Sonic furniture in Saffron Walden could be a thing of the future - and the past

Saffron Walden Museum

Saffron Walden Museum - Credit: Archant

A talking bench could soon transport residents and visitors back through Saffron Walden’s rich history.

Tales of the town’s cattle market, numerous public houses and war veterans would be transmitted as part of the You Are Hear project of Essex Sound and Video Archive, which has applied for a £276,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to develop inhabitants’ sense of place and to reflect upon where they live.

A successful grant – which could be forthcoming in June – would see the bench installed in Saffron Walden and the Sampfords next summer, as well as 16 other locations in the county, relaying interviews with local people and insights into the area’s past.

Oral history recorder Zofia Everett, who has been documenting hundreds of human histories in the town for the last fifteen years, said the idea had come from dedicated work carried out over years by Recorders of Uttlesford History.

“The Essex Record Office then decided they wanted to run this project,” Ms Everett told the Reporter.


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“It would be wonderful to hear the stories of residents, especially for people who are new to the town, who don’t know the history and want to know what it was like, and what they have lost.”

Alongside the installation of sonic furniture, the three-year project would also involve the digital preservation and cataloguing of historic recordings in the archive.

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With funding from Essex Heritage Trust and Friends of Historic Essex as well as the HLF grant, listening posts would also be installed in public spaces, and two additional touring sonic benches would entertain residents and visitors with a wealth of information about the area.

Currently, Essex Sound and Video Archive is hoping to identify family members of those in the recordings, to verify whether they have permission to use them for the project.

To access the list and find out more, go to essexrecordofficeblog.co.uk/you-are-hear. You can contact the project officer by emailing sarahjoy.maddeaux@essex.gov.uk.

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