Living and Working on Sheppey

The Living and Working on Sheppey project explores the recent history and changes in working lives on Sheppey in the last decades of the 20th century and into the 21st. It concentrates on the period since the closure of the dockyard at Sheerness in 1960.

The project is based at the Blue Town Heritage Centre on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent, working in collaboration with the Universities of Kent, Southampton and Essex. It was funded between 2009 and 2011 by the Kent and Medway region of the South East Coastal Communities project (SECC). The Project team includes academics from the University of Kent, the University of Southampton, and the UK Data Archive at the University of Essex, the artists group Tea, and the community group, Remember Blue Town, whose members are also involved in the Blue Town Heritage Centre.

Until his death in June 2011, Ray Pahl, who together with a team of researchers undertook extensive research on the Isle of Sheppey in the late 1970s and the early 1980s, was a consultant to the Living and Working on Sheppey project. This current project is reanalysing some of Pahl’s original data, as well as conducting new research which replicate some of his studies (on the experience of working in the dockyard, and on young people). In addition, the current project includes an original arts-based, visual contribution to exploring life and work on Sheppey.

The first strand of this project collected reminiscences of the working lives of Sheppey people who have lived through or somehow felt the effects of key moments in the twentieth century that have made Sheppey what it is today. Local people were trained to conduct interviews to record people’s memories of Sheppey, in particular of Blue Town and the closure of the dockyard in 1960. Audio excerpts of these interviews and full transcriptions can be found on the Older people’s memories section of this website. (See the ‘Access to data‘ page for registration and terms and conditions.)

In a second strand of the project, young people from local schools and youth groups have reflected on Sheppey’s past and imagined their own futures, in particular what they thought their working lives had in store for them. To read or listen to example essays, go to the Young people and the future page.

In addition, the artists group Tea have produced a video montage of Blue Town High Street as it was, is, and is imagined to be in the future by young people. Memories of what the High Street used to be like can be heard whilst taking a ‘walk’ along the High Street. To see it in progress and to view the final version, go to Back and forth on Blue Town High Street. A second video can also be viewed of a journey around Sheerness Port.

A public event was held at the Blue Town Heritage Centre on Saturday 12 June 2010 to present the findings of the project and to promote discussion and feedback from invited commentators and members of the local community. For further details of this and other presentations, see Presentations and events.

The Living and Working on Sheppey project was funded by the South East Coastal Communities Programme from 2009 to 2011. Memories of the Isle of Sheppey and the key moments in its history continue to be recorded at the Blue Town Heritage Centre – for more details, go to Get involved. And we are keen to hear from anyone involved in Ray Pahl’s 1978 study of imagined futures!

Thank you to everyone who has been involved in the project to date. We hope you find this site interesting. Feel free to Contact us with any comments or suggestions. And if you’re doing something similar, you might like to look at our thoughts on Lessons Learned.