Witness Seminar Series

In Spring 2016 ISPER’s #CHITCHAT? Research Initiative team held its first witness seminar Post-PACE Police and Policing in the SouthWest in association with the Institute of Contemporary British History, King’s College London. The team were advised by Dr Michael Kandiah, a leading expert on contemporary oral history at King’s College, who has organised over 100 witness seminars enabling the University of Plymouth to take a lead in establishing the witness seminar concept outside a metropolitan and central government focus. The team has now organised a number of such seminars using the experience gained to advise colleagues on how to hold their own sessions.

What is a Witness Seminar?

Witness seminars add a valuable dimension to historical and broader academic debates on a range of subjects creating an important resource for scholars and policy-makers. A witness seminar is a form of group interview that aims to revisit key events, themes or issues in recent history through the recollections of those who were closely involved in them in some way. Such witnesses join a panel and briefly introduce themselves and comment on their understanding of the topic and its relevance. The chair will then proceed to ask a number of questions to initiate a discussion which can highlight different perspectives and experiences. The session is then thrown open to the invited audience for comment or brief relevant testimony generating further questions and observations to extend the discussion.

Methodology

The panel commentary and audience contributions are recorded and then transcribed to provide a unique oral history archival source. All participants, including audience members, are invited to sign a consent form and then a copy of the transcript is then sent for their approval before publication. Contributors are asked to correct any inaccuracies that might have occurred during transcription; check and correct the spellings of place names, personal names, and acronyms; revise passages for the sake of clarity and sense and delete any portions of the text they wish to have removed. Our experience is that only very minor amendments and redactions are made. Participants are also asked if they would like to make any additional explanatory notes.

List of Witness Seminars held to date

Post-Pace: Police and Policing in the South-West
  • The Influence of PACE on Policing Practices and Institutional Culture
  • PACE and the Shape of Community Interactions with the Police
Policing Piracy: Pirates, Entrepreneurs and Visionaries Social Sciences in the Twenty-First Century: ESRC Festival of Social Science 2016
  • The International Picture, Politics and Strategies Post 1989
  • Modern Piracy and Smuggling in the South West
Everyday Offending in Devonport Past and Present
  • Policing Everyday Crime on the Streets
  • Community Responses to Everyday Crime
Plymouth City Policewomen’s Department

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