Emerging Stories

‘Gaining new skills and trying something new’ are two main reasons for project participation

‘Gaining new skills and trying something new’ are two main reasons for project participation

The two main reasons for volunteers taking part in Telling Our Stories, Finding Our Roots, Devon’s multicultural history project,  are ‘gaining new skills’ and ‘trying something new’ showing that age is definitely no barrier to wanting to expand knowledge as the majority of participants are aged 50 plus.

Now at the halfway stage of the project the volunteers are uncovering emerging multicultural stories focusing on the towns of Honiton and Ilfracombe, many of which have remained hidden until now, including that of the first female Mayor of Honiton, Juanita Philips, originally from Chile, a Spanish speaker, suffragette and campaigner on many other issues.  The grandfather-in-law of one volunteer was her chauffeur and is sharing his experiences of working for her.

Other emerging strands include the stories of Indian girls (ayahs) who were hired by wealthy British families to care for their children as nursemaids and nannies.

While only a few settled in the British Isles, they can be considered an important group of late nineteenth-  and early twentieth-century migrants.

Hilda Kalap, Project Coordinator says: “These stories will leave a legacy evidencing a richer history of Devon, different to the myth that the county is largely monocultural. New educational and digital resources will be created as a result as well as a new exhibition and self-guided historical walking tours in the two towns. It’s exciting to be at the forefront of representing the true history of Devon”.

Other reasons volunteers have given for taking part are an interest in research, history and talking to people.

So far eight volunteers have received training in how to carry out archive research from the Devon Heritage Centre and next on the horizon is oral history training which will be delivered in March by Jess Huffman the Project Coordinator in Honiton.

Training in storytelling will take place in the coming months.

There’s still time to join as a volunteer – so if you’ve a connection to either Honiton or Ilfracombe, have an interest in history, research, talking to people or have your own story to tell then do get in touch.

There’s the chance to meet with like-minded people, full training is given, expenses paid and the hours are flexible.

Says Ms Kalap: “Our stories connect us – and that’s vital at a time when the world is going through turmoil and conflict.”

For further information please contact Hilda Kalap: or Tel:  07983216793