About the project
The Lapsed Clubber Audio Map, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, provides an opportunity for members of the rave community, which helped shape the rave scene of Greater Manchester between 1985 and 1995, to archive their memories in spoken and written word. As a community archive, the map is curated by the people who contribute their memories. This practice caters to different ways of remembering rave culture. Multiple perspectives allow for rave culture to be understood as lived experiences that do not necessarily follow the dominant rave narrative.
Challenges and opportunities
Volunteers give up some of their valuable time to contribute to projects such as this. They come from all walks of life with different backgrounds, ambitions and values. For volunteers, their involvement happened in their leisure time, whereas the project manager treated the project as work time. Scheduling workshops, events and training was therefore very difficult.
The project was based on the principles of co-creation and co-production. For a project manager, it was hard at times to let go of pre-conceived ideas about the final product (which had been shaped by funding requirements) and to be open about creative contributions to the project (e.g. poems).
The project manager assumed that recording memories anonymously would allow contributors to save face whilst recording potentially reputation-damaging memories. Many contributors wanted to post their memories on social media in order to receive feedback from followers, something the map is not designed for.
The technology that has been used for this project can be adapted for other mapping projects. It allows charities such as Manchester Digital Music Archive to act as a consultant and generate income. The cost to create such a consultancy package, however, was not factored into the funding budget.
Linking community archives to social media would enable contributors to share content across platforms. This practice would increase traffic to the community archive and increase the reach and potential impact of a project such as this.
The project engaged a total of 120 volunteers, who all developed skills in data analysis, working with archives, interview techniques or the editing of recorded material. Those attending the project’s events demonstrated a high level of satisfaction and clearly had enjoyable experiences as a result of their participation. Those participating in the project, whether through the training activities, public events or through the online map, learnt more about their shared heritage:
‘It was good to hear how the audio map works, and Abigail’s explanation of the focus on democratising narratives.’
‘The early 90s rave scene was a formative time in my life. I’m interested in other people’s experiences or versions of events. I enjoy reminiscing. We thought we were changing the world.’
The anonymity of the Lapsed Clubber Audio Map might partly have worked against us. In fact, some contributors asked us, after uploading their memories, how they would be able to find them in order to share those on social media. We will have to think carefully about how responses such as like buttons can be integrated, without the uploading of memories becoming a competition for the most popular memory.
The project aimed to give the raving community the opportunity actively to shape how its heritage is recorded and interpreted. However, despite the best efforts of the project team, it proved difficult to translate the evident enthusiasm for the project among the self-identified Manchester raving community into active participation. This could be for various reasons, such as the timetabling and/or location of project events, or the lack of clearly defined volunteer roles within the project.
Advice for others
Volunteers need to be carefully managed, and this has to be done by somebody who is aware of the needs of this particular demographic and who the volunteers trust to be professional. This trust between the coordinator and volunteers can only develop over time. For a similar project, active and regular volunteer engagement has to start long before the project commences. It makes the volunteers feel part of the project from the beginning and saves valuable time when reaching out and engaging with them during the project.
As we have observed, people seem to be reluctant to leave memories when they are by themselves and not in conversation with a real person. This means that we need to continue to provide opportunities for people to contribute their memories. For now, we continue to organise pinning parties. Nurturing ravers into leaving their memories on the map is an ongoing process and will, we hope, result in many more memories being recorded.
We know that other major browsers will soon start to support WebRTC (Real Time Communication) so that we can invite people to upload their memories through their phones or other mobile devices. We believe that it will make participation in the project easier. Using WebRTC in connection with a mapping project is a novel way of engaging the public. Based on this model, other maps can be created. Those maps can cover other cities and regions, or even countries. They can also include other time periods, musical genres or any other form of heritage.
View the Lapsed Clubber Audio Map
Contact the project: Dr Beate Peter
Senior Lecturer in German, Manchester Metropolitan University