A little over four years ago I walked into the old Great West Beef for the very first time, it was gutted, musty and poorly lit and I fell in love immediately. Before I left from that visit (and months before we signed a lease) I pledged to find out everything I could about the building. That visit started my trip down the rabbit hole of London’s heritage.
What I found out over the next couple of years is that heritage research is a lot like a detective novel - there are clues everywhere if you know where to look, you lean heavily on all kinds of people with expertise in pretty obscure areas of knowledge and everything is connected to something remarkable.
I’m still a newbie in this area but I found the journey through history to be fascinating and incredibly enjoyable, in a nerdy kind of way. It’s long been my assertion that we’re all nerds in some area or other and it doesn’t have to look like computer programming or Dungeons & Dragons - it could be board games, knitting, baseball, politics, trivia, cooking or any one of another ten thousand pastimes. I hadn’t ever stopped to consider that heritage was just such a hobby (or obsession).
That's why we're launching London’s first History Jam, to connect with new people who like to chase mysteries and learn about our city, to share a special experience where we can fill in gaps in London’s timeline and tell stories of our city and to have some laughs along the way.
One of the great things about this kind of adventure is that there’s so much variety in the work. There are maps to be deciphered, books to be read, microfilm to scan, pictures to take, tales to hear, people to breathe new life into, videos to compile, conversations to have and so much more. Every story, every person from our past is connected to other stories and that helps us learn more about our story.
For instance, while investigating the London Roundhouse I learned that it was connected to W.J. Reid who founded Tecumseh Field (now known as Labatt Park) and John Labatt was also a shareholder in the railway that owned the Roundhouse. I also learned of a much more direct connection to the present, it turns out that the great-great-great grandfather of one of the guys who worked at our company was the mayor of London in the late 1800s. And that was just the tip of the iceberg, there are many connections to be made and many stories to be told and the closer you look the more you see.
There’s a place for you at the History Jam, whether you’re a newbie, a veteran of the heritage community, someone who just likes to research and learn, or someone with special skills like videography, photography, podcasting, writing, copy editing, Wikipedia editing, graphic artists, poets, painters, Lego builders, board game design etc. There’s a myriad of ways to tell our stories and one of them will suit you.
We’ll have folks on hand that can introduce you to others and that can help you find ways to make the most out of your skills, talents and imagination. It’s going to be a place of community and support so you will not be alone.
The Jam will kick off with an evening brainstorming session on Thursday May 25th at the Central Branch of the London Public Library (sign up for “Tell me about opportunities to participate in the jam” on our homepage if you want to participate). On Saturday May 27 we will gather at the London Room and break up into teams to research and capture our stories. Sunday May 28 is set aside to compile our research into narratives, photo galleries, videos, etc and we’ll do brief presentations of our stories at the end of the day. Then on Tuesday June 6th we’ll gather at Wolf Performance Hall to share our stories (and maybe hear some new stories as well).
We hope this is just the first of many History Jams and we hope to meet you there.