“I enjoyed meeting new people and making new discoveries. We wanted to start as soon as we got to our pit site but we had to wait for the scanning – we were eager! It was really enjoyable.”
“I enjoyed the community feel to the whole dig”
“Please do another dig in Gainsborough.”
“The dig brought the community together, and inspired the pupils of my school – and it got parents engaged with their children.”
“I enjoyed seeing it all and seeing what goes into archaeology. It was so much fun and educational, especially if interested in history/archaeology.”
“Receiving a phone call from Lincoln University asking if they could carry out an archaeological dig wasn’t what I expected to happen on any ‘normal’ working day. Working as a Community Engagement Co-ordinator for a social housing provider presents many opportunities to get out in the community, working on varying projects. However, this was clearly very different and unique, and a proposition which I (now embarrassingly) laughed at.
An information evening was held which I attended along with a mere 4 other locals. Very typical of the apparent apathy on an estate suffering from high deprivation levels and low aspiration. However, Carenza engaged well with those there, and it was clear that we had 2 ‘do-ers’ in the room. From my experience of volunteering, we need do-ers, and more of them too! The dig was to go ahead with a gut feeling from the team that people would come to the dig when they saw something actually happening.
Ian set up his facebook group which generated automatic interest and engagement. People wanted to be involved and names were put in the ‘volunteering’ hat.
The first day of the dig was held at a local infant school, and despite myself and Acis not attending, the buzz could be felt spiralling down the hills to my desk. People were engaged, they were finding exciting bits of pottery and at the end of the final day the ‘big find’, dating back to medieval times was found. The excitement was contagious and spurred people to come out in their droves on the Saturday.
I woke Saturday morning with some trepidation of what the day ahead would bring – would people really come?
The community room was set up with a few chairs put out for volunteers. The start time was 10am, but by 9.30 the room was full and more chairs pulled out. I can’t think of the last time I made so much tea! As I sat perched on the window cill listening to Carenza talk through the aims of the day, people continued to come through the door. I looked out onto the street where the flags were flying, proudly saying that the university was here on the estate. A place where ‘nothing ever happens’ had challenged head on for people to come out of their houses and be part of something. I saw someone sat in their car, clearly interested in what was happening but not confident enough to just walk in. I turned and waved, beckoning them in. I realised, some people just need telling, needing permission to be involved.
This was, is, a community project – led by the university, but by the name itself represents that the community had to take control of this.
The 30+ volunteers, with ages ranging from young to old and with an even gender split all left the building in teams, equipped with their necessary instructions and tools. I rang my husband – he was looking after my children, 5 and 10. I said to him that this was indeed a unique opportunity, an opportunity that may never arise again and could he get the children dressed and out on site. I received a text message no more than 10 minutes later hearing that they were there and my youngest was fascinated by the worms coming out of the heavy clay. I didn’t dare ask if they’d cleaned their teeth (I knew the answer already).
As each hour passed you could feel the fever rise. Find after find was emerging from the ground and a sense amongst the team that if they just kept going a bit further what might they find next. Some of the mums kept the kids fed with homemade sandwiches which they hurried down (yes with mucky hands), eager to keep on going. My eldest didn’t stop to catch his breath – he was fully into it and has asked to take part in the final part of the dig!
At 4pm, tired teams came back to the centre with bags marked up (in a very specific way), laying them out proudly on the tables for all to see. Carenza welcomed a member from each test pit to talk about their experiences and what they had found. Volunteers were proud, they smiled a lot, they interacted with one another that suggested a mutual understanding of togetherness had been experienced. Knowledge was shared amongst each other about what they had been told from the ‘professionals’ about their find, clearly taking pride in their achievements.
The day was over, everyone was very tired! The second dig I believe will be bigger and better. Since the dig more people are coming forward to get involved and if I was to reiterate what I said to Acis staff about when the chance to volunteer presents itself I would say this ‘I would really encourage staff to come forward and join in, you might not get a chance like this again!’.”
ACIS Community Engagement Co-ordinator