Memories of Fiction: An Oral History of Readers' Life Stories

Lead Research Organisation: Roehampton University
Department Name: English and Creative Writing

Abstract

This project aims to find out how reading shapes our lives. What do we remember about the books we have read (as a child, on the tube, on holiday), and why? Reading is often experienced as a private activity, which takes place in silence, on one's own. Yet reading groups have grown immensely in popularity over the past two decades, bringing reading experiences into the public domain. In what ways do we share our memories of reading?

This project is interested in both individual and collective memories of reading fiction. It will firstly set up an oral history archive of interviews with members of local reading groups, to explore memories as described in individual life stories. In doing so, the project will provide a new kind of resource - differing from the numerous interviews carried out with authors, from oral history interviews (for the 'Authors' Lives' archive at the British Library) to radio and other interviews by journalists, literary critics, fans and other readers. By turning to readers themselves, the project will make available new material enabling insights into memories of fiction and life stories. How are memories of books associated with particular experiences and emotions? How do readers make use of fiction in their life stories?

One thing that is interesting about reading groups is that they turn written text into group talk, turning back the clock from literacy to orality, from the act of the individual reading to talking, from the solitary experience to the social. Scholars of book history often note how reading became an increasingly private activity over the course of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, due in part to the rise in literacy, but book groups interestingly highlight the social potential of reading. Thus the project is concerned not only with individual memories but also with how memories of fiction are exchanged with others. After working with individual interviewees, the project researchers will thus work in the reading groups. Having identified clusters of books recalled across a number of interviews, these books, and memories of them, will then be discussed in groups. We are interested in how these shared memories compare to individual recollections. In what ways can group talk change how we remember fiction?

The project will challenge assumptions that reading is merely a private, personal activity. It will consider how reading and storying the self may be related, establishing how individual memories can be shared and related to a wider social and historical context.

The project's findings will be of interest not only to individual academics but to reading groups themselves. We will disseminate the research through academic publications and also through public talks, a learning resource and website. As well as providing access to the interviews, the website will provide information and other material including the learning resource, which will outline our methodology for other reading groups to take up and develop, and a forum through which these groups can respond and feed back into the project. The project will thereby provide a hub of activity to foster wider discussions and ongoing reflection about how we remember fiction.

Planned Impact

The project's activities will most immediately benefit members of local reading groups. By interviewing readers in the process of research the project involves these members in the project from the outset. Through this process we expect to stimulate interest in the project and to encourage readers to reflect in new ways on their reading experiences and memories. By then further encouraging reflection through the reading group discussions, and through the public talks in libraries, we expect to enhance social exchange and encourage book group members - and wider audiences - to reflect on their memories of reading and on its social potential.

The availability of the archive not only at the University of Roehampton but also Wandsworth library will allow participants to readily access their own materials while also being open to the wider public. To encourage wider interest in the project we plan to publicise it in local media and beyond. As well as the reading group discussions, and the library talks, the seminar series and parts of the conference will also be open to the public and podcasts made available. Publicity is not simply for the purpose of disseminating our research, however, but also to encourage participation. By providing a learning resource through the project website, to enable other reading groups to take up (and potentially develop) our methodology and to feed back into the website, we will both broaden out beyond the local district to reading groups nationally and internationally, and also further contribute to a two-way process of exchange between researchers and readers.

For library users and the wider community, we expect the project's activities to generate interest in reading groups, possibly increasing membership and stimulating new groups, but also to change their character by introducing the question of memory. The benefits of reading groups to many participants are increasingly well established. The Reading Agency claims, for example, that reading group membership supports learning, promotes cultural understanding, and equalizes access to cultural activity (see http://readingagency.org.uk/about/Programme_for_reading_groups.pdf).

Our research can also be of benefit to libraries, which are often key to the formation and support of reading groups, by enabling libraries to better understand their users and how they engage with reading in social as well as individual contexts. In particular, in the current climate of threat to public libraries, we want our work to highlight and valorize them as unique public/private spaces for affording social exchange and shared experiences (of memories, especially, but not exclusively, for our purposes). This aspect of the project will therefore be highlighted through the website and publicity, and our findings made available to libraries and related agencies for their own use in potentially supporting their case against cuts.

