I’m sat in one of our branch libraries and a member of the public walks in;
I ask, ‘What do you think York should remember?’
The member of the public replies, ‘O, well I’m not from York’
Probing further I ask, ‘How long have you lived here?’
‘Around 30 years’ they answer, quickly followed by ‘…but I grew up elsewhere’
The Archives Roadshow has been running since February 2015 and has been to 12 of our 16 branch libraries and gathered over 300 responses to our question ‘What Should York Remember?’ I’ve had this same conversation with people more times than I could count and it has led me to think a little more about what a sense of place really is and what truly does make you a Yorkie.
So where does our sense of place come from, and at what point do we decide where we’re from? We tend to say that the place we spent most of our childhood is where we’re from even if we no longer live there or haven’t since we were teenagers or young adults. Where we grew up is perhaps part our individual identity that has shaped who we are today. I’m no exception, I’ve lived in York for just over a year but even if from now on I always live in York, I think I’ll always say I’m from Merseyside as its part of who I am and my journey to get here.
We all have an important part to play in the past, present and future of the communities we live in. Several people have commented on the Roadshow that ‘York is like a big village’. I’d certainly agree with that but around 70% of people we’re spoken to on the Roadshow didn’t grow up in York. How does the fact that so many of us don’t associate ourselves with being from York affect our almost taken for granted community cohesion, in a city already so crowded with tourists?
I believe that everyone has some attachment to the city, especially if you’ve lived here for 30 years, so I always ask, ‘How has your community changed since you’ve lived here?’ I’ve found this to be a great way of exploring personal community connections and usually encourages people to share stories about their own children and grandchildren such as ‘feeding squirrels in Museum Gardens’. Childhood, whether it’s your own or your family’s, seems to increase our attachment to a place. It’s not just places that people are attached to as there seems to be a real sense of ownership around recent local events such as the Tour De France and Tour De Yorkshire. Perhaps it reveals the true social value of these events as well as attracting tourism and funding.
Our experiences in local places and feeling part of events play a vital role in community identity. The responses to ‘What Should York Remember?’ give us a snapshot in time as to what is important to residents in 2015, whether they have been in the city all their lives or just a few months.
So what does make you a true Yorkie? Someone on the Roadshow said it wasn’t until you’ve seen the Minster without scaffolding. We might be waiting a long while for that to happen but maybe as soon as you move to York you become a Yorkie, after all are we not part of one big village?
Coming soon – Wondering what we’re planning do to with the 300 ‘What Should York Remember?’ responses? Well watch this space for a sneak preview of what’s coming up later this year.