MO 85th Anniversary Festival
In 2022 Mass Observation celebrated 85 years of the Mass Observation movement.
To celebrate MO’s 85th Anniversary, we launched a festival programme of events and activities exploring different themes MO has touched upon over the course of its history.
As part of these celebrations, we are running a seminar series.
The festival programme will run until autumn 2023, so there will be plenty of opportunities to take part. These may be in person, or online events and workshops, our academic seminar series, recorded talks to watch and listen to, or invitations to join in various activities via social media.
Some events will need be booked via Eventbrite and all details may be found on this page.
We enjoyed celebrating MO’s 85th Anniversary with you so much we are continuing into its 86th!
Illustration of everyday life by Martha Doyle
Instagram - @martha.doyle, Illustration instagram - @arti.martie
We are thrilled that so many people could join us to celebrate our 85th and 86th anniversaries. Over 500 people attended MO85 events and our recorded talks and seminar series have received over 1500 views via our You Tube channel. Thank you for supporting Mass Observation and we look forward to welcoming you to future events.
Our MO85 festival programme may have drawn to a close, but we will be back with you from September offering a new MO seasonal events programme for Autumn, Spring and Summer.
Events will include seminars, talks and workshops aswell as invitations to contribute via socia media.
Pins, Patches and Paper: Celebrating LGBTQIA+ History Month with Mass Observation
Booking available here
Bad Taste Zine-Making Session: Celebrating International Women's Day with Mass Observation
Autumn 2023 - Everyday Life
Mass Observation Seminar series continues
Wednesday 20th September 2 – 4 pm Online via zoom
Mass Observing the everyday
‘Heads, Hearts and Guts: The Emotional Politics of Brexit’ Emily Robinson and Jonathan Moss, University of Sussex
‘Mass Observing everyday literacies: the mundane, profane and profound’ Sam Duncan, UCL Institute of Education
‘Activist, Protestor, Onlooker: Discovering hidden protest stories’ Pollyanna Ruiz, University of Sussex
Celebrating the Festive Season with Mass Observation
Wednesday 13th December 2-4pm. In person event at The Keep. £5 including refreshments
Join us for a cup of tea, or a glass of mulled wine and a mince pie before the merriment and busyness of the festive season begins.
A cosy afternoon hosted by the Mass Observation team in a festive 1940's setting, which offers a chance to listen to and explore extracts from Mass Observation’s diaries on the theme of Christmas & New Year, including Nella Last and other war time writers, along with more recent material from the Mass Observation Project.
Booking available here
MO85 Festival events programme recordings and resources
If you would like to listen to our talks and seminar series, which you may have missed, links can be found below along with further information about the MO85 festival programme, which took place from March 2022 - July 2023.
MO Past & Present
Fiona Courage, Director of Mass Observation Archive, in conversation with Professor Dorothy Sheridan MBE, Director of the Mass Observation Archive from 1990 to 2008. Listen to Dorothy’s reflections on MO’s past history and her rich and enduring relationship with the archive. Recording is available on our You Tube channel here.
Fiona Courage and the MO Team, Kirsty Patrrick, Projects Officer, Jessica Scantlebury, Archivist and Suzanne Rose, Education & Outreach Officer in lively and thoughtful conversation about MO today. Recording is available on our You Tube channel here
MO & Nature & Wellbeing
Listen to Kirsty Pattrick’s research on Nature and well being as reflected in MO materials collected during the Covid 19 pandemic. Recording is available on our You Tube channel here.
MO & 12th May
Listen to the MO Team, Kirsty Patrrick, Projects Officer, Jessica Scantlebury, Archivist and Suzanne Rose, Education & Outreach Officer in conversation about 12th May. Recording is available on our You Tube channel here.
MO & Royalty
Listen to Fiona Courage, Director of the Mass Observation Archive and Jennifer Purcell, Professor of History at Saint Michael's College in Vermont, USA, share observers' writing about the British Royal Family. Their talk showcases some of the work from their forthcoming book, Mass Observing Royalty, 1937 - 2018, part of the Mass Observation Crisitcal Series plublished by Bloomsbury and edited by Purcell. Recording is available on our You Tube channel here.
