Tag Archives: Common Ground archive

Cataloguing the Common Ground archive: ‘New Milestones’ and ‘Flora Britannica’

Since my last cataloguing update, I’ve been working on two further sections of the Common Ground archive. They relate to the New Milestones project and the Flora Britannica project – two very different, but very interesting projects run by Common Ground in the 1980s and 1990s. Read on to find out more about these projects and the material relating to them in the Common Ground archive.

New Milestones

The New Milestones project was launched by Common Ground in 1986 to explore ‘what places mean to the people who live in them, and…how to express that meaning in an imaginative and accessible way through sculpture’ (‘New Milestones: Sculpture, Community and the Land’, 1988, p. 15). The aim of the project was to support local communities in commissioning a sculpture to celebrate and draw attention to an aspect of their local landscape. The project involved close collaboration between Common Ground, local communities and sculptors to create permanent works of art with significance for present and future inhabitants.

Publications and promotional material for the New Milestones project (EUL MS 416/PRO/3/2/6)

The pilot phase of the project took place in Dorset, where five sculptures were produced by Christine Angus, Andy Goldsworthy, John Maine, Peter Randall-Page, and Simon Thomas between 1985 and 1988. Later, the project was extended to Yorkshire, where a series of sculptures were produced by Alain Ayers and Richard Farrington. The last sculptures commissioned as part of the New Milestones project were produced by Michael Fairfax in Somerset. A conference and exhibition about the New Milestones project was held at the Dorset County Museum in Dorchester between 16 July and 3 September 1988. In addition, a book by Joanna Morland (Project Officer) with an introduction by Sue Clifford and Angela King (Co-Founders and Co-Directors of Common Ground), entitled ‘New Milestones: Sculpture, Community and the Land” was published in 1988.

Material in this section of the archive comprises project administration files, including correspondence with local communities and sculptors; printed material relating to promotion and publicity of the project; and photographic material, including photographs of the sculptors at work. You can find the full catalogue description for the New Milestones section here or by clicking the image below.

Flora Britannica

Flora Britannica was a project launched by Richard Mabey with the support of Common Ground, which ran from 1992 to 1996. The project sought to discover the diversity and distribution of plantlife in Britain, as well as to record and explore the historical and contemporary associations and uses of plants, including information about customs, stories, recipes, remedies, and games. It had two aims: to produce a major book concerning the cultural flora of modern Britain, and to start a process of popular interest and activity at the local level, carried out by people all around the country. Invitations for people to share their knowledge of local plants were circulated on television and radio, as well as in newspapers, magazines and local newsletters. Common Ground and Richard Mabey received thousands of responses.

Publications and promotional material for the Flora Britannica project (EUL MS 416/PRO/7)

The major output of this project was Richard Mabey’s encyclopedia of wild plants of the UK, which was entitled ‘Flora Britannica’ and published by Sinclair Stevenson in 1996. Richard Mabey incorporated the information sent in by people from across the country. Other related publications published in the course of this project include two pamphlets entitled ‘Flora Britannica: The Handbook’ (1992) and ‘Local Flora Britannica’ (1995), as well as a Flora Britannica newsletter named ‘Woodbine’. In addition, throughout 1994, 1995 and 1996, Common Ground encouraged people to reinforce and renew their affections for everyday plants through initiatives the charity named ‘local floras’, which included a pilot project in Northamptonshire.

Material in the Flora Britannica section of the archive comprises project administration files; correspondence; papers relating to the pilot project in Northamptonshire; papers relating to publications and promotional material; and press clippings and publicity material. You can find the full catalogue description for the Flora Britannica section here or by clicking the image below.

A particular highlight of the archive material relating to the Flora Britannica project are the thousands of letters about local flora from people around the country. These letters contain fascinating details about biodiversity and the cultural connotations of plants, and the correspondents often enclosed related material, such as photographs or pressed flowers. Common Ground originally organised this correspondence alphabetically within office transfer spring files, which were stored vertically. This is not suitable storage for these papers, so for preservation purposes, these files have now been repackaged into 66 acid-free folders within 10 boxes, and all rusty fastening have been removed. In doing so, I hope this valuable resource will be available for people to consult in years to come. You can see the repackaging process in the photographs below.

Photographs showing the repackaging process of correspondence in the Flora Britannica section of the archive

The cataloguing of these sections of the archive were completed between November and December 2019, and descriptions of all the files are now available on our online catalogue – do go and have a look! Since January I have been cataloguing material relating to Common Ground’s Orchards project and Field Days project. Pop by again soon for the next update on the cataloguing project!

By Annie Price, Project Archivist

Why not start your exploration of the Common Ground archive via our online archives catalogue today?

You can also find out more about the Common Ground archive cataloguing project by taking a look back at our previous blog posts.

‘Holding Your Ground’: Exploring research resources relating to the environment and the climate emergency in the Common Ground Archive

In response to growing awareness, acknowledgement and concern about the Climate Emergency, the University of Exeter Library is highlighting a variety of resources on this subject. You can find these resources usefully drawn together in the Library’s Climate Emergency: Resources LibGuide. Of course, we in Special Collections are also keen to highlight archival resources relating to the environment in our collections! In particular, we are very lucky to look after the archive of the arts and environmental charity, Common Ground. This archive contains a multitude of records relating to environmental concerns, which may be useful for anyone conducting research in this area, as well as for those simply seeking guidance on caring for the environment.

