Llanelli’s PeopleSpeakUp in partnership with Beyond the Border – Wales’ International Storytelling Festival will be working with two established storytellers across the next year as part of an exciting new Wales-wide collaboration project to develop and diversify the art of storytelling.
Pembrokeshire based storytellers Phil Okwedy and Deb Winter have been working on a range of different projects with PeopleSpeakUp (PSU) in Llanelli for the past two years as storytellers and facilitators. Their new roles as Associate Cyfarwyddion will enable them to deepen and develop this work, supporting more local communities across West Wales and plugging them into a new, Wales wide programme, The Mycelium Story Hub.
The Mycelium Story Hub is an exciting new collaboration between freelancers and organisations supported by Arts Council Wales’ Connect and Flourish fund.
The Mycelium Story Hub is a network of organisational and freelancer partners, committed to sharing practice & nurturing less frequently heard stories from across Wales’ diverse communities. The model is inspired by nature’s mycelium networks and includes support for producers and a new role of contemporary Cyfarwyddion.
PeopleSpeakUp is a social arts, health and wellbeing enterprise based in Llanelli who connect with communities through storytelling, spoken word, creative writing and participatory arts.
PeopleSpeakUp is one of several organisations creating the Hub with Beyond the Border, including the National Eisteddfod, Menter Iaith and Citrus Arts, individual storytellers and community members, Head4Arts and Theatre Soar – all working to ensure the future of the storytelling sector in Wales.
As Associate Cyfarwyddion Phil Okwedy and Deb Winter will develop new connections and projects, widening the diversity of engagement with storytelling. They will respond to the stories bubbling up within their communities, fostering diverse cultural partnerships while also nurturing their own artistic growth – sharing initiatives and support across the network and sharing their learning with the Hub.
Eleanor Shaw from PeopleSpeakUp, said. “We are so excited to be working with Beyond The Border on this innovative project, to have the opportunity to embed experienced passionate storytellers into our working model as associate storytellers is going to have so much impact on our community, working model, and social impact. The benefits are endless for the storytellers, for our organisation and our storytelling community.”
Some of the first activities already planned for West Wales include organising ‘Story Shares’ in person and online for people living in isolation; developing the PSU’s Men’s Group through a series of interactive workshops; coaching workshops for those who are just starting out in storytelling; uniting with local environmental groups to create stories inspired by nature and raise call to actions on climate change, plus workshops with members of Llwy Gariad to collect and record stories from the experiences and cultures of the group and to develop new voices.
“The Llwy Gariad (lovespoon) social group was originally born out of the consultations for the Welsh Government’s Race Equality Action Plan, back in October 2020. It is a social space for so-called black Asian and “minority” ethnic people and their families, living in west Wales, to come together and meet each other. Many of us are “the only black in the village”, the only “person of colour” in classes, schools, workplaces and social groups. Some of us are the brown parents of white children, and the white parents of brown children, trying to find connections to a truthful history, and cultural experiences which we have to travel to cities to access temporarily,” said Storyteller Phil Okwedy.
He continued, “I’ve long entertained but seldom aired the idea that the storyteller ought to be of service to their community. So, I’m delighted that this new role will allow me to explore and develop ways in which storytelling can usefully contribute to, and facilitate, the sharing of the stories and voices that represent the diversity and complexity of Wales.”
Deb Winter said, “Storytelling can make a huge difference to people’s mental health and well-being, especially when used to bring people together, build self-esteem and foster friendships and connections in the community. I’m equally excited by those benefits and by this wonderful opportunity to use storytelling to be a voice for Nature, a catalyst for positive action to protect our beleaguered planet.”
For further information about PeopleSpeakUp please visit peoplespeakup.co.uk
For further information about The Mycelium Story Hub and current job roles for producers and storytellers across Wales, please visit The Mycelium Story Hub