Joe Ayre (b.1910): Researching Writing Lives

In January this year I began the Writing Lives module at Liverpool John Moores University. Since then I have been regularly posting blogs on the life of Merseyside born socialist Joe Ayre. Now that I have completed my themed work on Joe, I would like to take time to reflect on this experience. This blog post will focus on what I took away from this module, and also the effect I hope these blogs had on the reader.

Joe proved a fascinating but allusive figure. Despite my best efforts I managed to find very little information about his life online. My most meaningful discovery was that Joe Ayre passed away June 12th 1993 in Victoria Canada. This information was found by finding records on Dorothy Ayre, Joe’s wife. With little in terms of online support, it became vital to my success on the module that I developed my analytical skills. I found as much information as I could in Joe’s memoir ‘The Socialist’, and was successfully able to complete my themed blogs. The experience of having to analyse vast quantities of information, and then decipher appropriate material, is something I believe will prove invaluable throughout my working life. Analytical skills were fundamental in producing my blog that I continually developed.

Whilst analytical skills were something I always had and developed throughout the module, Writing Lives introduced me to a style of writing I had never encountered before. Previous to my blog posts on Joe Ayre, I had never produced work to be consumed by a wide audience. Rather I was producing purely academic work for one marker. Although this was admittedly a challenging aspect of Writing Lives, it was also one of the most enjoyable. It was challenging in the sense that I had to develop a new writing style, an area I was working on until my final blog. Writing for a wider audience was something I particularly enjoyed however. Knowing that my work was reaching a wider audience than ever before, and being able to tell the story of Joe Ayre for the purpose of informing and entertaining was particularly enriching. This was a new experience, but I certainly hope it will not be my last opportunity to write for a wider audience. The Writing Lives module has helped me realise just how enjoyable this style of work can be, and now it is possibly something I would like to make a career out of in later life.

One of my chief concerns when beginning my blog posts was that some of the issues raised may not have been relevant and relatable to today’s reader. Having now completed my themed blog posts on Joe’s life I can now see how these concerns were unmerited. One of the most important phases of Joe’s life involved his migration to Canada. Whilst taking part in Writing Lives this issue came to the forefront of the news as the government came under increased pressure to not only apologise, but also to compensate victims of child migration. This aided my research, but also writing on an issue currently being discussed by the country’s top news sites was an incredibly exciting opportunity. Similarly, Joe’s socialist ideology is shared by many to this day. Issues he raised surrounding healthcare and unemployment are still rife in our society, and writing on how life in Britain has changed but also stayed the same was particularly interesting.

When I started Writing Lives I hoped to improve the skills I have discussed but the fact this module has allowed me to make a contribution to public history has been my biggest takeaway. I feel I have contributed as my blog posts have given Joe Ayre a voice once more. By sharing his experience and ideas people may still learn from Joe’s chaotic life, and therefore Joe can still make a difference today.

Another way I feel my blogs have contributed to public interest is through them being regularly shared on social media. Before I started Writing Lives I was completely unaware of social media’s ability to aid projects such as this. Since then I have had my work regularly shared by my peers and historians. In return I have also shared plenty of material and feel collectively we have all worked well together in sharing the stories of the British working class.

I have now completed my time on this truly unique module. Whilst I would have loved to continue sharing the story of Joe’s life, I have a lot to be happy about. Sharing Joe’s story has left me better equipped in research and blog writing, and I finish feeling enriched by being able to share the story of a spectacular man’s battle to survive.

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