Heritage Roadshow

There are probably very few towns in the UK whose heritage is being serialised in a comic. But the market town of Oswestry, on the North Shropshire/Wales border, can make this unusual claim as its 3000-year-old history gets a colourful retelling.

In a year-long project called Oswestry Heritage Comics, archaeologist and illustrator John Swogger is exploring the town's past in a series of 52 comic strips being published weekly online and in print.

Now he is teaming up with community group, Oswestry Heritage Gateway, to record people's personal memories of Oswestry as inspiration for forthcoming comic strips. The material will also feature in an exhibition of the comics which have attracted Heritage Lottery funding and are being facilitated by QUBE (Oswestry Community Action).

Going under the name of the Oswestry Heritage Roadshow, the memory gathering will be one of the attractions of Oswestry's Heritage Open Days running September 7-10. John and his team will be at the Bailey Head market from 10am to 3pm on the Saturday and Sunday of the festival inviting people to make an audio recording, video recording or write their memories down.

"It will be like a heritage show and tell for people of all ages," said Kate Clarke of the Oswestry Heritage Gateway. "Contributors can bring a photo, letter or other keepsake connected with their childhood or family history in Oswestry and talk about it. Or they can simply recount a personal memory or anecdote that reveals something of life in the town in past times, distant or more recent."

But, unlike the TV antiques show that partly inspired the idea, the organisers point out that expert valuations of family heirlooms will not be on offer.

"We're interested in capturing people's living memories, local knowledge and anecdotes passed down through families, which are seldom written down and all too easily lost," said John Swogger.

"The objects people bring may be quite ordinary but will allow them to share a unique insight or little known fact about local heritage. It could be a photograph, drawing, item of clothing, event programme or newspaper cutting, anything that provides a talking point about times gone by in Oswestry."

Nostalgia and local history groups on Facebook and other social media are also cited as inspiration for the project.

"Members of these forums share rarely-seen photos from the family album and fascinating glimpses of changing lifestyles and local culture dating back often several generations," explained John.

"They give access to an intimate and hugely valuable view of our towns and communities in the past which was not possible before the digital online age. We would be delighted to capture some of the photos and stories of these contributors through the roadshow."

In the coming months, the roadshow will be visiting groups and venues in the area on the hunt for more historical nuggets within the community.

John said: "Heritage is all about how people connect to the past. Oswestry's heritage is about how we, today, connect to people, places and things that have been part of the town in days gone by. The comics are a way of showing those connections.

"The stories, anecdotes and memories of today are part of the heritage of the next generation. It would be a real shame if these were forgotten or lost. I'm looking forward to picking one or two of the stories from the roadshow to feature in upcoming Oswestry Heritage Comics. It will be great to see some of these stories in print, and it is a great way of showing how fascinating and diverse the town's community heritage is."

You can follow John's comics online at: facebook.com/OswestryHeritageComics

Those interested in finding out more about the roadshow should contact 01691 652918 or email ohgateway(at)gmail.com

Monday 4 September 2017

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