Using Oral History

Recently I attended a workshop organised by spread the word an organisation I’ve been following since I was short-listed in one of their writing-a-novel events.

I obtained a 10% discount on the fee as I am a member of the London Writers’ Network, Spread theWord’s membership scheme. The purpose of the LWN is as an affordable community to explore and enhance the writing career and develop the professional opportunities needed to make a writing career flourish.

The workshop was held at the Whitechapel Idea Store from 10am to 4pm with a lunch break. (lunch not included). It was billed as a workshop for poets, fiction and non-fiction writers, on finding, eliciting and using oral history; to discuss how oral history differs from other forms of reporting; ethical and legal issues surrounding the use of other peoples’ ideas and words.

The leader was Laura Mitchison, Managing Director of On the Record.

The structure was fairly informal, although we were given a thick wodge of handouts. We did have good and far reaching discussions. One of the participants was a journalist which helped a lot.

Possibly, the ethical and legal issues were dealt with in enough depth but the point was made that either the Oral History Society or The Society of Authors would help with this.

Towards the end we had a ‘hot seat’ session where writers could talk about their projects and their particular problems. What was fascinating was the problem which came up most, was either a guilt of writing about others or a doubt about dealing with unexpected shocks ie someone suddenly saying that their brother had been shot dead. Necessarily, everyone had differing opinions about dealing with this, the general opinion being writers needed to devlope a thick skin.

As always with Spread the Word it was an enjoyable day, an opportunity to meet other writers and encouraged me tell myself I was a proper writer.


Click on spread the word in the first line to reach the website.

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