Therapeutic practice and archival research (2019)

Detail from a newspaper with a headline reading 'Jamaicans, told to leave riot hostel, stay put'.

The Birmingham Gazette. Catalogue ref: LAB 26/198 (002)

Two new collaborative outreach projects with the Black, African and Asian Therapy Network (BAATN) and Stillpoint Spaces were conceived in 2019, in recognition that there is still much to do to address histories in relation to racism, colonialism and empire, and that the emotionally labour-intensive work needs to address both the facts that are uncovered and the feelings they provoke.  

Key to this is the necessity to become aware or present to feelings we may have that, if not handled carefully, can distort our views of what happened and our ability to ultimately interpret the past in a way that does justice to the story.  

In light of the overbearing sense of unprecedented change and challenge over the course of 2020, this became altogether more urgent. The collaborations fostered over 2019-20 between researchers at The National Archives and psychotherapists at Stillpoint Spaces and BAATN has aimed to kick-start important conversations as well as psychological processing of this important and challenging material.

To this end we recently showcased our work via an event hosted online by the British Museum (see video below).

Trauma, Resilience, Recovery

Monochrome photograph of a building with group of people sitting around it. A handwritten caption underneath says 'Coolies arrived from India at Depot'.

Trinidad Coolies arrived from India at depot c1890. Catalogue ref: CO 1069/392 pt2 (14)

BAATN collaborated with The National Archives to present an online workshop on Indian indentured labour and want to continue the dialogue with Legacy information and links. 

In the initial online workshop, we reflected on the story of the 83 years of Indian indentureship from 1834 to 1917. Iqbal Singh and Michael Mahoney from The National Archives Outreach Team (the official archive of the UK government) and Vidya Maharaj (BAATN member), introduced us to the topic of Indian indentureship, including by using documents stored at The National Archives. 

At the heart of the workshop, there was an exploration of the competing views of indentureship illustrated through visual material, diary entries, colonial reports and testimony. What do we make of these competing narrative accounts and what can we learn? 

Case studies were also presented, which included a look at themes such as indenture suicide as well as bringing a focus on women’s voices during this time. 

Read more and view a recording of the event

A one-day workshop was born out of the presentation that BAATN and The National Archives led. The workshop was designed on the back of feedback we received and included a short presentation on a topic related to Indian indenture inspired by one of our archival records. There was an opportunity to listen to a personal reflection, followed by a series of prompts led by a therapist, and then participants had a chance to work in small breakout groups.

Read a blog promoting the one-day workshop and some further details.

Racism Past and Present

Monochrome photograph of Barbara Beese during the Mangrove protests. She holds a pig's head straight up into the air.

Photograph of Barbara Beese, August 9th 1970. Catalogue ref: MEPO 31/21 (A23)

Earlier this year, before the COVID-19 outbreak, The National Archives and Stillpoint Spaces embarked on a new and innovative departure for both organisations – a project to evolve a programme that mixed therapeutic practice with archival research to address the topic of racism in Britain today. 

This pilot project was born out of a workshop at Stillpoint Spaces in June 2019. A diverse group of people from different personal and professional backgrounds came together to look at the themes of race and racism. As part of the day, participants broke up into smaller groups. One of the sub-groups looked at how archives, education and engagement could address the themes of the day. 

In response to this day, The National Archives developed in collaboration with Stillpoint Spaces and the Counsellor and Poetry Therapist, Charmaine Pollard, a programme of workshops under the heading of ‘Racism Past and Present’. One of the aims of the workshop series was to offer to tell the long story of the black community in Britain from the end of the First World War though to the early 1970s. 

Read a blog post about this collaboration