Published: August 2017

Biography is a mirror of the relationship between place and change. Economic transformations, population movements as well as social and cultural changes are embedded in the biographical narratives of people whose lives they have altered. As part of WISERD Civil Society research programme, we have gathered 20 biographical narrative interviews with people who live in two contrasting but geographically close localities in North Wales, UK. One site is a large, former industrial village, where recent generations have had to come to terms with post-industrial transformations and the decline of key local institutions. The other is a more rural village which appears to enjoy higher levels of participation in traditional as well as more contemporary lifestyle activities, including international ’twinning’ arrangements. Biographical narratives in the first setting convey a strong sense of nostalgia, in which the struggles of the present are lived through the memory of the proud past. The second locality narratives carry less weight of the past, and have more energy and optimism. In our research project we argue that, beside class differences, which are to some extent represented by differential access to material resources and networks, a more profound difference lies in how communities perceive and actively build their ‘place narrative’; how they manage their identities in order to attract new opportunities and new people or guard their memory, by sequestering and affirming the old sentiments.