An oral history of Law Centres – exciting new project at Oxford University
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Marc Bloomfield
Description: CSLS Oxford University logo
A groundbreaking new project on the oral history of Law Centres is now underway at Oxford University. The project – ‘Enhancing Democratic Habits: an oral history of the Law Centres movement’ – seeks to capture the experiences of Law Centre workers and activists in their own words. The purpose of the project is to produce an in-depth account of radical lawyering in deprived communities and how it has developed over the past 50 years. The four-year study is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.
The project will explore the role that Law Centres have played in providing innovative legal services to those in poverty, in mounting local campaigns for social justice and in facilitating active citizenship in disadvantaged areas. It will draw on the personal testimonies of the diverse protagonists of the Law Centres movement and analyse Law Centre annual reports. Its aim is to cast a light on an often overlooked and undervalued area of legal practice. As well as documenting the past, the project intends to provide insights into how we should frame our democratic response to the current crisis and the ongoing fallout from COVID-19 to ensure the claims of marginalised groups are heard.
The project will create two national archives that will become part of the permanent collection at the British Library and provide a significant and lasting resource for future generations. The project will produce 65 life story interviews, which will be placed in the National Life Stories sound archive at the British Library, and a comprehensive collection of Law Centre annual reports, which will be deposited in the British Library contemporary archive.
The project team is headed by Professor Linda Mulcahy, director of the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, Oxford University. It includes Dr Marie Burton, who is a former North Kensington Law Centre solicitor and LAG policy volunteer, and Professor Kieran McEvoy and Dr Anna Bryson of Queen’s University Belfast. The researchers will be working closely with the British Library’s National Life Stories team, the leading oral history field work charity in the UK. The Law Centres Network is also an active partner in the project.
The project team are keen to collect as many Law Centre annual reports as possible. They would also like to hear from anyone who has been involved with Law Centres in any capacity, either now or in the past. If you are interested in participating in the project by donating annual reports and/or by giving an interview, you can email Marie at: marie.burton@csls.ox.ac.uk or take part in a survey.

About the author(s)

Description: Marie Burton - author
Dr Marie Burton is a senior research fellow at the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, Oxford University.