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We are a team of dedicated oral history professionals, volunteers and partners who work collaboratively on oral history, heritage and intergenerational social engagement projects.

Our mission statement

We aim to collect, preserve and share people’s oral histories.  We offer a window into the past and a mechanism for reflection that will inspire, entertain and educate people of all ages.  Our vision is that people will have access to our growing archive of personal histories which embody the distinctive culture, heritage and history of our region.   Our values of responsibility, inclusiveness, creativity and sharing underpin everything we do.

Our Expe

Living History Northeast was established in 1995 as a regional specialist in oral history.  In these 25 years we have worked with many different local and regional partners to engage with individuals, groups and communities, exploring their personal testimonies.  For example we have captured oral histories from the coalmining and shipbuilding communities in the North East, the people who underpinned the UK economy for over 100 years.  Our reach is broad and inclusive; we have worked with older people, black, Asian and minority ethnic groups (BAME) as well as people suffering with ill health like stroke and dementia sufferers, sharing in their experiences and giving them all a voice.

Our experience

Our vision and values

Our vision is to reveal the distinctiveness of our regions’ history. As well as a focus on historical fact, we look to uncover another layer of history which reveals people’s lifetime aspirations, their beliefs and how they remember and look back on their lives.

Our heritage

Donnison School
Oral history archive and photographic collection

We adopt this subjective approach from academic theory in oral history, and continually develop our methods to help us uncover these hidden and fascinating histories.  The nuances of language, local dialects and accents for example communicate feelings and emotions with great intensity and meaning; this would be lost in more conventional documentary histories of the region. 

Our values of responsibility, inclusiveness, creativity and sharing cut across all of our activities as an organisation.  These values ensure that people experience and enjoy the remarkable lives lived by the people of the North East, with respect and authenticity.

Over 25 years we have generated an extensive and valuable archive of voice recordings and video interviews and have collected photographs and other artefacts kindly donated to us by the many individuals and communities we have worked with. This archive is an important regional heritage resource that we have a responsibility to protect, develop and share.

We have also restored and renovated The Donnison School, a Grade 2 listed building in the East End of Sunderland (web link to map) which is now the home of the Donnison School Heritage and Education Centre where we conduct a significant part of our business. 

We also have a new base at the  Elephant Tea Rooms Local History Library @ETR (link) in the centre of Sunderland for our oral history archive and from where we can also conduct some of our oral history activities once Covid-19 restrictions allow. 

Our people

Our key staff
Janette Hilton - Project director

Janette is an experienced oral historian who has been recording oral histories for over 30 years.  Janette was the founder of Living History North East and has led the strategic development of the organisation since its inception.  Janette was responsible for establishing the charity in 1995 and spearheaded the restoration and re-development of The Donnison School including securing over £600K from the National Heritage Lottery Fund, Sunderland Local Authority and other funders to reclaim the derelict building. 

Janette Hilton.jpg
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“Our precious archive keeps safe the lives of laundry ladies, local politicians, war veterans, housewives, miners, shipyard workers, POW’s, refugees – all with remarkable, but otherwise untold stories that it has been a privilege to capture and share…”

Terry Hilton - Principal video producer

Terry is a BBC trained video producer with over 25 years experience of oral history film making. Terry has created most of our video archive, is a skilled and experienced interviewer and is our chief archivist.

Our trustees
Dr Susan Jones - Chair

Susan is a former computing academic from the University of Sunderland.  Susan has a background in teaching, research, team leadership, business development and overseas partnership development with educational centres in Botswana, Ghana, Kenya and Hong Kong.  She is now a freelance consultant specialising in new enterprise development in the heritage sector.

Pauline Hilton - Treasurer

Pauline is a retired health professional with a 30 career in nursing.  She was a specialist in Gerontology and finished her career as Head of Infection Prevention and Control at Sunderland City Hospital.  Pauline has been interested in local history and genealogy for many years and volunteers on the boards of number of several local heritage charities including the Friends of the Donnison School and Sunderland Old Township Heritage Society.

Alan Cummings - IT Specialist

Alan spent most of his working life running ‘Images’, a successful hairdressing business in the City of Sunderland.  He went on to teach hairdressing at Newcastle College and then quickly moved on to teaching and running IT and networks in the Food & Services Industry.  As well his passion for IT, Alan is also interested in local history and has co-authored a book - Sunderland’s People & Places.

Connie Bulmer

Connie has given many years service to communities across the City of Sunderland and was elected to the Federation of Community Associations as Treasurer in 2002.  Connie is currently serving as treasurer to Sunderland City Under Five’s and is also treasurer of VCAS – Voluntary Community Action Sunderland. Connie is a keen walker and was also a founder member of the Wearside Field Club established in 1974.

Raymond Davison

Raymond was involved in the establishment of Sunderland Counselling Services and worked for Sunderland Local Authority Planning Department for many years.  Retired now, he provides ongoing support with the Census Collection.  Raymond also volunteers for Age UK’s befriending service and was a founder member of Sunderland Old Township Heritage Society.

Sharon Vincent

Sharon is an historian, public speaker, writer and teacher who has a passion for teaching history in adult education and heritage settings.  Sharon has worked freelance as a history adult education tutor with the Workers Educational Association for over 10 years and has a special interest in helping people to research their own family history.  Sharon also loves horses and horse riding. 

Our volunteers
Stuart Miller - local historian and author

Stuart is a retired university historian who is passionate about teaching local history to people of all ages.  Stuart is a published author and co-author of several books on local history and also writes about walks in Northumberland and Sunderland his home town.  Stuart is very active in the voluntary and community sector in Sunderland and is Chairman of the Sunderland Heritage Forum, an organisation which champions the city's local heritage.   

Our project partners

Katherine Lowe

Katherine is a specialist drama teacher delivering transformative arts experiences for health and intergenerational working.  Katherine established Banyan Arts as a Community Interest Company in 2017 and works primarily with the Stroke Association and NHS England in the rapidly growing social prescribing services domain.  Katherine has been developing innovative expressive art and wellbeing services for vulnerable people and their carers since 2013.     

Damien Wootten - documentary photographer

Damien is a documentary arts photographer based in the North East of England who has been exhibiting his own and commissioned work regionally and internationally for over 30 years.  Damien’s most recent exhibitions have included, ‘The Radical Road’ project at Woodhorn Museum, Northumberland and, ‘Close the Door on Past Dreariness’ at Newcastle Arts Centre, which documents the current homeless crisis in the UK. Damien also works collaboratively on community based projects where his ability to create visually arresting images makes a unique contribution to transformative approaches in health care and intergeneration settings.  

Other Links
Newcastle University - oral history research department
Oral History Society
Stroke Association
Sunderland Bangladesh International Centre
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