Nuffield Southampton Theatres (NST) is co-ordinating an unusual Heritage Lottery funded project titled ‘Out of the Shadows’ to learn about the real people and stories behind the production of the iconic Spitfire in Southampton, which changed the course of the Second World War.
The project, made possible by money raised by National Lottery players, is now in its second phase, visiting various locations in Southampton where local people might be able to share their own memories about how Southampton built this iconic plane in small dispersal sites across the city, after the great Supermarine works in Woolston was bombed in September 1940.
Local communities are invited to come on board the buses for free between 11am and 4pm, to share their own stories; browse what NST has already learnt; see photographs and video footage from Solent Sky’s archive collection; and help NST reconnect Southampton with its awe-inspiring past.
Rupert Rowbotham, Head of Engagement at NST, said: “This is a really exciting project for NST. After the huge success of Shadow Factory earlier this year, we visited nearly all of Southampton’s secondary schools and staged mini requisitions where actors enacted a common scene from late 1940 - a visit from the Ministry of Aircraft Procurement - to connect young people in Southampton with a radically different time in their city’s past.
“At this next phase we would like hear from everyone and anyone who remembers or was told what happened when Spitfires were built round the corner, at a church hall, garage, or bus depot. What must it have been like to go into a garage and see a row of Spitfire wings being made?”
Vicki Stacey, Heritage Activities & Volunteer Coordinator for Out of the Shadows at NST, added: “This extraordinary story must have been shared by hundreds of people living in the Southampton area during the war. And our vintage buses, or ‘memory gathering stations’ as we call them, are touring local communities throughout June, so we are really keen to hear from anybody who has stories to tell about how they, or their families, helped build Spitfires.”
The project, running in partnership with Solent Sky Museum, the Supermariners, Hursley Park Archives, Southampton City Archives and Southampton & District Heritage Trust, will culminate with a series of vintage bus tours around Southampton that will retell the stories of wartime Spitfire dispersal.
For more information or to get involved, please visit nstheatres.co.uk/get-involved.