OWL’s History – in the County Archives

OWL’s History – in the County Archives

Over 40 years of records going back to our origins have recently been stored at the Warwickshire County record Office. Details of events, campaigns, visits and a variety of other activities related to the work of One World Link are now available for the general public to access. Jane Knight explains.

As time leaps forward, year by year, I have been increasingly aware of OWL’s long history building up especially as it passes its 40th Anniversary. With that history are all the records of its progress.

Because of Lockdown, I spent more than normal time taking part in Zoom sessions with old friends and colleagues around the world. They raised quite a lot of concern about what happens to all our experiences and records once we are gone? There is always the dread that they will end up on someone’s bonfire at the end of a garden.

Sorting OWL's historical papers
Sorting OWL’s historical papers

I have no spare space to spread out where I live, and the pressure on me to do something about preserving OWL’s archives was mounting. Where to sort? and would anyone want the piles of documents etc. anyway?

By good fortune, my son James who knows OWL well, was willing to let me use his large garden shed which is furnished with shelves and a table tennis table. As his family are moving on, he handed it to me and members of the OWL committee to use as a temporary workspace.

And so on October 6th, Paul Atkins, Kip Warr and myself delivered 2 big boxes of newsletters, press releases, reports and photos all dating back to 1981, to the Warwickshire County Records office.

It was a great relief after we started, to find that WCC were actually interested in what we were doing and they welcomed the materials with enthusiasm. We just hope they will be used in the future.

We came across many letters sent through the years from key friends in Bo.
A special feature is the ‘War file’ which contains personal experiences of the Sierra Leone Civil War in the 1990s. They were related to us in hasty phone calls made from Bo and Freetown by teachers and friends. Bishop Koroma (then Father) told stories of near escapes when he was expected to, and trying to get teacher’s pay out to all the Catholic schools while the war was going on.

One of the file’s contents was a letter from Johannes Mallah senior (later Chair of Bo OWL), recounting in detail his terrifying experiences being ambushed by rebels on the way to a meeting in Kenema.

Delivering OWL records to the Records Office
Delivering OWL records to the Records Office

It was a fascinating experience working out suitable categories for sorting, and reading and sifting through a huge variety materials which capture the exciting progress of One World Link in the Bo and Warwick Districts.

There are accounts of exchange visits, across wide sectors of the communities from councils to teachers and midwives which led to strong friendships and practical benefits for 40 years. The partnerships and cultural exchanges, based on principles of equality, have changed the lives of many of us, here and in Sierra Leone.

Remaining in the shed, are records of many of OWL’s contributions to the UKOWLA (UK One World Linking Association) conferences and campaigns to spread the linking idea across the UK and there are records of more Global activities (Towns & Development) to promote linking and local government and local community cooperation for development in the South and across Europe. I am still hoping to lodge this small collection somewhere for posterity. So do contact OWL if you know of any possibilities?

Jane Knight is the founder of One World Link