Coming from a sector of journalism where personal ‘everyday’ stories are given the utmost value, I’m already sold on the idea that sharing one person’s human experience can be powerful, meaningful – and sometimes just plain old heartwarming.
So when I heard how telling real stories was forming the foundation of a unique, innovative project, called Storying Sheffield, in the English department of the University of Sheffield, I was immediately interested and intrigued in the idea behind the scheme.
The project led by Dr Brendan Stone involved undergraduate English students being paired with people from the Sheffield community, who were happy to share some experiences/memories/revelations about the lives they had lived so far to form a multi-media representation of themselves, and the city they called home.
The volunteers who told their story came from groups who tended to be socially-excluded, such as long-term users of mental health services. I had the chance to some of them talk about the profoundly positive effect Storying Sheffield had on their lives, at a one-day showcase of the resulting exhibition last Friday. http://www.storyingsheffield.com/
As Dr. Stone said in his introduction: ‘Telling stories is healing.’ I couldn’t agree more. These sweet snapshots of lives were told through a mixture of films, audio recordings, written text, food (yes, real food!), pictures, photographs – and even some live performance poetry.
I found this show of normally unheard voices as moving to consume as I’m sure it had been to create. From hearing some of the participants speak, it was a life-changing experience and tapped into a deep instinct we sometimes are in danger of forgetting in our 24-hour, there’s-an-app-for-that culture – for as long as we’ve existed as a species sharing stories with others has been a fundamental need, as essential as the air we breathe and water we drink.
There must be something in the great Sheffield air, as last week I introduced a new social enterprise I’m a voluntary director for called Silent Cities. http://www.silentcities.org.uk/ One of our major aims is to harness creativity and give voices to those in society who are often left silent. It’s good to know we share this spirit with such a ground-breaking project like Storying Sheffield.
Until next week, keep sharing your stories!