The Worcester Book – Life of a city through a year and a day.
Nigel Mee and the Rohan Worcester Team are very proud on their city — not surprising Worcester is a fine Cathedral city – and known as the ‘faithful city’.
They have decided to feature a fascinating story in the Rohan Worcester shop on Broad Street called The Worcester Book that will be part of a large photography project over the next twelve months.
In the words of Michael Hallett and Clive Haynes, the editors of the original Worcester Book published in 2002 … “We follow the life of the city through a year and a day, from September 1st 2001 to September 1st 2002. Our story is told by 32 photographers using around 340 photographs. This is a book by Worcester folk, about Worcester folk and for Worcester folk…”
When Nigel told me that preparations for the new Worcester Book are now well under way, I thought this would be of interest to many Rohanists.
Our cities are great treasure troves. A photographic record taken over a significant period of a year and a day by local people, creates a fantastic record of local history.
Nigel has established three storyboards in the shop that will tell the story of the new Worcester Book (with a working title of WB2) as it is actually happening.
We have an added treat. Nigel managed to catch up with Michael Hallett friend of Rohan Worcester, to learn more about the preparations for the book.
Nigel: I know that Worcester people remember the The Worcester Book, even now a decade after it had been originally published. What gave you the original inspiration to undertake this project?
Mike: Like many things, it just happened. At the time Clive Haynes and I were teaching photography as an evening class at the local tech and it just seemed an opportunity that would enable individuals to do things that would otherwise be way outside of their comfort zone. It was also a little bit outside the box and I guess Clive and I both warmed to that.
Nigel: Was the 2012 edition planned when you completed 2002?
Mike: Absolutely not! The Worcester Book was an end product in itself that needed to be marketed and sold directly to the local community. The economics prevented it from being sold in bookshops though we did recoup the costs that were underwritten by the tech but then life moved on.
Nigel: Local history is obviously very important to you. In your opinion are we doing enough on a local level to record our lives now.
Mike: Today, everybody is recording their daily lives on camera or iPhone and making these stories available on Facebook or YouTube, so the material is there. It is the collection, identification and storage of appropriate material that costs money and is more difficult to establish. Tudor House, a heritage and history centre in the centre of Worcester have shown interest in this project and we are talking about how material for WB2 can be part of their developing collection.
Nigel: I have had a peek at your own website you have completed some impressive work. How did you come to the decision to choose local people to take the photographs for the books. Why not take the photos yourself?
Mike: Being a lone photographer certainly has advantages but using thirty or so varying interpretations of the city gives a richer and diverse view of our community over the next year.
Nigel: As you have already mentioned, you are looking for some thirty or so contributors drawn from the local community for Worcester 2012. How do you go about finding and choosing the contributors?
Mike: Firstly, there is the continuity of using some of the contributors from 2002. But as we are no longer involved with the tech we are able to cast a broader net to find our photographers. Clive is involved with the local camera club and some well established photographers are now part of our team. Additionally, I will be looking for those who would never have this sort of opportunity. I want to add a roughage to the mix to provide a different way of seeing and a different form of telling stories.
Nigel: The development in digital photography over the subsequent 10 years have been huge. Are you looking at the possibility of a digital record as well as video and blog.
Mike: The way we collect our photographs and the way we view them has changed beyond recognition over the past decade. In 2002 we had say 20% digital output and the rest was film. Now we are virtually all digital with both still and the moving image. While WB2 in book form will be all still images, the potential for both still and movie images will be part of any dedicated website we develop. But looking forward, perhaps it won’t be long before the book could be offered as an App. Then we would really be promoting Worcester globally and that would be absolutely amazing! Just imaging discovering Worcester on your iPhone or iPad.
Nigel: When do you hope to publish the 2012 publication?
Mike: Our anticipation is that it will be available as a ‘print on demand’ publication towards the end of October 2012 that will be in good time for that additional Christmas present!
Nigel: How much content do you finally end up with and how do you make the decision what is included in the book?
Mike: At the moment, though things change, my vision is for 120-page, 20x25cm landscape format in full colour. With introductions and similar that will allow for some 50 double spreads allowing for, say, 40 stories. This next year will be particularly notable for Worcester with the opening of the new Library & Heritage Centre, the opening of the Worcester Arena and the new St. Martin’s Quarter shopping area. The ‘faithful city’ will be celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Worcester Festival during the year. Perhaps we will look at the way the University is impacting on the city, or possibly look at the growth of the café-bar.
We will include more social issues that perhaps reflect our society as a whole rather than specifically Worcester. The city then becomes a microcosm of a larger story with content that may be less palatable for some. Lets be clear, we are showing the city as it is rather than producing a PR tool! It won’t necessarily just be the good bits! There will also be generic topics with the weather, music, the river, sport, transport and travel. And so I could go on…
Nigel: Would you be happy to update us from time to time on progress over the next year and a day?
Mike: Of course! It’s all about engaging the community both at the time and in retrospect. What we are doing through the year is as important as the book itself. Hopefully the storyboards will be seen as photographic sketchbooks and you will be able to see, for example, how we reacted to the Olympic Torch visiting our city. And our photographers will be there to record and interpret the event…
Please drop into Rohan Worcester – share your thoughts on the storyboards in the comments below
Nigel Mee Rohan Worcester