Boxes and files in the Common Ground archive

Common Ground is an arts and environmental charity, which was founded in 1982 in the UK. The charity has pioneered many innovative projects designed to excite and inspire people to become more engaged in looking after their local environment. For almost 40 years, Common Ground’s projects have been raising awareness of environmental concerns through arts and culture, in particular, through the commissioning of artistic works; the organisation of exhibitions, events and conferences; the launching of new calendar customs; and the publication of books, pamphlets, newsletters, leaflets and postcards. Projects launched by Common Ground have related to a variety of aspects of the natural environment, including trees, rivers, fields, orchards, and flora. Particular projects that have had a significant impact on the cultural geography of the UK include the Campaign for Local Distinctiveness, Parish Maps, and Apple Day.

A small selection of Common Ground publications, including books, pamphlets and leaflets

The Common Ground archive consists of a wide range of material created and collected by the charity in the course of its activities between 1982 and 2013. It includes correspondence, project planning papers, financial papers, publications, promotional material, press clippings, research material, photographs, and audio recordings. It also includes lots of material relating to a range of environmental issues.

For each of its projects, Common Ground published a range of books, pamphlets, leaflets and other promotional material. Produced through careful research by the team at Common Ground, these publications provide information on environmental concerns and ideas for actions that could be taken. One of Common Ground’s earliest publications was ‘Holding Your Ground: An Action Guide to Local Conservation’ (1985), which provides information on how to care for your locality, reasons why local conservation is important, case studies of local initiatives, and advice on who to contact for help and support. Particularly interesting are also posters created by Common Ground, which were first published as full-page advertisements in a national newspaper and were then available for people to purchase in colour. One example is the poster pictured below, entitled ‘Mayday! Mayday! Nature’s Call for Help’, which was published on 02 May 1988 in ‘The Independent’ newspaper.

EUL MS 416/PRO/9/2/2 – Two copies of Common Ground’s ‘Mayday! Mayday! Nature’s Call for Help’ poster

In the 1990s, Common Ground also conducted several crowd-sourcing projects to collect data. One such project was Flora Britannica. An invitation for people to send in their personal knowledge of local plants was circulated by national and local media, and Common Ground received responses from thousands of people all around Britain, which were then used by Richard Mabey to write the book ‘Flora Britannica’ (1996). As part of Common Ground’s Orchards project, a call was put out to orchard owners to record ‘Orchard Observances’ in the form of a diary from October 1995 to November 1996. The letters and diaries received by Common Ground in response to these projects provide fascinating insight into biodiversity in Britain. This data has the potential to now be used to study the changes in biodiversity and the impact of human activity on the environment since the 1990s.

EUL MS 416/PRO/7 – Material relating to the ‘Flora Britannica’ project

Finally, the archive also includes a large number of press clippings, reports, strategies, action plans and publications on a wide variety of issues, including deforestation, flooding, land development, water pollution, pesticides, droughts, natural disasters, global warming and climate change. This material was collected and used by Common Ground from 1980s to 2010s for research purposes and informed many of their projects and campaigns. This material may be of particular interest to anyone studying climate change and how governments and environmental organisations in the past 40 years have responded to it.

A small selection of research material in the Common Ground archive

We hope you have enjoyed reading this blog post about climate resources in the Common Ground archive. If you have a particular interest and would like to know whether there is any relevant material in the Common Ground archive, you can browse our online catalogue (please note that the archive is currently undergoing cataloguing) or send us an email at libspc@exeter.ac.uk. We look forward to hearing from you!

 

By Annie Price, Project Archivist

Why not start your exploration of the Common Ground archive via our online archives catalogue today?

You can also find out more about the Common Ground archive cataloguing project by taking a look back at our previous blog posts.

Cataloguing the Common Ground archive: ‘The Campaign for Local Distinctiveness’ and ‘Gardening, Landscape Design and Local Distinctiveness’

Between 1982 and 2013, the arts and environmental charity Common Ground pioneered many innovative projects that combined environmental issues with cultural activities to inspire people to become more engaged in looking after their local environment. A common thread running throughout all of these projects was the concept of ‘Local Distinctiveness’, a term coined and developed by Common Ground from as early as 1985. The term was used by Common Ground ‘to explore the relationship between people and everyday places, and the bonds between nature, identity and place’ (Local Distinctiveness: Place, Particularity and Identity (1993), p. 7).

EUL MS 416/PRO/9/2 – Printed material produced by Common Ground for the ‘Campaign for Local Distinctiveness’ project

The Campaign for Local Distinctiveness was officially launched by Common Ground in 1990. In the course of the project, Common Ground researched and collected material relating to different aspects and examples of Local Distinctiveness around the UK. In addition, Common Ground collaborated with local authorities and organisations to promote Local Distinctiveness as a basis for new local initiatives, policies and strategies. Common Ground also produced popular posters advocating for Local Distinctiveness, which first appeared as full-page adverts in ‘The Independent’ newspaper. A conference on Local Distinctiveness held by Common Ground on 28 September 1993 resulted in the publication of a collection of essays in a volume entitled Local Distinctiveness: Place, Particularity and Identity (Common Ground, 1993).

The Campaign for Local Distinctiveness also spawned several sub-projects such as the Geology and Local Distinctiveness project, the ABC: Learning to Read Your Locality project, the Gardening, Landscape Design and Local Distinctiveness project, and the England in Particular project. Material relating to the Geology and the ABC project can be found within the Campaign for Local Distinctiveness section of the archive, whilst the Gardening and England in Particular projects each have their own sections. Common Ground kept these files separate from the Campaign for Local Distinctiveness files, and the arrangement of the archive reflects this.

Files in the ‘Campaign for Local Distinctiveness’ section of the Common Ground archive

Material in the Campaign for Local Distinctiveness section of the archive includes:

  • correspondence and project planning papers;
  • printed material, including pamphlets, leaflets and posters;
  • material relating to the ABC: Learning to Read Your Locality project;
  • papers relating to conferences;
  • papers relating to local authorities and Local Distinctiveness;
  • material relating to geology and sculptures based on Local Distinctiveness;
  • press clippings and publicity material;
  • research material;
  • and photographic material.

