The History of Parliament Trust receives Heritage Lottery Fund support for an oral history project on political activism in Devon

The History of Parliament Trust is delighted to announce a new oral history project to take place in Devon, with the support of a grant of £53,400 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). The new project: ‘From the Grassroots: An Oral History of Community Politics in Devon’ will be based at the Devon Heritage Centre, and also has the support of the Houses of Parliament’s Public Engagement and Learning team, Devon County Council’s Heritage Service, Plymouth University and Plymouth City Council’s Arts and Heritage Service.

The new project will recognise the contribution of grassroots political activism in Devon after the Second World War. It will expand the work currently undertaken by the History of Parliament’s national oral history project, which is building a sound archive of former MPs with the support of Dod’s parliamentary companion and the British Library. 

In ‘From the grassroots’, we will build a rounded picture of Devon’s rich political heritage as told by the participants themselves. We will go beyond the experiences of MPs and record the memories of activists and campaigners, to discover why they became involved in political activism and what impact they had on the democratic process. We will offer training in oral history and other heritage skills. With the help of volunteers, we will record the political events in Devon from a local angle and chart the changes in post-1945 political campaigning. These will be shared through a website, exhibition and programme of events.

Dr Paul Seaward, director of the History of Parliament, said “we are delighted to receive HLF support for this exciting new project. The History of Parliament has a long tradition of studying local as well as national politics and we are glad to continue this in our oral history projects. The involvement of people at a local level in politics is crucial to the health of British democracy, and we believe that this project will not only chart that involvement, but stimulate it as well. Our plan is for the vibrant political history of Devon to be just the first step in recording political activism in Britain as a whole.”

The project will be based at the Devon Heritage Centre in Exeter. Tim Wormleighton, Devon Heritage Services Manager, said “we are very pleased to be hosting this exciting project, which has a great potential to unearth new perspectives on local political history in Devon and, at the same time, will encourage more people to get involved in exploring a fascinating subject that may seem somewhat intimidating or remote to many”.

Commenting on the grant award, HLF’s Head of South West, Nerys Watts, said: “Devon has a rich and varied political heritage within which all three main parties have been represented together with a number of smaller parties and independent candidates who have been able to flourish in the county. We were delighted to be able to support this project, which will explore Devon’s political life since the Second World War, record it and make it available for a wider audience to understand and appreciate”.

About the Heritage Lottery Fund

Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) aims to make a lasting difference for heritage, people and communities across the UK and help build a resilient heritage economy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage. HLF has supported almost 35,000 projects with more than £5.3bn across the UK.  .

About the Houses of Parliament, Public Engagement and Learning

Parliament’s Public Engagement and Learning team deliver innovative and effective public engagement projects and resources to inspire people across the UK to get involved with Parliament. They support Members of Parliament from both Houses in their work with the public and work with a range of partners to extend audience reach far beyond Westminster. Projects include annual Parliament Week and TEDx events and the team are currently working towards a large programme for 2015 to mark the anniversary of the De Montfort Parliament (750 years) and the sealing of Magna Carta (800 years). 

About the Devon Heritage Centre

The Devon Heritage Centre at Sowton, Exeter, houses the county’s archives and local studies collections. It is the headquarters office of Devon Heritage Services, and holds all types of historical archives relating to the county of Devon and the City of Exeter. These include the records of ecclesiastical parishes, the Diocese of Exeter, county, district and parish councils, and innumerable families, estates, businesses, societies, chapels, schools and individuals. It is a designated repository for the deposit of public records of local interest (e.g. hospital and asylum records), as well as for tithe and manorial collections. Its premises are shared with the National Meteorological Archive. Devon Heritage Services provides an archives service for both Devon County Council and Torbay Council under a joint arrangement between the two authorities. Records relating to Torbay are also held at the Devon Heritage Centre.