“…the story of a life continues to be refigured by all the truthful or fictive stories a subject tells about himself or herself. This refiguration makes this life itself a cloth woven of stories told.”
Storying Sheffield is a project based at the University of Sheffield about accessible and universal ideas such as narrative, storytelling, history, and the environment.
The project has many different strands, but in general it brings diverse people together to learn about and then produce stories and other creative representations of Sheffield people’s lives and identities, and more broadly about the ‘life’ of this major UK city, and its region. Storying Sheffield has worked with many different groups including people who are long-term users of mental health services, people with physical disabilities, older people, some who live with dementia, primary school students, new migrants to the UK, patients in secure hospitals, and others.
It is easy in an age of the expert and the spectacle to forget that our stories of our own lives embody expertise and insight. It is easy to believe that our everyday lives are unremarkable, unworthy of study and consideration. Few of us have the opportunity, or the confidence to reflect on our experience, to spend time mining its meanings, to shape it and interpret it, and to trace its connections to the stories of others, and of our culture. To value our own stories in this way might seem to be self-indulgent, an exercise in vanity, or a waste of our time. And even if we push through such doubts, we may not even understand how to begin such an exercise, and come up against an inner blankness which appears to signify that we have no story worth telling.
Storying Sheffield is a project which seeks to tell and learn from narratives of everyday life and lives. These include ‘untold’ stories – those which are marginalised, repressed, disregarded, ignored, or stigmatised. The project brings people together to learn about the structures and forms of narrative, and to discuss and share experience, beginning with a focus on the apparently insignificant details and textures of the everyday. From drawing out the complexities of what to us is commonplace and familiar, capturing and attending to the fragments and moments of memory, we find that stories begin to be woven together and images created. Such stories are always intimately connected to others’ lives, reminding us of the interdependence which characterises our species. And when these stories are also produced in dialogue with others, unexpected resonances and connections between very different lives are frequently revealed. So the weave of the story comes to embody a complex web of relationships and interdependence at the core of the self, while also preserving the uniqueness of each teller’s perspective on and knowledge of the world.
For more detail about Storying Sheffield click the poster image below.