Black Country Stories Oral History

September 19, 2012

By Julia Letts, Project Interviewer

Ever wondered what it’s like to work in a brewery? Yesterday I got the chance to interview Phil Parkinson at Marston’s in Wolverhampton, to record his personal story of living and working in the Black Country. Phil doesn’t come from this part of the world, but he calls it home now and is deeply proud of both the brewery and the beer that he makes.

Even if you’ve never visited Marston’s, you’ve probably smelt it from the ring road. As Phil says, you either love the smell or hate it. Luckily he loves it.“The smells for me are fantastic. You’ve got the warmth of the mash room floor with all the lovely malty smells coming off… and then when you’re adding the hops, we’ve got so many varieties now, really fragrant hops, really floral and zesty and citrusy ones are tending to be all the rage at the moment, so some lovely grapefruity smells.”

Phil’s is just one of three oral history interviews I’ve recorded in the past week. I’ve also met Trisha Uccelinni, who’s been selling vintage clothes from her shop in Wolverhampton City Centre for nearly 40 years, and in Wightwick, I visited hairdresser Nick Malenko. Nick travels the world with celebrity clients but is never happier than when returning to his Wolverhampton roots.

This is the joy of oral history. You learn so much about what’s important to people, what makes them tick and why they’re so proud about the places where they live and work. Martin Parr captures this in his wonderful photographs, which you can see in the gallery on this website. My interviews give our subjects a voice… a chance to record for future generations what they think about living and working in the Black Country in 2012.