Helen Foster

Published: 18 September 2015

Shut Away & Never Listened to: From Oral History into Fiction

University of Strathclyde 

Shut Away & Never Listened to: From Oral History into Fiction

Academic History:

2013 MA Heritage & Identity, University of Birmingham (Distinction)

2011 Postgraduate Certificate in Creative Writing, Newcastle University (Distinction)

1992 BA (Hons) Drama & English, University of Surrey


Dr Beatrice Colin

Professor Arthur McIvor

Research Interests:

Deriving inspiration from extant oral histories, my practice-led PhD aims to develop a piece of social-historical fiction about workers in the Nottingham machine-lace industry. Using lace as a metaphor, it takes the form of a novel, set during the industry's twentieth-century peak & decline. A critical dissertation examines the process of using extant oral histories as inspiration for fiction & the challenges facing the writer engaging with this process.

Specific areas of interest include:

  • Oral history archives & interpretations
  • The heritage of the East Midlands machine-lace industry
  • Representing the spoken word in text
  • Social-historical fiction

Previous Research Projects:

Nottinghamshire Oral History Collection: working on a project which aims to digitise & raise the profile of material within this collection relating to the machine-lace industry - in collaboration with Nottingham City Libraries (2015 to present)

Developing educational materials using oral history archives as a stimulus for creative writing - for Historic Environment Scotland (2015 to present)

'Hanging by a Thread': A review of the oral heritage of the East Midlands machine-lac industry - preservation, access & interpretation - MA thesis (2013)


2015 - AHRC DTP Scotland Studentship



‘Static Caravan Holiday’ – poem, published by Quotidian (2015)

'The Wolf’s House’ – short story, published by Mslexia (2014)

‘Lanky Cow’ – short story, selected by the Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust as part of Story Shop & performed at the Edinburgh International Book Festival (2014)


‘Coal Stories: A Hub to Showcase Oral History Relating to Scottish Coal Mining’, Broadsheet, Scottish Council on Archives (2012)

‘Bathgate Once More: A Community Oral History Project’, ARC Magazine, Archives & Records Association (2010)

Papers at Conference:

Community Oral History Projects, Oral History Society Conference, University of Sunderland (2011)

Digital Community Archives, Community Archives & Heritage Group Conference, UCL (2011)

Oral History in Practice, Scotland’s Rural Past Conference, Perth (2011)

Oral Histories as Educational Resources, Scotland’s Community Heritage Conference, Perth (2013)

The Educational Value of Industrial Oral Histories, Archives & Artefacts Study Network Conference, Leeds (2014)

All Together Now! Engaging Communities with Digital Heritage Resources, Scottish Consortium of University & Research Libraries Conference, Glasgow School of Art (2014)

Contact Details:

Address: HaSS Graduate School, Lord Hope Building, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow

Email: helen.foster@strath.ac.uk

Blog: www.helenlouisefoster.com

Twitter: @thepeagreenroom

First published: 18 September 2015