HS2’s enabling works contractor in the West Midlands, LMJV (Laing O’Rourke and J. Murphy & Sons), has helped set up a new Young Archaeologists’ Club (YAC) in Solihull. It will join a network of over 70 YAC branches across the UK, managed by the Council for British Archaeology (CBA).
To help gauge the interest of the local community in the formation of a club, Wessex Archaeology - a sub-contractor working on behalf of LMJV - ran a number of taster sessions in conjunction with the CBA. Due to the success of these, a Young Archaeologists’ Club has now been established in the Midlands.
In the taster sessions, HS2’s archaeologists shared their experiences of working on the rail project through three online workshops, one face-to-face workshop and one ‘Archaeology Takeover Day’.
Despite some activities being held virtually in response to COVID-19 measures, the sessions proved popular with young people from the local area and now the new Club has opened its doors, with monthly sessions taking place at The Core, Solihull’s flagship community building. Every month, members aged between 8-16 years old will meet to learn about local history through archaeology and interactive activities.
The Core, a multi-purpose arts venue run by Solihull Council, is situated in the heart of Solihull town centre, housing a library, a theatre, heritage galleries, and a community advice hub. The Club will offer a series of activities exploring how archaeology can help participants to learn about heritage such as traditional crafts, visiting active archaeological sites, and learning how to explore the past by piecing together unearthed clues.
Community Engagement Coordinator for Wessex Archaeology, Natasha Bramall, said:
“The taster sessions provided a fantastic opportunity to share HS2’s archaeological finds with young people. In our initial trial events, we looked at three major HS2 archaeological sites on Park Street, Coleshill Park and Curzon Street. We also visited Castle Bromwich Gardens and discovered some of the archaeological processes that are being used along the route of HS2.
“The fantastic response meant that we could show there was demand for an archaeology club in the area and work with The Core to set up a YAC branch. This has created a permanent place for young people to explore their interest in archaeology for years to come.”
HS2 is one of the biggest investors in the UK’s archaeological sector, employing more than 1,000 archaeologists, period specialists, scientists, and conservators from across the UK to explore and record findings from over 60 sites between London to West Midlands.
Councillor Alison Rolf, Solihull Council’s Cabinet Member for Stronger & Safer Communities, said:
“We have been inspired to set up a YAC in Solihull by contact over the last year with Wessex Archaeology working on behalf of contractors LM during enabling works in the region for HS2.
“Our aim is to engage young people in discovering more about the local area and its history and give them the opportunity to try out activities that they may not experience in more formal educational settings. We are so grateful for the support and encouragement from the Wessex Archaeology team, and YAC-HQ, and we are really excited by the sessions we have planned so far."
Upcoming sessions will include a focus on the research and historical skills that archaeologists need to employ before undertaking excavations. To get involved with Solihull YAC or find out more about how the club is run, get in touch with the team through the below link: https://www.yac-uk.org/clubs/solihull-yac.