We are proud to announce that Stories at The Storey was named as Lancaster University Students’ Union Community Project of the Year 2015
What better way to celebrate six months of real people telling real stories than by sharing some here?
Last month our theme was ‘Inspiration’. Here are the stories told by the creative co-producers of the project: Yvonne Battle-Felton and Naomi Kruger. And, if you enjoy these we’d love to see you (and hear your story) at our next open mic on June 25th when our theme will be ‘Independence’…
Each time I look at the news I’m anxious. It’s not the sensation you get when you’ve played the lottery and you’re sure this time your number will come up or even when you haven’t played because you don’t believe colorful numbered balls “randomly” sucked up through a tube, displayed and tonelessly called “10, 17, 5” hold the keys to your success.
Its worry, tension, concern and I have to admit anger, fear, disappointment. It seems each month a black person is murdered by the police in America. I’m not naïve enough to believe this systematic erasing of black characters and stories is new. I understand that thanks to technology and social media, the news is in the hands of the people and without that lens, news still happens; it just goes un-reported, undisclosed, un-noticed.
That isn’t to say that individuals are not touched, stopped, halted. It is that the masses are unaffected, closeted.
When I heard about the latest police sanctioned killing in Baltimore I was angry. My children were born there. Raised there. If you ask them, Baltimore is their home. Though I lived there, worked there, loved there, it wasn’t my home. Home remains on the shores of New Jersey where beginnings, skins and stories were created. But Baltimore with its hot summers and simmering anger (if you let the news tell it) welcomed me. When I first moved to Maryland, a Jersey girl around 22, I couldn’t understand a word they said.
A southern state, Maryland residents spoke slower, moved slower and did most things slower than my patience allowed for. Eventually I stopped finishing their sentences and anticipating their words and I listened. And I laughed. And I heard. I enjoyed Maryland. Each day I felt less like a tourist or a visitor. Each day I took a bit more pride in relationships I made there. 20 years after moving there, I moved away. I took my most precious relationships with me.
“If you were home now, would you riot?”my daughter asks.
“I would protest.”
“Not everyone out there is protesting though.”
“Some are.” I believe that. I have to. It’s not all just free TVs and gas. It’s people who are fed up, tired. Its parents standing up for their children’s rights to live, love and grow old in communities they call home. Its people tired of being hunted. Tired of waiting. Tired of giving in and giving up. Of enduring. Of…
“Would you be out there marching?”
“How could I not?” I ask.
How can I expect others to stand up for my rights for those of my children if I’m not willing to? How can I expect mothers, fathers, neighbors, educators, pastors, children to do what I wouldn’t? Would I march? I’d have to. My eyes fill with tears. “I’d like to think I would” I say instead. “I wouldn’t want you all to go out there though. It’s dangerous.”
“It’s dangerous for you too, and you’re a mom,” she says as if I hadn’t thought about that. As if my being a mom isn’t the very reason I would march, would have to march.
And if I can’t march, I march on the inside. In my rhythms, in my writing, in my tone, I march forward, forward, propelling my voice speaking up, writing stories of forgotten pasts and writing futures and presents with characters because today needs them. I—need them.
Today inspires me.
My children inspire me. I’m inspired by possibilities, realities, dreams, goals, what if’s and should have beens. I’m moved by once upon a time’s and happily ever afters, by the stories I tell my children by the stories I tell myself.
I do—a lot. I write, teach, craft, create, revise, write, revise, write, read, live, revise. There are a lot of ands’ in the things that I do. I do them to create and craft a future and to create and sustain a present. I do them because I don’t have the luxury of imagining someone else will do them for me and even if I did, if there was someone out there crafting, creating things so that I didn’t have to—I would do them for another reason. The things I do I would do even if I didn’t have to. That’s happiness.
I do this for my children and I do this for myself. It’s not either/or; it doesn’t have to be. It’s and. I’m supporting 3 children. They rely on me for food, love, shelter, supplies, gadgets, compassion, to help them navigate and create their moral compass, and. There are no “ors” in that list. I do this—taking and creating opportunities that make me happy—because of them. I do this—taking and creating opportunities that make me happy—because of me.
In April 2011 I attended a conference about art and ageing. It was held at Rydal Hall, a hotel between Ambleside and Grasmere and just a stones throw away from Wordsworth’s final home. I was there to research my PhD thesis, to think through ideas around narrative, memory and dementia. And I did. I took lots of notes, but if I’m honest, the memory that really stays with me is an added extra, a guided afternoon walk around Rydal water.
The fresh air was a relief, even with the rain. I could put my notebook away and stretch and breathe. And I was in interesting company: doctors, carers, artists, psychologists, we all put on our waterproof jackets and Gore-Tex boots and set off around the lake. We let ourselves be guided over stiles and wooden bridges, past wind- flattened daffodils, their petals turning the colour of Bird’s Custard, the outer leaves already brown and crisp. And then onto the gravel track that circled the lake and led us up further and further until we could see almost the whole body of water stretched out below us. There, on our left, suddenly becoming visible when we turned a corner was our intended destination – the anticipated dark space, the looming rocky mouth of Rydal cave.