The Common Ground archive contains a large collection of photographic material, which mostly consists of 35mm mounted colour slide transparencies in slide storage sheets. This collection includes slides capturing images of examples of Local Distinctiveness around the UK, which Common Ground mainly organised alphabetically by county. Two student volunteers, Cecily and Rebecca, are currently cataloguing the slides relating to Local Distinctiveness to make these images more searchable and accessible. We are very grateful for their hard work and want to say a big thank you to them both!

The highlights of this section for me were the colourful posters produced by Common Ground, which provide really helpful advice on how we can help look after our local environment, as well as the material relating to the ABC: Learning to Read Your Locality project. The aim of the ABC project was to encourage people to engage more with their local area by creating an alphabet of Local Distinctiveness specific to their place. These alphabets could, for example, be used to promote or celebrate place, as a campaigning tool, or as a way to raise funds for the local area. The archive includes several alphabets that were sent to Common Ground, which include some really charming examples created by children!

EUL MS 416/PRO/9/2/2 – Two copies of Common Ground’s ‘Mayday! Mayday! Nature’s Call for Help’ poster, which was first produced as a full-page advertisement in the ‘Independent’ newspaper (02 May 1988) and then sold by Common Ground in colour

You can find the full catalogue description of The Campaign for Local Distinctiveness section here or by clicking the image below.

The Gardening, Landscape Design and Local Distinctiveness project grew out of Common Ground’s Campaign for Local Distinctiveness, and ran for approximately five years between 1992 and 1997. The aim was to promote a style of gardening that was sensitive to the distinctive qualities of the given place, for example its soil type, native species, local architecture, and history. In 1995, Common Ground published a pamphlet entitled ‘The Art of Gentle Gardening: Thoughts on Linking Plants, People and Places’. This is the smallest section of the archive, comprising only nine files.

The pamphlet ‘The Art of Gentle Gardening’ and files in the ‘Gardening, Landscape Design and Local Distinctiveness’ section of the Common Ground archive

Material in the Gardening, Landscape Design and Local Distinctiveness section of the archive includes:

  • correspondence;
  • reports;
  • papers relating to the publication of ‘The Art of Gentle Gardening: Thoughts on Linking Plants, People and Places’ pamphlet;
  • papers relating to talks and conferences;
  • press releases, press clippings and papers relating to publicity;
  • and research material and notes.

My personal highlight in this section is the original artwork by Stephen Turner for ‘The Art of Gentle Gardening’, which includes some lovely chalk and charcoal drawings in pastel colours.

You can find the full catalogue description of the Gardening, Landscape Design and Local Distinctiveness section here or by clicking the image below.

The cataloguing of these sections of the archive were completed in September, and descriptions of all the files are now available on our online catalogue – do go and have a look! The next section of the archive on my list to catalogue is material relating to the New Milestones project. Pop by again soon for the next update on the cataloguing project!

By Annie Price, Project Archivist

Why not start your exploration of the Common Ground archive via our online archives catalogue today?

You can also find out more about the Common Ground archive cataloguing project by taking a look back at our previous blog posts.

Cataloguing the Common Ground archive: ‘Confluence’ and ‘Rhynes, Rivers and Running Brooks’

The cataloguing of the Common Ground archive has had a very watery theme over the past two months… But, fear not! I take my responsibilities of preserving the archive seriously and no water has touched the material. Rather, the sections of the archive I’ve recently completed cataloguing concern two projects by Common Ground that relate to rivers and water: the Confluence project and the Rhynes, Rivers and Running Brooks project.

Rhynes, Rivers and Running Brooks

From the 1990s to the 2000s, the arts and envrionmental charity, Common Ground, conducted research and activity relating to rivers for its Rhynes, Rivers and and Running Brooks project. The project aimed to encourage people to value running water in their localities and get involved in its conservation through events and publications. As part of this programme of work, Common Ground also aspired to launch a ‘Thames Ballad’ project to help people in London create an epic poem about the relationship between people and water in the city. However, this project never came to fruition. Much of the research for the ‘Thames Ballad’ project later fed into the Confluence project.

Publications and promotional material for the Rhynes, Rivers and Running Brooks project [EUL MS 416/PRO/12/3/7-8]

Material in the Rhynes, Rivers and Running Brooks section of the archive (reference number: EUL MS 416/PRO/12) includes:

  • general project administration papers;
  • papers relating to the ‘Thames Ballad’ project, including project proposals, planning documents, correspondence, press releases, and notes;
  • papers relating to publications;
  • papers relating to poetry competitions;
  • and research material relating to rivers and water.

Archive files in the Rhynes, Rivers and Running Brooks section

You can find the full catalogue description for the Rhynes, Rivers and Running Brooks section here or by clicking the image below.

Confluence

Confluence was a three-year project which grew out of the Rhynes, Rivers and Running Brooks project and took place from 1998 to 2001. Common Ground aspired to enable, develop and encourage the creation of new music for the River Stour by delivering a series of participatory music workshops, courses, concerts and events involving people living in the River Stour catchment area, from the river’s source in Wiltshire, through Somerset and Dorset, and into the English Channel at Christchurch. The purpose was to draw people together to share local knowledge, and explore and express their emotional connection to the Stour through music. Helen Porter, the Music Animateur, was active in bringing people together to sing, write and perform, and Karen Wimhurst, the Composer-in-Residence, composed a range of original new works for the project.

