Oral historians

Howkins, Alun (15 of 17).  Oral History of Oral History

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  • Recording date

    2008-03-03, 2009-04-21, 2009-06-11, 2009-07-30, 2009-10-08, 2009-10-29, 2009-12-10, 2010-04-22, 2010-11-17, 2011-08-15

  • Interviewees

    Howkins, Alun, 1947- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Wilkinson, Robert (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 15: [Session twelve 17 November 2010] Move to Norfolk and reasons why. Does not visit Bicester except the Designer Village once which is on the site of where he played when a child. Talks about Oxford.  Mentions A G MacDonalds England, Their England. He ends up in a pub called the Crooked Billet between Bicester and Aylesbury. He meets a man who was a drummer boy at Waterloo. Reflects upon his own boyhood contacts and experiences. A last generation before massive changes in rural life. Recently talked to a man in the village about horse on the farm. Headington Quarry then and now. It is almost entirely middle class went back 3-4 years ago. Sister, Tina, still goes back. [14:28] Personal life - Lived with Ian Duncan in Carlyle Street, Brighton. Second year at Sussex he met Linda Merricks, married in 1979 and have lived together ever since. Describes where they lived. Linda worked at the University of Surrey as a tutor. Then head of dept in adult education.  In 2003 they moved from Brighton to a village called Kirdford Moved to Norfolk in 2010.  Describes her family, two sons died. Now two sons between then and six grandchildren. Relationships with his son Ben who is now a barrister.  Lindas son and his career in Cambridge. Had a house in France for a while. Talks more about the death of the two sons. [26:20] Radio and television work.  In about 1978 there was a Workshop at Ruskin called In Our Time. Alun talked about the second folksong revival. Met someone called Peter Bailey talking about jazz in Coventry.  Philip Donnellan came up to Alun wanting to make a programme on folk song revival. About a year later he turned up and they made a film called The Other Music in 1981 for BBC Bristol. Describes the detail of the film. Interviewed Ewan McColl, Bert Lloyd. Philip interviewed Alan Lomax in New York. Also Martin Carthy, the Watersons, Peta Webb, John Fitzpatrick and Sue Harris.  Philip hired a room above a pub in Nottingham for a week and they ran a folk club for a week.  Mentions artists who played there, possibly Bert Lloyds last public performance. Alun has a VHS copy.  Appraises Donnellans work. He travelled with John Seymour on a barge from Pin Mill to Lynn and talked to local people. On the trip they discovered Sam Larner, traditional singer at Winterton. He worked with Shrimp Davies on a radio programme in the 1950s. He talks about myths of who was first to do what. There were plenty of people working in the BBC in the 1930s DG Bridson for instance. Alun has a recording done in 1936 of old men talking about their childhood. [36:11] There were precedents before Charles Parker. Radio Ballads are different. Philips documentary called Steam Radio on radio programmes. [38:30] After The Other Music Alun did a lot of television and radio work. In about 1985/6 he had a big input into a Timewatch programme called The Land of Lost Content.  2 part programme about Morris and Ruskin. Worked on a four part series in the 1980s called The Long Weekend made by Barry Gavin. Voice over by Alan Bennett. Has done a lot for Radio 3 programme called Music Matters. In the late 1990s they gave a whole evening on the countryside on BBC Radio 3 at the time of the foot and mouth outbreak.  Alun was on the panel.  June Tabor fronted a band in the studio. [43:16] Nick Patrick from Sussex now works on Making Histories and he did some work for that. In 1998 he did a programme under the Archive Hour on George Ewart Evans. Nick did the research for that. He was born in Suffolk.  He did a four part programme for Radio 4 called The Village about 2002.  Describe putting the programmes together. Had a phone call from BBC Television, Cardiff. Met and agreed some demo work on 18th century animal pictures for instance. Between him and George Monbiot, but Alun got the work called Fruitful Earth. Describes how he wrote the script, the process of filming and content. Likes the idea of working as part of a team.  Good reviews including some contemporaries from Bicester. [57:00] Bits and pieces on ruralism.  Recent programme for Radio 4 with Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen he did some work. Describes working on Blood Sweat and Tractors for BBC4 very successful. Worked on the Victorian Farm and Edwardian Farm series. [59:40] Used to write for the New Statesman in the late 1980s and early 90s. Then everyone got sacked including Boyd Tonkin and Colin Ward. The work taken together was not enough. Fees for radio and television work.  Audience figures. Arrangement with the university. [1:06:10] Describes Philip Donnellan. He stayed in touch with many of his interviewees. Belief in the worth of ordinary people. Joined the Army in a Scottish regiment. He made a programme about Tyneside. He was summoned by Grace Wyndham Goldie who told him that no-one would be able to understand the people in the programme. Talks about Donnellans war experience. CND radicalised him and his partner.  Also his attitude to Ireland and films called The Irishman and Gone for a Soldier. Phone rings.

  • Description

    Life story interview with Alun Howkins, Emeritus Professor of History at University of Sussex and agricultural historian and folklorist.

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