As it turned out, the cave wasn’t really a cave. It was a redundant quarry once used to provide slate roof tiles to local communities. A National Trust sign helpfully provided this information and also cautioned us not to enter due to the danger of falling rocks. We followed the guide who walked past the sign without comment and over a wooden fence into the craggy gloom. The roof dripped at rhythmic intervals. There were stepping stones leading into the darkness, uneven, partly submerged, slick with moss. It was only possible to move forward one at a time. I balanced there, building up courage to jump the more challenging gaps, pushing onwards, always aware of the person behind me, aiming for a strip of rock at the back of the cave which was solid and dry, at least in comparison. Once there I steadied myself, stood on a piece of stone made up of slim layers like the contour lines on an Ordnance Survey map, and looked around. The walls were cut and marbled with colour like oil spreading in a puddle. In places it shimmered, or maybe that was just the flash of the cameras. The flooded floor of the cave was green where the light caught it. Everything was reflection and echo.
We had reached the destination but it was not the point of the exercise. The point was to look outwards. Once you manoeuvred yourself to a position that minimised the risk of drips hitting your head and sliding down the neat parting in your hair you could concentrate, take time to admire the view. The bright green of the fir trees and the shape of the rising hills beyond the lake and the rain-blurred grey of the sky. And the contrast, between the two, the landscape outside like a distant painting framed by the black teeth of the blasted rock, wide and jagged at the top, then narrowing down the floor in a fan-shape. We were alive inside the frame, inside the darkness looking out and the painting was reflected into the cave, onto the watery floor at our feet, like the other half of a childish paint-splodge picture, a shape on sugar paper, folded over to produce an imprint, fainter, less stable but forming an unexpected whole. The scene was completed by its reflection and defined by the limitations of the frame. The landscape was transformed and notable largely because of where we were standing.
And this moment is one of the memories that comes to mind when I try to narrow down the things that inspire me. It was a beautiful place, yes, but also one which allowed me to re-vision the world from a new perspective. And that’s what really keeps me going when it comes down to it. Curiosity. Wondering what things would look like from a different angle, a different position. That endlessly fascinating question – what would it feel like to be somebody else? That’s why I write. That’s why I read. That’s why I like listening to your stories. And one of my favourite quotes on this subject is from Martha Nussbaum who claims that this is one of the defining characteristics of art. Artists, she says ‘are not the reliable servants of any ideology […] they always ask the imagination to move beyond its usual confines, to see the world in new ways.
Be our guests. Pull up a chair, make yourself comfortable and listen in as brilliant local writers perform their work and tell the story of their storytelling. We bring you words, music, food and the opportunity to be part of the conversation.
Hosted by Yvonne Battle-Felton and Naomi Kruger, the first ever North West Literary Salon will launch at Lancaster Library on May 8th and feature two award-winning local writers, Jenn Ashworth and Carys Bray. Their most recent novels (The Friday Gospels and A Song for Issy Bradley) are set in the North West and centre around Mormon families negotiating faith and doubt in times of crisis.
Join us at 7pm for an evening of insight, entertainment and discussion. Tickets are FREE and available here.
In March we shared stories of Spring Fever. New shoots, gardening, parenthood, illness, grief, inspiration, hope and (rather unforgettably) the particular dangers of sheep dip. One of the joys of Stories at The Storey is to hear from such a diverse range of voices. From seasoned storytellers to people who dare to try something new, anyone with a story to tell is welcome to share it. And sharing is powerful.
Lucinda Flodin & Dennis Frederick argue that ‘stories simultaneously celebrate what is unique about us and provide bridges to what is common among us.’ In exchanging our specific stories we create spaces for connection and understanding as well as wonder and surprise. Come and join us in April when our theme will be Second Chances: giving and receiving – in love, life and career. If you have a story to share we’d love to hear it. Join us at The Storey on April 30th. Contact us for a 3-5 minute slot. Free tickets are available here.
Thanks to everyone who shared stories about their inner child at February’s open mic. We heard about fear, failure and timidity, courage, freedom and flamboyance. We were transported into fantasy worlds and childhood memories, Halloween parties, talent shows and long distance cycle rides. We even had a guest reading from Gandalf the Grey.
If you missed it make a date to join us on March 26th, 7-8pm. For this month only we will be leaving our home at the Storey and taking our stories to Campus in the City, St Nicholas Arcade, Lancaster.
This month’s event will be held on February 26th and the theme is ‘Inner child’. How do you tame, cultivate, manage or indulge yours? Sign up for a slot or order free tickets. Come in from the cold and listen in…