Confluence event posters, flyers, programmes and postcards [EUL MS 416/PRO/13/5/6]

Material in the Confluence section of the archive (EUL MS 416/PRO/13) includes:

  • project planning papers, including proposals, timetables, meeting minutes, reports, and notes;
  • papers relating to funding, including the complete funding bid to Arts for Everyone (A4E);
  • papers relating to particular projects, workshops and events; sheet music and lyrics for music composed and performed during the project;
  • feedback on the project from participants and audience members;
  • photographic material, including prints, negatives and slides;
  • CD recordings of original music composed for Confluence;
  • press clippings; promotional material;
  • and research material.

Archive files in the Confluence section

You can find the full catalogue description for the Confluence section here or by clicking the image below.

Although Confluence was a sub-project of the Rhynes, Rivers and Running Brooks project, Common Ground kept these files separate from each other, and the arrangement of the archive reflects this. However, there is some overlap between these two archive sections, so it is advisable to look at the catalogue entries for both sections when researching work by Common Ground on water and rivers. The Confluence project, in particular, has excellent potential for research as a case study of an arts project involving the local community, especially in regards to impact.

In July and August, I was very lucky to have the assistance of a volunteer, Charlotte, who catalogued and repackaged photographic material relating to Confluence (mainly prints, but also including some negatives and slides). Charlotte created 184 new file descriptions on our catalogue and repackaged the photographs into acid-free envelopes. I would like to say a huge thank you to Charlotte for all her hard work!

The next two sections of the Common Ground archive that I’ll be cataloguing concern projects relating to ‘Local Distinctiveness’, a term coined by Common Ground in the 1980s to explore the relationship between people and everyday places, and the bonds between nature, identity and place. The two sections are The Campaign for Local Distinctiveness and Gardening, Landscape Design and Local Distinctiveness. I hope to have both sections completed by the end of September, so do pop by again soon for the next update on the cataloguing project!

By Annie Price, Project Archivist

Why not start your exploration of the Common Ground archive via our online archives catalogue today?

You can also find out more about the Common Ground archive cataloguing project by taking a look back at our previous blog posts.

For more information on Common Ground’s river-themed projects, see the Common Ground website.

Cataloguing the Common Ground archive: ‘England in Particular’ and ‘Producing the Goods’

Two months have passed since my last blog post and I’m pleased to report that since then two more sections of the Common Ground archive have been catalogued. Following on from cataloguing the sections of the archive relating to the projects Second Nature, Holding Your Ground and Parish Maps, the next section I was keen to tackle concerned the England in Particular project. There were several reasons for this decision: 1) this section of the archive is very large (therefore best not left to the end!), 2) it is relatively well organised (music to an archivist’s ears!), and 3) it has great research potential (so the sooner it is catalogued, the sooner it can be used!).

The England in Particular project grew out of Common Ground’s Campaign for Local Distinctiveness. ‘Local distinctiveness’ was a concept coined and developed by Common Ground from as early as 1985, and it was used by the charity to explore ‘the relationship between people and everyday places, and the bonds between nature, identity and place’ (S. Clifford and A. King, ‘Local Distinctiveness: Place, Particularity and Identity’ (1993), p. 7). The aim of the England in Particular project was to create an encyclopedia of local distinctiveness and vernacular culture in England that would demonstrate the ‘extraordinary richness of our everyday surroundings; the landscapes, buildings, people and wildlife that give meaning to the places we know’ (S. Clifford and A. King, ‘England in Particular: A celebration of the commonplace, the local, the vernacular and the distinctive’ (2006), p. ix).

EUL MS 416/PRO/14/1/19 – Colour proof for ‘England in Particular’ with annotations (and many sticky notes!)

In 2002, Common Ground received a grant of £80,000 from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) to fund the project. The project was launched with a media release on 17 April 2002, in which Common Ground asked ‘to hear from people about their local stories, details, examples, observations about the particularity of everyday places’ (EUL MS 416/PRO/14/3/1). This local knowledge was collected by Common Ground and, in addition to the charity’s own research, was used to compile the finished book, entitled ‘England in Particular: A celebration of the commonplace, the local, the vernacular and the distinctive’. It was published by Hodder & Stoughton in 2006 and became the largest single publication produced by Common Ground.

EUL MS 416/PRO/14/2/1 – Research material for ‘England in Particular’, arranged alphabetically

As the project required extensive research by the charity, research material constitutes a large proportion of this section of the archive. Common Ground organised most of this material into red lever arch files (see photograph above) and divided it alphabetically into sections by subject within each file – very much like an encyclopedia! Each file is labelled with the first and last subject represented in the file; for example, the very first file in this series is labelled ‘Abbeys to Agricultural Shows’ and the last (the 102nd file!) is labelled ‘Windsor Chair to Zoos’. To make this research material more searchable, I have listed all the subjects represented in each file in the file descriptions. You can find these descriptions in our online catalogue here. Not only will this help researchers to quickly locate material on specific subjects, but it will also enable the identification of subjects that Common Ground researched but did not include in the book.

The England in Particular section of the archive also includes book proposals, book proofs, planning documents, correspondence, briefs for illustrators, press clippings, and promotional postcards and posters. These papers provide considerable insight into the publication process, including the sourcing of artwork, as well as the publicising of the project. You can find the full catalogue description for the England in Particular section here or by clicking the image below.

The description and repackaging of material relating to England in Particular was time consuming and the research material in particular took several weeks to catalogue. Although I enjoy cataloguing, performing the same task for prolonged periods of time can become monotonous, so halfway through the process I decided to take a short break from England in Particular (one of the largest sections of the archive) and spend a week cataloguing material relating to another of the charity’s projects: Producing the Goods (one of the smallest sections of the archive).

