For the UK’s digital storytellers, a trip to Aberystwyth Arts Centre has been something of an annual pilgrimage for some years now. DS6 took place on Friday 16 June 2011. In keeping with previous years, here’s my review of the day.
First on the DS6 stage was Angeline Koh of Singapore-based Digital Storytelling Asia.
I first became aware of the interest in digital storytelling in Singapore when I wrote this blog post entitled 6,000 Storytellers four years ago.
I could tell from hearing Angeline speak just how much of an inspiration Denise Atchley – wife of the late Dana Atchley – had been.
Angeline says digital storytelling is still quite young in Singapore and the surrounding area. She’d like to see a huge growth in the form, especially in schools. After witnessing Angela’s determination and dedication, when it comes to doing this I’d say: “if anyone can, Angeline can”.
I was bowled over by the presentation made by Pip Hardy of Patient Voices. I’d briefly met Pip and her partner Tony Sumner at the previous evening’s welcome meal (thanks to Alan Hewson, director of the Arts Centre for that). The stories Pip showed on Friday drove home the power of personal storytelling in changing people’s attitudes to the way they deal with others in their day to day work. The emotion I felt as Pip showed the digital story by a trainee male nurse who reflected on being instructed to insert a catheter into an 80-year-old woman who was very close to death “because it’ll be good practice for you” will stay with me for ever. It was such an important story to tell and yet such a difficult story to watch.
If this field of stories guiding health policy and behaviour is of interest to you, see also this Aberth blog post about how storytelling is saving hundreds of lives in Welsh hospitals.
The first breakout Session I attended was about StoryWorks and was presented by Karen Lewis and Lisa Heledd Jones. The sensitive way in which these experienced practitioners tailor experiences in consultation with the people they’re working with is what shines through for me. Full declaration: I’ve worked closely with Karen and Lisa in the past with Capture Wales.
Not all the work they do results in a classic two-minute digital story, for example they described a project called ‘Dads Who Care’ about foster dads which resulted in a PDF e-book which had many thousands of downloads which goes to show that modelling the format to suit the audience yields optimal results. Anyone who’s organised a digital storytelling workshop will know how difficult it can be to recruit participants. So it was interesting to hear Lisa say that, if individuals can see lasting good for others from the story they tell, StoryWorks have found it much easier to find volunteers to share their story.
After lunch, Julie Gade of Story Field stood up to speak. Julie’s based in Copenhagen and her organisation works for companies and organisations who want to find out what their customers / clients / passengers / patients / etc really think about their products or services. As Julie said: “What people say they do isn’t always what people actually do.” One of the ways Julie’s company likes working is to give people cameras and ask them to record how they interact with the product or service, then edit the rushes into a short video story. This was a refreshing take on digital storytelling.
The final breakout session of the afternoon I attended was about Hyperlocal. It was hosted by Joni Ayn, editor of Llandaff News. The parallels between digital storytelling and hyperlocal news sites are interesting, especially when you consider the geographically-related stories of Murmur, Postcode Stories (whose creator Nicky Getgood was in the audience). There was an interesting strand of discussion around individuals’ ‘rights’ to tell a community’s stories, as opposed to capitalising on existing community frameworks.
Surprisingly, this echoed with my experiences when I worked with the BBC’s Cipolwg ar Gymru project. Some participants expressed an interest in telling a story about their village, yet when asked if that was the story they wanted to use for their digital story, they said: “Oh no, I’m not the right person to tell that one.” I don’t know whether or not this modesty in being reluctant to act as spokesperson is uniquely Welsh.
My own view as someone who runs two hyperlocal sites – AbergelePost.com and BaeColwyn.com – is that every single bit of help is welcome. After the session, the person who made the point promised to put me in touch with someone in Colwyn Bay who might be able to help with that area’s stories.
I first met Joni Ayn at DS5 and her Llandaff News was an influence when I decided to produce sites about Abergele and Colwyn Bay, so I was delighted that Joni ran this breakout at DS6.
Other breakout sessions throughout the day were run by Hannah Nicklin and Mog and Angharad Dalton. I was sorry to miss these, but these presenters kindly agreed to let me make an audio recording, so I can share here what I learned after listening to the mp3.
Apart from the formal sessions, DS6 was a good chance to catch up with digital storytelling activities from some of the attendees. Here are some of the updates:
- Barrie Stephenson of DigiStories has been successfully using iPad to create digital stories using iMovie on iPad. Barrie says he’s focusing mainly on training trainers nowadays.
- Gwion Llwyd and Rhian Cadwaladr of Cadwyd and Galeri Caernarfon were in Aber. Gwion finds the defaulting Ken Burns effect on iMovie on iPad frustrating. They’re planning some exciting projects.
- I met Tash from Breaking Barriers Community Arts, who told me about some work they’ve been doing with Mind.
- Daniel Meadows is still teaching digital storytelling at Cardiff University. He’s also preparing for a retrospective of his work at the Bradford National Media Museum. Daniel and I spent some time remembering documentary photographer Tim Heatherington, who was sadly killed in a mortar attack in Misrata, Libya. Daniel knew Tim well; I’d only met Tim once when we started learning about digital storytelling together at the Elan Valley workshop in 2001.
- Steve Bellis of Yale College Wrexham is setting up a new ambitious pan-European digital storytelling partnership project.
- other people I was delighted to catch up with, albeit briefly, included Kate Strudwick, Katrina Kirkwood, Karl Greenwood, Prue Thimbleby, etc.
As I drove home to Cardiff from Aberystwyth after DS6, I enjoyed the company of Simona Bonini Baldini and Rami Malkawi. I’ll say more about them soon on this blog.
If you’d like to read about DSCymru’s previous conferences, here are the links: