Capturing The Greatest Stories From Within Your Business...
19th March 2015
In the next article in our series looking at capturing and using your personal family history and heritage, Lucy Greenwell of Lives on Record talks about how she works with families to record their stories, and the advantages it can bring.
The heart of any business is the people who work in it, and in this sense family businesses are particularly special. I grew up in a family business (a farm) that my father and his father and his father's father had ran for over a century. Coming out of this fold into the world has defined me and my sense of family. It also gave me a great interest in the dual concepts of time and memory, which inspired me to launch Lives On Record.
Lives On Record is a team of BBC-trained award-winning presenters and producers, who use our professional skills to record people's stories. We work with families and with businesses. Whoever we interview, we aim to capture their spirit, passions and motivations, as well as the key events, so that loved ones or colleagues get a vivid, unique and lasting record that gets more precious with time. Think Desert Island Discs (but never for broadcast)!
Boodles is over 200 years old. It started life with one jewellery shop in Liverpool. Today it has branches in London, Chester, Manchester, Dublin and Liverpool. James Amos, Director: "Lives on Record created a fascinating and intimate account of my grandmother's long and varied life. It is a wonderful record, both for our family and for the business, and has been played back many times over. Thanks to the interviewer's skilful interviewing style, we now have a number of insights into a bygone era of our company history which we assumed had been lost when my grandfather passed away many years ago. I would recommend Lives on Record's services to anyone who is keen to document either their family history or their business history before it is too late.
The family businesses that we've worked with in the past have used Liveson Record as a way of recording the voices and experiences of important people. For some businesses we've interviewed just one person, for others, we interviewed a range of key people. We work with some clients to build business archives, to tell the story of the organisation through the voices of those who've witnessed and driven its evolution. With other clients, we capture the leader's story as they hand over to the next generation, it's a look back to the past, as the business moves forwards into the future. For others, Lives On Record is a stunningly original retirement present.
The family firms we work with find that our interviews have can engender a greater understanding between the generations, can help newcomers to understand the journey the business has been on, and can draw out stories and anecdotes that mightn't have otherwise been recorded.
Woburn Abbey is a 400 year old family business. Lives On Record interviewed a collection of long-standing employees for their archives. The Duke of Bedford: "We asked Lives On Record to help record a number of interviews with our staff - as well as an interview with my mother - for our archives. I think it's important to record people's voices, because you get a sense of the person far more profound than simply reading it off a page. Some of our interviewees were nervous beforehand but they all loved doing it and all remember it as a really positive experience. These interviews give a sense of the approach and values of Woburn, so we get new employees to listen to them. Plus, we gave the families of the intervieweesa copy. For their grandchildren, it'll be fascinating to hear 'what Grandma did'!
'Why don't you film people? Why is it just audio?' someone recently asked. Our answer is simple; the best pictures are painted in words. And apart from the notable price difference, the lights and cameras can make people self-conscious. After ten minutes with oursmall and eminently forgettable recording kit, our interviewees are lost in conversation. The result is an altogether more authentic interview.
Its little wonder that oral histories are on the rise. Listening to someone's voice is so vivid and evocative. Indeed, over the last decade the British Library has focussed huge time and resources towards gathering recordings of voices and stories that would otherwise be lost. The laughter, the tone of voice, the accent, the silence as people think through their answers, these things tell us infinitely more than the written word ever could.