Cold calls and comic books

I have a world of concerns, most of which came to light in our class session this past week. Mostly this refers to my own anxieties. I’ll make no bones about my dread at the thought of creating an interview out of nothing, cold contacting people.

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That being said, I have a lot of hope that by having chosen a topic I am deeply interested in I will be able to overcome these problems and find someone who will regale me with the tale of how something we both love has shaped their own life experiences. (That is I assume that comics are something they love, I suppose I should allow for the possibility of someone who hates what the industry has done to them…)

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The practice interviews were really very helpful. I already see a few pitfalls that I’m going to need to watch out for. I struggled with not remarking as the interviewee was speaking (making it too much of a conversation can of course be a problem) as well as knowing how to end. I seemed fine with being able to keep on track with questions that pertained to the topic and that will likely be important for an interview that centers around a particular aspect of a persons life that is likely to present many an opportunity for tangents.

All in all I’m hoping the interview will provide an insight into the largely overshadowed British comic book world,  and help me branch out a little and grow a bit myself.

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The Key of Listening

For my interview I expect many things. I expect for a new viewpoint that I never could have imagined. While I may have some idea what my interviewee has done in the past it will take until their sharing for me to fully understand their story. This part of the interview will undoubtably be the most exciting. Like many people, I intend to have full knowledge of the interviewee and their interest, it is in the pitfalls of my research where the exciting and interesting points will likely fall. These stories will be the unique and entertaining experiences each of us hold within us waiting to be shared. In these stories will I learn things about my interviewee, the topic, and myself I had no intention of learning, and this will be exciting.

I also expect that I will be challenged. My preconceptions prior to the interview will be tested and likely changed. I will also be challenged to provide strong talking points presented in a clear, easy to comprehend manner. One of my main challenges in everyday speaking can be my wording and clear use of speech. This will only be expanded upon during the interview and it will be up to myself to create an atmosphere of comfort and understanding and not pose questions that are poorly worded.

In a similar manner, I expect that I will learn a new level of listening. I will be forced to do many things at a time: checking recording levels, thinking of my next question or topic, and mainly, listening to the stories of the interviewee. This overload of mental stimulation will create a whirlwind of activity in addition to my earlier posed concerns. I intend on conquering this through a process of deep breaths, selected starting topics for fallback if necessary, and most importantly by focusing on the interviewee. While this project is intended to prepare myself with Oral History skills, it is just importantly to get the story of my interviewee into the public and archived. I must remember that they are the one with the interesting stories and my job is to gather these stories. By realizing this, I will allow myself freedom to ask another “fallback” starting topic to recollect my thoughts and begin a new focus of the interview. I do not fully anticipate this, but in case it happens, I feel prepared to manage a situation like this.


Hopes and Concerns: Living Abroad; being an immigrant in London during 2015

In general my prime hope is to conduct an effective and interesting interview: I am deeply focused on planning my questions the best way I can so I could get valuable information and intriguing replies.

Of course this is something that all of us are hoping; am I hoping something more specific? Actually yes. I want to know how it feels like being an immigrant in this metropolitan hub which is called London; Andreas –my interviewee– will have a pretty clear idea on that as he is living here for quite a lot now. However it seems that he has limited choices. I am an immigrant myself but I still have the option to go back whereas Andreas could not do that; the war in Syria is surely an obstacle he would not be able to tackle easily. Therefore I am hoping to really understand how he feels like and whether he is used to his life in London; has this city eventually became a ‘home’ to him?

To tell the truth I am going to this interview with no other feelings or hopes than excitement: I want to be flexible and be able to improvise. I want to learn about his life but at the same time I want him to tell me himself and let the whole process go on effortlessly and flawlessly. This is a hope but it is also a concern: will I be able to have some sort of control of the interview but let it develop loosely at the same time? I do not want to make Andreas feel like I am waiting for particular answers: I just want to see the world through his eyes for a couple of hours. I want to know about his experience.

