the people that go back into the community, make the impact on their families, in the neighbourhood, with friends.’ – Rashta Butt, The Unity Hubb
Chelmsley Wood is a located within the Metropolitan Borough of Solihull.
In this recording we take a swing at the Meridien Adventure Playground, find out about the nature-based group known as Tribal whose aim is to bring nature to the masses and learn about the one-eyed Saxon warrior Chelmund.
‘I think because there’s so much green space and you go out and you walk about and we’ve got so many parks in the area, people are just friendly. They just will say hello.’ –Ellen Delaney
Stoneleigh is a quintessential English village in Warwickshire.
In this recording we learn about the history and village life of Stoneleigh, from medieval winter plays, myths and legends and farming issues.
‘It was only when I moved here, having retired, that I discovered that I had this family history that went back 200 years. They had lived just a few doors away from where I live now, so that was slightly spooky.
Not just me. I’ve spoken to lots of different people in the village who have discovered since coming here that they have some sort of claim, if you like, on the village, and something has drawn them back here.’ –Sheila Woolf
Aylesbury is a bustling market town and the county town of Buckinghamshire.
In this recording we hear about the history of Aylesbury and its transformation over the years, the life living on the Grand Union Canal, the famous Aylesbury duck and the 200-year-old Aylesbury Club who meet every two months for a good meal, a couple of drinks and a lot of chat.
‘Aylesbury has always been a town that received other people.’ — Mike Farley
Buckinghamshire Railway Centre
Buckinghamshire Railway Centre is a railway museum located at Quainton Road railway station, about 5 miles west of Aylesbury.
Buckinghamshire Railway Centre is a railway museum located at Quainton Road railway station. It is a working steam museum with one of the UK’s largest collections of locomotives, rolling stock and railway memorabilia.
Jump aboard to listen to how a group of train enthusiasts turned a hobby into a full-grown business. From trainspotting in their youth to restoring locomotives.
‘It’s quite a nice feeling to actually be able to operate something you’ve helped put back together. No two days are the same. You never know what you’re doing next.’ – Adrian Aylward
Stoke Mandeville is a village in Buckinghamshire located 3 miles from Aylesbury.
This recording took place at our events as part of the Heritage Open Days Festival. The Festival is an annual event coordinated by the National Trust. We speak to members from The Buckinghamshire Archaeological Society and Western Turville Historical Society and learn about the history of the medieval St Mary’s Church.
‘The sort of questions that I’m interested in, you certainly can’t get that simply by looking at a few ruins. The evidence is potentially there in the ground(…)You’re actually, hopefully trying to reconstruct the lives of people, in the past.’– Dr Jonathan Hun
Camden Community Voices
The London borough of Camden is a diverse area steeped in history and located in central London
In this recording we learn about Camden’s rich rail history from the Camden Railway Heritage Trust. The Regent Park Gardening Association give us an insight into their little urban oasis, and we also hear from St Mary’s Anglican Church and how it is supporting the community.
‘It’s a very accepting community. That’s what I’ve been struck by people don’t stand on a ceremony in Saint Mary’s, Somers Town. It’s a very real place.’ – Pascal Worton
Euston is located in central London within the Camden Borough.
This recording took place at our events as part of the Heritage Open Days Festival. The Festival is an annual event coordinated by the National Trust. We hear about the former National Temperance Hospital and how the community preserves itself from one generation to the next.
‘You’re getting people from lots of different social groups. The timing which they were buried from 1790 to 1850 is a time of incredible change in the capitol. As we say, it’s right in the heart of the industrial revolution. Soall of these people are in a time that could be described as tumultuous.’ –Paul McGarrity
Camden Radical Theatre
Camden has a proud, rebellious spirit that throughout its history has seen communities come together to tackle problems and bring about real social change.
In this recording we hear from Unfinished Histories about how the radical movement of the 1960’s created new ways of thinking, living and working in Camden. We also hear about the history of the Roundhouse, a performing arts and music venue located in a former turntable railway engine shed and how it is providing a platform for new artists.
Scene and Heard also discuss their unique mentoring project with children in Somers Town. Where they work with theatre professionals to write imaginative plays with characters anything from a maggot and a lighthouse to a banana and a paperclip.
‘Somers Town has an extraordinary identity. A priest called Basil Jellicoe was very concerned about the slum conditions that people were living in and raised huge amounts of money to build blocks of flats and the flats that are there, they are the sort of Victorian tenament blocks.’ –Roz Paul