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Historic England to fund 56 new projects examining working-class history

Projects exploring England’s working-class history, including stories of pigeon racers in North Yorkshire and a documentary about roller skating in Birmingham, have been given funding by Historic England.

The untold stories of an east London pub which helped launch music careers in the 70s and 80s and the history of drag in Newcastle are also among the 56 community-led projects to receive grants from the public body.

The announcement is part of Historic England’s Everyday Heritage programme, launched in 2022, which has so far supported 57 projects with grants and aims to highlight the diversity in the nation’s past.

Historic England funding
Pigeon fanciers in Blyth (Historic England/PA)

The documentary on Birmingham’s history of roller skating will tell the story of the Tower Ballroom at the Edgbaston Reservoir in Ladywood, which was built in 1871 and hosted skaters until its closure in 2017.

The venue was recently demolished to build flats, and neighbours feel the redevelopment is “threatening to erase its strong working-class history”, Historic England said.

Pigeon breeders, otherwise known as fanciers, will be celebrated in a village trail and public event in Skinningrove, North Yorkshire, organised by local artist Joanne Coates.

Pigeon racing has “deep roots” in working-class communities such as Skinningrove, Historic England said.

Pop-up exhibitions and interviews are planned to celebrate the history of the Bridge House Pub, Canning Town, east London, which was pivotal to aspiring bands from working-class backgrounds embarking on a music career.

Establishing itself as a leading live music venue, it played host to an eclectic mix of sounds from Iron Maiden to Dire Straits, Cockney Rejects and Chas & Dave.

Historic England funding
Members of the LGBT+ Northern Social Group (NSG) performing in Newcastle (Historic England/PA)

Workshops on the legacy of drag in Newcastle’s Gay Village are also listed for a grant.

Volunteer-led LGBT+ Northern Social Group (NSG) has around 2,600 members and wants encourage attendees to produce their own live performances that subvert traditional gender presentations.

In Bedfordshire, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) children and families will help create a touring exhibition on their communities living in Greensand Country, while a project documenting the stories of London’s homeless communities in the the 80s and 90s will also receive funding.

In another project, titled 40 Years, 40 Stories, a series of interviews will document what it has been like to live and work in London’s Chinatown since 1985.

Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Historic England, said: “There are so many hidden histories to uncover here in England.

“Every community has a story to tell and we want to hear them.

Historic England funding
A touring exhibition that tells the story of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities living in Greensand Country, in Central Bedfordshire (Historic England/PA)

“I’m excited to learn more about these fascinating projects as they shine an important light on our working class heritage.”

He added that he hopes the schemes “will engage with local people by empowering them to research and tell their own stories”.

Historic England selected the 56 new recipients out of more than 380 applications, and each will receive between £6,800 and £25,000 from an £875,000 pot.