An AHRC-funded project on ‘social haunting’ has been launched at the former National Union of Miners headquarters in Barnsley by the Co-operative College, Manchester Metropolitan University and other stakeholders.
The collaborative project, entitled ‘Working with social haunting: Past- and present-making in two changing communities of value’, is working with two communities, in the former mining area of Barnsley, and around the Pioneers Museum in Rochdale, to discuss concepts such as place and work.
The launch event saw a ‘Ghost Lab’ set up in the historic NUM building, with participants each taking along something which had ‘shaped’ their lives, was important to them, or had ‘haunted’ them. A second, similar event took place in Rochdale, where objects included a key-ring bearing a bike gear lever which has been in use for decades by the College’s Principal and Chief Executive Mervyn Wilson; a mining pit check belonging to Principal Researcher Dr Geoff Bright of Manchester Metropolitan University; a silk picture of Macclesfield, where the College’s Head of Heritage Resources, Gillian Lonergan, grew up; a bowl owned by a participant’s grandfather; and even a duck brought back from a participant’s travels in South America.
As well as oral history interviews and academic outputs, there will be a number of public events, such as comic strip and poetry workshops.
Co-researcher Dr Cilla Ross, the College’s Co-operative Learning and Development Manager and Vice Principal – Education and Research (designate), said: “The project will significantly enhance our heritage, arts and educational work and there are many community outputs outlined in the planned project.”
In Rochdale, the project may look at the lingering and ongoing influence of the Rochdale Pioneers in the fabric of the town, from the naming of rooms in Hopwood Hall further education college after the 28 members of the Rochdale Equitable Pioneers’ Society, to the town’s streets which bear members’ names, and the significance for the residents and users of those places.
Mervyn Wilson commented: “The spectre of the past can haunt communities and continue to linger over them today. In Rochdale, everyone knows about its links with co-operation, but what does it actually mean for the town?”