Sustaining our coastal heritage: the value of local knowledge

From August 2006 to July 2008
Project Leader(s): Professor Selina Stead
Staff: Mrs Joanna Redhead, Dr Clare Fitzsimmons
Partners: Heritage Lottery Fund; Blyth Valley Borough Council; Sir James Knott Trust

This project provided opportunities for the Blyth Valley community to share their knowledge about the coastal heritage that has shaped the identity of the community over time. We raised awareness and improved access to Blyth Valley’s coastal heritage with the aim of changing people’s perceptions of their local coastal environment. We also undertook a series of activities ranging from community group meetings, school activities, art and craft activities, training of local people to conduct oral history interviews to generate wider public appreciation of the way coastal livelihoods and living by the sea has shaped the way Blyth has developed. There was also an emphasis on exploring why it was important for older generations to share their memories and experiences with younger generations to ensure that knowledge about Blyth’s coastal heritage was not lost. This information is important for informing management of the coast so that local context and lessons from the past could be applied to ensure more context-specific measures are used that might be better supported by local people.

Through interviews and focus groups we collected local knowledge, oral histories, traditions and changes in language to inform a series of participatory workshops and education and interpretation activities. Preliminary responses to the project were very encouraging which we believe was helped by holding a community-led project in the first week we started so that locals could be involved in the project from the agenda-setting stage.

We had volunteers who asked for training on how to conduct interviews and oral histories, three local schools got involved along with many different community groups. Information was then placed and accessed via the project website, heritage trails and guided booklets. Findings of the project was disseminated to the public via the local media, in educational journals, open days as part of the coastal heritage series and during public and University open day events.


Dr Clare Fitzsimmons

Professor Selina Stead
Professor of Marine Governance and Environmental Science