The current threats to libraries increase the urgency of this bid. We need to carry out this project now as these could be the dying moments of library-based reading groups. In the Wandsworth district alone, there is at least one group that can no longer meet in the library due to closures. Such groups may go on meeting, but in each others' houses. The social spaces of social exchange are changing, if not disappearing, and the affects need to be understood. The internet provides new channels for readers and groups or communities to form (eg. electronic book clubs and blogs). By inviting contributions back into the project (as mentioned above and in Pathways to Impact), the project website may help to understand and even to mitigate the loss of libraries for some, by providing an alternative space as a hub of activity for social exchange and discussion.
 
Title Theatre production 
Description The interviews provided the basis for a theatre production, from 9-12th May 2018 at the Omnibus Theatre (an old library) in Clapham (dir. Laura Bridges). The production ran for five days and offered a 'library' of varied interactive and performance spaces, all relating to how vitally reading and libraries shape peoples' lives. One of the key emerging themes from the interviews was the importance of libraries as unique and valuable cultural and social spaces, so to get the messages from this research out there, we used the text and audio material from the interviews as the basis for all the pieces, all in different forms, to give people a variety of theatre experiences - storytelling, monologues, audio collages etc - much like books with different genres. 
Type Of Art Performance (Music, Dance, Drama, etc) 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact As outlined in previous section, impacts include participants reporting new inclination to use their public library and to join a reading group. 
 
Description Our main findings include the following:
(1) How interviews have particular uses for research into reading, and for audience and reception studies more broadly. Whereas historians of reading have traditionally used written documents (e.g. library records, diaries) to investigate past reading practices, researchers are increasingly using interviews to find out more about the reading experiences of 'ordinary' or nonprofessional readers. Such interviews can be created by current researchers, as we did for the MoF archive, but we also developed an understanding of how already established archives can be reused. Our reuse of an oral history archive from the 1980s ('100 Families' based at the University of Essex) allowed us to corroborate previous research about women's reading and also to add new findings: e.g. how men and women's reading is comparable in being used as a barrier in domestic spaces. In our analyses of the interviews produced for this project (both individual and group interviews), we have further developed understanding of the importance of considering the particularities of the interview form to gain insights into reading, e.g. how interviews are co-constructed (rather than single-authored); the role of questions, books and other kinds of interview prompts; and how interviewees sometimes produce unanticipated written documents.

(2) Considering the key research question ('What do readers remember about fictions they have read?'), we persisted with trying to elicit memories of fictional narratives, such as characters, plots, memorable lines. As three members of the team (PI, RA, and PhD student) have backgrounds as literary scholars, we were inclined to focus on the textual, but the interviews for this project led us instead to consider how readers often remember experiences of reading fiction rather than the fictions themselves. People often talked about where they read things, who they were with, how they felt, and about the books themselves as material objects. Another main finding, then, is how the interviews highlight the importance of reading as an experience, and how fictional narratives themselves are frequently forgotten. Readers also make efforts to remember what they have read. For example, the unanticipated written documents produced by interviewees included lists of books they had read, sometimes kept over decades, which helped them to recount their life stories as readers.

(3) The importance of libraries in peoples' lives, as social and public spaces as well as providers of books (to be explored further with the follow-on project, 'Living Libraries').
Exploitation Route (1) The MoF oral history archive and findings about the use of interviews in research into reading could be of considerable interest to literary scholars especially in the areas of reading studies and book history and also more broadly in audience and reception studies. Researchers sometimes use interviews with limited methodological expertise, so our easily accessed collection in the online journal Participations, including articles engaging with various forms of interviewing and methodological questions, can provide a useful resource. The interview archive can also be used e.g. by library professionals, students, and by EU READ-IT who have been using it as a keystone for their data model.

