PeopleSpeakUp in collaboration with Beyond the Border – Wales’ International Storytelling Festival have been bringing young and older people together, many of whom who are isolated or are at risk, to exchange stories and support one another during lockdown over the last few months.
With so many exciting developments online, and the wealth of performance work and projects taking place in virtual story space PeopleSpeakUp with support from Beyond the Border, launched two innovative pilot projects to continue to work with older people, many of whom who did not have internet access.
PeopleSpeakUp working in collaboration with Beyond the Border and storyteller Phil Okwedy trailed new ways of connecting with older people by sharing and exchanging stories through their Stories by Phone scheme. Using a mixture of individual old-tech phone calls with some participants and small group Zoom sessions with others, the participants, some of whom have been diagnosed with dementia, felt at ease to use their imagination and connect during a time of isolation.
Tenby based Storyteller Phil Okwedy said: “By whatever medium they have received the stories, to date they have all led to further conversation & connection and all have reported that they have enjoyed them, valued them and are hungry for more. One participant receiving phone calls reports she values the space they offer for her to visualise the story without distraction and that it helps her to bring similar stories to mind. On the other hand, some in the Zoom groups say they really value the sense of connection they feel from being in the same virtual room, and that the stories are richer for being able to experience the physicality of them.”
As well as Stories by Phone, the partnership has developed an intergenerational project, Story Gathering between secondary school children and residents in care homes in Carmarthenshire. The young people aged between 14-18 from Coed Cae School and residents and staff at Cilymaenlwyd Care Home, Llanelli have been spending the summer holidays connecting and creating new stories, sharing traditional tales, and discovering new ways of working together, supporting mental health, even while socially distanced.
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’s Artistic Director, Eleanor Shaw said; “At the start of lockdown we were really concerned about how we would be able to continue to support our communities, the young and old, all vulnerable and isolating and with limited technology knowledge. Both projects have gone far beyond what we expected to do in supporting people during lockdown. The feedback has been so positive. Stories allow for an imaginative space especially for those with Dementia to be able to dream and communicate. It’s also enabled young people to overcome some of their anxieties, develop confidence and their own communications to support themselves as well as older people to use technology in this way.”
Activities Co-ordintator at Cilymaenlwyd Care Home, Dianne Francis said, “The residents thoroughly enjoy the projects they do with PeopleSpeakUp, it brings back many memories for them. The room is full of laughter, they leave the room on a high, with a feel good attitude and during the situation we are in at the moment they enjoy interacting with people other than those in the home. When someone is telling a story or reading a poem you can feel their concentration to listen.”
Beyond the Border’s Local Engagement Co-ordintor, Tamar Eluned Williams, said,
“It’s been wonderful working with PeopleSpeakUp to reach out and create meaningful and accessible opportunities during lockdown. Hearing and sharing each other’s stories are such strong ways to build relationships as well as to deal with some of the extra stresses we are all experiencing at the moment. Great to see the phone coming back into its own, alongside digital connectivity, and connections across generations. We know this collaboration has already inspired other projects to spring up, and we’re looking forward to continuing this work into the future.”
For further information about PeopleSpeakUp and the Stories by Phone/Story Gathering please visit peoplespeakup.co.uk
Stories by Phone and Story Gathering is supported by West Wales Care Partnership, Beyond the Border – Wales International Storytelling Festival, Connect to Kindness, Carmarthenshire Council and Hushland Creative.