Everybody has a story to tell. Unfortunately the majority of men and women fail to share it in their lifetime, suffering a lack of time or imagination perhaps. It’s one thing to talk about a personal story, down the pub say, its another to document it in tangible form, tenantspin’s latest project attempted to bridge this divide. Our space in the Media Lab during the ‘Knowledge Lives Everywhere’ exhibition in FACT, aimed to record stories of local people whilst exhibiting the lives of two very special gentleman; the Howarth Borthers; the underlying inspiration behind the project. The public have been encouraged to come along to workshops and record a memoir of their life. The result being a colourful archive of stories about local people, told by local people, and as always at tenantspin, technology has been central to this process.
A couple of months ago me (Jonathan Turton) Edwin Pink and Laura Yates found ourselves foraging through the possessions of Charlie and Norman Howarth in their nephew’s cosy, semi-detached house in Crosby. The Brothers had passed away a year before leaving a catalogue of items behind in their home on 18 Ludwig Road, Anfield, which their nephews had readily retrieved. We spent hours sifting through the estate which included LFC season tickets dating back to 1907, swimming accolades, love letters dating back to World war Two and a plethora of other personal belongings. Their items were infused with personality seeming to capture moments in time perfectly, and gave a fascinating insight into the lives of the two men.
Charlie and Norman’s home on Ludwig Road was like a time warp. The Howarth family had lived in the house for one hundred years and from the 1950′s/60′s onwards, very little had been done to update the surroundings. The Howarth’s remained loyal to old appliances and fashions, pretty much all of the furniture and fittings were unchanged from that mid century epoch. The brothers found a period in time that they were comfortable with and stayed there in many ways, although it’s important to point out that they were far from reclusive men. To visit the house was like stepping back in time and in our exhibition space we tried to recreate this setting; hanging photographs of the Ludwig Road house (taken by photographer Stephen King), inserting furnishings from the same time period and displaying artefacts recovered from the Howarth abode in an antique cabinet. The brothers refused to throw away even the most arbitrary items; old rent books, train tickets, newspapers. Through their meticulous retention of stuff we got a fascinating look at the era they lived in. However it is an exceptional case. The physical items of ordinary people tend to be discarded or deteriorate over time. Many tales of the past, especially personal stories, have been lost through a simple lack of documentation. However with the capabilities of technology and the internet that needn’t be the case anymore.
In our gallery space, tenantspin invited all interested parties to come to our weekly workshops and share their stories. Through the physical items of the Howarth brothers we have a tangible record of their human experience, however via digital means, the same can be achieved. Through digital archiving it’s possible to leave a legacy of our lives online. Through writing, recording audio, photographs and video we can record a picture of our lives for future generations to see and enjoy, which is exactly what we have done in our workshops. Everybody has a story to tell and you never know who may be interested in it, be it today, tomorrow or twenty years down the line. The space has attracted people of various ages and creeds, and the material we have produced has been diverse, informative and entertaining.
The entwined concepts of time and human experience have encompassed our project. The culturally rich, physical estate of the Howarth’s inspired us to create a similarly captivating archive of tales through technological means. The project has given engaged individuals a creative platform to share their stories and express themselves through art, and represented a starting point in terms of interacting with digital technology. The internet gives the individual an outlet to express him or herself, to whom ever may be interested, and that expression is saved in cyberspace for future generations to see. It’s an inspirational concept and has been central to the success of the project. Coming soon will be a designated area of the tenantspin website where all material produced in the space will be accessible. There will also be a showcase afternoon in The Box (FACT) sometime in late August, where all material produced in the space will be displayed. Knowledge truly does live everywhere.