MO & Menopause
here.in celebration of World Menopause Day. Recording is available
MO & Everyday Kindness
Join Suzanne Rose (MO Education & Outreach Officer) in conversation with Dr Michelle Johansen (MO Trustee) about kindness in everyday life as captured by Mass Observation. Suzanne will be sharing responses to the Mass Observation Project’s Kindness directive and considering what it is to be kind in celebration of World Kindness Day on Sunday 13th November 2022. Recording is available here.
Class of '37
Claire Langhamer and Hester Barron will be speaking about their research and reading extracts from their book, Class of 37, which uses the writing of a class of twelve and thirteen year old girls, collected by Mass Observation, from a school in Bolton. The girls write about their lives, their world and the things that matter to them. The publication is an intimate portrayal of working –class life in 1930s Britain. There will also be a chance for those attending in person to view original archive materials, which inspired the book.
'A moving microhistory of working-class girlhood' BBC History Magazine
'A treasure trove of childhood' - i paper
'We're used to Mass Observation revealing adult treasures, but to have them from these irrepressible children is doubly rewarding. An engrossing and gently heart-breaking insight into this chatter of still lives before everything changed, and a wonderful rear-view glimpse of their vanishing world' - Simon Garfield
Recording is available here
Mass Observation Seminar Series
The Mass Observation Archive present the launch of Bloomsbury Academic’s Mass Observation Critical Series.
Join us on 25 May to celebrate the launch of the Mass Observation Critical series and two new series monographs: Kimberley Mair’s The Biopolitics of Care in Second World War Britain and James Hinton’s Mass Observers Making Meaning: Religion, Spirituality and Atheism in Late 20th-Century Britain. The authors will be joined by the publisher and series editors to talk about these exciting new books and future publications. All welcome!
This is the first in the new Mass Observation Seminar Series. Listen to the recording here.
Mass Observation and Methodology
Mass Observation and the Human Sciences - Nick Clarke, University of Southampton
Literary analysis as sociological method: Mass Observation Mantelpiece Reports as epic, drama, and archive - Rachel Hurdley, University of Cardiff
Using Mass Observation data across time and in conversation with other data sources in a study of discourses of voluntary action - Rose Lindsey, University of Southampton
Listen to the recording here.
Mass Observing Waste and Recycling
Observing the War on Waste - Henry Irving, Leeds Beckett University
Moralities of thrift in changing understandings of waste reduction and avoidance: A comparison of Mass Observers’ narratives three decades apart - Ulrike Ehgartner, University of York and Helen Holmes, University of Manchester
Listen to the recording here
Mass Observers: responding to the difficult questions
The ethics of discomfort: Soliciting Mass Observation Project writing on sensitive topics - Renelle McGlacken, University of Nottingham
Narratives of ‘nothing’: avoidance, resistance, and refusal - Nina Lockwood and Susie Scott, University of Sussex
Listen to the recording here
Mass Observing health and wellbeing
More vulnerable but happier? An exploration of older people’s wellbeing during the first lockdown. - David Tross, Birkbeck, University of London
On the change: experiences of menopause in late twentieth century Britain - Jill Kirby, University of Sussex
Leisure in Later Life - Tania Wiseman, Swansea University.
Host: Fiona Courage, Director Mass Observation
Listen to the recording here
Gatherine Qualitative data in times of crisis
- Kirsty Pattrick and Jessica Scantlebury from the Mass Observation Archive, who will share their insights and learnings from the mass observation of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on everyday people.
- Yves Fradier and Anne-Sarah Chekaf from Kantar Public, who will discuss the importance of establishing a longitudinal panel to capture the voices and evolving needs of Ukrainian nationals, displaced from their homes and now forced to establish new lives in their host countries across Europe.
