About Me

Image of Colin Barrett, 1959
That’s me pictured at Plym View Junior School, Plymouth, 1959. I can remember this photo being taken as if it were yesterday. The shirt’s too small now.

Hello, my name’s Colin and I’m the person responsible for the creation of this website. The idea of putting it together came about after many years of working with video in both the commercial as well as social and community settings. As portable video recording and playback systems became available in the 1970s I immediately saw the potential for social uses of video alongside the inevitable uses in business and education.

It was only when I moved from Plymouth to Milton Keynes in 1977 to work with a community cable TV station that my interest in oral history took hold.

My involvement with The Living Archive, a British pioneer in the use of oral history in the recording of community history, over three decades has convinced me of the immense value that the practice has in helping all of us to understand the past through the recollections of those who have their personal stories to tell. The skills I learned as a student, and which I have never stopped developing in the years since, combined with my interest in helping others like you to capture the life stories of others is what motivates me.

I sense that you’re equally motivated to get people talking – and to capture their recollections on video. I hope so!

Everybody has a story to tell

Do you have a desire to learn more about your family’s history by recording conversations with the most elderly members of your family? Are you involved in a community history project in which oral history is a primary component? Are you inspired to record your own memories onto video for the long-term benefit of your children or grandchildren? If your answer to any or all of these questions is “yes” then read on.

Image of Manley family on beach 1961
That’s me with my grandparents – Florence and Cecil Manley – and my mother, Sonia Barrett (born Manley), circa 1959. I never did record any of them talking about their past. My mother passed away on 17th June 2015.
The chances are that you’re reading this because you have either a personal or professional interest in documenting a person’s life story. Perhaps it’s an elderly family member such as a grandparent or even a parent. It could be that you’re involved in a community history project in which you have the task in creating an archive of people’s spoken accounts of their lives in years gone by. There are many reasons why you would desire to capture such memories in aural form, and whatever your aim it’s fair to say that in doing so you’ll be helping others – both now and in the future – so make sense of the way things were. After all, how will our children learn about their grand-parents’ early lives if nobody has made some kind of record of their recollections? Making an audio or video recording of them recounting their earliest memories has to be the most effective way of achieving this.

Image of WW1 soldiers posing for camera in uniform
My grandfather, Lance Bombardier Cecil Manley (top R), with Royal Garrison Artillery comrades before embarking to the Western Front, 1915. He only survived the war because he suffered the effects of mustard gas poisoning exactly one month before armistice day, 1918, and was withdrawn from the front.
So, is this something you have already done? Perhaps you have started the process by gathering together fading photographs and other memorabilia associated with the lives of previous generations, or maybe you’ve just discovered a box of old dog-eared sepia-toned photographs under a bed in granny’s house. Without granny there to go through the photos with you and describe their contents you’ll just never know whose faces are featured in the images or what relationship they have with other members of your family, friendship circles or workplace colleagues. The moral to this story is obvious: do it now, and do it properly!

Don’t just talk about it – get on and do it now. Meanwhile, while I’m offering you guidance on how to get started I suppose I ought to get cracking on the job of recording my surviving family members, too!

(All images Copyright Colin Barrett. All Rights Reserved)