Arts that matter in places that matter

UNEARTH is the perfect name for our Heritage Lottery Fund project

As many of you will know, ViA was funded earlier this autumn to start an ambitious two year heritage project, culminating in performances celebrating the local history of 4 wonderful communities in the first year (Starcross, Rattery, Whimple and Colyton).

ViA’s Creative Communities officer, Kate Green, has been thoroughly enjoying herself supporting local history enthusiasts to dig up staggering stories and long-forgotten materials.  In Starcross, an individual from the school’s board of governors blew the dust off a very old “Punishment Log Book”. It’s pages detailed the names of children who had received “3 cane strokes of the buttocks for stealing fruit…2 strokes of the buttocks for receiving fruit”. On another page, one poor soul had received 2 strokes for nothing more than “a devil-may-care attitude”. How times have changed (thank goodness), but this is the value of the project: enabling villagers to see where they live from a different vantage point and deepen their relationship with the the place they love.

As part of the project, Stacey Anderson, the director of the South West Film and Television Archive, presented a well-attended film archive night in Starcross. Villagers enjoyed footage depicting locally know figures and rural activities from the area…locals haymaking, cider making and the rest. Anyone is able to visit the SWFTA and ask to see footage recorded in their community, so wherever you live in Devon, it’s worth exploring what has been captured on film. The film screenings are happening in the other three villages, and each evening provokes more memories.

For instance, Kate heard the touching story of a nun from a neighbouring abbey with a passion for gardening. Her splendid blackcurrants were anonymously displayed at the annual show by a supportive villager and won prizes year on year…though she could never leave the abbey to collect them.

“Unearth is absolutely the right name for this project,” Kate said, “We are shedding light on so many wonderful stories and evocative objects. It makes me appreciate the rich history of Devon more than ever before.”

At the start of February 2017, Key Stage 2 children at Starcross Primary will become local historians when they spend a day learning heritage research techniques through the UNEARTH project. Kate is expecting lots of “wow moments” as the penny drops, and children connect the history in books with where they live now. Who knows if she’ll encounter “devil-may-care attitudes” among the kids…but she’ll certainly be leaving the cane at home!

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