Older people have a treasure trove of stories and experiences to share with us, if we just take some time to listen.
‘Oh The Stories We Could Tell’ is a storytelling programme for older people across Greater Pollok, Newlands & Auldburn that hopes to capture those stories and experiences; to bring people together in a warm, welcoming space where they feel supported, valued and heard.
The idea for our project was born when we realised that we hadn’t been connecting to older people in our local community of Pollok as much as we would like. As an organisation we go to great pains to let people know that storytelling ‘is not just for kids!’ However, most of our work within Pollok was very much delivered to children and families. Our work with adults, while highly regarded, took place across Glasgow and beyond, but very little was delivered on our own doorstep.
When I took on my role at The Village 2 years ago, the organisation had gone through substantial change. A recent move to new premises, several new staff members and our role in a large scale community consultation gave us the opportunity to rebuild our relationship with the older people in our community and to find out exactly what they wanted to do with us.
The Well-Being For Longer Fund has given us the opportunity to explore this further than we ever imagined. Through a series of Story Cafés and storytelling events we introduced the art of storytelling to over 100 adults, mostly over 60 years old. The relaxed events brought community members together, over a cuppa and a bite to eat, to delight in traditional folktales and contemporary stories. Integral to these events was the space for the participants to share their own stories and their ideas about how we can work together.
We are now delivering our next phase of the programme with two groups. In partnership with the fantastic social enterprise Rags to Riches, the participants are making their own upcycled creations but at its heart this is still a storytelling project. Tales of short lived jobs in paper knicker factories, tattie picking, creepy hotel stays and hotpants from our lively participants have kept our storytellers in stitches!
A very different approach that the funding has enabled has been our one to one storytelling sessions for particularly vulnerable people. Our storytellers have been to visit people who can’t get out to attend our events or workshops, ensuring that the therapeutic process of hearing and sharing stories is accessed by people who need it the most. One particular participant of a one to one storytelling session has now begun to attend community events, after a significant period of being housebound.
However, we are the first to say that while storytelling is magical, it isn’t a magic wand. Rather, it is the meaningful partnership and collaboration with the dedicated Community Development practitioners from Housing Associations and Health Centres that has made the positive impact all the more possible.
As a funder, Impact Funding Partners understand all too well the importance of meaningful partnership and collaboration. As soon as our grant award was announced they have been there to offer opportunities, to listen to our ideas and to be flexible when we have recognised the need for change to our original plan.
And if we are to truly be led by our communities then we must be flexible in our approach and listen, really listen to the stories they have to tell.