Event…York Residents Festival at Bootham School

By Jaanika Reinvald.

On the fourth weekend of January York residents could enjoy a rare treat organised by a variety of heritage organisations in York – two Open Doors days. This means that societies that do not usually have HQs open to the public or museums that normally charge entrance fees found a place and dropped their ticket prices to allow wider access and attract more interest in heritage places, stories and activities. The Rowntree Society, also, joined in the merrymaking.

It was a natural choice to pick Bootham School as the venue of the Society’s events, bearing in mind that the school was founded by William Tuke, a prominent Quaker and that at least fourty-five of the Rowntree sons have attended the school since. During the two days we made use of their Recital Room, an elegant chamber more often used for musical performances than for chocolate-packing and hat-making.



As opposed to our awareness-raising event at the York Explore Library where we occupied exactly two joined tables this time we had an entire room to fill with a variety of activities and information boards and according to all accounts we raised to the challenge and in a couple of instances even exceeded expectations. For example, Sunday 26th of January  turned out to be an exceptionally rainy, windy and cold day. This, however, did not stop us from standing in the doorway trying to attract the attention of people rushing past with their raincoats pulled tightly around and umbrellas blocking most of their vision field.

Throughout January the volunteers had been wondering about the whereabouts and activities of our project leader, Suzanne, as the project seemed to have grown unusually quiet. All our questions got answered during the setting up of the entirely new introductory exhibition. At the York Explore Library we received numerous requests for an exhibition about the Rowntree family, their Quaker beliefs and various aspects of the chocolate factory. Taking into account this popular demand Suzanne sat down over Christmas and New Years and compiled an entirely new eye-catching set of posters to go together with our already tried out and popular activities.

Stylish and informative new exhibition posters.

Stylish and informative new exhibition posters.

The information boards were interspersed with cleverly placed volunteers, all equipped with either Memory Postcards, a stop watch, questionnaire sheets, peg doll materials or card-board for hat making. We were very successful with collecting Rowntree memories and spreading the word about our oral history interviews, so much so that our initial target of thirty-five interviews for the project may end up being fourty or even fourty-five.

The ever-popular chocolate-packing and Moorrees Formboard.

The ever-popular chocolate-packing and Moorrees Formboard.

This weekend saw the setting of a new record. The original Moorrees Formboard completion task is given a standard three minutes to be completed, just enough time for most people to get all the right coloured forms in the correct shapes. Sunday lunchtime, however, we had the honour of witnessing a true Moorrees Formboard master completing the task in only one minute and twenty-four seconds.

The Rowntree Society new Philanthropy project

Launch of the Rowntree Society new Map of British Philanthropy project

This weekend also saw the launch of a new project conducted by the Rowntree Society. The fact that the volunteers could not come up with any philanthropists from our home places did not stop the visitors from coming up with a lot of names and filling out numerous questionnaires, making an excellent start for the project.