Blackwell Parish’s “Roots to Routes” Digital App!
The background and development
Once upon a time, many years ago, a local group of residents managed to secure funding to co-design and create as a community. One of their project strands of work, ‘Roots to Routes’ was a response to the residents’ concerns about our local industrial past getting lost to future generations. Here’s some of the quotes we gained from those residents:
2021 Listening to Blackwell Parish Residents ….Some Angry Voices!
“It’s about time we shared our heritage! We’ve got a lot of it here and a lot to be proud of and it’s all invisible.”
“What have we got here to mark our heritage? A mining wheel memorial like every other village around here. Don’t get me wrong I am proud of it but It’s like an X marking a spot, there should be a lot more.”
“It’s important we record and can pass on our history you know, not many of us are left from the days down the pit and that was what built this community! “
“All the young uns and the new uns don’t know about our past here, we need to celebrate our history and bring back that community spirit as we do it “
“My Grandchildren know nothing really of the lands past here, sad really considering coal was the reason this place existed.”
“If we don’t start to record our local history soon it’s going to get lost forever”
Responding to this we aimed:
- to plan and implement the painting of a heritage mural
- to collect oral histories to some of which we added animations
- to create local history information boards for each village in the parish
We recorded more feedback on these developments in 2022:
2022 Listening again to Blackwell Parish Residents…..You’re on the right track!
“You see a lot of places who had pits have all of this regeneration work done to commemorate what it was with museums and café’s -we had nowt! I’m pleased Greater Creative have started to work in the community to change that, we have a history and it wants documenting properly so others can appreciate it and see what this place once was."
“We had the pit and the rail in this parish. It made me feel proud to see the loco mural go up on the side of the old closed social club, a real something to celebrate our past. We need more of this.”
“That painting gave me goosebumps, I’ve never seen anything like that before!”
“There’s so much history and we need a place to save and document it”.
“I never knew this area had so much to do with coal and rail until these projects started. There’s not much research out there or to find locally so I hope to see more of it”
“I think heritage projects like these build a real sense of pride of place. We’ve lost all our community spirit, it’s good to share what this community use to look and be like.”
In 2020 we invited AT Creative a local heritage app organisation to come and meet our working party at Greater Creative. We discovered that AT Creative are based just a few miles away, but develop apps for clients throughout the UK! We asked AT Creative to share with us the mystery of how to develop an app to present some of our local heritage in a modern media .
After hearing all about the amazing world of app creating we knew it ticked so many boxes for us as a way to capture our history and to also be interactive, take people on a physical journey (optional – via walking trails) through a platform which would reach across generations, particularly reaching younger generations as well as giving us the challenge to use this new platform.
We started the project in a pub function room, with large maps and invited some local history buffs into the fold (one didn’t know it then, but from this initial contact he became one of the cogs of the working party!). Through looking at the map we shared intel across generations as we reminisced about old shops, local legends, ‘the’ history, our histories, ex-industry, ex-jobs, the old landscapes, where we’d play, how we got by, ghost stories and the houses. For a long time we procrastinated, we changed how we’d archive the info into walking trails… then not so long into this planning, covid hit and all was paused. You’d think in many ways this would have been the perfect project to do in a lockdown, but our energy was governed by the current need to respond so this project was put to bed for a while.
2022 saw us re-start developing our brand new heritage app, ‘R2R’ with a AT Creative. We (Greater Creative) started the process by Zoom, and eventually met Dan of AT Creative and learnt the basics of building our history trails with his software. With no experience of app development within our team, at first it appeared a frightening prospect, but with Dan’s support and patience, confidence grew and before long we were racing ahead.
“It’s been a real pleasure learning about the history of some of the villages on my doorstep and finally understand the story of A and B Winning! I’ve really enjoyed guiding the Greater Creative team through the process of creating their own self-guided trails app. Working with the community has been a constant stream of good humour and passion about their locality. As with any good heritage interpretation project, the key to success is the simple delivery of good stories, and the app is a vehicle to share these wonderful stories in modern and engaging way. Every time I’ll walk these trails in the future I’ll think about not only the stories of Blackwell parish's industrial past but also the friends I made along the way on this creative journey."
Additionally as part of the project, we learnt how to record oral histories which could be incorporated into the app as well as creating a library of “ Blackwell Voices”. Some of these we used with animations, providing another media of putting over the stories to the widest audience possible. Working party member Pam had some reflections on the project as a whole:
"When we had our first meetings about this project, I was a little apprehensive as I am not that familiar with all things IT. Although it sounded amazing, I was unsure how much I would be able to contribute.
However, we had some initial meetings and in-depth presentations and I actually began to look forward to using the equipment, especially the recording microphones. Putting myIT phobia aside, my favourite part was going out and talking to people and listen to them reminisce about growing up in an around the villages. I found it fascinating and got really engrossed in what they were saying and I hope that when others listen to the oral histories, they feel the same way.
Local residents have shared a lot of their histories with us and I think this is important so that a part of it can be preserved, passed on and shared with others. Even if you are not local to the area, the descriptions and photographs give you an idea of what the area was like, even though most of it is now gone.
Despite my first apprehension about IT and technology, I have much more confidence in working on a project like this, there was so much information to be collected but it was fun finding out about it, speaking to residents was a really enjoyable experience, and I think everyone in the group rallied round to deliver a wonderful end result that can be enjoyed by many for years to come."
Working party member Tony added
"As a local history “buff”, I was asked pre covid to make a short presentation at Newton School to a class of 5 yr olds, some 60 years my junior. One question posed by a youngster rocked me back in my shoes and made me think of the changes during those 60 years: the question was “ Please Mister, What is Coal? “
I was therefore delighted when the invite came from Greater Creative to join the team and help develop the records of the history of our parish, through Farming , Framework Knitting and Coal Mining, and present it in the R2R App, a media more familiar to those 5 yr olds."
Now our app is live! So far we have 3 live routes to do and more in the pipeline too. Download it to your device by scanning the QR codes below or by searching 'Roots 2 Routes' in your preffered app store.
The app takes inspiration from the roots of our land’s history to bring you a range of walking routes you can navigate across Blackwell Parish in Derbyshire. With plenty of images to view and audio guides that the app displays as you follow the routes. Here's some screenshots of the app in action!