I have thoroughly enjoyed researching and writing about my author Joe Loftus on this module. He was a brilliant author to write about as his memoir ‘Lee Side’ is so detailed and interesting. As soon as I started reading his memoir I felt like I knew him really well. He writes about the first twenty years of his life with such energy and zest it made for compelling reading. This gave me plenty to talk about when it came to writing my posts. I initially chose Joe’s memoir because he was born and grew up in Leigh, Lancashire where I was also born and currently live. As soon as I learnt this, I was keen to begin writing about his life and felt an instant connection with him.
It was really fascinating to research the town of Leigh, for example to see the old buildings and the way it used to be in the 1920’s and 1930’s. I found the Leigh Life website a useful resource for both old and up to date photos of places Joe mentions in his memoir. Unfortunately, I found it difficult to trace any of the Loftus family on family history and genealogical websites such as Ancestry.co.uk and Find My Past, as Joe refrains from mentioning most of his siblings names and they would have just missed out on the 1911 census. This disappointed me because I would love to have been able to get in contact with distant relatives and been able to see photos of Joe and his family. During my research on Ancestry I did find out that Joe died in 1998 in Brighton.
My tutor who runs the Writing Lives module wondered if Joe wrote another memoir and encouraged me to get in contact with QueenSpark Books, a publishing house based in Brighton who potentially published Joe’s memoir. I emailed them with the hope that they could point me in the direction of another memoir or put me in contact with a member of his family, but they told me they didn’t know of him. This taught me that research can be difficult at times but it is worth doing if it could help contextualise and inform your work.
I decided to take part in this module after really enjoying the Prison Voices module in the second year of my degree, also run by Helen. I found it refreshing to be part of a module that does not follow the typical set up, and wanted to further improve my researching, blogging and social media skills as I am interested in pursuing a career in marketing or PR when I finish my degree, where these skills will be useful and of value.
By being part of this digital humanities project I feel like I have contributed to public history in a big way. Working-class literature is frequently not taken seriously and as a result their writing is often overlooked and undervalued. Through this project we have tried to represent the voices of working people and bring to life the individual and the communities they come from, which helps us look beyond the stereotype. I feel like Joe embodies this really well when he says “History should be telling about the lives of tidy, ordinary folk pegging away as they always have done; folk like you and me, and her and him, making history” (2). Our role as digital editors was to bring working-class lives to a public audience. By promoting our own and other author blogs I feel like we have done this and it has been a very rewarding process.
Being part of a collaborative research project has taught me the importance of proof reading other people’s work and vice versa. By essentially working as part of a team, it can dramatically improve your work and the work of others. It adds another perspective and it is good to gain these extra viewpoints before publishing work online to a public audience. This module has allowed me to build on the skills that I gained on the Prison Voices module. I have learnt how to tailor my writing towards an educated but non specialist audience, so my work is accessible to everyone. At times I found this difficult and felt like my posts were too formal. But by posting one blog a week and with the encouragement of academics and general readers sharing my work on Twitter, my confidence soon increased.
I have also learned that social media is a great platform on which to promote work and have learned how to do this effectively, through the use of appropriate hash tags and by tagging accounts in your tweet that can share your work to a wider audience. I have also learned that it is not about the quantity of tweets but the quality, and as part of a collaborative project, it is important to share the work of others too. In terms of blogging, I know that it is important to make sure posts are visually stimulating and presentable, and it is helpful to provide hyperlinks on photos and in the text where necessary, so readers can find out more information. As I am interested in a career in PR and marketing after I graduate from university, the skills I have gained from being part of this project will enrich my CV and hopefully make me stand out to future employers.
‘Joe Loftus’ in John Burnett, David Vincent and David Mayall (eds) The Autobiography of the Working Class: An Annotated, Critical Bibliography 1790-1945, 3 vols. (Brighton: Harvester, 1984, 1987, 1989): 2:484
Loftus, Joe. ‘Lee Side’, Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection, 2:484.
“A Multiveiw of Leigh Circa. 1930’s” www.leigh.life.com Web. Accessed 17/05/2017 https://leigh.life/index.php?action=media;sa=album;in=16209
“The front cover of Joe’s memoir ‘Lee Side” – A photograph taken by myself