An exciting new project to mark 100 years of Longbridge’s historic Austin Village has been awarded funding from the National Lottery’s Heritage Lottery Fund.
Built to Last: Austin Village at 100 – which is being developed by West Midlands based cultural organisation Ampersand Projects, in collaboration with local residents – has been awarded £10,000.
Austin Village was established in 1917 and is a unique collection of American built prefab bungalows. The cedarwood homes were imported from Michigan, USA by Longbridge car factory founder Herbert Austin to house the factory’s growing workforce during World War I. A series of brick built houses are dotted across the village, serving as fire breaks.
Originally, all the villagers’ needs were well catered for, with a village hall (now Northfield Conservative Club), a cinema, a steam laundry, two churches nearby, two schools, a resident police officer and access to medical care.
Austin Village achieved conservation status in 1999 following the formation of the Austin Village Preservation Society (AVPS) in 1990 by residents.
The project comes as the village celebrates its 100th birthday, having lasted well beyond its intended life of 15 years. Birmingham based documentary photographer and artist Stephen Burke has been commissioned to help document the lives of current residents through photographic portraiture and collection of oral histories.
At the heart of the project are the residents that call Austin Village home. They will act as voluntary historians and tour guides, receiving specialist training in recording oral histories and digital archiving to enable them to develop their own research into the fascinating past and living history of the village.
Ampersand Projects Director Matt Andrews said: “This funding, provided by National Lottery players, gives us the opportunity to work with the community of Austin Village to explore what makes Austin Village such a unique place in its hundredth year.
“By training residents to document oral histories and develop their photography skills, we want to empower them to further explore the place where they live, and share it via a new online digital archive that will be community-run.”
A brand new digital archive will be developed, which will be populated by residents past and present with photographs, memorabilia, video and oral histories that tell the ongoing story of Austin Village. Sharing events will be held in community spaces within the village to allow residents, relatives and ancestors from further afield to contribute to this archive.
Ampersand Projects are inviting residents past and present to be part of this exciting project as interviewees or volunteer historians. If you’d like to get involved you can register your interest on their website.
Pop along to Northfield Conservative Club in Mill Walk between 12-3pm on Saturday 30th September to hear more about the project.
Austin Village Christmas cards, designed by resident artist and AVPS Events Coordinator Megan Evans, are available to buy here