Budding historians and investigative journalists at Ashington High School have documented the lives of people and communities that live and work in Northumberland National Park as part of a special project to celebrate its 60th anniversary.
The Northumberland National Park Video Stories assignment is part of a commemorative project to collect 60 stories for 60 years which captures the perceptions, values and memories of children and adults from different backgrounds with connections to the landscape and heritage of the Park.
Salsabilla Sakinah, a postgraduate student at Newcastle University’s Media, Cultural and Heritage School, on placement with Northumberland National Park Authority, led the project working alongside an eight-strong team of year 8 and 10 students.
“Giving young people the opportunity to be a part of an inspiring and exciting project like this is fantastic in so many ways,” says Salsabilla.
“They’re directly involved in discovering, understanding and recording their past heritage, the landscapes and life in Northumberland through the decades whilst putting their technical and production skills to the test in a real-life assignment.
“The group have brought boundless energy, enthusiasm and professionalism to every session. They planned and coordinated the filming and led each interview with our volunteers. The final film will contribute to a digital archive to mark this special anniversary for the National Park and give people a wonderful insight into life within this stunning and varied landscape for future generations to learn from.”
The students met and interviewed individuals from across the Park on a variety of subjects, including what it means to farm near a prehistoric landmark, the influence of Roman remains on communities today, living with history and looking at 21st century life for residents and what life is like for young people living in the Park today.
One of the student media crew, Erin Purdy, age 13, said: “I’ve been one of the camera people and learned that the Park isn’t just what you see at first glance, there are other things around you that you have to look for more carefully.
“It’s been a great experience and definitely something to put on my CV. I’ve enjoyed being out of school and spending time in the National Park. This project is making memories and memories you don’t forget.”
One interviewee was Hesleyside resident, William Charlton, a direct descendant from a Border Reiver family. He told the students some interesting stories about living as Border Reivers during the Border Wars period. One such story involved a wife demonstrating that her larder was empty by serving her husband his spurs on a plate instead of his dinner. The message was clear, mount up and go reiving, or go hungry!
Briannon Brady, age 13 and her brother Ben, age 11, live in Otterburn village on the Park border. They talked about finding history everywhere in the National Park and surrounding areas, including their village and even their house. They both enjoy taking part in the Young Archaeologists’ Club organised by Northumberland National Park Authority and shared some of their favourite places to visit including Greenhaugh, because it’s so pretty and they feel safe there.
The Northumberland National Park Video Stories assignment also contributes to realising the aims and objectives of The Sill: National Landscape Discovery Centre which is currently under construction at Once Brewed on Hadrian’s Wall. The project is part of The Sill’s extensive engagement and activity programme to provide high quality learning experiences that reach out and open up the Park and its landscapes to a broad range of audiences including those in full-time education.
As the next generation to care for the landscape, the National Park Authority is committed to encouraging young people to explore and enjoy the countryside and rich heritage of Northumberland National Park by working with schools and youth groups to deliver mainstream education subjects through real-life examples designed to inform and inspire.
Brian Cosgrove, Media Manager at Ashington High School, said: “This has been a fabulous project. We have filmed across the whole of the National Park, from Hadrian’s Wall right up to the Scottish Border. The students have not only had an opportunity to develop their technical skills involved in recording video and sound, they have also had to do research on the Park and its geography, devise interview questions and scripts as well as get involved in the the editing process.
“This sort of experience can transform young people’s views of their environment and their place within it. It certainly counts as learning outside the classroom and I look forward to working with Northumberland National Park on similar projects in the future.”