The Centenary of King George’s Hall: 100 Years and Counting

In this blog post Laura Owen, ‘100 Years and Counting’ Project Lead, introduces herself and the project, and tells us what she’s looking forward to the most about working with King George’s Hall.

 

The first things I noticed walking into the upstairs space of King George’s Hall was how grandiose the space is, the newly painted blue walls and those amazing Art Deco chandeliers! The building is currently being used as a Covid-19 test centre as the building adapts to the demands of the pandemic, something I’m told that the venue has done before when it served as a vaccination centre during the early 1960’s and will no doubt do again.

I am a freelance oral historian and have worked with museums, galleries, and arts and heritage organisations on a variety of projects celebrating people’s stories, experiences, and memories across the country. I’m currently based in London and have worked largely there, the Midlands and in Essex. I’m looking forward to working with communities in Blackburn as this is the first time I’ve worked in the North! For me, oral history is a great way to get people involved with their own heritage and that of others, we all have stories to tell and we can learn so much from the experience of the people whose stories we listen to, record, and share.

The basis for ‘100 Years and Counting’ was, somewhat obviously, the anniversary of the opening of King George’s Hall in October 1921. But the way the project is beginning to take shape was born out of the closure of the venue in March 2020 due to the Coronavirus pandemic. With this closure, staff had time to take stock of the objects, photographs, and posters in the KGH store cupboard and amazingly Darren, KGH Programmer and Operations Coordinator, has managed to put together an almost-full list of every show to have taken place there over the last 100 years by going through diaries, What’s On guides and posters!

Over the next few months, I’ll be speaking to people that have links to KGH or memories associated with the building and events, which will form the basis of a display showcasing people’s experiences and the photographs collected by KGH as well as people’s personal photographs. If you’d like to take part in a recorded oral history conversation with me – please do get in touch. We are also inviting people to share their memories with us via a comments box on our website, which will be available in the next few weeks, so if you don’t want to take part in a video chat then please do fill this out.

We’ll also be recruiting some volunteers to help us with the project, with opportunities available for oral history transcribing, collection digitisation, exhibition writing, and exhibition staffing, so keep an eye out for these opportunities popping up in the next few weeks. Some of these will be completely remote, and others will require some travel to Blackburn so we have something for everyone.

I’m looking forward to learning more about KGH, Blackburn itself and the different ‘scenes’ it has been home to over the past 100 years. A lot has been written about the historic year of 1973 at KGH, with the National Lottery Heritage Funded project ‘1973: When Bowie Came to Blackburn’, but ‘100 Years and Counting’ is hoping to fill in the gaps before and after 1973 and celebrate a whole century of King George’s Hall!

If you’d like to get involved in the project in any way or have any questions, please direct these to Project Lead, Laura Owen, at laura.owen.historian@gmail.com