Copies of Village Voices are available from Mrs Pauline Symonds on 969 7033
The end of a fascinating journey: authors & editors, Mary Chapman, Judy Baldwin, Annabella Marks & Lesley Green
The Village Voices book is an absorbing collection of personal oral memories and photographs of the riverside communities of Sonning and Sonning Eye contains over eighty recordings and around one hundred and fifty photographs.
Life in the countryside, on farms and in businesses, in the cottages as well as in the 'big houses' with their cooks, chauffeurs, housemaids and gardeners is evocatively portrayed. Moving and often humorous, these reminiscences vividly convey the villages' strong sense of community where everyone knew each other and looked after each other.
The exhibition featured the oral recordings, with slide shows of photographs, and many exhibits from the period.
In 2009 The Sonning and Sonning Eye Society held an exhibition of oral history called Village Voices which moved on to the Museum of English Rural Life [MERL] in Reading for some months in 2010.
The team ably led by Mary Chapman included Judy Baldwin, Lesley Green, Annabella Marks and Jean Milbourn, made seventy oral recordings of people in the communities who generously shared their memories, and then selected extracts from these to cover ten themes : Homes, Businesses, Rural Life, Schools, Community, Events, Wartime, The Fire Brigade, The Mill and The River. These themes were accompanied by photographs and artifacts.
Jeremy Gilmore gave invaluable technical support and Olivia Baldwin kindly produced a DVD.
Oral history in the making: David Woodward talking in 2006 about growing up in Eye (Photograph: Brian O’Callaghan)
Since Bridge Issue 11, we have started our recordings, which are already revealing masses of fascinating information about Sonning and Sonning Eye. Did you know, for instance, that Helena Rubinstein had a home here once, or that another family arrived in a cattle truck to start their life here? People, too, have said they have enjoyed sharing their memories with us. We have been offered some extremely important papers relating to the history of the village and the Sonning Working Mens Club has lent us a book of photos - did men really wear their hair that long in the 60’s?
David Woodward has generously agreed to help us with the mammoth task of saving and archiving the recordings. So we are now ‘en route’! Over the next six months we aim to complete and edit our recordings as well as applying for funding to put on the exhibition in 2009. We hope eventually to set up ongoing recordings of people’s memories. We are fortunate to have a beautiful village with a wealth of history that is worth recording for generations to come.