EUL MS 416/PRO/15/1/7 – Copies of Common Ground’s Producing the Goods pamphlets

Common Ground worked on the Producing the Goods project between 2005 and 2007. The aim of the project was to promote local, ethical and sustainable production and consumption of goods, including food and drink, markets and market produce, and souvenirs. The project was supported by Defra’s Environmental Action Fund, and the main output of the project was the publication of three pamphlets: ‘Goods that reflect and sustain locality, nature and culture’, ‘Markets and Market Places’ and ‘Souvenirs in Particular’ (see photograph above). In addition, Common Ground launched a ‘Souvenirs in Particular’ campaign to encourage the production of locally distinctive and locally manufactured souvenirs.

EUL MS 416/PRO/15/2 – Research material in the Producing the Goods section of the archive

This section of the archive comprises drafts of the pamphlets, press releases, planning documents, correspondence, reports, press clippings, notes, and research material. In addition to these papers, this section of the archive also includes a number of objects! In the 2000s, Common Ground collected several examples of local products and souvenirs, which it kept with its archive (see photograph below). Unfortunately, the box of souvenirs also contained some food items (including three Cornish Fairings biscuits!), which I had to dispose of so as not to attract mould or pests to the archive. However, the packaging has been retained wherever possible, and I made a note of and photographed all food items that were removed from the archive.

EUL MS 416/PRO/15/3 – Examples of local souvenirs and products

You can find the full catalogue description for the Producing the Goods section here or by clicking the image below.

England in Particular and Producing the Goods were the last Common Ground projects completed by the founders and co-directors of the charity, Sue Clifford and Angela King, before they retired and deposited the Common Ground archive with Special Collections at the University of Exeter in 2013. Above all else, the cataloguing of these sections of the archive impressed upon me the sheer scale of the research conducted by Common Ground for its projects, whether big or small. This intensive research enabled Common Ground to construct evidence-based arguments with which to promote local distinctiveness and encourage people to care for their local environment.

The next sections of the Common Ground archive that I’ll be cataloguing concern two water-related projects – Rhynes, Rivers and Running Brooks and Confluence. I hope to have both sections completed by the end of July, so do pop by again soon for the next update on the cataloguing project!

By Annie Price, Project Archivist

 

Why not start your exploration of the Common Ground archive via our online archives catalogue today?

You can also find out more about the Common Ground archive cataloguing project by taking a look back at our previous blog posts.

Cataloguing the Common Ground archive: ‘Parish Maps’

The Parish Maps project is arguably one of the most popular and enduring initiatives of the arts and environmental charity, Common Ground. The project sought to encourage people to look around their local area, identify what is distinctive about it and what they value, and then to chart this on a map of their ‘parish’.

Common Ground used the term ‘parish’ as a way to describe a home place. As the English language has no single specific word for the sense of belonging to a place (such as the German Heimat), Common Ground chose the word ‘parish’ to imply this, due to its connotations with familiarity, belonging and localness. This allowed parish map makers more freedom and fluidity in interpreting what part of their local area they considered to be their ‘parish’; they could create a map according to administrative boundaries, or adapt the boundaries of their map to their own sense of place, whether that be their street, neighbourhood, village, town, district or region.

EUL MS 416/PRO/5 – Postcards of parish maps in the Common Ground archive

But what exactly is a parish map? According to a Common Ground pamphlet, printed in 1996:

‘A parish map demonstrates what people claim as their own locality and what they value in it – wild life, history, work, landmarks, buildings, people, festivals. It does not have to be cartographically correct, but by illustrating locally distinctive activities and features, it helps you to focus on the everyday things that make your place significant to you and different from the next…Parish Maps are a starting point for local action, they are demonstrative, subjective statements made by and for a community, exploring and showing what it cares about in its locality…Parish Maps can be made by anyone in any way, of any place’. [EUL MS 416/PRO/5/4/8, Common Ground pamphlet ‘Parish Maps’ (1996), p. 3-5]

EUL MS 416/PRO/5/4/2 – Parish Maps publications in the Common Ground archive, including leaflets, newsletters, pamphlets and books

The idea for the Parish Maps project grew out of Common Ground’s book ‘Holding Your Ground: an action guide to local conservation’, and work began soon after its publication in 1985. Common Ground commissioned eighteen artists to create maps of their home parishes for the exhibition ‘Knowing Your Place: an exhibition of artists’ Parish Maps’, which opened in March 1987 and toured to twelve venues across the UK. In the same year, Common Ground published two pamphlets entitled ‘Parish Maps’ and ‘The Parish Boundary’, as well as a video and information pack produced together with ACRE entitled ‘The Local Jigsaw’.

The Parish Maps project appeared to quickly capture the public’s imagination and inspired the creation of thousands of parish maps by individuals and community groups across the UK. Common Ground offered advice to parish map makers, and information about new parish maps was sent to and enthusiastically collected by Common Ground. In 1996, the charity selected a number of examples of these parish maps to put on display in a national exhibition entitled ‘from place to PLACE: an Exhibition of Peoples’ Parish Maps’. It opened at The Barbican Centre in London, before going on tour to venues across the country. The exhibition led to the publication of a collection of essays entitled ‘from place to PLACE: maps and Parish Maps’ (1996).

The Parish Maps section of the archive has taken several weeks to catalogue because I wanted it to be as accessible as possible. In addition, I was keen to remove the abundance of plastic sleeves in which many of the papers had been kept by the organisation (now replaced with acid-free paper) – a time-consuming but worthwhile task! The files in the archive that were in unsuitable packaging have been placed into folders and boxes. Some files have retained their original housings of ring binders and box files, providing interesting insight into the charity’s approach to recordkeeping.

