This project sought to reconnect the city with those who have left it. In an era marked by the large-scale movement of people away from the city it becomes necessary to think about how ex-residents stay in connect with their home city imaginatively as well as in more practical ways. Thus this project addressed issues of memory, myths of place and current usage amongst those who have left the city. It brought together a new body of work on nostalgia and memory with the study of counter-urbanisation and the use of city space.
Drawing on interviews and mental mapping techniques this research project investigated how memory and nostalgia shape both the representation of the city and the way it is accessed and used by ex-residents.
The research has used mental mapping and in-depth, semi and unstructured, interview techniques to explore the memories and usage of city space of longer term ex-residents.
The interviews focused upon ex-residents living in towns along the Tyne valley. The principal towns for the study will be the main urban centres, namely Prudhoe, Corbridge and Hexham. These towns are a popular destination for ex-Tynesiders and exhibit a range of socio-economic and class locales. These Tyne valley towns also provide a diversity of settlement types, with some suburban and some semi-rural communities, as well as some communities in which ex-Tynesiders appear to form a large group and others in which they form a smaller minority. The diversity of settings provides appropriate opportunities for the research to engage and explore multiple contexts for memory and migrant community.
In order to gather the in-depth, memory based, material the research has focused upon a small cohort of respondents. Although their narratives and mental maps cannot be claimed to be statistically representative, they will allow the subtlety and complexity of memory to be properly captured. Thus the researchers will be able to paint a full picture of a number of particular and contextualised experiences of migration and city use. The number of interviews so far conducted is 26. Within this group the proportion of male/female and working/middle class respondents will be roughly one half for each category. Interviewees have been in both younger and older age groups, with roughly half falling below 60.
Interviews have often been repeated, with the first interview conducted on an individual basis using a semi-structured interview schedule. The second interview is unstructured and used to follow up themes from the first interview as well as to undertake mental mapping. A third interview could also be arranged if necessary (where the first two interviews did not achieve enough depth of information or at the request of the respondent)
A paper was published by Alastair Bonnett and Catherine Alexander that draws together the research findings:
Mobile nostalgias: connecting visions of the urban past, present and future amongst ex-residents Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers (2012)