Our experts will discuss the challenges and benefits of mass observation in a time of crisis and how the data and shared experiences provide critical inputs to government policy design and strategy, as well as often time critical, interventions.
Recording wil be available soon
Mass Observing COVID-19 and linguistic analysis: tools for narrative data
‘Delving into the Mass Observing COVID-19 Wellcome funded project’ Fiona Courage, Jessica Scantlebury, Kirsty Pattrick and Angela Bachini, Mass Observation Archive
‘Conceptual variation in COVID Mass Observation diaries’ Justyna Robinson and Rhys Sandow, University of Sussex
Recording is available here
Mass Observing the Coronation
Since its founding in 1937 Mass Observation has recorded people’s experiences, thoughts, and opinions of royal events.
Join us for this webinar as we kick off coronation week observation activities. Fiona Courage (Mass Observation Archive) and Jen Purcell (Saint Michael's College) announce their new Mass Observation royal anthology for Bloomsbury Academic’s Mass Observation Critical Series. Together with Lucy Curzon (University of Alabama), they will outline plans for Mass Observation’s mobile investigations in and around London over coronation weekend. These investigations are patterned on those done by Mass Observation in 1937 and 1953. Learn what they plan to get up to and how you can participate.
Recording available here
Exploring the Archives: in conversation with Mass Observation and the Archive of Market and Social Research
We are delighted that Archive of Market and Social Research will be collaborating with Mass Observation for a joint online seminar event. Mass Observation will be introduced by Jessica Scantlebury and Kirsty Pattrick, and AMSR by Phyllis Macfarlane.
They will be followed by two academics who have used both Archives in their research. Professor Claire Langhamer, Institute of Historical Research and Dr David Tross, University of London.
Claire Langhamer is Director of the Institute of Historical Research. She is a social and cultural historian of modern Britain who specialises in the history of everyday life, especially the experiences of women and girls, and the history of feeling. She is a Trustee of the Mass Observation Archive.
David Tross has taught courses at undergraduate and postgraduate level at Birkbeck for 10 years, and currently lectures on Birkbeck's BSc Community Development and Public Policy and BSc Social Science programmes. He is also the academic lead on the National Lottery Funded Community Leadership course for Newham residents. He contributed to AMSR’s Book 2 on Social Trends.
Claire and David will explore how they have used both Archives for their research, with insight into their methods and findings.
Recording available here
Mass Observation Seminar Series
Mass Observers: ethics and responsibility
‘Disclosure and composure in the Mass Observation Project, 1981 – 2019’ Andrew Burchell, University of Warwick
‘Ethical reflexivity, care and slippery data: lessons from working with the Mass Observation Archive’ Corinne van Emmerik, Goldsmiths University of London
Recording available here
Mass Observation Seminar Series
Navigating the Mass Observation Archive as a new researcher
The Mass Observation Archive hosts a diverse collection of material documenting everyday life in Britain from the 1930s to today, ranging from the experience of general elections, to air raids, to Eurovision, and much more besides.
The depth and breadth of these collections make them a valuable source for students and researchers working across a variety of different disciplines and subject areas. However, when approaching the archive for the first time, it can be difficult to know where to begin.
This roundtable discussion, hosted by Kirsty Pattrick (Research Manager) and Suzanne Rose (Engagement Manager), brings together two postgraduate scholars who have used the Mass Observation Archive extensively in their own research. They will share their own varied ways of searching and using this material, and speak about some of their findings.
Jacinta Mallon (CHASE PhD researcher, University of Kent). Jacinta’s thesis examines home-loss in urban Britain during the Second World War, both as a result of the air raids and the British government’s own policy of requisition. Her work draws upon material from across the wartime MO collections in order to explore how citizens and state alike experienced and understood domestic dislocation and its myriad emotional, practical, and political effects.
