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Research gets to the root of Black Country humour


The University of Wolverhampton is delving into Black Country humour in a bid to find its funny roots.

Academics and students from the University’s School of Humanities have been working alongside the Finding our Funny Roots project which is being run by Creative Black Country to find out what is unique about Black Country humour.

Supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the project is looking to unearth stories of comedians and comedy from 1950 to the year 2000.

Students studying for degrees in English, Creative & Professional Writing and Linguistics have volunteered to take part in the study as part of a Business Link module on their courses and alongside English Lecturer, Josiane Boutonnet, have completed training in Oral History and Archives Research.

Josiane Boutonnet, Senior Lecturer in English Language and Deputy Head of Humanities at the University, said: “Learning about Black Country humour is very important to humour scholars and those involved in the project, and until now there has been no organised research of humorous materials in the region’s archives”.

“There is a revival of interest in the history of the region.  The dialect itself is distinctive with a long history and one way in which it is transmitted and preserved is through the telling of jokes. Humour is crucial to the shaping of meanings, situations, selves and relationships and an essential ingredient in Black Country folk’s way of life.“

Karen Adcock, English Language & Creative Writing degree student at the University, said: “Being involved in the Finding our Funny Roots project has given me the chance to apply and develop some of the learning from my course modules; Writing, Region and Identity, Humour Writing and Varieties of English.  

“I have also had training in taking oral histories, and then gained experience in interviewing some fascinating and very funny people, including local comedians and performers. It has been a great opportunity to be involved in the project and the Funny Things Festival, and has given me some different ideas about going on to further study.”

Students have been gathering stories for the past few months, contributing to a new piece of work written and performed by the Poets, Prattlers and Pandemonialists which will be shown at the University’s Arena Theatre on Saturday 26th October.

Jenny Smith, Creative Producer at Creative Black Country, said: “Humour is an intrinsic part of the Black Country’s tradition, community and values with some of the UK’s most celebrated comedians hailing from the region”.

“We are in the process of speaking to local people, with the help of students from the University, asking them to share their stories and memorabilia of local people – from comedy clubs to jokes that people might remember.”

Creative Black Country’s The Funny Things Festival, celebrating Black Country humour, is taking place from 26th October to 2nd November with Wolverhampton hosting over 80 ‘funny’ events. The programme includes funny theatre, stand-up, spoken word, music, film, family activities, talks and workshops.

Anyone interested in studying English at the University should register for the next Open Day on Saturday 16th November 2019.

Picture caption from left to right: Karen Adcock, English Language & Creative Writing student, Josiane Boutonnet, Senior Lecturer in English Language and Deputy Head of Humanities, Amy Amison, English Language & Linguistics student and Simon Williams, English Language & Linguistics student.



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