Oral History project to celebrate memories of Glasgow’s glorious high street heyday


AN exciting oral history project documenting and celebrating shared memories of shopping and working on Glasgow’s high streets during the city’s retail heyday, launches this month. 

The project is supported by £47,990 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund and was devised by local heritage-interest group, Glasgow Story Collective (GSC), with the aim of reviving interest in Glasgow’s high streets and ultimately drawing crowds back to help revive the city’s proud retail quarter.

The Glasgow Story Collective will work with local volunteers to create a unique digital oral history archive of interviews with shoppers, staff and suppliers recorded for posterity. The archive will be maintained online by GSC as an open collection on the group’s website, and their trained volunteers will continue to add more recorded interviews to the collection over time.

GSC will actively seek to recruit local volunteers to work on the project – including jobseekers, young carers and people with disabilities, who are often unable to access a career in the heritage sector. Together with GSC’s heritage experts, they will help to research the rich history of Glasgow’s high street buildings and businesses for the history project.

Caroline Clark, Director for Scotland, The National Lottery Heritage Fund, says: “It is widely reported that high streets across the UK are facing challenging times. Thanks to National Lottery players, this oral history project will shine a light on their place at the heart of the city by reviving memories of Glasgow’s glorious shopping heyday, when shop-owners used imaginative window dressing to entertain and engage shoppers, when people dressed up to visit the shops, and where customer service was second to none.

“The Heritage Fund is proud to support this oral history project, which we hope will remind people of  the real value of thriving high streets, and inspire them to return and spend time there.

“Working alongside vulnerable individuals and marginalised groups, the project’s array of research and heritage experts will teach these volunteers transferable skills, while providing them with access to work experience in the heritage sector, which is often thought of as exclusive and difficult to access for many.”

Jennifer Morrison, Chair of Glasgow Story Collective says:

“This project was inspired by our members, who, just as we emerged from the Covid-19 lockdown, expressed their sadness at the current state of neglect of Glasgow’s high streets and said they wanted to record the experiences of that much more vibrant past.

“Our high streets have suffered further decline during the pandemic, with many businesses closing, and many business owners losing staff and their livelihoods in the process. We hope that by inspiring nostalgia for Glasgow’s glorious past, interest will be revived in the city’s retail quarter, drawing people back to the city centre.

“We recently issued a call out for archive contributions and we now have an abundance of local respondents ready to tell us about their experience as shoppers, store staff or suppliers, with some accounts dating back to the 1930s.

“As for our volunteers, apart from getting an opportunity to learn a range of transferable skills on this project, which will help them to advance their careers and enrich their leisure time, they will get to learn about heritage in an innovative and enjoyable way.”

Once the project is completed, the oral history archive will be made fully available to the public and the global research community on the project website.

Visitors will be able to attend learning events and engage with oral history interviews, film screening days, mobile exhibitions and contributions from a young people’s heritage programme.

Read more about the project here

This project would not be possible without the help of National Lottery funding and players, who raise £30 million for good causes every week.

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