Three minutes: Barbara Richardson

The CSP has been supporting an oral history project on physiotherapy, as Barbara Richardson explains.



What is oral history? 

It’s historical information about periods of history gathered from individuals who have participated in those particular periods of history. Audio tapes, videos or transcripts of interviews can be used to record peoples’ memories or opinions. Oral history recognises that people experience the same event in different ways and therefore seeks to obtain information on a topic from different perspectives. In this project on the changes and development of the physiotherapy profession in the UK, an oral history approach gives a more personal flavour than is possible with a written record and enables different strands of development to be followed from a number of perspectives. 

How did you become involved with the project? 

My interests have always been in research methodologies which allow us to listen to and understand individuals’ stories of their experiences. My PhD research study into the physiotherapy profession and the development of professional knowledge showed very clearly how a topic or event can be understood in many different ways according to the context and setting.  So, I answered an advertisement in Frontline for people interested in becoming interviewers for the CSP oral history project and attended a training day in 2012. I was invited to attend a meeting a few months later and to take a lead in the execution of the project which had been planned and started in earlier group meetings of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy Retirement Association (CSPRA). 

What is its lifespan? 

The project was instigated by the then chief executive of the CSP, Phil Gray, in 2010. He invited the retirement association to build onto 16 interviews, collected at the time of the CSP centenary in 1994, to record changes in physiotherapy over the past 40 years and bring the history of the profession up to date. The present sub-committee of myself, Alison Leighton and Sue Russell have been working together since May 2013 and Dr Lynne Caladine joined us in March 2014. Also,15 retired members volunteered to be trained to carry out the interviews.  

How many people have been interviewed?  

In all, 95. By a shared agreement the interviews will be deposited with the British Library and the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy library. This has given us the opportunity to capture histories of a range of people who both created change and people who worked with change. Interviewees come from different areas of physiotherapy work, background experience, and job descriptions. There is a good geographical spread including Scotland, Wales and Ireland, and the collection also includes some associates, CSP officers and the interviewers themselves. The work was funded by an initial £5,000 award from the CSP Charitable Trust, augmented by a further potential £5,000.   

How many more to go?  

We have finished all the interviews and are preparing to deposit them into the libraries. This includes making track summaries for each interview with time codes to help selective listening. A guide and index to the content of the interviews is also being compiled to facilitate access to the files. It highlights specific points of change and development in the profession. The British Library will electronically hold photographs of individual interviewees and any CSP fellowship and other awards citations, along with interview files and the track summaries. The CSP library will also electronically hold period documents and images sent by some interviewees.  

How can members find out more?

In the first instance they can contact myself at The collection will eventually be registered in the British Library Oral History Catalogue, Code: C1586  Name: Chartered Society of Physiotherapy Retirement Association Oral History Project. It will also be kept in the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy Library. 
Please contact Linda Griffiths, the CSP librarian, ( to ensure a convenient time to visit. Some of the original period documents and images have been donated to the CSP library and may be used for the 125 year celebration of the society in 2019 or sent on to the Wellcome Trust. 
Dr Barbara Richardson is emeritus reader at the University of East Anglia, Fellow of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy and Chair of the Oral History Project sub-committee of the Retirement Association.

Frontline Staff

Number of subscribers: 0

Log in to comment and read comments that have been added