(2 & 3) The importance of reading as an experience, along with the importance of libraries as public spaces, is explored in our academic and non-academic articles and events, including the theatre production, which highlighted the social pleasures of reading, for example, through a participatory re-enactment of library book group interviews. These findings have also been taken forward further in the Follow-on project 'Living Libraries' (AH/S007628/1) - for further talks, installations and performances, an audio documentary, and policy pack - all with considerable potential to be put to use by audiences, library professionals and policy makers.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

 
Description The findings have been used by the project team to feed into talks at both academic and public events (e.g. Trower's 'Our Lives in Libraries' at Balham library as part of Wandsworth Heritage Festival in 2017) and a theatre production commissioned by Trower and directed by Laura Bridges: 'The Living Library' at the Omnibus Theatre (2018). These events were based largely on the interviews, and explored experiences and memories of reading, reading groups and libraries. 'The Living Library' for example, included installations where audiences could listen to themed extracts about how libraries have mattered to people, and participatory performances including a kind of re-enactment of the interviews in reading groups, with questions provided along with tea and biscuits. Following these events, audiences responded very positively on feedback forms and reported feeling more inclined to read, to join reading groups and/or to use public libraries. As a result of publicity and of personal invitations, 'The Living Library', in particular, was very well attended by a range of audiences, from project participants to school groups to local librarians and key library professionals. The latter included Sue Williamson (director for Libraries for the Arts Council), Mark Freeman (President of the Society for Chief Librarians (SCL)), Ella Snell (Manager of the British Library's Living Knowledge Network), and Lord Tope (Vice Chair of the Libraries All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG)) who also gave a talk to launch the production. The interest from library professionals such as these indicates how the research findings can have impact not only on library users and potential users but also through professional library organisations. Trower produced an Executive Summary for groups such as the Libraries APPG, and met with Tope to discuss how our findings might inform their work. He put Trower in touch with the Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), who along with key figures from the SCL and other organisations helped to feed into her bid for a Follow-on project, 'Living Libraries'. This consultation thereby ensures that the project will be useful to library professionals. The project's findings are already of interest to diverse groups: as well as the academic interest in our project is the interest expressed by librarians and in a broader public sphere. This interest can be illustrated by the inclusion in CILIP's magazine of a piece about the project; the invitation from Wandsworth Heritage Service to present alongside librarians at their Festival; the invitation from The Big Issue editor to write an article; invitation to be interviewed on London Live and Wandsworth Radio about 'The Living Library' and its research; invitations from the Libraries APPG Chair and the SCL to discuss our project; and two invitations to write blog posts for the Libraries Taskforce. We will be building on these and other forms of impact over the coming year for the Follow-on project. In addition, through project talks including at the Institute of Historical Research (Trower and Tooth Murphy) in 2015, and an oral history workshop session run by Trower for a British Academy funded project about cinema memories and communities project in 2016, we were able to inform related projects. The former was attended by around 10 academics, and in particular Tooth Murphy went on to discuss our research with King, Towheed and Palmer and to advise them on the oral history element of their AHRC-funded Reading Communities project. The workshop session, attended by 47 participants (about two thirds whom were postgraduates and postdoctoral researchers), encouraged reflection on methods, such as the value of interviewing people more than once, and allowed the project to reach beyond reading studies to make cross-disciplinary links with audience studies (also manifest in the edited section of Participations: Journal of Audience and Reception Studies referenced above).
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Description Conference expenses
Amount £1,438 (GBP)
Organisation Roehampton University 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2017 
End 06/2017
 
Description Follow-on Funding for Impact and Engagement
Amount £100,000 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/S007628/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2019 
End 02/2020
 
Description Research, Training and Development
Amount £940 (GBP)
Organisation Roehampton University 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2016 
End 07/2016
 
Description Vice Chancellor's PhD scholarships
Amount £60,327 (GBP)
Organisation Roehampton University 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2017 
End 01/2020
 
Title Oral history interviews and group discussions 
Description This project has built an archive of oral history interviews and discussions with reading group members, with the aim of creating a public record and thereby contributing to the resources available for research into reading. This resource is also providing the core material as the basis for our research. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2015 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact We first made some of the interviews available in 2015, and the rest in 2017 (those with appropriate permissions and ethical considerations). These materials have formed the basis for almost all our talks and other activities listed in other sections. 
URL https://www.roehampton.ac.uk/research-centres/memories-of-fiction/archive/
 
