Special Collections, Heritage, and Archives - Projects

The Special Collections, Heritage, and Archives (SCHA) team regularly manage projects to raise the profile of our collections and the work we do to provide access and insight into how we promote our collections.

Below are some of our previous and current projects:

Painting of a fairground scene
Fairground Scene c.1930

It’s All a Show: Fairground Showmen, Identity and Mental Health Exhibition is Awarded a £10,000 Grant by The National Lottery Heritage Fund:

The National Fairground and Circus Archive (NFCA), has been awarded a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant to develop an exhibition entitled ‘It’s All a Show: Fairground Showmen, Identity and Mental Health’ in partnership with 6th generation Showman Sheldon Chadwick doctoral researcher at Liverpool John Moore’s University, and the Showmen’s Mental Health Awareness Charity. The exhibition will be held at the Western Bank Library at the University of Sheffield between January and June 2024. 

The exhibition will explore the Showmen* communities’ complex array of identities and the ways in which this relates to mental health. It will showcase the first specific statistics and research on the mental health of this community within the UK and Ireland alongside oral histories, photography, artwork, a live performance and archive material from the NFCA, from the Showmen’s voice perspective. 

‘The NFCA archive and Liverpool John Moore’s University will be the catalysts in highlighting  the power of our cultural heritage to give a voice to the experiences of individuals and groups in our society who have been historically silenced, and to develop strategies that facilitate and encourage dialogue between communities with unparalleled cultural experiences.’ Arantza Barrutia, NFCA Collections Manager.

The funding, made possible thanks to National Lottery players will enable the delivery of a programme of free workshops and events with a range of partners including The Showmen’s Theatre Company, Travellers Pride, EPIC Assist, Philosophy 4 Community and a selection of academics. The funding will also contribute towards touring the exhibition to John Moores University and Anglia Ruskin University after June 2024 to share knowledge and spread the impact of the project with a wider audience. 

About The National Lottery Heritage Fund:

Using money raised by the National Lottery, we Inspire, lead and resource the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future www.heritagefund.org.uk 

Follow @HeritageFundUK on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #NationalLotteryHeritageFund  

Since The National Lottery began in 1994, National Lottery players have raised over £43 billion for projects and more than 635,000 grants have been awarded across the UK. More than £30 million raised each week goes to good causes across the UK.

*The word Showman/Showmen is used to refer to men, women and children from the British fairground community as the preferred term used by a large section of this community to refer to themselves. 

Information on Project Partners: 

Ankita Mishra: Ankita is a PhD research student at the University of Sheffield Department of Psychology. She works with Black and Minoritised women's experiences of domestic abuse and its impact on their mental health and support seeking. 

Candace G. Thomas: Candace is a Program Coordinator with EPIC Assist Scotland. EPIC was founded in 2013, to provide support and development opportunities to disadvantaged and vulnerable groups throughout Scotland. 

Candace has an MPhil in Sociology from the University of Cambridge. She is currently undertaking a PhD in Sociology at University College Dublin, developing a methodological framework, which can be adopted within the third sector to build decolonial, inclusive and authentically diverse services.

Candace is the Vice Chairman of Fair Scotland, the Advisory Council for the Education of Romany and Travellers and the Diversity and Inclusion Expert for You Before Two.

National Fairground and Circus Archive (NFCA): The NFCA is a research archive embodying the history of popular entertainment from the seventeenth century onwards. It covers every aspect of travelling entertainment and its evolution, cross-cultural impact, and global spread and influence from the unique perspective of the travelling show people as a defined cultural group. 

The NFCA strives to promote the showmen community, their culture and their contribution to mainstream society and history, breakdown barriers of prejudice and challenging preconceived ideas of identity, culture and belonging. 

Philosophy 4 Community (P4C): P4C focuses on thinking skills and communal dialogue and aims to build communities of enquiry where participants develop 4Cs of thinking skills: creative, critical, collaborative and caring. They nurture children to think together to increase their understanding and appreciation of the world around them, providing the foundations that will equip and prepare them to be empowered, confident and positive citizens.

P4C encourages people to have an enquiring mind in all that they do and allows them to develop advanced skills such as inference, deduction, analysing and summarising.

Sheldon Chadwick: Sheldon Chadwick is a sixth generation showman currently undertaking a PhD at Liverpool John Moores University on the ethnographic study of Showmen and the mental health of the community. Sheldon is the founder of The Showmen’s Mental Health Awareness Charity and the Education Liaison Officer for the Lancashire Section of the Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain.

The Showmen’s Mental Health Charity: The Showmen’s Mental Health charity was set up in 2020 to serve a severe need in the British fairground Showmen community. The aim of the charity is to break down the stigma of mental health within the community, offer support and education while raising awareness and opening communication and treatment channels to prevent unnecessary deaths and suffering. The Charity provides referrals to mental health services, screening processes and places many Showmen on pathways bespoke for their needs. This includes providing funding for private therapy and counselling, private diagnosis and rehabilitation grants for community members.

The Showmen’s Theatre Company: The Showmen’s theatre company is an artist collective that produces work made by Showmen, about Showmen, for Showmen.

The company produces theatre which aims to challenge the negative stereotypes that surround travelling Showpeople. Moreover, championing other Showmen artists, allowing them to develop their practice and giving them the platform to express themselves and explore new ideas. The Showmen’s Theatre Company also delivers workshops in schools to both showmen and non-showmen children, educating them on Showmen identity.

Tyler Hatwell: Tyler is a Showman and psychotherapist based in London. He has worked for years in advocacy for various traveller groups with a particular focus on mental health, education, youth work, identity and LGBTQ+ issues. He works with adults and adolescents who are dealing with discomfort throughout their daily lives and has done extensive work with LGBT+ clients as well as Gypsies, Travellers, adolescents and people who have experienced homelessness.

Tyler is the founder of Travellers Pride and has worked alongside numerous Traveller-advocacy organisations.

Xenna Kaser: Xenna is the treasurer of the Showmen’s Mental Health Charity and is a qualified Psychotherapist, who works with Showmen and other communities across the UK and Ireland. 

University Heritage Collection and Festival of the Mind Project:

The University Heritage Collections and Department of Chemistry collaborated and took part in the Festival of the Mind 2022.

‘Kunststoff: Plastic – The Material of Art’ is a project initiated by Professor Tony Ryan from the Department of Chemistry and the Heritage Collections Manager, collaborated with local sculptor Anthony Bennett, to create a new artwork by repurposing of redundant plastic materials generated from the restoration project of the ‘Graduation’ textile artwork by Diana Springall which is part of the University Heritage Collection

Find out more about Kunststoff and Festival of the Mind 2022. 

Anthony Bennett FOTM
Anthony Bennett with Kunststoff

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