For much of the 20th century, Islington was an industrial area with numerous and varied trades, workshops and factories located around the borough. While these industries may no longer exist, the people who worked in them do.
“Islington used to be quite an industrial borough but now there’s little trace of that because many of those industrial buildings – from foundries to factories and even the cattlemarket at Caledonia Park – are now residential, or demolished and new blocks of flats have gone up,” says Andrea Sinclair from Age UK Islington who secured a £10,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. “The idea grew from doing the regular reminiscence group for the past six years. We wanted a wayof capturing these interesting stories.”
“Working with our partners, London Met University and Islington Local History Centre our aim was to gather stories about the working roles that used to exist in Islington and no longer do, like the barometer industry and the factories that used to be in Islington. For example, Fred, one of the interviewees used to work in the King’s Cross goods yard and talks about how dirty it was and how very hard and dangerous the work was. That’s now Coal Drops Yard where the new shopping centre is.
“The partnership approach was really good. We had access to all our older clients. The borough archivist, Julie Melrose, has huge experience of working with heritage projects and provided training in how to use the archive and in scanning and correct recording of documents,” says Andrea. While London Met provided specialist training in interviewing techniques and use of recording equipment.
The university then teamed their students with older volunteers from Age UK Islington.
In all more than 40 people were involved in the project. Interviews were about an hour, with all the material transcribed. This information was also shared with Age UK Islington’s Photography group, led by Peter Kyte and the Poetry group, facilitated by documentary poet Tom Mallender of Write-London, inspiring a wealth of new work about Lost Trades.
From November the Lost Trades exhibition is going on a mustn’t miss tour with portraits, five-minute audio loops of people talking about their jobs and a new poetry book, Lost Trades of Islington, all inspired by the working lives of Islington residents. It opens at London Met then moves to Islington
Local History Centre in St John Street (from November 23 until 18 January).
All the material collected for the interviews will be added to the permanent archive at Islington Local History Centre based at Finsbury Library, St John Street.
Listen to some interview highlights below or visit our Soundcloud page to hear the full interviews.