Parish Maps boxes and files in the Common Ground archive

Common Ground organised their files of collected material relating to the creation of peoples’ parish maps by region. To enable these files to be as searchable as possible, I was keen to identify the names of the places in which parish maps had been made and include these in the file descriptions on the catalogue. Not only will this hopefully allow you to quickly find information on particular parish maps, but it will also enable you to compare and contrast the numbers of parish maps made in different regions of the UK. For example, based on the material collected by Common Ground alone, Devon stands out as the region in which the most parish maps were created! (See the file description below)

As many of the files in the Parish Maps section of the archive include recent correspondence containing personal names and addresses, some restrictions to access apply, in accordance with current data protection legislation. You can contact us at: libspc@exeter.ac.uk for more information.

The files in the Parish Maps section of the archive have been arranged into five series: files of assorted material; files relating to the making of peoples’ parish maps; files relating to exhibitions and events; publications and promotional material; photographs; and publicity material and press clippings. You can click on the image below to take you straight to the catalogue to start exploring!

I have now started cataloguing my next section of the archive: material relating to the creation of Common Ground’s encyclopedia ‘England in Particular: A celebration of the commonplace, the local, the vernacular and the distinctive’. With more than 200 files, this will be a challenge and my largest section so far to catalogue, so do pop by again soon for the next update on the cataloguing project!

By Annie Price, Project Archivist

 

Why not start your exploration of the Common Ground archive via our online archives catalogue today?

You can also find out more about the Common Ground archive cataloguing project by taking a look back at our previous blog posts.

For more information on the Parish Maps project and images of parish maps, see the Common Ground website.

Cataloguing the Common Ground archive: ‘Second Nature’ and ‘Holding Your Ground’

During the first six months of the Common Ground archive cataloguing project, I examined and briefly described the material I found in each file within the archive to create a comprehensive box list. This new box list now provides me with a good overview of the contents of the archive, which – I hope! – will vastly facilitate the cataloguing process. Keen to finally get down to some proper cataloguing, I decided to tackle the archive material relating to two of Common Ground’s early projects: Second Nature and Holding Your Ground.

EUL MS 416/LIB/1 – Books: ‘Second Nature’ (1984) and ‘Holding Your Ground (1987)

The Second Nature project concerned the publication of a collection of essays and artwork. 42 writers and artists were invited by Common Ground to ‘express their feelings about Britain’s dwindling wild life and countryside’ (‘Second Nature’, 1984) and contribute to this anthology through prose, poetry or art. The book was edited by Richard Mabey with Sue Clifford and Angela King – the three founders of Common Ground – and published by Jonathan Cape in 1984. Three public seminars at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) took place in October and November 1984 to discuss the themes explored in the book. The artwork featured in ‘Second Nature’ was exhibited at the Newlyn Orion Gallery in Penzance in 1984, and subsequently travelled to other venues.

EUL MS 416/PRO/1/1/1 – Small cards with names of contributors, presumably used to plan the layout of ‘Second Nature’

One year after ‘Second Nature’ was published, Sue Clifford and Angela King co-authored and published a second book together: ‘Holding Your Ground: an action guide to local conservation’. It was first published by Maurice Temple Smith in 1985, and a revised edition was published by Wildwood House in 1987. The book provides information on how to care for your locality, reasons why local conservation is important, case studies of local initiatives, and advice on who to contact for help and support. The book includes a foreword by David Bellamy, artwork by Tony Foster and Robin Tanner, and photography by Chris Baines, Ian Anderson and Ron Frampton.

EUL MS 416/PRO/2/1/1 – Comb-bound typescript draft of ‘Holding Your Ground’ (1983)

These early projects highlight the two strands of Common Ground’s work which informed the projects that followed; firstly, collaborating with artists and writers to reflect on our relationship with nature, and secondly, encouraging people to take action in looking after their local environment. Using the arts to celebrate local distinctiveness, encourage people to emotionally engage with their surroundings, and consequently interest them in conservation at a local level would become the cornerstone of Common Ground’s work.

EUL MS 416/PRO/2/2/3 – File of research material relating to ‘Parish Initiatives’ for the ‘Holding Your Ground’ project

In addition, many of the relationships Common Ground forged with artists and writers at this very early stage would prove to be long lasting and influential. For example, the artist Andy Goldsworthy, who provided five photographs of his artwork for ‘Second Nature’, completed a residency on Hampstead Heath supported by Common Ground in the winter of 1985-1986, and would go on to work with Common Ground on various other projects, including Trees, Woods and the Green Man, New Milestones, and Rhynes, Rivers and Running Brooks. Other artists and writers who worked with Common Ground again after collaboration on these early projects include: Norman Ackroyd, Conrad Atkinson, John Fowles, David Nash, James Ravilious, and Tony Foster.

EUL MS 416/PRO/1/4 – Files relating to projects with the artist Andy Goldsworthy

Material in the Second Nature section of the archive includes: correspondence with artists and writers; papers concerning the production of the book; papers relating to the seminars held at the ICA; papers concerning the exhibition of artists’ work; and several files of papers relating to Common Ground’s collaboration with artist Andy Goldsworthy, in particular: his residency on Hampstead Heath and exhibitions of his work. The ‘Holding Your Ground’ section of the archive comprises drafts of the book ‘Holding Your Ground’, book reviews, correspondence and research material. All of this material has now been catalogued and descriptions of the files and items are available to browse online via our archives catalogue.

Catalogue entries for ‘Second Nature’ (reference number: EUL MS 416/PRO/1) and ‘Holding Your Ground (reference number: EUL MS 416/PRO/2) on the Special Collections online archives catalogue

Having now completed the cataloguing of two relatively small sections of Common Ground’s project work in the archive, I’m giving myself a slightly bigger challenge to catalogue next: material relating to the Parish Maps project. The Parish Maps project was launched by Common Ground in 1987 to encourage people ‘to share and chart information about their locality as a first step to becoming involved in its care’ (Common Ground leaflet, 2000). The project output included two exhibitions, several publications, and thousands of maps created in various forms by individuals, groups, schools, councils, communities and organisations – so I will certainly have my work cut out!

