History began to appear on British TV screens in the 1960s, but has really taken off in the past two decades in the guise of various historical dramas, reality shows and celebrity or presenter-led documentaries. As a result, oral history in particular has developed a place for itself in mass-consumed television; but there have been big changes in how oral history is used within these programs. I am curious about the various ways in which oral history has been incorporated into popular mainstream television culture today.
I intend to track the development of oral history on television, highlighting instances where moving towards the visual medium has benefitted the presentation of oral history, and in turn, where it has provided more of a challenge. I also will look at how video recording can affect the interview and how that affects the whole process. Although it presents its own concerns and considerations, I believe that visual oral history can solve some of problems associated with the communication of traditional history – such as the issue of authenticity – on television in general.
As we head into the next stage of the Oral History course, we have been looking at some of the challenges that oral historians (and interviewees) may face in interviews. My biggest hope for my own interview is that I can gain an insight into the experience of migration abroad and of life in London from the 60’s onwards. I want to learn about how the political troubles and IRA terror campaign may have affected life here and their interaction with people around them. I also hope to learn about the experience of long-term emigration on family relationships and self-identity. I do have concerns that the political situation might not have affected the person’s everyday life as much as I have imagined. Considering this possibility in advance has helped to alleviate my worries: I hope that I can let the person tell their story, allowing for significant topics or aspects of life here that I might have not thought about to come to the fore.
My other biggest concern relates to questioning. Will I ask the right questions? I worry that I might not phrase them in the best way, closing off particular avenues that might have been very insightful. Lastly, I want to enable an atmosphere and create a rapport that allows us both to really enjoy the process. I hope that I will be able to get over any concerns or nerves and allow the interview to flow easily, picking up on cues and areas of interest that the interviewee would like to speak further about, rather than sticking rigidly to my own set of pre-designed questions.
As an Irish citizen studying here, I am all too aware of the strong Irish presence in London. Over the past few months, I have grown curious about how my experience would have differed if I had moved here a few decades ago, during the Troubles. ‘The Troubles’ refers to the ethno-nationalist conflict that occurred primarily in Northern Ireland from the 1960s until 1998. In this period, the provisional IRA (Irish Republican Army) moved some of the focus of their terrorist campaign on England. London targets were hit by a series of bomb attacks in the 1970s and 1980s. I would like to interview a person who lived here to understand their experience during this time. I am curious about how their British neighbours and co-workers related to them in the midst of the Irish-English tensions and fear. I want to explore the person’s background and arrival to the UK; their experience living in London as an immigrant; their relationships with co-workers and friends; experience of the IRA terrorist campaign, and how that impacted on life in their new city. Although it is considered to have ended in the late 1990s, there have been sporadic attacks in recent years. Therefore, my concerns about interviewing somebody on this topic revolve around the sensitivity of the events. This is particularly important as religious and cultural identity can be incredibly significant for Irish citizens as a result of our complex history. I am hopeful that my upbringing in Ireland can help to add awareness and sensitivity to questioning. The opportunity to interview someone about this time would be an extremely valuable experience.