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Fighting for change: recording voices from 50 years of environmental action

Fighting for change: recording voices from 50 years of environmental action

  • Date08 November 2022

Royal Holloway is launching a unique project to create a national archive of interviews with activists involved in protests, policies, and practical action over the last 50 years, to inform citizens about protecting the environment.

Environmental Diagnosis and Management

This UK-wide, three-year oral history of the environmental movement is a pioneering collaboration between long-term environmental activists, academic researchers, National Life Stories at the British Library and other partners. The interviewees will include environmental campaigners, grassroots activists and social entrepreneurs, as well as radical campaigners and pioneers of major environmental groups.

The project will work closely with National Life Stories, the oral history fieldwork charity based at the British Library, to create a publicly accessible archive of high-quality, life story oral history recordings with environmental activists.

The collection will be a valuable resource as it documents the history, aspirations and lived experience of environmental campaigns through the words of those most intimately involved.

There will be many interviewees whose contributions have previously been overlooked, and the interviews will uncover the networks of ideas exchange, methodology and campaigning in the UK environmental movement.

The project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and project outputs will include a freely available book, events and teaching resources to increase public awareness of how people engage with environmental issues across the generations.

Dr Toby Butler, Reader in the Department of Geography at Royal Holloway, said: “We are committed to recording the widest possible range of voices from the long and complex history of the environmental movement. They contributed to a major shift in legislative, social and cultural change over the last 50 years.

“This is an opportunity for those who seek to change the world for the better to learn from the lived experiences of those who fought and worked on these campaigns.”

Chris Church, Project Officer at Royal Holloway and former trustee of Friends of the Earth, said: “Tens of thousands of people have worked over the last five decades to protect and improve their environment. Some have worked to protect their local area, others have engaged with businesses and governments to bring about lasting change. All of them worked for what they believe in, and we will be telling their stories.”

The project will be delivered by a research team combining academic expertise in the study of grassroots movements and oral history with extensive experience in key environmental organisations within the UK.

Mary Stewart, the British Library’s Lead Curator of Oral History and Director of National Life Stories commented: “This is an important partnership for National Life Stories at British Library which will add one hundred in-depth life story interviews to the oral history collection, providing valuable insights into the history of the environmental movement in living memory.

“These interviews will complement our existing holdings on science, earth and climate history, food production and political campaigning - bringing new and contrasting perspectives to the archive. All of this will greatly benefit researchers now and in the future.”

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