Community Workshops

Today’s post is from our director Sharon Jacksties, who has been particularly involved in the Community Programme of the festival. Here she gives us an update on events that have been largely unpublicised as they are not open to general audience-members, but which can have a profound effect on the wellbeing and quality of life of the participants.

We are now nearly half way through our Somerset storytelling workshops programme, with not many of our sessions for elderly people left and our workshops for adults with learning disabilities starting soon.

The team has been working at Torrwood residential care unit, the Lawrence Centre lunch club and Bridgemead Care Home. Somerset is fortunate enough to have the only company of learning disabled storytellers in Europe and Openstorytellers ‘opened’ our series of community workshops at the Lawrence Centre. It was very satisfying to have one of the festival’s target groups performing for another. Here are some of the lunch club members’ comments: ‘… I very much admire the sincerity it’s not easy to speak in public…’ ‘…Very, very interesting and humorous…’ ‘…Something different…’’…I had a marvellous time…’

I was also told a local story by one of the members about the search for King Arthur’s knights at Cadbury. This was a fascinating account that brought together personal, family and regional stories together with a national legend. Another excellent example of how storytelling activities stimulate memory and interaction.

Our aim is to entertain, engage and stimulate residents and service users – all of whom have mobility issues due to physical decline, disability or memory loss. Stories come from all over the world, from all landscapes, cultures, family and social situations. They can bring the world to those who can no longer venture out into it. When working with elderly participants, the leaders adapt their sessions according to the needs of the participants – some groups are made up of those suffering from dementia and others where the needs are more physical, but concentration and memory are less impaired. It is an inspiration to witness a storyteller honing her skills by telling the same story completely differently according to her audience.

Another aim is to educate staff about storytelling, to enable them to see their residents and service users in a different light and to provide a setting where they can develop their interactive skills in a creative way, as an extra to the routine demands of their work.

We also seek to provide a setting for storytellers who may want to develop existing skills for working with particular community groups and for those in the caring profession who want to learn more about storytelling, perhaps to use it as an additional skill in their work. To facilitate this, a volunteer/shadowing opportunity has been built into every session, so that a less experienced storyteller can learn from others. This aspect of the project has been so successful that even the most experienced tellers want to shadow others as a learning opportunity, and some sessions have more than one volunteer.

Because the feedback from all participants has been so positive, with an additional care home becoming a host venue, and others on the waiting list, the festival directors are already thinking about how to address this need during our next festival.

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