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I'm on a year's CBA Community Archaeology Training Placement at Northlight Heritage in Glasgow

Monday, 30 September 2013

A little bit about Cumnock's Raising the Bar


Well I don't know where to start talking about this project.  It's been a whirlwind!  When I started working on it properly at the end of July/beginning of August I was quite daunted - Would the people of Cumnock be at all interested in heritage?  It's a fairly run down Ayrshire mining village, so I thought it might be quite a challenge.  I was also quite daunted by the site we were going to be digging - right next to the road and I thought access wise for groups of school children was going to be tricky.

First of all - the people in Cumnock blew me away.  Everyone is so friendly, helpful and curious.  Now, a few months into the project Ingrid and I are 'weel kent faces' (as we say in Orkney) on the streets of Cumnock.

Second of all - yes the site was not the most visitor friendly - it wasn't in a lush field of green grass, but in a concrete filled carpark - full of demolition material....however the location was key to the high engagement levels we achieved during the excavation.  Because it was in the middle of the town, we had so many passers by checking in daily to see what had been discovered!

Before the excavation we did various things to raise awareness of the project and gather community input.  These included having a stall at the Cumnock Highland Games and also doing some 'pub crawls' looking for memories of the Tup Inn - the site we would be digging up.  What a great response - the pub seems to have been a really well loved place and what better place to dig up on a Community project than someone's favourite pub! Ingrid also did a 123D Catch workshop with the Young Carers to give them an introduction to archaeological recording.

Volunteer Shaun digging away
We carried out a two week excavation at the start of September (prior to which I'd done 8 school pre-visits in 4 days!) where we had 19 Volunteers from the local area come and learn the techniques of excavation.  Recruiting the volunteers was interesting - we got quite a lot from the local Volunteer Centre and the Job Centre.  It was key to us to up-skill people to help with their employability.

We also had visits from 6 primary school classes and 2 Young Carers groups.  The Young Carers were great.  If you think how hard their young lives must be - trying to knuckle down at school whilst caring for an ill/disabled/elderly family member - no wonder when they get to Young Carers group they let their hair down!  Despite this, once they got into digging, they were concentrating so hard!  This is what I find really rewarding about Community Archaeology - using what I love to give people a special and memorable experience.

We also worked alongside Neil Finlayson - a woodcarver who worked together with the forestry staff at East Ayrshire Woodlands to create a collosal bench.  The bench was then a platform for Community Art- each visitor getting to 'Make their Mark'
The Bench Arrives!

Craig - a local chap who designed a Cumnock-themed carving for one side of the bench, and carved most of it himself!

More on Cumnock later - I haven't even scratched the surface of the amount of work we've done!

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