Thanks for reading – until next time!

By Annie Price, Project Archivist

 

Why not start your exploration of the Common Ground archive via our online archives catalogue today?

Click here to browse the section ‘Second Nature’ via the online archives catalogue.

Click here to browse the section ‘Holding Your Ground’ via the online archives catalogue.

You can also find out more about the Common Ground archive cataloguing project by taking a look back at our previous blog posts.

Tracing the ‘roots’ of Tree Dressing Day in the Common Ground archive

In December 1990, the arts and environmental charity Common Ground introduced a new annual custom which it called ‘Tree Dressing Day’. ‘Tree Dressing Day’ was envisioned by Common Ground as a day for people to decorate and celebrate trees in their local area. It was to be held on the first weekend of December of each year, neatly coinciding with the already existing National Tree Week. As the first weekend of December 2018 approaches, I delve into the Common Ground archive to find out how it all began…

Promotional material in the archive relating to ‘Tree Dressing Day’

Common Ground started work on its Trees, Woods and the Green Man project in 1986. In a leaflet preserved in the archive, the charity explains the meaning and purpose behind the project:

‘They [trees] have been our friends through the ages and they have helped us make sense of the world. They are important economically, socially and ecologically and they are deeply part of many cultures. They need our help now, not just in the tropical forests, but here in the street and down the lane…Common Ground’s work around Trees, Woods and the Green Man is trying to give information and ideas to help you to look at the trees around you and think of ways to involve yourself and others in celebrating and caring for them. Make every tree a wanted tree.’ (Reference: EUL MS 416/PRO/4, File 2.1)

The project resulted in a variety of activities and events, including publications, exhibitions, and artistic commissions. It was also from the Trees, Woods and the Green Man project that the new calendar custom ‘Tree Dressing Day’ emerged.

‘Tree Dressing Day’ files in the Common Ground archive

Early research by Common Ground into the custom of dressing trees revealed that it had existed for centuries in many different forms all around the world. This inspired the charity to launch its own ‘Tree Dressing Day’, providing advice and encouraging people to decorate trees in their neighbourhoods. The first ‘Tree Dressing Day’ was celebrated in 1990, and the custom has proven to be sustainable, with celebrations continuing to the present day. The success of the initiative and Common Ground’s enthusiasm for it are indicated in a report dated February 1993, in which Common Ground writes:

‘There is excitement among us that we may have begun the reinvention of a tradition in which young and old, professional and amateur, all cultures and places city and country can share. And in which the seeds of the social and public celebration of trees…becomes an easy first step to long term shared commitment and care’. (Reference: EUL MS 416/PRO/4, Report on Tree Dressing Day in 1992, File 1.4)

The Common Ground archive contains a significant amount of material relating to ‘Tree Dressing Day’, including correspondence, reports, press releases, photographs, research material, promotional material and press clippings. It even includes some decorations that were used to dress trees! This section of the Common Ground archive will be catalogued in the course of the next two years, making this exciting material much easier to discover and access.

Archivist Annie showing Sue, one of our volunteers, decorations in the Common Ground the archive that were made by the UK Asian Women Conference for ‘Tree Dressing Day’ (c 1992 or 1993)

Find out more about ‘Tree Dressing Day’ on the Common Ground website, which also includes some lovely images.

Why not start your exploration of the Common Ground archive via our online catalogue today? Simply search ‘Common Ground’ or the reference number ‘EUL MS 416’.

You can also find out more about the Common Ground archive cataloguing project by taking a look back at our previous blog posts.

By Annie Price, Project Archivist

Apples and Archives: Getting to the ‘core’ of Apple Day in the Common Ground archive

Warning: may contain puns

Every year on and around the 21 October, apples and orchards are celebrated in the UK as part of a custom known as Apple Day. Indeed, Apple Day has become so firmly entrenched in the British calendar that it could easily be believed to be an ancient tradition. However, Apple Day has only officially been celebrated on 21 October in the UK since 1990, when the arts and environmental charity, Common Ground, initiated its very first ‘fruitful’ – in all senses of the word – celebration of apples in the Plaza of Covent Garden in London.

The Common Ground archive, which has been in the care of Special Collections at the University of Exeter since 2013, contains a significant amount of material created and collected by Common Ground throughout the course of the Apple Day project. The richness of this material offers a tantalising opportunity to delve into the archive and explore the history behind the ‘fruits’ of Common Ground’s labour – and as I am currently in the process of surveying the archive before the cataloguing begins, that is exactly what I did.

Author’s own photograph of apple varieties on display, taken at Killerton Apple Festival in Exeter, 2018

In 1987, Sue Clifford and Angela King at Common Ground became aware of the sharp decline in traditional orchards in the British Isles since the 1950s whilst conducting research for the Trees, Woods and the Green Man project. They recognised that this decline not only had an ecological impact on the British landscape, but also signified a loss of associated cultural practices. Not only would we lose regional fruit varieties, local distinctiveness, and richness of wildlife, but knowledge of recipes, stories, songs, and skills such as planting, grafting and pruning would also diminish. To raise awareness of this issue, the charity launched its Save Our Orchards and Community Orchards campaigns, which sought to encourage and ‘a-peel’ to people to protect traditional orchards, as well as create new community orchards.

Realising it was ‘crunch’ time for orchards, in 1990, Common Ground introduced a new initiative to further protect and promote the ecological and cultural importance of orchards – a calendar custom which it named Apple Day. The charity hoped that demonstration and celebration of the apple – with its thousands of varieties, and rich history and symbolism – could raise awareness of the orchards in danger of being lost, as well as inspire real positive change in the way that people source food and engage with their local environment. The first Apple Day celebration was organised by Common Ground with forty stalls in Covent Garden in 1990.

