In 1981 Goldiggers night club opened in the former Gaumont Cinema building in Timber Street. It became the premier night club for the region and an important venue in the music scene of the 80s and 90s. However, while the general history of the club was well known, the part it played in the lives of the people of Chippenham remained untold.
In June 2017 Chippenham Museum joined with media students at Wiltshire College and University Centre in a collaborative project to record the memories of those connected to Goldiggers night club. Forming part of the students’ work experience it was expected that the project would run for a few months and consist of a few interviews. No one imagined that it would generate the interest and excitement that it did.
The main aim of the project was to capture the memories of those that worked at, or were regulars of, the club. An initial call out on social media brought only a few responses but the project soon gathered momentum and it became clear that there were many people with important memories of the club that needed to be recorded.
Interest in the project grew and when the museum held a Goldiggers day in February 2019 nearly 200 people came to find out more and reminisce about the club. A mobile recording studio, set up by the students, was in constant use throughout the day. Recordings were conducted singularly and in groups. The interviews produced laughter, cheeky stories and lots and lots of nostalgia. As one 50 something put it “this is great, nobody has ever been interested in the memories of my youth before” The students have now conducted over 40 interviews.
Along with a wealth of personal memories a range of objects have been donated to the museum. Building up a collection which will tell the story of this important venue for the future is essential. These objects, along with generous loans of personal memorabilia, enabled the museum to curate an exhibition which attracted over 1500 visitors in the two months it was open.
Short extracts from the interviews were edited together by students and included in the exhibition. All of the interviews have been uploaded onto a project website, also designed and built by students. The finale of the project will be a 30 minute documentary using material from the interviews and archive footage of the club.
Nicola Dew, lecturer in media production techniques said of the project “Our students have gained an awful lot from this inter-generational project. It is always valuable to work on a live brief”.
Certainly the practical experience that the project has offered the students is evident:
“I feel the Goldiggers project has allowed me to use my specialism to document local pieces of history and interact with the people of Wiltshire”
“The Goldiggers project has given me invaluable experience of interviewing people. It has helped me realise that journalism is what I want to do in the future.”
However as Nicola notes “We weren’t expecting our learners to get so engrossed in stories from the 80s! It has given them excellent experience as well as opening up new conversations with parents and grandparents.”
When asked to comment on their experience of the project one student said “The Goldiggers project has opened my eyes to a period in Chippenham’s history that my generation was far from aware of. I hope that our work helps shine a spotlight on it for those who were there and those who wished they were there.”
The museum has been delighted with the response from everyone involved. Goldiggers has been remembered with great fondness by club goers and staff alike and the project has evoked memories which prove that although the club is gone it is definitely not forgotten.