Title Memories of Fiction interviews 
Description Project interviews and interview summaries are available online where interviewees gave permission. Links are provided between the titles and authors mentioned by this project's interviewees and entered on the Reading Experience Database, enabling users to easily compare a range of oral and written accounts of reading those texts and authors. The University of Roehampton's library, and also Wandsworth Heritage Service, have copies of all material. The material is archived and catalogued (accessible and searchable) with the university library. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2015 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact It has provided the basis for most of the impacts listed in other sections of our Research Fish entry - e.g. articles published in magazines and government Taskforce blog site; events including the production at Omnibus Theatre. BA students have also used this resource, e.g. for presentations as part of a module 'Memory and Being' at Roehampton (for two years). 
URL http://www.roehampton.ac.uk/Research-Centres/Memories-of-Fiction/Archive/
 
Title Textual Preferences: The Queer Afterlives of Childhood Reading oral history archive 
Description An archive consisting of audio from 18 interviews with ten narrators (eight of whom were interviewed twice), and full transcripts of each interview. Consent and permissions were sought from all narrators, and where material has been closed for public access this is noted in the file names and documentation. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Apart from its foundational impact in my doctoral research, it is at this point too early to say what other notable impact(s) it may have. Interest has been expressed in accessing and researching in this archive by a colleage at Goldsmiths University. 
URL https://calmview.roehampton.ac.uk/Record.aspx?src=CalmView.Catalog&id=MOF%2FTP
 
Description Libraries 
Organisation Wandsworth Heritage Service
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We have provided Wandsworth Heritage Service with copies of all the interview material we have gathered (audio recordings, copyright forms, summaries and overall spreadsheet with key information). WHS have agreed to archive this material. As well as the interviews we organised reading group discussions with Wandsworth library-based reading groups (and provided refreshments and book tokens to group members). We also gave public talks with Wandsworth librarians, drawing on the Memories of Fiction interviews, to contribute to the Wandsworth Heritage Festival (at Putney and Balham libraries in May and June 2017). We have offered our findings to Wandsworth and other library organisations, in part to enhance understandings of library users, and to increase interest and participation in reading groups. More broadly we are attempting to support the case for libraries against cuts (e.g. with reports on the benefits libraries bring to the individuals we have talked with), and we will report back to WHS with information and findings from the follow-on project, Living Libraries.
Collaborator Contribution Wandsworth Heritage Service and associated library staff have provided us with lists of reading groups and key contacts, enabling us to interview group members and hold discussions with the groups. They provided rooms and helped to organise the public talks, and two of their librarians collaborated with the talks and discussions. They are archiving the oral history material and are helping to publicise the project, its archive and theatre production online. They also sent flyers around all the libraries in the borough of Wandsworth to help promote the theatre production. Battersea library provided some old stock (books) to contribute to the theatre production. WHS staff also fed into the bid for the follow-on project, Living Libraries.
Impact Research database (interview archive). Presentations, talks. Website. Magazine, newsletter and online publications (e.g. the Big Issue Article; post for the Libraries Taskforce). Information about libraries circulated to policy-makers and related organisations (an Executive Summary and a Briefing report). Publications ('Interviews and Reading' for Participations). Theatre production.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Oral history 
Organisation Oral History Society
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We collaborated with the Oral History Society to organise the annual conference (see 'Engagement' section). This provided the society with a core organising team and also helped to fund the keynotes for example. The project team are also Trustees of the OHS, so our work on Memories of Fiction has helped to inform our activities with the Society more generally. For example, Shelley Trower drew on her experience with the project and used it as a case study to inform the Oral History Spring School on which she taught (in May 2017).
Collaborator Contribution The Oral History Society provided support for the conference for example publicising it to its membership (of around 1,000).
Impact Conference (2016) (multidisciplinary - including history, literary studies (with sub-fields including reading studies), media studies, community studies, archival studies) and conference write up (in journal and here www.ohs.org.uk/beyond-text-in-the-digital-age-conference-report/); Amy Tooth Murphy as lead organiser co-opted permanently onto the Oral History Society Committee; Oral History Spring School (2017).
Start Year 2014
 
