Public History

a novel way of presenting local history” Frank Sharman, Wolverhampton History and Heritage Society discussing Ballads for Bomere Heath on Wolverhampton University website.

Dave’s work as a writer regularly involves working with local communities helping them to value their past, and record their histories in ways that are meaningful to themselves. A trained historian and a poet, Dave uses public history and poetry to create texts with and for communities which he describes as 21st Century Chronicles – a summing up of a place or area in fact, opinion and creative response (see Ballads for Bomere Heath in the ‘Community Writing’ section).

Since originating The Sandwell TextMap a cd-rom project recording the literary history of a borough, exploring its past through creative writing, and collating examples of the work of writers past and present, he has regularly used innovative ways of publishing and disseminating the outcomes of history and heritage projects. These include collecting texts as an industrial stock record as part of In Search of the Black Country for Walsall Museum & Art Gallery, and including local history in his texts for the glazing of West Bromwich Bus Station.

In April 2010 Warwickshire Libraries published Have Book Will Travel, a collection of anecdotes about reading collected by Dave during a ‘residency’ on a mobile library at the end of 2009. A similar project in 2010 produced Othello: a travelogue, a second collection published in 2011, followed by Othello: an audiolog an audio recording mixing interview and creative response (to the mobile library named Othello).

During 2011 Dave finished work on Grounds for Improvement a project to record recollections of institutional living in Walsall, focusing on the now demolished St Matthews’ and St Margaret’s hospitals. A Radio Wildfire project, sample sound files can be found at radiowildfire.com/projects. He also began Excavating Wrockwardine a project with Wrockwardine Wood Arts College, Telford, to create a social and oral history of the school and surrounding community as a training scheme for students.

In 2012 he became a member of the AHRC Living Flood Histories International Advisory Group, investigating flood narratives and contributing to a special edition of the Journal of Arts & Communities: he also wrote a chapter for Heritage from Below pub. Ashgate 2012 (ed. Dr Iain Robertson). In 2012 he also began work as Heritage Project Officer with Shelton Hospital, Shrewsbury, the last remaining Victorian asylum in England still in use as a hospital. In 2015 he published The Shelton Screen interpreting the history of the hospital in the form of a large mobile display. He is currently the Project Historian to the Ridges & Furrows project in Lincolnshire.

Oral histories and community chronicles include:
Excavating Wrockwardine (2012) – Telford
Grounds for Improvement (2011) – Walsall
Work In Progress (2010) – the four Black Country Boroughs
Ballads for Bomere Heath (2006) – the parish of Bomere Heath, Shropshire
Brummies reCollected (2000) – Birmingham
Oldbury: the town of the four moons (1994) – Oldbury, Sandwell
Cardboard Crowns & Cast Iron Cookpots (1996) – Hill Top, West Bromwich
Wake Up, West Heath..! (1997) – West Heath, Birmingham
The Shambles, the Quack and Glory-for-me (1991) – Blackheath & Rowley Regis
The’ was onny one an the’ wo’ be another (1990) – Kates Hill, Dudley


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