The Witness Project is based at the University of Sheffield’s History Department. Witness was set up in 2011 by two of the department’s historians, Charles West and Andrew Heath, to collect and preserve Sheffield’s past through the medium of oral history. The interviews are carried out by trained history students in their second year who are tasked with recruiting participants from the local community conducting a number of interviews.
Common themes include Sheffield during World War II, local politics, youth culture, the Miners’ Strikes and the impact of deindustrialisation on Sheffield and its community.
The Witness Project is now in its sixth year. Over the years we have collected many hours of valuable oral histories which are readily accessible via our online archive. Our work has uncovered lesser known aspects of Sheffield’s history, as well as some personal thoughts and anecdotes that provide a valuable insight into life in Sheffield in the twentieth century. We have interviews covering everything from the Sheffield Blitz and rationing, to Sheffield’s nightclubs!
During 2013 – 2014 the Witness Project collaborated with the Walkley Historians. Walkley Historians is a community history group researching the history of the Sheffield suburb of Walkley. Our collaboration focused on the work of the Walkley Action Group during the 1970s, and their fight against the planned slum clearance of much of Walkley. This community activist group was one of the first of its kind in Britain. As part of our collaboration, the archival material of the Walkley Action Group, and related materials, have been made available on our website. This archive presents a vast range of resources to researchers interested in community activism, urban planning and local politics.
In the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 period Witness has expanded to run a series of workshops on oral history with local Key Stage 3 students, after which they conduct their own oral history interviews on childhood. The project culminates in a visit to the University where the students reflect on modern childhood, using their interviews as source material.