It's going to be another task for the M.C. on the night, but a worthwhile one. He/she will need to have the following in place beforehand: -
Lay out the sort of question you have in mind, perhaps with some other family members. Know the questions well and refer to them only occasionally - this is a conversation where you must maintain eye contact for trust and comprehension. Have some sort of linear flow. Start off easy, going back to the fundamentals. Bear in mind there may be well worthwhile tangents that occur – get a sense when it is simply veering off and steer back politely if so.
The following childhood topics should get things going: -
Other areas to cover as they grew up - their first love, their first dance, travelling to see cousins, historic or personal events that stuck in their mind, customs, ghost stories and lore in their area, what they wanted to be growing up and why, what were they really good at – a craft/hobby/sport. These can be done over a series of interviews as everyone tires and maybe more so with age so best to quit after no more than two twenty minute sessions and resume again when suits the grandparent.
Topics to let them think about in advance so they've prepared
For the follow up sessions, perhaps let them know these are the sort of questions you will be asking so that they can prepare in advance:
If from farming stock, ensure you ask the following:
· This is critical. Get the acoustics right. No echoes or rattles!
· Do a trial run – how is the outside traffic? Is there electronic equipment making noise?
· Outside recordings need a windsock or else you’ll pick up the wind etc
· Best to have the interview at a table so you can lay out your equipment etc
· All devices to be in Airplane Mode and on silent throughout - critical to avoid feedback.
· Have a sign on the door to say a recording is taking place.
· Ask if they are expecting a visit or phone call and factor it in.
· Agreed with other householder/s to leave you in peace during a certain time.
· Have plenty of water at the ready - this is important to avoid the dreaded mouth 'clacking' sound!
· Have plenty of pens and paper in front of the interviewee and indeed for you.
· Ensure they don’t have coins/keys jingling or drum their fingers, tap anything that the mike will pick up.
· Twenty minutes’ recording at a go is plenty; then allow for a break before continuing.
· Have those well researched questions/themes at the ready.
· Avoid asking a list of formal questions - check with your parents to get the right tone!
· Perhaps you might wish to give the questions in advance, especially if asking them to recall events from years ago.
· The interviewee may work better if being interviewed in conjunction with someone else? If so, ensure any other person has been asked in recording mode are they okay with being recorded by you - this is their express consent.
· Get into the nitty gritty if they are doing well. Let them paint that picture as vividly as possible. It may well be that crossing the border to see a cousin is in itself an epic adventure!
· Avoid interruption if possible, allow the flow.
· Take the odd note as an aide memoire (explain in advance you may do so)
· Revisit those issues from those notes.
· Do not feed answers if you can help it.
· Keep it simple and calm – use a smartphone in Airplane mode
Consider getting a mini-tripod to hold the smartphone.
· Have the equipment close (but not too close!) to the interviewee.
· Do a dummy run or two and listen back carefully.
· Practice with friends before this too.
· Backup is vital – do it early and twice if possible.
· Ensure your phone is fully charged or if on Zoom that the laptop is plugged in.
· Use free software like Audacity to edit the material.
· Best to do it while fresh in your head – try Otter.ai, it is free and reliable.
· A written summary of the recording is advised as is meta tagging key words.
Do out a list of items covered and at what point in the recording it starts.
· Look into OHMS and other innovations on transcribing.
· Ensure the recording is kept somewhere safe, dry and secure in hard copy.
. Ensure the recording is backed up in a separate safe location, digitally if needs be.
· Ensure you have clearly divided what is meant for the family only and what the public may hear in time.
· Ensure that this division of the content is done in conjunction with other family members.
Place the transcript with the original recording, meta tag where certain material is at and what point.
. Ensure you retain the interviewee's consent to be recorded statement at the start of all interviews.
· If deceased, allow a suitable amount of time to pass before featuring audio on a future rambling house evening.
· Most importantly, well done - we need more to start preserving the voices of the past for posterity!