Milton Keynes, fifty miles north of London, is the United Kingdom's fastest growing new town. Change has been a way of life for more than 30 years. A rural population has watched its old landmarks disappear. Newcomers have left their family and friendship support networks behind as they have moved to brand-new housing estates.
How do you help the old-time residents retain pride in their lives and histories that seem to be being destroyed in the name of progress? How do you give the new arrivals the experience of coming into a place which has a past as well as a future? These were the challenges which led to the establishment of the Living Archive. It is a creative cultural and community development organisation whose Documentary Arts work is inspired by people's memories. It has developed its activities over the last 25 years and was formally established in 1984.
Using local lives and events as their starting point, 11 large-scale musical documentary plays, 20 books of local reminiscence, photographic and other exhibitions, CD-ROM's, radio and video documentaries, sculpture events and community textile projects have been produced. Local people of all ages and backgrounds have been actively involved in all stages of this work- in interviewing and other research, in writing, performing, creating songs and music, sewing textiles, making costumes and stage props, organising exhibitions and editing books.
As a result of researching different Documentary Arts projects over more than 20 years we have built up a considerable archive of primary source materials. There are more than 800 hours of taped reminiscence, the memories stretching back to before the turn of the century; slides, photographs, letters, diaries, newspaper articles and many other documents.