Phoenix Radio was able to gather people’s memories based in The Memory Lane Café, Sowerby Bridge. Initially the concept was to create a community jigsaw built around images of Sowerby Bridge from the past. Whilst people talked about their memories of growing up in the area, the jigsaw was to be an additional link to their memories as it was being built. The group started to develop their own ideas for features to be recorded and as well as the designed material other items of interest were brought in. This meant that rather than focus purely on Sowerby Bridge the jigsaw was more Calderdale wide. The reason for this was that, although people came to the Sowerby Bridge Memory Café, many of them had been brought up in other areas of Calderdale and because many people who accessed the Café weren’t Sowerby Bridge residents, their history was unique to that area. Interestingly, when we started the project there were certain things that we hadn’t considered, such as how older people can feel lonely and isolated within a group environment. We spent some sessions listening to one lady who opened up to us about her feelings, having had to leave her home and move to a flat. We were still able to find other stories from other group members about Mattocks Toffees, early rivals to Mackintosh’s, based on Industrial Road, Sowerby Bridge as well as learning more about the long, gone houses and shops at the West End of the town. One lady had her own memories of making friends with the Triangle Mill Sisters. Other stories included a lady who was a ‘flying’ ballerina at the Grand Theatre, situated at the end of North Bridge in Halifax, whilst others were closer to Sowerby Bridge such as the Co-Op Arcade and Bazaar on King Cross Lane.
Once completed the idea was for the jigsaw to be laminated and hung in the space as a focal point to encourage further conversation but because some participants had signs of Dementia, the physical building of the jigsaw was seen as more productive as it was a constant memory exerciser. At the same time as the jigsaw was being built we recorded the sessions using a ZOOM portable audio recorder to capture their memories for posterity.