Allen Hammond (b.1894): Researching Writing Lives

Creating the author blog allowed me to research many historical backgrounds and nuances into 20th century England, and especially so Liverpool. Creating a conduit for Allen’s voice became a priority for me in addition to highlighting his childhood. I found this entire process to be very auto-didactic, whether that’s being pro-active in my own research towards Allen’s background or evaluating the levity of the interview with John Berger.

There’s a multitude of things I have learned from reading the interview, especially when it comes to gaining an appreciation for the generation before mine, and allowing me to have a first-hand unpolished account of what life was truly like 100 years ago, in the exact place I find myself in now. Having Allen be in conversation rather that him writing really elevated his words, and allowed me to take his account as truth, especially when you take into consideration the many downfalls of amateur authorship in memoirs.

I believe this series of blogs contributes to the wider zeitgeist of public history, and I truly believe that Allen’s story is important when you read about the hardships he endured during his childhood, in terms of giving perspective to the current reader, in addition to understanding the sacrifice a lot of past generations had to make for the sake of survival. This blog almost became a chronological account of Allen’s early life, and documenting it became the sole focus of my attention, in addition to adding my own knowledge to truly understand the dynamics of his situation and other’s experience which he alludes too.

I could sometimes tend to hold the factual information on a pedestal when it comes to research, therefore backing up the information Allen relays became a sole focus of many blog posts- statistical information that contributed or disagreed with many of Allen’s anecdotes. For example, I found that Liverpool was statistically the most overcrowded city in the UK during Allen’s childhood, however through one of Allen’s stories this figure could even be worse, as he alluded to the fact that many people hid from the ‘nightmen’ who would document these statistics. So researching many factors around the working-class experience had to come with a sense of pragmatism that weighed up why these statistics where this way, in addition to what could affect them at the time.

Another factor that I found helpful was the collaborative aspect to writing the blog, utilising the help of other researchers like myself to attain a bigger knowledge basis and allow me too look at my writing differently. Bronagh Haughey and Rebekah Winsbury helped in many ways, varying from online advice through a group chat, where we would evaluate each other’s work in addition to meeting in the Library where we would try and help each other with research. I found this especially helpful to attain another perspective and allow me to enhance Allen’s story with a bigger sense of community.

Another learning curve to working on Writing Lives was attaining the skill of blogging. Although I have before blogged I found that the more formal aspect to the research helped me with organising a platform for someone’s voice and writing their story diligently. My previous experience was more personalised and polemic work, so writing a blog such as this helped me evaluate and attain a new format and skill that I didn’t have before. The course as a whole became a more journalistic endeavour, which I can carry forwards skill-wise in the future.

Allen Hammond @WritingLivesH Twitter Page

Another element towards this course was the focus on social media as a way to outsource the work. This could vary from a platform to embed my writing to trying and advertise or spread the word about Allen’s story. Especially through the use of Twitter, which I found helpful. Although there’s only a certain amount of people who are interested in subjects such as this, there’s a thriving community among the Writing Lives researchers that allows the platform to become a source for many researcher’s writing. Whether that’s helping each-other with certain aspects of said research or offering encouragement with comments, likes and re-tweets etc.

Overall, the major takeaway personally from this Writing Lives course are the skills I have honed through the research and writing of blogs. In addition to learning about the working-class experience from a past generation and understanding that outsourcing your writing and having a platform embeds an elevated work ethic which can’t be matched with simple essay writing.

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