Since our initial Facebook post in late September we’ve had a constant stream of people telling us their stories. Rutlanders from as far afield as Scotland and Devon have been in touch with their memories and experiences. We’ve also had the good fortune to be offered unique and interesting documents to digitise as well as locating archive footage from TV programmes and documentary films made in the 70s. One late 70s Anglia TV programme in particular has proven a gem not widely seen since its initial broadcast.
As for interviews, we’ve spoken to engineers, farmers, landowners, sailors, water authority and council members as well as folk who were at school in the 70s; and without fail they’ve been fascinating to talk to. Everyone has memories. Some are small-scale: going to hospital to have a baby and then finding that when they returned, the road was blocked; fishing for tiddlers in a brook feeding the Gwash and bringing home a large trout which had escaped from the reservoir; trying to be the last person to use the old Ketton road before it was flooded – lots of people claim this prize but none beat the young engineer who crossed the river with the water half way up the doors of his Land Rover. Some are larger scale and of huge impact: having your family home of generations knocked down and being forced off your land; being responsible for shaping the foreshore of the sailing club with earth-moving equipment; raising a petition to persuade the authorities to change the name from Empingham Reservoir to Rutland Water – a much more satisfying name.
This latter memory belongs to Jane Merritt, now Ruttter, who as a 17 year old sixth former at Rutland High School, decided that the name of Rutland should not be lost as the county was absorbed into Leicestershire, and more or less single-handedly led the campaign to change the name. Several months and 5000 signatures later – about 25% of the adult population at the time – Jane’s petition was successful, and so we find ourselves today with an internationally famous and memorably-named location. This experience also had personal consequences. Jane’s campaign led to a life-long interest in local politics, resulting in her election as the 847 Mayor of Winchester in 2016. Meeting Jane at Rutland Sailing Club, we had a fascinating morning recording her interview, which included her reading for us the speech she originally gave aged 17 to a group of Anglian Water senior Managers and other dignitaries following her successful campaign.
And so it goes on. We’ve had excellent support from the local press – thanks to Rutland Mercury journos and the staff of their amazing 200-year-old archive; and Anglian Water have helped by passing on some of their original documentary material and promoting the project internally. In fact, thanks to the interview we gave for their social media (see: https://youtu.be/5aaAXF-BBJE ) and publicity in their staff publications, led to several contacts with AW staff who worked on the construction of the lake.
The goal now is to keep the interviews rolling until early December when we’ll start the massive job of pulling all this together into the final documentary and digital archive.
Watch this space…