Hold a Big History tea party

Invite your friends and family over for tea and cake, and the chance to share their favourite stories about taps and toilets.

5 Feb 2015

You don't need to be a history buff to uncover the UK's history of taps and toilets. Many of the most interesting stories reside in the memories of your friends, older relatives and neighbours.

Hold a Big History tea party and you can capture the personal stories from your community, and help us map the changes in the country's access to clean water and safe toilets.

To help you get started, we've put together these handy resources:

So enjoy yourself over a cuppa and a chat and don't forget to share your stories with us by emailing [email protected]. We can't wait to find out what you've discovered!

Iris’ story

WaterAid's Internal Communications Officer, Priya, spoke to her grandmother Iris, 94, about her experience of growing up without an indoor toilet.

WaterAid's Priya and her nan.
WaterAid's Priya with her nan, Iris.
Photo: WaterAid

"The sanitation situation that we have today in Lewisham is very different to what I had when I was growing up.

"Me and my seven brothers and sisters had to share an outside toilet; we also each had a chamber pot in our room, because we may have needed to use the bathroom at night and it was too dark to go outside. It would have been dangerous.

"Every morning we would empty our chamber pots in the outside toilet. When we got our first indoor toilet it was a lot more convenient and hygienic."

Top tips for holding a Big History tea party

  • Have a structure: make a brief plan for what you'll talk about during your tea party. You could start sharing stories from the past, then move to the changes your guests have seen and how different things are today. Think up a few questions in advance and write them down. Working chronologically may help!
  • Provide some information in advance: let your guests know a bit about the Big History Project and the kind of questions you'll be asking them before your tea party. This will give them time to think about their answers and make them feel more relaxed when they share their stories.
  • Make everyone feel comfortable first: you could start by asking some general questions to set the scene. Where is everybody from? How old are they? Where did they grow up? How many children do they have?
  • Explain the technology: if you’re videoing or audio recording your tea party, reassure your guests that you want to hear their personal story. Remind them that editing will be possible at a later date too – so they can start again as many times as they need to!
  • Encourage your guests to be open and honest but remind them they only need to share things they feel comfortable talking about and be sensitive to this as an interviewer.

Have a great tea party!

Read some of the amazing stories you've sent in so far >