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Reflection: Discussing the Past by People who Experienced it

A series of workshops with residents of Ryde Village held in early 2022, was commissioned by The Earth Museum through Independent Arts, and led by facilitator, Jess Ong, a freelance artist, musician and heritage practitioner.

Ryde Village sheltered housing, situated in the beautiful town of Ryde on the Isle of Wight, is managed by Southern Housing Group. It is a peaceful social community environment consisting of residential apartments and bungalows, offering 24-hour support for those in need, and with on-site facilities tailored for people over the age of 55.

The workshops consisted of several lively discussions with some of the wonderful people residing at Ryde Village.  They participated by bringing along objects they had either purchased, owned for a long time, or simply acquired, with the intention of delving into their history, or surmising what that history might have been. For them it was an opportunity to give voice to these objects, while at the same time being involved pleasantly socialising about the past in the company of some friends and contemporaries.

One object discussed in particular, consisting of a group of gaming pieces, touched the lives of many of the residents, and they all relished telling stories of how as children, they had played such games. One elderly gentleman, inspired by the toy spinner piece, detailed how he and his siblings played ‘Put & Take’ in the bomb shelter during an air raid, worrying more about the game than what was going on above!

Of the many other items, some had a more personal story. Such as the Royal Doulton Sugar bowl, decorated with an English cottage, which travelled with its owner from Zimbabwe, through many years in France to eventually reside here on the Isle of Wight.

Or A booklet titled ‘The Tipton Slasher’, relating to Victorian bare-knuckle fighting, brought in by Jess Ong. During research into her family ancestry, she found her 5 times Great Uncle, Tass ‘Hazard’ Parker had bouts with the Slasher, William Perry, where thy fought for the prestige of becoming British Champion.

History is a currency that will always be here. The more we know, the more we understand our place in the World and how we got here. Hopefully this knowledge will lend itself in contributing to the continuation of generations to come, long into the future.

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