Finally I have two basic concerns: is the language going to be a barrier? I am going to interview him in Greek and that makes both of us feel comfortable but will it be easy to ‘transform’ the meaning of what he will have said to me to English? It is not only about translation, it is about interpretation as well… So I still think about that. Also I already planned the interview with Andreas during the second week of March and of course this is something that can be rescheduled but I am troubled: do I need more time to reflect on what he will have said to me so I could plan one more session? Apparently you never really know what is going to happen and it is hard to be aware of the quality of the material you will end up with. I am hoping it will be something of great value and that it will satisfy both of us!


The Development of Women’s Roles in Local Religious Communities: Hopes and Concerns

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In interviewing Wendy Sadler, the Church Warden for St. Mary’s in Erwarton, I hope to be able to gain an insight into her experience as a woman with a key position in the both the local Church and the community. I have always been interested in women’s history and therefore this is a great opportunity to practically apply this interest to learn about the development of women’s roles on a more local scale. Since I come from the same village myself, it will be particularly interesting to learn about the history of the local area in this context. I also hope to gain an understanding of Mrs Sadler’s own views on the development of women’s positions in society more generally, particularly as this is a topic so relevant to the Church today.

However, I also have a few concerns when approaching this project. Although I do not have a close personal relationship with Mrs Sadler and see her very rarely, she has been my neighbour for my entire life. We live in an extremely small village of few more than a hundred people and consequently I hope that this will not result in a reluctance to approach certain topics with someone who is a member of the same community as her. As a result of the size of our village I also may know many of the people she would wish to talk about in the interview and I hope she would not avoid covering certain topics related to these people.

In terms of conducting the actual interview I am slightly concerned that it will be difficult not to approach the interview in a conversational manner. I feel that this possibility is again heightened by my pre-existing relationship with Mrs Sadler as she may expect a more informal and conversational approach on my part during the interview.


The Interview Experience

So it’s official, I’m going to be interviewing Alan Dein from the BBC on March 25th. Although I’m quite nervous about the whole thing, overall, I’m very excited; I think it’s going to be a great opportunity.  Why am I nervous?  Although we all know I love to chat, I think I’m mainly nervous because Alan probably can out chat me; I hope he doesn’t try to spin the interview and suddenly we are 30 minutes in and he’s actually interviewing me!

I’ve been listening to his BBC Radio 4 broadcast “Don’t Log Off” and I am so impressed with how comfortable Alan is when he questions his interviewee.  Moreover, this interviewee is someone who Alan (besides some background research on the interviewee’s Facebook page) is speaking with for the very first time. The interviewee may say the most shocking statement, but Alan stays calm and collected as he proceeds to his next inquiry.  I want to interview like that BUT I know my interview with Alan will not be as seamless and its not fair to myself to set the bar so high.  I am nervous that the interview will not be a smooth, cohesive, comfortable interaction. I need to face the fact that it’s the first time I’m doing anything like this so it is bound to have some, ok fine, A LOT of flaws. However, looking past the flaws, I know I’ll do a decent job, I’m friendly enough (I think), and considering Alan’s choice of career, he probably likes to talk about just as much, if not more, than I do.

I think our radio project interviews for Alun Lewis’ have been great practice for this major oral history interview.  When listening to my interviews with various fish and chip experts I hear myself just jumping to the next question after my interviewee finishes his answer to my previous one.  Hearing myself do this, I cringe; it is painfully awkward to listen to.  I’m chalking it up as a major learning experience.  For my interview with Alan I am going to actively listen and not allow myself to be pinned down by my prepared questions.  I want to be engaged with what he is telling me; I don’t want to be some Channel 4 news anchor robot who can only spit out rehearsed questions.