Description RED and Read-it 
Organisation University of Maine
Department Department of Human Sciences
Country France 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We provide links to the Reading Experience Database on the MoF university website, to enable cross-referencing to mentions of texts in the oral interviews and in RED's written collections. We also gave advice to the RED team concerning oral history for their Follow-on project, Reading Communities, and provided RED publicity (e.g. leaflets) at events including the MoF theatre production. We also provided interview transcriptions to READ-IT (which the OU RED team are part of), which have become a 'keystone of @eureadit data model'.
Collaborator Contribution RED provided the links for cross-referencing; contributed a talk to our seminar series (podcasted for website); contributed to the advisory group.
Impact Website links; podcast
Start Year 2014
 
Description 2016 TECHNE AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership Annual Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact I was invited to present on the Keynote Panel at the TECHNE AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership Annual Conference on 'Memory and Perception' drawing on the group interview work in the Memories of Fiction project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://memoryandperception.com/documents/programme.pdf
 
Description Big Issue article 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact An article about the project and its findings about libraries published in the Big Issue, now also online. This followed discussion with Lord Bird about Project Literacy and was envisaged as supporting that project and his campaign for library provision. During the week this was published, a few people left comments on the Memories of Fiction project website, and also signed up to attend the project's public library talks, in response to my invitation for people to do so.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.bigissue.com/culture/reading-libraries-shape-lives/
 
Description Conference paper: SHARP 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Delivered a paper at the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing annual conference in Victoria, Canada. Attended by approx. 25, followed by questions and discussion and requests for further information.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description IHR-OHS seminar on reading and gender 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Two members of the project team, Shelley Trower and Amy Tooth Murphy, were invited to give a talk for the Oral History Society seminars at the Institute of Historical Research, which are free and open to all. Around 10 people attended, including postgraduate students and oral history practitioners. The talk was entitled "'Memories of Fiction' and Gendered Reading in '100 Families'", enabling us to talk about the project and to lead into our more specific focus at the time on reading and gender in an oral history archive from the 1980s, which we were researching for our first coauthored project article. The talk generated valuable discussion and helped to support and inform the work of PhD students both at Roehampton and Royal Holloway. Edmund King also attended who is helping to run the AHRC funded Reading Communities project. He reported finding the talk informative and discussed his project afterwards with Amy. In a follow up email he wrote: 'thank you so much for your great advice on the practicalities of assembling a corpus of interviewees on the 'reading and WWII' topic. This has given me a lot to think about and I've fed back the alternative suggestions and strategies we talked about to the rest of the 'Reading Communities' group, so that's already been really valuable.'
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Libraries Taskforce: Blog post 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Contributed to a blog post for the Libraries Taskforce. Project added to the Taskforce's research map.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://librariestaskforce.blog.gov.uk/author/shelley-trower/
 
Description Library talks 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Two project talks at Balham and Putney libraries, alongside talks by librarians, followed by discussion. Each was attended by around 15 people and was followed by questions and discussion. The first was on 'Memories of Children's Books' and the second 'Our Lives in Libraries'. Attended by people in the Wandsworth region including project participants, and also from other parts of London. The talk at Balham was attended by the Director of Omnibus Theatre (an old library) and sparked our ideas for a future performance. We will also invite the participants of these talks, along with project interviewees and other contacts made, to the theatre production.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description OHS Conference: 'Beyond Text in the Digital Age? Oral History, Images, and the Written Word' 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact The annual Oral History Society conference in 2016 was entitled 'Beyond Text in the Digital Age? Oral History, Images, and the Written Word', and was organised by Amy Tooth Murphy, Shelley Trower, and Sarah Pyke among others from Roehampton and the Oral History Society. The project helped to inform the conference theme and thus had some input into the direction of the OHS, which in turn provided broad context for the Memories of Fiction project. A strand through the conference included panels on oral histories of reading. The Reading Sheffield project among others helped to affirm that written texts are by no means redundant in the digital age; written and spoken words continue to be intertwined in multiple ways. The conference will help to inform the project, in particular Trower's monograph currently entitled Oral History and the Written Word (proposal with OUP), and we have approached some of the speakers about possible inclusion in an edited collection or special issue (under discussion). Parts of the conference were open to the public and a podcast is available (see link below).

