T he idea for the Lincolnshire Best Kept Villages and Small Towns Competitions’ 50th Anniversary Heritage Project arose through consultation with participants, volunteers and judges who have been part of the competition for many years. Everyone involved felt the approaching 50th Anniversary would be an excellent opportunity to celebrate the huge volume of community effort and participation which has been generated by the competition. With this in mind Fiona White, the Chief Executive of Community Lincs and Teresa Palmer, Competition Organiser, bid for Heritage Lottery Funding to create a permanent celebration and archive of the competition. The award of this grant enabled us to dip into a rich seam of community life and activity from the past 50 years.

Support from the Heritage lottery Fund helped secure the services of a Project Officer who engaged the help of a team of volunteer researchers 

Thanks to the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund we were able to recruit a Project Officer to co-ordinate and drive the project forward in its early stages. Our Project Officer, Rachael Vamplew began by taking responsibility for the task of volunteer recruitment, knowing that volunteering would be integral to the project’s success. Through the exploration of a number of avenues, such as local volunteering centres, local history organisations, U3A groups, parish councils, current competition judges and placing advertisements in the local media we successfully recruited eighteen Heritage Research Volunteers. We were also lucky enough to work with a local photography student, Jim Smith, who volunteered to act as our project photographer, visiting each of the ‘Top 10’ most successful competition communities in turn, to take professional photographs many of which can be seen here on this website.

As part of the volunteer recruiting process we provided the volunteers with training to give them the skills to undertake Oral History Interviews with individuals in the identified ‘Top 10’ communities. We were able to arrange an Oral History training course delivered by Colin Hyde of the East Midlands Oral History Archive within Leicester University. This was a one-day course and focussed on introducing our volunteers to Oral History interviewing, and the skills and techniques required to carry out successful face to face interviews. Additionally the course offered some training on how to use digital voice recording devices (purchased by Community Lincs to support the project) as well as an introduction to audio-editing software which we have used to produce the audio clips which can be found on this website. The work of these Heritage Research Volunteers has been vital to the project and we thank them for their enthusiasm and hard work.

These oral history interviews have produced some lovely memories and reminiscences that we have been able to capture. We also collected photographic archive materials that document these memories, preserving them as a community resource for future generations. The memories and photographs have created an opportunity to reflect on what communities were like fifty years ago and how they have changed over that time. In addition to the in-depth interviews with the ‘Top 10’ we also wished to gain information from the wider Lincolnshire community to ensure that the project is inclusive of all the Lincolnshire villages who take part in the competition. To gather residents’ memories and experiences in these wider areas we created and promoted an online and postal survey. The response was good and produced a wealth of information from people giving positive support not only to the aims and objectives of the heritage project but to the Best Kept Villages and Small Towns Competition overall. From the survey we were delighted to discover that a high percentage of people within the participating villages believe that the competition has helped them to improve both the appearance and the sense of community spirit in the areas in which they live. Our plans to produce a touring display and booklet as well as this website have been supported by Heritage Lincolnshire who have provided design and production services and given their expertise in the areas of producing heritage booklets and displays. They have made an ideal partner to work with on this project and we thank them for their support. We have also worked closely with the Heritage Lottery Fund to ensure the project delivered its original aims and met planned targets. We set up a Steering Group consisting of project stakeholders who met regularly to discuss the project process and provide ideas and suggestions to help move the project forward. This has also helped keep the project on track and we thank them for their guidance.

Oral history interviews were undertaken with residents from communities featuring in the top ten. Some are available to listen to on this site. Others will be added later together with transcripts which will form part of the archives section.