Preserving the History of the Birmingham Pub Bombings
By: Professor Gavin Schaffer, University of Birmingham
The events of the 21st November 1974 changed lives in Birmingham and beyond for generations. Alongside the 21 who lost their lives and the nearly 200 injured, families, friends and communities were left in a state of trauma, which they still in many cases carry with them to this day. Birmingham’s Irish communities, so central to the building and development of our city and its culture, became victims of violence and discrimination, held responsible for actions of terrorists that had nothing to do with them, while they too had to mourn their share of dead and injured.
In the aftermath of the 40th anniversary of the pub bombings, historians at the University of Birmingham are working to develop a new archive, which will preserve the memories of those affected by the bombings, giving to future generations an insight into the long term impact of terrorism on our city. We want to safeguard this sad and difficult piece of our past, and believe that we need to do so now, before it is too late to record the voices of the people that were there.
The University team are consulting with community stakeholders in a number of ways to make this happen. We are working closely with the Friends of Birmingham Archives and Heritage, Justice for the 21, and are meeting with representatives of the Irish community in Digbeth next week. As a city-wide project, we hope such consultations will allow for all members of Birmingham’s communities to participate in this research and have an opportunity to raise concerns or questions.
At the core of the project, we are looking to interview people whose lives were changed for good by the events of the 21st November, those who lost loved ones or were injured in the bombings, and also people who suffered discrimination, or were traumatised in other ways. On the 11th June we are holding a witness seminar at the University. This event will offer an opportunity to listen to some of the memories of those directly affected by the pub bombings. Alan Hill (a fireman) and Eric Noble (a policeman) will share recollections of trying to help victims in the wake of the attacks, Julie Hambleton will talk about her family’s bereavement, and Robyn Tighe about her experiences as a victim of the bombings. We also hope to give audience members an opportunity to share some of their own memories in a safe and supportive environment. The seminar won’t be open to the press, but will be recorded for the archive.