A short story about life in Woolwich has been released as a podcast to launch a project to help rejuvenate the area’s run-down town centre.
In Between Days, by local writer Merrie Joy Williams, is one of seven stories about different English high streets being released by Historic England as part of its High Street Tales series. It explores Woolwich’s history through the eyes of a teenage resident, Karim.
The podcast is funded by Historic England as part of the High Street Heritage Action Zone scheme, which aims to smarten up the town centre and generate new cultural and community activities. In Woolwich, £1.76m is coming from Historic England, with a further £2.04m coming from Greenwich Council.
Williams spoke to local residents in person and online to research the story, as well as drawing on her own experiences of living in the area.
“There were so many things I learnt, but couldn’t share in 3,000 words, including one man who moved here from Italy, and worked in many local hairdressers for over 40 years,” she said. There were heaps of intricate detail about the old market stalls, injured soldiers after the Falklands War, family days out, as children, many moons ago. I could probably write a book of stories now.
“I’ve lived here over twenty years now, but through this commission learnt so much about the rich history of the high street over decades before that; not just through facts, but through the eyes and hearts of those for whom these memories form a part of personal legend.
“I wanted to honour their frankness, and nostalgia for the things that have gone – quaint tea shops, cinemas, department stores, the arsenal itself. But also their hopes for new developments, like Crossrail and the emerging, burgeoning arts scene. It’s almost like Woolwich has lived one entire life, already. Its new one is adolescent – quietly developing each day, though slightly unsure of itself.”
The podcast is part of a cultural programme which aims for “artists to work with local people to help them rediscover and express the pride they have in the places they’re from,” said Historic England’s head of creative programmes, Ellen Harrison.
Greenwich Council’s cabinet member for regeneration, Sarah Merrill, said: “Woolwich has a rich cultural and historic heritage that is waiting to be discovered in Merrie Joy Williams’ short story, inspired by reflections on the high street. Being one of only five locations in London selected to receive Historic England’s High Streets Heritage Action Zone funding is a great privilege and their cultural programme is an opportunity for us to reconnect with our high streets again.”
The High Street Tales series, which also features stories inspired by North Shields and Weston-super-Mare, can be found on podcast providers or on the Historic England website.
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