Ok, so, besides the nerves (and the reasons why I’m so nervous does not end with my previously stated concerns, but I’ll move on) I am mainly excited for this opportunity to interview Alan.  As I said, I’ve been listening to “Don’t Log Off” and if you haven’t listened to it yet I suggest you do so; it is fascinating!  In one episode Alan speaks to an American from the midwest who meets and falls in love with a Russian woman over the Internet.  However, here’s the kicker, he doesn’t speak a lick of Russian, and she doesn’t speak a bit of English.  They use Google translate to communicate. Alan calls the relationship “Lost in Translation” (pun intended). Where I’m at in the series is this man is booking a flight to Russia where he plans to meet this woman, marry her, and bring her back to the U.S.  I spoke to Alan on the phone this week and we chatted about this interesting relationship; according to Alan, he follows up with the man later on in the series. You can find out what happens here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0HGIMK01uCg

Speaking with Alan over the phone calmed my nerves a lot actually.  The American man and Russian woman interview happened in 2012 and Alan was able to recall exact details from it.  I had listened to it only days prior and I had a hard time remembering the specifics.  He knows his stuff and I’m overjoyed that I get this opportunity to interview him, but most importantly, learn from him.

Here’s the link to “Don’t Log Off” definitely check all the episodes out! http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01jxzy9/episodes/guide

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The ‘Death’ of Women-Only Education: Will anyone talk to me? Will too many people want to talk to me?

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Plaque at 48 Bedford Square, London (originally 47).  Photo:  Alex Adams.

Through research for my other Royal Holloway and Bedford New College themed project, I have learned that the women of Bedford College have a lot to say.  That being said, the alumni office has yet to return any of my emails, which makes me a little nervous, but also tells me to find a phone number.  Due to the fact that Bedford alumnae seem to be quite feisty, I think I’m going to narrow my research down to just focus on Bedford as there doesn’t seem to be many people who could speak on behalf of both schools.  I am further interested in Bedford because I feel she is not showcased enough at Royal Holloway and I would like to make her more well-known to today’s generation of students.

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Bedford College Crest in Regent’s Park.  Photo:  Alex Adams.

I would personally like the interview to tell me more about Bedford College:  the history, the student life, what it was like to be in Regent’s Park.  I also want to find out what it was like to go from being the first institution in Britain for the higher education of women to a co-educational college.  I want to understand how the dynamics of learning changed and why it was felt that it was necessary to go co-ed.  Furthermore, I want to create a bigger tie between Bedford College and myself.  When I entered Royal Holloway back in September I understood that I was going to Royal Holloway, University of London.  Now I couldn’t truthfully say that.

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Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, University of London:  The official name of RHUL.  Photo:  Alex Adams.

As the interview is hypothetically supposed to be for a ‘public history audience’, I would like it to increase others’ knowledge of Bedford and the idea of women’s only education being opened up to men.  I’m hoping the interview will provide a brief history on Bedford, how Bedford was different from Royal Holloway, and how Bedford changed when she went co-ed.

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Queen Mary at the opening of the Tuke Building, Regent’s Park, 1931.  Source:  Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, University of London Archives.

My biggest concern right now is that I won’t be able to find anyone to interview, or too many people will come forward and I will have to turn them away.  I would love to turn this into a bigger project, but as I have already submitted a proposal for my dissertation, I’m just not sure that that would be feasible.  I have been in contact with Professor Caroline Barron and she suggested I attend a Bedford College alumnae event on March 21 and just ask for interviewees, which is a possibility.

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The Bedford Centre for the History of Women:  One way Bedford’s legacy is honoured.  Photo:  Alena Knaup.

Overall, I am not too anxious about my concerns and I am sure I will be able to find someone willing to speak with me.  All I need to do is put a little more effort into contacting the right people.


Concerns and Hopes: Interview with a photographer

I will be interviewing photographer Tim Hodges for my oral history project. I am very interested in his diverse careers and look forward to focusing on his work in photography. I would like to focus in particular on his photography work with the Olympic Torch relay, the House of Lords and the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre as well as other unique photographic experiences. Overall, I hope the interview will supply an assortment of interesting stories from his varied careers and provide an insight into the world of government and royal photography. I do have a few concerns for this project. I am concerned with creating good, thought provoking questions, that I have enough material to span the 90 minute interview and that the interviewee and myself are able to create a good rapport.