Not all good things have to come to an end…

After two years of researching, exploring, and sharing women’s experiences of healthcare in Islington over the last century (look at previous post Dispensing Wisdom Blogging Debut), the day had come when the project came to end at The Dispensing Wisdom International Women’s Day event at the Islington Town Hall on Monday 7 March 2016.

The event was a mini-experience of the project, with inspiring talks, performances and creative workshops. Here are some photographs of the day:

The event included creative workshops with photographer Marysa Dowling and set and costume designer Mila Sanders – here is Marysa above setting up her photography activity.

Talks from amazing women speakers about local heritage and archives, health and well being and careers, including one of our very own Abira above.

Beautiful poetry from women of different generations. This is Florence Campbell from the Alsen Day Centre reading one her favourite poems by Louise Bennett .

And of course the launch of The Dispensary (more about that later!)

But is it really the end for Dispensing Wisdom??

In short, what we did, anyone else can do.

This last blog post is all about passing on our experiences of the project, and hopefully inspiring you to do something similar! Whether it’s smiling at someone that you pass in the street, starting your own oral histories project, or getting to know a bit more about local stories by visiting a nearby museum… there’s something here for everyone.

The Dispensary

If you get a chance to get you hands on a copy of The Dispensary – make sure you have a look and a read! They’re available all over Islington in your local or school library, or you can order a copy right here.

The Dispensary includes original poetry, short stories, interviews, archive documents, ‘how to guides’, photographs and illustrations collected through the project. It was created by three Young Ambassadors – Naomi Money, Jemima Wilson and Abira Hussein.

Starting Conversations

‘The Art of Listening’ article in The Dispensary explains why listening to other peoples stories, especially those you might not usually hear, is important and beneficial.

If you’re got more time, why not start you’re own history project? All you need is a recording device, a list of questions, and a group of people you want to interview. You’ll find tips on how to be the best oral history interviewer in The Dispensary. If you’ve got less time, here are 4 things you can do day-to-day to hear more stories:

  • Smile
  • Volunteer at a local charity, community centre or somewhere where you get to speak to all different kinds of people
  • Ask older members of your family or an older person you know about life growing up
  • Start a conversation with someone you wouldn’t usually speak to at school, at a party, at work, at the bus stop – you get the picture!

 Step in to the past

As part of the project we visited different archives and museums in and around Islington.

If you’ve got more time, visit the London Metropolitan Archives, which is home to amazing documents, images, maps, films and books about London. If you’ve never visited an archive before, Jemima gives a guide to ‘How To Use An Archive’ in The Dispensary. If you’ve got less time, pop-in to the Islington Museum which is dedicated to the history of Islington. Next door at the Local History Centre, you’ll find the full oral history interview recordings and transcriptions of the women we spoke to. Some other favourites of ours include the Foundling Museum and Manor Gardens Centre.

Share the Stories

As we have done through the Dispensing Wisdom performances in June 2015, the International Women’s Day event in March 2016, and by publishing The Dispensary, it’s important to share stories that aren’t usually heard. Otherwise, they may never be heard.

If you have more time, there are plenty of platforms where you can share the stories you’ve heard (with the person’s permission of course). If you’re serious about undertaking your own Oral History project, it’s best to do a bit of research first, or speak to someone that’s done it before. Why not respond creatively by writing or performing a story or poem, or start your own blog? If you’ve got less time, if a story has had an impact on you, perhaps share it with a friend of family member. Or, you can always pass on a copy of The Dispensary!

Now it’s over to you to make sure Dispensing Wisdom never ends 🙂




Images from history ‘inspire’ young parents

By Evelyn Nnabuife, Young Ambassador

So it’s been a while since the launch of the Dispensing Wisdom Project and it’s definitely fair to say that there has been a lot of learning for both the project team and the participating young women, and particularly for the Inspire! young parents project.

Friday 20 February, saw us working with a group of young parents playing dress up… well…dress up with a purpose!

The young mothers took part in a session with the idea to use clothes and props brought in by Mila Sanders (Dispensing Wisdom’s set and costume designer) that dated back to the early 19th century. The idea was for the young women to look through the Manor Gardens Archive images, pick out specific photos and choose people within the images to replicate.

The task had the young women excited, eagerly trawling through the bag of clothes, nearly forgetting what the task entailed.

The young parents started putting together different pieces of clothing, to create the images as well as creating other pieces of clothing using paper. We even had a paper moustache that looked very real (without trying to give too much away).

The young women posed throughout the session in a photo booth created with Photography Artist – Marysa Dowling.

There was a fake baby, a real baby and a fake pregnancy involved in the session!

The images created, will be revealed in a unique way at the Dispensing Wisdom Event – in June 2015.

Dispensing Wisdom’s Blogging Debut

By Abira Hussein and Naomi Money – Young Ambassadors

What better way to start than going back to the very beginning?

Here is a quick overview of the journey so far – and what a fascinating journey it has been…

The journey began back in July last year, when all the Dispensing Wisdom team came together to learn about Oral Histories. Verusca Calabria, an Oral Historian, gave the team an excellent introduction to Oral Histories, highlighting their importance in documenting social history. She also taught us some amazing interview techniques, which would come in very useful when we conducted our own interviews.

IMG_7209We launched the project at Manor Gardens’ Summer Fair in July 2014, aiming to engage with women at the event and give out information on the project. We ran a photo booth with photographer Marysa Dowling and asked women to take a portrait with a chalkboard saying what their relationship was with Manor Gardens was.

August 2014 was a busy month for the team – we got our ‘researcher hats’ on! The team returned to Manor Gardens for a special guided tour of the building and got the opportunity to look through some of the archive. We discovered Manor Gardens’ 100 years of amazing work and its special place within the Islington community.

Next, we delved into the vast archives of London’s history at London Metropolitan Archives.Local History 20

Foundling 2It was then swiftly on to the Foundling Museum, which tells the story of the Foundling Hospital, ‘London’s first home for abandoned children’.

Local History 21Later we headed to the Islington Museum, learning about Islington’s eventful history. Then finally back to Manor Gardens to look at their annual health reports, reflective of the state of health in Islington throughout the 20th Century, and the changing needs of the borough.

Local History 16Phew! It was then time to reflect on all the incredible things we had heard and seen. We created our own historical timeline showing some of they key (or just really interesting) events concerning women and healthcare in Islington over the past 100 years.

photo 4Now, it was time to put our oral history skills into action, hear directly from Islington women and listen to their personal stories of motherhood, healthcare and generally being a woman! After creating the interview questions, we spoke to the lovely women of the Turkish, Kurdish and Cypriot Women’s Welfare Group, Alsen Day Centre, Hilldrop Community Centre and women within the Somali community.

Their stories were touching, inspiring and testament to their resiliency.

We look forward to telling you more about our wonderful experiences of Dispensing Wisdom in the forthcoming posts!