Khaleda Brophy-Harmer (ESRC PhD researcher, University of Southampton) Khaleda’s doctoral research explores the everyday ‘white self’ in England. She uses directive material collected in the 1990s by the Mass Observation Project (1981-) to explore race as an identity performance, examining how it was given meaning by social actors, with a critical focus on the role of emotion, and the cultural imagination. She asks: what this material can reveal about the messiness of whiteness; how important is whiteness to the writing in this archive; and what can it add to contemporary discussions of race in Britain?
This session is open to all, but we particularly welcome students – at any stage of their studies from undergraduate and up – who are interested in the Mass Observation Archive.
Recording available soon.
Share MO’s 85th Anniversary via our social media channels. We are inviting people to take part in various activities each month. Ella will be coordinating MO Invites and would love to hear from you.
MO & Celebrating the everyday
We invite you to celebrate the everyday by sharing your favourite ordinary everyday activities. Elevate the everyday and share something you love doing. Twitter @MassObsArchive and Instagram massobsarchive
MO & Nature
Being in nature can really help boost well being. MO invites you to go outside and enjoy nature. Share your walk with MO and share your view. The MO team will be out and about this month sharing their walks too. Twitter @MassObsArchive and Instagram massobsarchive
Tom Harrisson, MO’s founder was a school boy ornithologist. Make a list of five birds you see and share it with MO.
MO senses. Our new Mass Observation Project directive is on the senses, particularly smell.
What can you smell, hear, see, taste, touch? Share your experience of nature with MO.
MO & Writing
Take part in our national Diary Day on 12th May. Record your day in as much detail as you can and send your diary to MOA and be part of our record of life in Britain today.
Tweet your day! #12May22.
Share your day via Instagram massobsarchive
MO & Royalty
MO invites you to record the Platinum Jubilee celebrations by sharing your experiences with MO via Twitter @MassObsArchive and Instagram massobsarchive.
Frances Line OBE Coronation Scrapbook. View Frances' beautiful scrapbook here, which was created in 1953 for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
How will you celebrate and record the Queen's Platinum Jubilee? We would love to hear from you.
MO & Recreation
MO invites you to share your summer holidays with us. We would love to hear about what you get up to, whether at home or abroad, via Twitter @MassObsArchive and Instagram massobsarchive. Send us a postcard and let us know.
MO & Nurture
Now that the Great British Bake Off has returned to our screens, MO is keen to hear about the foods that bring you joy or comfort. Please share your favourite recipes via Twitter @MassObsArchive and Instagram massobsarchive
MO & Kindness
World Kindness Day takes place in November. Mass Observation invites you to be kind. To show someone kindness and to observe kindness in your everyday life. Join us online via Twitter @MassObsArchive and Instagram massobsarchive to share everyday kindness #MOEverydayKindness. MO Everyday Kindness Calendar is now available. Hope your November is full of kindness.
Listen to our Everyday Kindness conversation with Suzanne Rose and Dr Michelle Johansen, here
MO & Festive celebrations
MO & Creativity
Happy New Year!
“I never make new year resolutions. I think I have unusually high standards of behaviour and I try to live up to the best I am capable of all the time.” Woman, 31yrs, 1948
Not everyone believes in or makes New Year's resolutions, as this person recorded by Mass Observation in 1948 can attest, but if you do, we would love to hear from you.
MO & Love
In response to the Mass Observation Project Directive on Photos, music and memory from Spring 2012, we received some wonderfully emotive accounts of the power and significance of music in people's lives. Share the music you love with us. It doesn't have to be a love song, just something that has meaning for you.
MO & Pets & Pubs
Early paid investigators for Mass Observation seemed to spend an awful lot of time in pubs. We are paying homage to this theme this month, by inviting you to pop to your local and have a pint and better still take your dog with you!
MO & Spring
This months’ theme is Spring and we hope you are enjoying time outdoors, either in your garden, on walks, or in public spaces.
MO Invites you to share pictures of your garden, or a green space near you. We all need to see those hopeful new shoots and spring flowers. Let us know if you have planted any seeds and what you are hoping to grow? Send these via Twitter @MassObsArchive and Instagram massobsarchive
MO & Celebrating the Everyday
May is always the busiest month of Mass Observation’s year. This year it’s even busier with two national invitations to contribute to the archive.
