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Posted by Kim Winter, Friday 23rd November, 2012

Brixton Windmill celebrates 9,500 Heritage Lottery Fund Grant

Brixton Windmill

Get in touch if you have old photos or memories of Brixton Windmill

Image: June Stillman

The Friends of Windmill Gardens is one of the first groups in the UK to receive a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) All Our Stories grant, announced on 22 November. This exciting project, ‘Mill Memories’, has been given £9,500 to collect the memories that local people have of the mill and surrounding area, as well as methods of producing flour and baking bread.

The aim is to train volunteers to interview people about their memories and then use the information to produce an exhibition, book and theatrical performance.

All Our Stories, a brand new small grant programme, launched earlier this year in support of BBC Two’s The Great British Story, has been designed as an opportunity for everyone to get involved in their heritage. With HLF funding and support, community groups will carry out activities that help people explore, share and celebrate their local heritage.

The popular series, presented by historian Michael Wood and supported by a programme of BBC Learning activities and events, got thousands of us asking questions about our history and inspired us to look at our history in a different way through the eyes of ordinary people.

The programme and HLF All Our Stories has proved a real hit, and now ‘Mill Memories’ is one of hundreds of successful projects around the UK to receive a grant. Now that the Friends of Windmill Gardens' campaign to restore Brixton Windmill has been successful, we want to explore and capture the memories of local people that relate to the building and what it means to them.

People's memories of the windmill often shed new light on other aspects of life and changes in Brixton – for example, the process of bread making and flour production, growing food, changes in local streets and shops, and multicultural influences over time.

Stable reminder in a time of change
In a London borough that sees an annual turnover of 25% in its population, this 200-year-old windmill is a stable reminder of the area's history and a focus for the local community. Using the windmill as a starting point, we will train volunteers to interview people about their memories, including how they produced food in the past. This includes first-generation immigrant families from the Caribbean, West Africa, Portugal and Somalia.

The Friends also want to interview millwrights and those who have worked on previous restorations of the windmill. This will provide a fuller record of how the building itself has managed to survive the changes in the surrounding area.

TV presenter and historian Michael Wood said: “We British love our history, and no wonder: few nations in the world, if any, have such riches on their doorstep, and so much of it accessible to all of us. It is really tremendous that the people of Brixton have been inspired to get involved to tell their own story and to dig deeper into their own past. It’s brilliant that so many people are being given the chance to get involved through the All Our Stories grants. Having travelled the length and breadth of the British Isles this last year filming The Great British Story, I am certain that fascinating and moving stories will be uncovered which will not only bring to life the excitement of local history, but will illuminate and enrich every community’s connection with the national narrative.”

Jean Kerrigan, Chair of Friends of Windmill Gardens, said: "We are very grateful for this grant. It allows us to involve many local people in recording why Ashby’s Mill (Brixton Windmill) is important to them. The record we make of past and current experiences will create a permanent addition to the collective memory of local Brixton people which we will share in creative ways within our community."

So if you're interested in being trained to interview people, or if you know local residents who could be suitable interviewees or who might have some old photos of the windmill, please get in touch on info@brixtonwindmill.org.uk.