A young historian has won a prize for his documentary on the controversial way child immigrants were educated in Huddersfield.
University of Huddersfield researcher Joe Hopkinson received the prestigious national accolade from the Royal Historical Society.
Joe, 28, was honoured for his innovative combination of written text accompanied by a high-quality documentary film probing a now controversial approach to the education of immigrants.
He studied for BA and MA degrees at the university and has now begun research for a PhD in which he examines the experiences of commonwealth immigrant children in Britain between the 1960s and 70s.
It builds on his highly successful Master’s project in which he investigated how Huddersfield was one of a small number of local authorities in the 1960s and 70s that practised a policy of “bussing” children from Caribbean and Asian immigrant families so that they were dispersed around the district’s schools.
Joe said: “It was indicative of how highly racialised the era was. It was definitely done with good intentions, but the logic they used to justify it is quite shocking today.
“There was a belief in the superiority of British culture and immigrants were expected to fully assimilate into it.”
Joe recorded interviews with ex-pupils from ethnic minorities and with two of the educational officers who administered the policy.
He soon realised that instead of submitting a purely written thesis he wanted to supplement it with his own documentary film.
Joe sought specialist help and advice from experts, including the internet-based Kirklees Local TV.
He was also able to incorporate footage from a 1969 BBC Panorama report on the bussing of immigrant children in Huddersfield.
Joe’s completed dissertation was an innovative combination of in-depth text with a 25-minute documentary – now available online – in which he conducts interviews and provides the narration.
This is the package that impressed the judges and earned him winner of the Postgraduate Student category in the Royal Historical Society’s annual Public History awards.
The judging panel included Professor Mary Beard, one of the best-known current TV historians.
Joe said: “I am really proud that it has led to the Royal Historical Society Award and it was wonderful to meet so many famous historians at the ceremony.
“I think it’s important for historians to engage with the public and this is obviously best done through digital media these days.”
Joe’s PhD will also lead to a written thesis accompanied by a tailor-made film and he has begun the process of seeking interviewees in both Huddersfield and Liverpool.
After achieving First Class Honours and a best dissertation prize for his BA in history Joe – who is a former pupil of Newsome High School and Greenhead College – was offered a Vice-Chancellor’s Scholarship for his Master’s degree.
Now, for his fully-funded doctoral research, he is part of the Heritage Consortium, administered by a network of universities, including Huddersfield and backed by £1.85m of funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council.
Its aim is to train the next generations of experts in the field of heritage and public history.
As part of his project, Joe will receive extra training in TV and film techniques and there will be a work placement with Kirklees Local TV.