2023 Coronation Project
Mass Observation has been recording royal events since 12th May 1937, the Coronation of George VI.
This year we are inviting people to observe and record any activities or events in their local area so we can piece together a picture of the country as it commemorates the Coronation of King Charles III.
Details on how to take part in the 2023 Coronation Project can be found here.
12th May Diary
Mass Observation’s national annual diary day is now in its 13th year. We welcome diaries capturing the everyday lives of people across the UK. The diaries will be used by a wide range of people for research, teaching and learning and are invaluable for future generations learning about our lives today.
Details on how to take part in 12th May can be found here.
MO & Dancing
This month we want to get everyone moving and share our joy of dancing. We would like you to share your love of dancing with us. Whether that's dad dancing, dancing with your dog in the kitchen, or dancing when no one is looking! Share via Twitter @MassObsArchive and Instagram massobsarchive
MO & Pleasure
This month, the last month of our MO85 Festival celebrating all the wonders of Mass Observation, we invite you to share what brings you pleasure.
Take time to celebrate the everyday moments, which bring joy and happiness to our lives. Why not keep a journal and jot these down, or share via Twitter @MassObsArchive and Instagram massobsarchive so we can spread the joy in celebrating the everyday.
Workshops & Events
The Collective Everyday: celebrating parallels in our stories.
23rd March & repeated on 30th March 1.30-3.30pm
Join MO for a writing workshop at The Keep, led by students from the University of Sussex and a chance to explore a selection of archive materials.
This workshop is designed with the intention of celebrating the everyday. As a group, we will look at Mass Observation archives from the last 4 decades to reflect on the collective experiences of people in Britain. Drawing on a range of topics from dreams to snacking, we will identify connections between our daily lives and people in the past, through creative writing.
We are keen to welcome people back to The Keep, the archive centre where Mass Observation is housed. If you would like to drop in during the afternoon, staff will be on hand to chat about the services available and there will be the opportunity to pop into the Reference Room.
One-day workshop for postgraduate and doctoral students
In-depth Qualitative Survey: Mass Observation
Tuesday 7th June 10am – 4pm, The Keep. £10 per person
This one-day workshop will examine methods of generating and analysing in-depth qualitative survey, using narrative data collected by Mass Observation as a practical case study.
Mass Observation generates narrative data from its national panel of self-selecting volunteers through Directives (open questionnaires). We will use examples of these survey responses (http://www.massobs.org.uk/about/mass-observation-project)) including the recent COVID-19 collection.
We will look at different analysis techniques, so please come prepared to use and share the methods of analysis that you are using or planning to use in your own research.
Using examples from the Mass Observation Archive we will reflect on how in-depth qualitative data might be used in your research, thinking through the following areas:
- What is in-depth qualitative survey?
- What methods can be used to generate data?
- What kinds of data can it produce and how can these be analysed?
- Ethical and methodological considerations of using these techniques.
Throughout the day you will be encouraged to evaluate its usefulness to your own research, thinking about methods of collecting and incorporating qualitative data into your own research work.
Celebrating New Year with Mass Observation
Wednesday 18th Janaury 2023
Join us for a cup of tea, or a glass of mulled wine and a mince pie, or a biscuit (if you've had your fill of mince pies) and take a moment to reflect on recent festive celebrations and hopes for the New Year.
A cosy afternoon event hosted by the Mass Observation team, which offers a chance to listen to and explore extracts from Mass Observation’s diaries on the theme of Christmas & New Year, including Nella Last and other war time writers, along with more recent material from the Mass Observation Project.
Wednesday 8th February
Valentine's Writing and making workshop
We are delighted to welcome back Abbie and Millie, now graduates of the University of Sussex, to lead a creative workshop in collaboration with The Channel, a creative and critcal writing and arts magazine by and for the Sussex community.
