Stories in the Street represents one strand of my work – collecting and telling stories with groups and communities through informal performances and conversations. Over the years I have changed the concept from something done in the street to something done in a circle, but the essential idea remains the same. Story-telling and story-making are part of the flow of life. They occur spontaneously where groups of people meet together but this form of culture is so often overlooked.
Story-telling is a vital form of reflection, providing insight into the inner life of a group or an individual with sometimes unforgettable power. I have worked in numerous settings over the last 20 years but Stories in the Street is really one on-going project of story collecting. See below for some of the booklets I have produced.
Some examples of previous projects.
Stories will always be told as long as there is someone to listen, and listening is at the heart of any successful storytelling project. Sometimes stories are told and forgotten, but on other occasions stories become calls to action, demanding that the listener sees the world from a new perspective. This book was made with a group who were part of a listening project funded by the NHS consulting with communities about racial injustice and health inequalities.
Empathy, Partnership, Inclusion (2023)
Story sharing followed by collaborative book making is a fascinating process. The original stories act like magnets attracting commentary, further stories, explanations and illustrations. The result is a physical record of a moment in time, a place to stop and consider what has been and what could be. This book was made with a group of people living at a hostel, battling with trauma and addictions and seeking to improve their lives.
What the Hell Are We Going to Call This (2022)
Storytelling can be political and challenging, but it can also be light and playful. The light playful side can play an important role within a bigger context of support for people dealing with painful experiences and memories. This book was made with a group of refugees, who commented how many positive memories and experiences the sheer fun of storytelling brought them. It’s a reminder of the value and importance of maintaining boundaries between creative activities and therapeutic activities.
The Sky Has No Borders (2022)
Storytelling at its best is able to bring people together to learn from each other in a spirit of equality. This can make for an incredibly creative group especially if it is made up of people from different backgrounds and cultures. This book was made in a library with a group of ESOL learners, some of them very new arrivals to the UK. They recalled different literary
forms, taught them to the rest of the group and reported that they felt a freedom and confidence in expressive writing and speaking in English they had not felt before.
If You Find a Wild Flower You Will Discover the Secrets of the Ocean (2022)
‘Culture’ is a very big word that is hard to define and easy to use vaguely. Storytelling is a very good way of making culture concrete. In this project participants created a collection of stories that collectively approached the question of culture.
Different People, Different Places (2005)
Storytelling and Culture
Identity is almost as vague a concept as culture. Storytelling offers a valuable way of approaching identity, building up a patchwork of stories, that collectively communicate identity either for a group or an area or an individual. This book is an example of this approach, reflecting the different lives, meanings and memories of people living on a single estate in South London.
Storytelling and Identity
Stories From Bellingham (2009)
Somali Folktales (2009)
Storytelling and Heritage
Another big word with many connotations is ‘heritage’. This book provides a collection of stories and memories that are both ‘traditional’ and ‘contemporary’. Stories are flexible and the same basic story can be told in response to contemporary issues, without losing its link to the past. This is another strength in the storytelling approach.
Enfield Stories in the Street (2011)
I have always been fascinated by the open and inclusive spaces of libraries which bring people together in a visible unity of shared purposes and interests. I have had many conversations and meetings in libraries that I would probably not have had in any other context. This book records some of the stories and memories that I heard in a singlelibrary in North London over a period of about four months.
So That's a bit of my life (2014)
Storytelling, Reminiscence and Perspective
Stories always emerge where people come together to reminisce. The beauty of a story is that it provides a personal perspective and creates a space for other people to tell their stories. As long as there is no ‘wrong’ or ‘right’ story, the storytelling space makes memory
possible and provides insights and moments of closure that can be immensely valuable.
This book was created in a Sheltered Housing scheme in Ealing.
Tell me a story (2019)
A storycircle toolkit
Following on from my explanation above about ‘deep hanging out’, this book summarises the simple approaches and exercises that I developed while deep hanging out during a long project in Hammersmith & Fulham. After many years of hanging out deeply and collecting stories at the same time, I attached the label ‘storycircle’ to my efforts, and attempted to put into words the various approaches I use.
Perhaps it is an impossible task, but storytelling is the glue of much deep hanging out, and in this book I attempt to analyse and break down the components. Of course, the glue only starts to bind once you mix the components in the right proportions, but that is for another book!
One Piece of Land (2013)
A Storytelling Journey Through Deptford
I take a lot of inspiration from the concept and practice of ‘ethnography’, the study and representation of groups of people. This book attempts to capture the highly ethnographic and deeply mysterious practice of ‘deep hanging out’. The term started as a joke among anthropologists and now has a serious meaning, implying that the only way to learn about people is to become part of a group, to participate in the flow of life and thus to accumulate experience that can become the basis for truthful knowledge. This is an ethnographically inspired piece of writing after several years of hanging out with groups of people in Deptford in South London.
Health Matters (2007)
In moments of illness the suffering person wants to know the answer to two questions – how did this happen to me and why? The so called ‘medical model’ however is only interested in the observation of clinical signs and is hostile to the patient’s attempts at personal meaning making. As many first person accounts of illness reveal, this can be a cause of even greater suffering for the patient. The field of ‘narrative medicine’ has grown up to promote the relevance of patients’ stories to medical treatment. This book collects stories about health which reveal how differently people experience and conceive of wellness and illness.
The Incredible Journey (2015)
Storytelling and Disability
I am firmly of the belief that storytelling is the medium of social life for any and all groups of people. This book follows a process of story improvisation with a group of learning disabled young people. The story emerged through their verbal and non-verbal responses, and through the sharing of experiences that built up a stock of references that made the story their story, distinctive of the personalities and reactions of that particular group of people. This is the true power of storytelling, a sort of capsule of shared experience, that draws people together.
Downham Postcards (2006)
The personal meets the political
Personal stories are a combination of small details with larger patterns. As a result personal stories can sometimes seem more than simply a small account of experience. They become instead representative stories, metaphors, that capture a permanent feature of life. This is where personal stories become political. These postcards were created during a project on the Downham Estate and could be seen as a sort of consultation exercise, revealing the problems that residents struggle with and the resources and potential solutions that could be found.