Funding has been awarded to The Philip Astley Project CIC heritage project in Newcastle-Under-Lyme as part of Historic England’s ‘Everyday Heritage Grants: Celebrating Working Class History. ‘Showpeople of North Staffordshire’ invites Fairground and circus families and workers to tell their own stories.

The Project will record their histories, traditions; perhaps tales of economic pressures old and new as well as recording employment opportunities, and of course joy and entertainment bought to the public

The new grant scheme was launched by Historic England earlier this year to support community-led projects and further the nation’s collective understanding of the past.

Community and heritage organisations were invited to apply for grants to unlock untold local stories and hidden histories.

The Philip Astley Project has been awarded £24.450 to run ‘Showpeople of North Staffordshire’, uncovering stories of Show people who are from and have made their homes in North Staffordshire

The project will create a touring exhibition, a series of talks created with members of the fairground and circus community from the area and key sites they have visited over the decades. Local people will be invited to submit their photos, talk to someone about the fairground memories, and weave those into the exhibitions and documentation about the project.

These will be combined to create an archive which can be shared with the Brampton Museum, Astley Heritage Centre (a project under development as part of the Newcastle Town Deal) and Staffordshire Archive Service.

Andrew Van Buren on behalf of the Philip Astley Project said: “Building on Philip Astley’s legacy Fairgrounds and Circus have a proud history of being inclusive, this is a great opportunity for the general public to learn about these colourful communities, performers and showmen’s family life, while fostering better understanding of the stories and de-stigmatising the stereotypes, there are so many untold tales not only from the fair and circus community but also from the general public, we are looking forward to hearing memories of when the circus or fair came to town, learning more about those fair families who have made North Staffordshire their home plus looking at the impact that land regeneration has had on the visiting fairs and circuses”

Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England, said: “Heritage should be for everyone. I am delighted that we are able to provide funding for this project through our Everyday Heritage Grants, which will help to bring our collective and shared history back to life. These grants will enable people to tell their own stories, in their own way, and connect with others in their communities through a shared understanding of their local heritage.

He continued: “The histories of castles and great houses and their inhabitants are well documented, but we know far less about our everyday heritage. From council estates, pubs and clubs, to farms, factories and shipyards, these are the places where most people have lived, worked and played for hundreds of years. We want to explore these untold stories and celebrate the people and places at the heart of our history.”

Everyday Heritage Grants: Celebrating Working Class Histories is one of many ongoing cultural projects that Historic England is delivering in order to shine a light on the diversity of the nation’s heritage.

Updates can be found at: The Philip Astley Project Facebook Page & on Twitter also on the Philip Astley Project website: www.philipastley.org.uk 

Fred Van Buren and Connie Greta on Tommy Allen Parading show. Picture Van Buren Collection.

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