As always, this year's conference was attended by a wide range of delegates including community-based oral historians as well as academics. 140 delegates attended from many countries across Europe and beyond. Parts were also open to the general public. It generated multiple tweets and retweets, and a report (available below) which further helped to disseminate the conference.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.ohs.org.uk/beyond-text-in-the-digital-age-conference-report/
 
Description Oral history interviews and reading group discussions 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact The project researchers first met up with six library based reading groups in the Wandsworth borough (5-15 members attended each session), to introduce the project and invite group members to take part. They then went on to carry out nearly 50 interviews with 25 group members (two interviews each). The primary purpose was to gather material for the archive including memories of reading experiences, but this process also engaged people from the outset and the interviews sparked questions and discussion and interest in the project. At the end of interviews, participants were asked how they found the process of being interviewed. Many testified to enjoying it, finding it interesting, gaining new insights about themselves and other benefits. Participants have reported satisfaction from finding that previously forgotten but formative reading experiences have come back to them, and from finding out more about themselves. For example, one participant described being interviewed as a 'revelation' as she hadn't realised that reading was so prominent and important in her life. She now newly conceives of herself as a 'reader'. The interviews will provide the main source for analysis in future publications deriving from, and hopefully beyond, the Memories of Fiction project. Following the individual interviews, Amy Tooth Murphy and Graham Smith have carried out five reading group discussions. Again participants have described finding these interesting and they have also facilitated new communications between the group members. As well as providing material for analysis, these discussions have continued to generate interest in the project on which we plan to build for the next stage of the project: public talks.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2015,2016
URL https://www.roehampton.ac.uk/research-centres/memories-of-fiction/archive/
 
Description Paper at Bournemouth University 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Bournemouth University's Narrative Research Group invited a paper on the Memories of Fiction project for their seminar series, designed to showcase current research and to stimulate discussion across different disciplines and approaches in the Faculty of Media and Communication. Shelley Trower and Amy Tooth Murphy gave a paper entitled "She used to get lost in a book": approaching gendered reading using two archives'. Around 20-25 people attended and the talk resulted in lively discussion and requests for further information about the project. We went on to develop further connections with the AHRC funded Digital Reading Network's follow-on project, Reading on Screen, as Advisory Group members (by PI Bronwen Thomas, who invited us).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.digitalreadingnetwork.com/people/
 
Description Paper presented at Oral History Association 2016, Long Beach, California 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Amy Tooth Murphy had a paper accepted for the very competitive annual conference of the Oral History Society (North America). She spoke on a panel about conducting oral histories with different communities of research. She presented early findings from the Memories of Fiction group oral history interviews, in a talk entitled, 'Remembering Fiction and Making Identities: What can Book Groups Tell Us about Group and Individual Memory?'. The content of the talk was innovative. There is little research on conducting oral histories with groups. What does exist is confined mainly to sociology and linguistics and so does not draw on oral history theory and methodology. Several questions were posed at the end of the paper, and anecdotal evidence demonstrated that oral historians are keen to learn interviewing theory and method for working with groups.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Paper presented at Reading Communities Conference, Senate House, London 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Amy Tooth Murphy delivered a paper at the Reading Communities conference. She spoke on new and developing research and initial findings from the Memories of Fiction project. In particular she shared early findings from the group interviews conducted with library reading groups. The conference was aimed at people working primarily in Book History. There is clear crossover with this community of academics with the work of the Memories of Fiction project. However, the MoF team are not Book Historians per se, and so we were keen to use the opportunity to network within this sub-field, and to gather responses to our research that could enhance our analysis going forward for publication. The paper was well received by the audience. Questions from the floor highlighted that the audience were not experts in oral history. This, therefore, enabled us to expose new audiences to our research.
Since the conference Amy Tooth Murphy has been invited to submit a version of the paper to a planned edited collection.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Presentation to Wordstock 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Wordstock brings together professional writers to discuss writing. The talk resulted in a greater appreciation of the links between readers and writers and orality and lteracy.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://26.org.uk/event/wordstock-2016
 
