Lewisham residents go ‘on the record’ for new digital memory archive

At the soft launch of Riverdale Records’ installation booth with Councillor Aliyah Sheikh, Kate McCormick, the Senior Development Manager of Landsec and Shuyi Gao, the project’s engagement assistant. Pic: Charmaine Wong

Residents are invited to go ‘on the record’ to share their memories of Lewisham town centre for a new digital archive by Goldsmiths, University of London.

Riverdale Records, an interactive installation recreating a video and record store, has been set up at the central square of Lewisham Shopping Centre prompting residents to document their memories on mocked-up VHS sleeves and 12” vinyl albums.

Will Cenci, a public engagement manager at Goldsmiths, which is based at New Cross, said: “We were thinking about the types of shops that had been lost, things that would resonate with people of an older generation…we wanted something that would pique their curiosity and would tie in nicely with the change that had happened over the years.”

Memories of events are documented in vinyl records and VHS tapes. Pic: Charmaine Wong

The installation took in 15 to 20 stories a day and will continue to collect in the upcoming week. Cenci said the kind of memories documented so far ranged from “personal experiences with lost retail shops” to public amenities that were “a part of the civic infrastructure of Lewisham.”

Cenci said: “We want to gather as many memories as possible to help build a post-war history of the borough and to hopefully inform what would happen to the shopping centre going forward. There are plans to redevelop it, so we want to make sure people’s memories are part of the conversation.”

Councillor Aliyah Sheikh said told ELL: “The unique thing here is that there is this combination of big retailers and…the market outside where you can get the freshest and most cost-effective fruit and veg.”

Residents wrote down their memories of lost town centre shops and their recollections of the place on VHS tapes. Pic: Charmaine Wong

Riverdale Records is one of seven projects in In Living Memory, a community-led initiative by Goldsmiths, University of London to uncover and document Lewisham’s past since 1945.

In addition to the digital archive, there are plans to create teaching materials for local schools next year, based on the seven projects like lost queer spaces in the area and the 1981 Black People’s Day of Action.

Cenci said: “These are important things that are weaved into the social fabric of Lewisham for the last 50 to 60 years and from our perspective, it is crucial for young people to understand that as much as it is being about preserving people’s memories.”

The installation will be at the central square of Lewisham Shopping Centre from November 23 to 26 and November 30 to December 3, from 11am-5pm. Visit the In Living Memory website if you would like to share your Lewisham memories or browse through the live digital archive.

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