Abbie and Millie researching at The Keep
1940's Chic: Britain's Day to Day
Wednesday 22nd March 2-4pm at The Keep. In person event
Join us and immerse yourself in 1940's life! With a range of literary and craft activities, you will learn about the day-to-day of wartime Britain. This two hour workshop hosted by students from the University of Sussex, will focus on themes such as food, dance, fashion and media. There will also be an opportunity to engage with unique archival material exclusive to the Mass Observation Archive and The Keep. Refeshments and free books included.
We hope to see you there (especially if you'd enjoy listening to some 1940's jazz!)
Penned Up Event
Mass Observation is thrilled to be supporting Penned Up and continuing our work in HMP Lewes to encourage engagement with the archive, ensuring all voices are heard.
Wednesday 19th April 2-4pm Life-Writing Workshop with Simon Garfield. £10 per person. In person at The Keep. Postponed until 14th June.
We are delighted to welcome back best selling non-fiction author Simon Garfield to lead another workshop exploring the Mass Observation archive and your own journals or memoirs. Book your ticket soon as the last workshop sold out quickly.
Photograph of Simon Garfield by Sarah Lee.
What are the key ingredients of a great piece of personal writing? What makes the Mass Observation archive unique and compelling? What lessons can one learn from the past to make your own writing come alive and find a structure in an unstructured life?
Simon Garfield is a trustee of the archive, and has edited three volumes of diaries, as well as the moving correspondence between Chris Barker and Bessie Moore My Dear Bessie. He will explain his own editing techniques as you peruse original examples of diaries and letters from the archive, and he will attempt to answer any questions you have about the projects you may be working on yourself.
Monday 19th June 2-4pm. In person at The Keep. £5 per person. Drinks refreshments provided
We are delighted to host a fabulous dance event showcasing Sussex Swing and dance themed collections from the Mass Observation Archive and The Keep.
Come and dance, or simply sit back and watch some old time dances popular at the time Mass Observation was recording everyday life in Britain being beautifully demonstrated and listen to evocative tunes from the past.
Vintage hair workshop available from 2pm. View exhibition showcasing exquisite ephemera detailing the world of dance halls, sweethearts’ sweet nothings, dresses, music and dancing. Enjoy drinks refreshments in our foyer.
Sussex Swing specialise in Vintage dancing, mostly Lindyhop and Ballroom, but also cover historic dances and vintage styling. They are often found at village fairs around Sussex teaching people how to dance.
Pleasure & Place Workshop
Thursday 13th July 2-4.30pm. In person workshop at The Keep
Mass Observation welcomes people to an in-person workshop to pay tribute to the places that make them feel good. The aim of this workshop is to explore where people feel good, beyond the places that money can buy. The discussion of the workshop will build a deeper understanding of how people can be better connected to place, to strengthen connections between all beings and advocate for slower ways of living.
This 2.5-hour pilot workshop will consist of a craft activity where you will create a poster to bring to life your thoughts, feelings and sensations of being in your favourite place.
We’ll provide a range of materials for you to build your tribute. The activity will be guided by a facilitator from the University of Brighton (see below), who will prompt you to think about your place from different perspectives.
Come to the session with an idea of what your favourite place is. This can be anywhere, from the sunny spot you go to at a certain time of year, to a place you go to retreat and recharge. Note: this place should be somewhere beyond typical places of consumption (i.e. not cafes, shops, restaurants etc.).
A word on the facilitator:
Lucy Dixon is a sustainability consultant and experienced facilitator in exploring people’s thoughts, feelings and opinions. Her work on the Sustainable Design MA at the University of Brighton explores how pleasure, happiness, and meaning can be experienced in ways other than through consumption. Examples of her work include challenging the commodification of happiness, and exploring the concept of frugal hedonism; how to achieve pleasure through uncommodified means. Through design, her hope is to find new ways of strengthening people’s connection to place, people and more-than-human beings, to support our communities and ecosystems to recover.