A Mile in My Shoes, the Empathy Museum
I slipped my feet into a pair of size three trainers and went for a walk; black canvas with white laces, a perfect fit. They could have been mine, but they weren’t. They once belonged to a woman just a year younger than me, just an inch taller, the same colour hair and seemingly the same sized feet – but with a radically different story to tell. She utters “how have I let this happen again?” when she finds herself in an abusive relationship, after having been made homeless with her baby a few years previous – I want to tell her to stop blaming herself…
Here are just a few of the responses received after the More Than Oliver Twist Networking Event. And with plenty more jubilant and praising testimonials received, I cannot help but feel the event was a roaring success. Hosted by Nottingham Trent University, the day brought together volunteers, regional mentors and staff members from all six of our participating regional sites for the first time. The overwhelming sense of being part of a bigger project was what many came away with – volunteers from all corners of the country mingled with like-minded individuals involved in the project, sharing their initial discoveries, snags and successes.
Entering its first stage of research, the "More Than Oliver Twist" Arts Council England funded project is off to a start. With Regional Mentors equipped with knowledge and resources, sites are planning and hosting their own Skills Sessions over the months of August and September, training and tutoring Research Volunteers to tackle the task at hand. The feedback so far has been one of enthusiasm and excitement as volunteers get ‘hooked’ on family history research.
Inspired by the desire to create a platform where workhouse sites could learn, support and engage with one another, the Workhouse Network is now launching its pilot project “More Than Oliver Twist” – an Arts Council England funded Subject Specialist Network project that works to place the resonant histories of workhouses and welfare into the political context of today.