Description Project seminars 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact The Memories of Fiction team organised a series of three seminars, in part to help publicise and to inform the project, and to help forge links between scholars of the history and theory of reading and the study of memory: Shafquat Towheed gave a talk entitled 'Evidence from the UK Reading Experience Database'; Gill Partington's talk was entitled 'Taking it Literally: Mae Brussell and the Misreading of Fiction'; and Alison Waller's 'Experiments in Rereading: Childist Criticism and Bibliomemoir'. We also twice arranged for Kate Briggs to give a paper entitled 'And This Is What We Call By the Book's Name' but she had to pull out. Abstracts and podcasts of all the talks are provided on the project website (see events and blog posts). 214 people have so far viewed the podcast posts. The talks also stimulated good discussion amongst the PG students and colleagues. Most participants were from the university but the series was publicised and open to all; others came from further afield (e.g. Bronwen Thomas from Bournemouth, PI of Reading on Screen). Comments include that of 'doctor d' who writes that he will use Towheed's podcast in a class called Reading in/as Revolution. S/he writes, 'This is a welcome addition to my resources, and will enrich my students' learning experiences.'
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016
URL https://memoriesoffiction.org/2015/05/07/listen-now-podcast-by-dr-shafquat-towheed-evidence-from-the...
 
Description Publicity interviews and local media 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Interviewed on London Live, with Laura Bridges (production director) and Marie McCarthy (Omnibus Theatre director); interviewed on Wandsworth radio; article in local paper.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Seminar: Australian Readers Remember 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Martyn Lyons gave a talk entitled 'The Australian Readers Remember project in retrospect, or why we (still) need an oral history of reading', at the seminar series jointly run by the Oral History Society and the Institute of Historical Research. These talks are free and open to all. 15-20 people attended, including community and HE-based oral historians, academics and postgraduates. The talk stimulated lively discussion amongst all those who attended. The talk was also an opportunity to introduce the Memories of Fiction project, and many of the participants asked for more information about the project in the discussion and chats over drinks afterwards. A podcast of the talk is available.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL https://memoriesoffiction.org/2014/09/11/memories-of-fiction-out-and-about-a-busy-start-to-september...
 
Description Short project outline in CILIP magazine Update 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A short piece was written about our project in Update, the magazine for the Chartered Institute for Librarians and Information Professionals (CILIP). As a result, a librarian working on Roehampton's Library Engagement Team, who was also involved in the Carnegie Library campaign, wanted to discuss our project and to use it to help support the campaign. Further, we discussed ideas for a follow-on project about libraries, which I have also now discussed with CILIP's CEO, which has helped to inform how this proposal will take shape.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Talk at Story of Memory conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Two members of the project team, Shelley Trower and Amy Tooth Murphy, were invited to give a paper about Memories of Fiction at the AHRC-funded Story of Memory conference. As this was just a month after the project start we gave a talk entitled 'Introduction to Memories of Fiction: An Oral History of Readers' Life Stories', to discuss our rationale, approach and plans. This was part of a well-attended panel entitled 'Memory and Reading: A View from the Sidelines' (around 40-50). The talk stimulated good discussion and connections between the projects of the other panel members (Alison Waller and Sarah Whitely).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.ahrc.ac.uk/newsevents/events/calendar/thestoryofmemory/
 
