An interview with Laura Mitchison
on Oral HIstory


Many of the best stories come from life. People’s experiences, memories and thoughts have long been used as the seeds of great writing. But sometimes these stories are hidden away, forgotten, or ignored.

Oral history offers a way for writers to engage with individuals and craft a narrative out of an event or occurrence, adding colour, warmth and personality.

On The Record is a small, not for profit cooperative who work to uncover untold stories. Through their projects they amplify and preserve the voices of those who are ‘hidden from history.’ Like Spread The Word, they seek to give under-represented voices the opportunity to be heard. They work on a broad range of histories and areas, and are currently running verbatim theatre pieces, art and oral history projects and workshops with young people.

In their upcoming workshop co-director Laura Mitchison will be helping writers to use oral history in their own work, whether as research, information or inspiration.

We spoke with Laura ahead of the workshop. In this interview she tells us more about what oral history is, why telling stories matter, and the importance of dialogue between writer and interviewer and storyteller and interviewee.

We discussed the special way that oral history provides a structured space with a listener to ‘tease out the tale.’  As Laura says, ‘it’s about the particular quality of attention that you get from a really good interviewer, that allows people to chisel and hone the way they share their stories.’ A shared performance, oral history as story is ‘different and special, dangerous and exciting…’

Writing Oral History takes place from 10am to 4pm on Saturday 24 February at the Ideas Store in Whitechapel. For more information and how to book your place – go here. Members of the London Writers Network receive 10% discount on Spread the Word’s paid programme of activities.