Apple Day promotional material and apple-related publications produced by Common Ground in the archive

Common Ground initiates and manages projects that inspire people to care for and forge meaningful connections with their local environment through the arts, and which – perhaps most importantly – are sustainable. In this vein, having piloted Apple Day in London with great success in 1990, in the following year the charity encouraged people nationwide to organise their own apple-related events on and around 21 October. The initiative soon ‘bore fruit’ and Common Ground took on an advisory and promotional role towards Apple Day, supporting the increasing number of local organisers in coordinating their own events. This continued until 2010 – the 21st Apple Day and year the custom officially ‘came of age’ – at which point Common Ground considered the day to have so firmly ‘taken root’ in the British calendar that it was capable of continuing without extra support from the charity. In addition to supporting local organisers, Common Ground published several books relating to apples, including: ‘The Apple Source Book’ (1991, 2007) and ‘Apple Games and Customs’ (1994) in the course of the project.

Apple Day events have been organised across the length and breadth of the country by villages, community groups, councils, historic houses, museums, arts centres, pubs, restaurants, agricultural colleges, hospitals, schools, wildlife trusts, tree nurseries, markets, farms, and commercial and community orchards – phew! – and from its inception has risen from one to hundreds of events nationwide every year. An Apple Day event can incorporate all kinds of different activities, such as displays, identification, and pressing of local varieties of apple; sampling and sale of orchard produce; tours of and talks about orchards; as well as music, crafts and games, including wassailing, apple bobbing, and the longest apple peel competition.

The Apple Day material in the archive is currently organised into clearly labelled folders

The recent survey I conducted of material in the archive relating to Apple Day provided me with a good overview of the contents and order of this section. The material in this section of the archive is generally well-organised (always ‘apple-easing’ sight for an archivist!) into files arranged by year and record type, and comprises correspondence, newsletters, promotional material, photographs, press clippings, reports, research material, and notes. The papers that I personally found most interesting were those sent between Common Ground and Apple Day organisers between 1991 and 2010, which include letters, event information forms, and feedback forms. When studied together, these papers provide fascinating insight into the development, success, and geographic distribution of Apple Day events across the British Isles. Other items that I found particularly delightful were examples of crafts made at Apple Day events, which include an apple crown made by schoolchildren and a felt finger puppet in the shape of an apple.

An apple finger puppet found in the Common Ground archive

Exploring the history of Apple Day in the Common Ground archive has been ‘apple-easure’, and I’m already looking forward to cataloguing this section and making it more accessible for researchers via our online catalogue.

In the meantime, I hope you have a very happy Apple Day this year and every year – may it continue ‘apple-y’ ever after!

By Annie Price, Project Archivist

 

Why not start your exploration of the Common Ground archive via our online catalogue today? Simply search ‘Common Ground’ or the reference number ‘EUL MS 416’.

You can also find out more about Common Ground and the archive in our first blog post about the cataloguing project: ‘Introducing the Common Ground archive’.

Introducing the Common Ground Archive

An exciting new season of cataloguing is underway here at the University of Exeter Special Collections! Three archival collections are now in the preliminary stages of being catalogued as part of the ‘21st Century Library Project’, due to be completed by July 2020. These include the Middle East Collections, the Northcott Theatre Archive, and the Common Ground Archive. In this blog post, the Common Ground Archive cataloguing project is introduced by project archivist, Annie Price.

Promotional material in the archive relating to Common Ground projects

Having fondly waved goodbye to the Syon Abbey archive (now neatly organised into boxes and described in the online catalogue), in August I embarked on a new cataloguing project: to catalogue the archive of Common Ground, an arts and environmental charity (reference number EUL MS 416).

Common Ground is an arts and environmental charity that was founded in 1982 with a mission to encourage people to emotionally engage with their local environment through the arts. For over three decades, Common Ground has been collaborating with local communities, artists, writers and composers to celebrate the ordinary – and not just the extraordinary – in our localities and, in doing so, encourage conservation at a grassroots level. Projects initiated and developed by Common Ground, and which have had a considerable impact on the cultural geography of Britain, include: the Parish Maps project, the Campaign for Local Distinctiveness, and Apple Day. The output from the many projects has included artistic commissions, performances, exhibitions, conferences, and publications.

Common Ground publications in the archive

One of the aspects I most enjoy about being an archivist is the opportunity to learn something new and develop expertise in the most unexpected areas. Every archive offers new knowledge as well as new challenges, and I knew the Common Ground archive would be no exception. Over the past month I have been conducting a survey of the archive to gain an understanding of how it was used and organised by Common Ground, and to identify any potential issues. The archive comprises a range of material, from correspondence, notes, financial papers, reports, press clippings, and research material, to photographs, audio recordings, sheet music, publications, and promotional material (which even includes t-shirts and tote bags!). The archive also contains some different types of media such as cassette tapes, CD-ROMs, VHS tapes, and floppy disks. Dealing with these different formats and making them accessible for use now and in the future will be a new and very different kind of challenge to those I faced on my last project, but one that I am looking forward to tackling.

Box files in the Common Ground archive

The Common Ground archive has rich potential for interdisciplinary research on geography, literature, visual arts, sustainability, sense of place, the relationship between nature and culture, and the British landscape and culture. Although the archive is already roughly organised according to the various projects, over the next two years, considerable sorting, repackaging, and basic preservation will be required to ensure the records are in the best condition possible for long-term access. In addition, the archive will be described at least down to file level, and will be searchable via our online archive catalogue. And as with my last project, I look forward to sharing highlights from the archive and keeping you updated on my progress via this blog and our Twitter account.

I hope you’ll join me again soon!

By Annie Price, Project Archivist