Updated: Feb 11
Knowing of my interest in writing family stories, a friend of mine recommended that I listen to a half hour programme on BBC Radio 4 hosted by Guy Garvey, lead singer and lyricist for the band, Elbow. He hosts a weekly programme and one particular episode called ‘Recording Dad’ was aired in November 2018.
Guy talks about how his Dad was a great raconteur and how he wanted to capture some of his father’s favourite anecdotes. Guy wanted to make these recordings to keep and to share with his family and, in addition, to pass on a sense of the importance of family storytelling to his son.
Guy found however, that his ten year project to record his Dad’s memories resulted in much more than that. It gave him an insight on his Dad’s thoughts and feelings that could only be gained from listening to him tell his stories and, through this, honouring his experience. Guy says that these conversations had the unexpected impact of deepening the connection between him and his father and enriching their relationship.
Guy also interviewed Catherine Loveday, a professor at Westminster University who specialises in autobiographical memory. She says that listening to a parent telling stories about their life can make them feel valued, and that recording them telling their stories can increase that sense of value tenfold. Furthermore, she says that the stories that get passed down the generations ‘are who we are’.
The stories we tell within our family become part of our identity. And yes, we can even say that these stories make us who we are.
Try recording your own parents as they talk about their lives and experiences. These recordings will be a fantastic resource for you as you write your family history. More importantly, they’ll be a permanent record of your parent or grandparent telling their stories in their own voice; something to be treasured and listened to by future generations.