A CHANCE meeting at Redditch Local History Museum has led to the creation of a new archive for the town.
Dave Handley was visiting the venue to see information held there on Bridley Moor School and was shown around by volunteer Derek Coombes.
In conversation Dave and Derek discovered there was a period back in the 1980s when they both worked at IT company ISTEL, although they never actually met whilst there.
Checking what information the museum had on ISTEL, they found it was limited to two publicity brochures and a mug.
Derek and Dave said they were shocked how little information there was on the company, so decided to rectify that by stating their own archive.
Derek said: “ISTEL brought a lot of employment to the area, contributed greatly to the local economy and supported many worthwhile causes.
“And we were just amazed at how little remained of the organisation in the town and now the name ISTEL has virtually vanished.”
ISTEL became the largest non-public sector employer and had offices at many locations in the town including a state of the art data centre at Moons Moat, Grosvenor House, Highfield House, Springfield House and Regents Court along with many satellite offices on Moons Moat.
Dave, having spent 30 years with ISTEL, started to contact former colleagues to gauge reaction to the project.
“When we set up the Facebook group, we had no idea what level of interest there would be.
“Once it started it became apparent we were not the only ones with fond memories of ISTEL.
“What we found even more surprising was that people had kept an amazing range of ISTEL mementos.
“These included ties, awards, promotional clothing, ear plugs and all manner of things.”
The need for the project has proved to be so high that they have been able to include support from several senior managers from ISTEL, including John Leighfield who was the Chairman and Chief Executive.
John’s enthusiasm for the project included a visit to Redditch from his home in Oxfordshire to meet Dave and Derek during which he donated many of his personal collection of artefacts to them.
The growing support lead Derek to launch a website to hold all of the information.
Derek said: “John’s donation is a very significant, and important collection of Redditch history.
“As well as using it to build our online archive we need to find a long-term, secure home for the physical artefacts.
“Our hope is that the County Archives at the Hive in Worcester will be interested in providing that home.”
Derek and Dave are keen to hear from any ex colleagues and former ISTEL employees to keep the steady stream of referral requests to join the group, and the donation of artefacts, going.
Dave added: “I realise, as we get older, we tend to look at the past through rose tinted glasses but I genuinely feel there was something very special about the old place.
“It was a great environment to work in – the people were great, and everyone had a ‘can do’ approach to work.
“I have nothing but happy memories there.
“What I have found is that through the Facebook group we have connected with many others who felt the same”.
The pair are planning a display at the Redditch Library Local History event on January 20. This they hope will be an opportunity for former ISTEL employees to meet up and renew old acquaintances.
Visit istel.redditchheritage.online for more information.