Description Talk to Secondary School Pupils (Ibstock Place), 'The Importance of Reading for Pleasure 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Amy Tooth Murphy was invited to be a guest speaker at an assembly of Senior 10 students at Ibstock Place School, where she spoke on the importance of reading for pleasure. The school librarian issued the invitation as part of the school's drive to combat the drop in library borrowing and reading in general which is observed from Year 10 to Year 11 (statistically noted both generally in the UK and in Ibstock Place's own monitoring. 94 pupils were in attendance. Amy Tooth Murphy gave a presentation and then opened the floor to questions. Students were particularly interested to hear that their own choices of leisure reading were valuable, and not simply assigned school texts. The impact was that the group demonstrated both a broader and a more nuanced understanding of the definition of 'literature'.
The school librarian reported that student feedback was very positive, students finding the session engaging and of value. The talk was featured in the school newsletter, so that parents were aware of what the students had been learning.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Theatre performance and installation 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Theatre production, 'Memories of Fiction: The Living Library', based on the project interviews, from 9-13th May 2018, with contributions from the oral histories I gathered as part of my studentship. The opening night attracted 50 people, including special guests Lord Tope who helped launch with a talk (Chair of the Libraries All Party Parliamentary Group); Sue Williamson (Dir. for Libraries with the Arts Council); Mark Freeman (President for the Society for Chief Librarians); Ella Snell (Manager of the British Library's Living Knowledge Network). Around a third of the project participants who agreed to be interviewed also came along, including some of my participants, as did some local librarians and many of the Advisory group (e.g. Mary Grover from Reading Sheffield; Bronwen Thomas from Reading on Screen). At least one local school also came to one of the matinees. It was publicised in local and national press, e.g. The Big Issue, London Live, and Wandsworth Radio. The project generated interest and encouraged plans for the follow-on project, Living Libraries (e.g. with the Arts Council and the SCL). Feedback indicated that many people changed their views and were likely now to visit their local library, to join a reading group and/or to read more.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Theatre production 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Theatre production, 'Memories of Fiction: The Living Library', based on the project interviews, from 9-13th May 2018. The opening night attracted 60+ people, including special guests Lord Tope who helped launch with a talk (Chair of the Libraries All Party Parliamentary Group); Sue Williamson (Dir. for Libraries with the Arts Council); Mark Freeman (President for the Society for Chief Librarians); Ella Snell (Manager of the British Library's Living Knowledge Network). Around a third of the project participants who agreed to be interviewed also came along, as did some local librarians and many of the Advisory group (e.g. Mary Grover from Reading Sheffield; Bronwen Thomas from Reading on Screen). At least one local school also came to one of the matinees. It was publicised in local and national press, e.g. The Big Issue, London Live, and Wandsworth Radio. The project generated interest and encouraged plans for the Follow-on project, Living Libraries (e.g. with the Arts Council and the SCL). Feedback indicated that many people changed their views and were likely now to visit their local library, to join a reading group and/or to read more.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.roehampton.ac.uk/english-and-creative-writing/news/new-research-highlights-the-value-tha...
 
Description Websites and social media 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Since the project start we have run a website with regular blogs and up-to-date information about the project, such as events (30 posts so far, with 13,570 views and 6,196 visitors - from over 60 countries). This has helped us to publicise multiple aspects of the project to various audiences. For example, the post in November 2015 was about libraries, which was then targeted to library campaign groups and organisations such as the Chartered Institute of Libraries and Information Professionals (CILIP) through social media and emails. As a result, so far CILIP have included a piece about our project in their magazine in 2017; and The Big Issue published an article by Trower (as part of their 'Project Literacy' campaign). This website also contains resources such as podcasts from the project talks. We also have a more static university based website which makes the interviews available (those for which permission has been given by interviewees). We will shortly add posts and more information about the publication in Participations for example, and about the Follow-on project 'Living Libraries'.

The blog posts and other related news and information are also circulated via a Twitter (437 followers) and Facebook accounts (300).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2015,2016,2017,2018,2019
URL http://www.memoriesoffiction.org
 
Description Workshop (North East Labour History) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The Workshop aimed tp spark interest in the application and use of oral history in relation to deindustrialisation. The session I participated in concentrated on health and wellbeing. The result was to influence the strategy of the a large investment in oral history by Newcastle University.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://nelh.net/event/deindustrialisation-and-oral-history-workshop/
 
Description Workshop: Oral History and Memory at De Montfort University 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Shelley Trower led a workshop on 'Oral History and Memory' as part of a series on a British Academy funded project, Cinema, Memory and the Community. She drew significantly on the Memories of Fiction project to inform the discussion, recommending for example that projects consider conducting more than one interview with each person (based on the beneifts we've found doing this), and finding connections between remembering reading and cinema going - for example, a range of projects are finding that interviewees tend to remember experiences of reading / the cinema more than the books / films themselves. These connections have fed into the themed issue and other research. An initial talk sparked lively discussion and helpful questions which can help to inform other projects.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://cinemamemories.org/Documents/Workshop%201.html