Guest Blogger Jolene & The Stories Of Our Lives Group
Hi, I’m Jolene and I started the group The Stories Of Our Lives. The Stories Of Our Lives is a community building, intergenerational group based in Chorlton, Manchester. Initially, we created a printed book of stories from the older people of Chorlton Good Neighbours. This idea came after some in person sessions where I guided participants through a reminiscence activity, and then volunteer writers chatted with the older people about what they recalled before recording their stories on a different theme each session. Starting in April 2020, we met online twice a month to support each other and create something meaningful together. Once the lockdown restrictions lifted, we have now been meeting once a month online and once a month at Chorlton Library.
The structure of sessions has shifted a little as now all participants, no matter their age, have a chance to reflect, converse and then present their memories. Each session starts with a short meditative/guided reminiscence activity about a different key theme, followed by a chat in pairs about what we all recalled, and we then all meet again. Some people come just for the lovely conversation, whilst many others also choose to write down the stories and lessons that came up during the sessions. These written pieces are then combined into blog posts by our wonderful editor Margaret Kendall.
The topics we discuss and the stories they inspire are taken from both the current unprecedented times we are living through, and also from the past. This means that all sorts of interesting observations and reflections have emerged. The blog has become a wonderful mishmash of wisdom, humour, poignancy, history and more recently, poetry and art!
Relationships and wellbeing have both been enhanced because of our wonderful group. People have made friends across the generations and other variations. Participants have also reported feeling a happiness boost from the meetings, as well as greater confidence in their writing skills and an improved sense of purpose and connection.
Thanks to the work of the members plus the support of buzz Manchester Health & Wellbeing Service, Manchester University and Southway Housing, we have been able to do the following in 2021:
- Increase the reach of the group with new ongoing members, and also a variety of guest speakers and participants.
- A written exchange with Chorlton Primary pupils.
- A music-based story exchange session with Chorlton High School pupils.
- The Migrant Destitution Group joined in a session.
- A Chorlton Arts Festival celebration event and reading to the public.
- A Manchester University collaboration at the Library with members of the public.
- Face to face social and storytelling meetups running alongside our online sessions.
- 16 new blog posts on a variety of topics.
- Increased blog followers and readership.
- A new regular Facebook and Instagram presence.
- Learning sessions with guest speakers on telling stories orally and creative writing.
- Sharing what we have learned and sessions on how to reminisce effectively, resulting in a downloadable guidance sheet.
- Increased range of topics shared on the blog and social media, including poetry, art, audio and video recordings.
I’ve also got a brand new radio show called the Joy Ethic Show launching on 96.9 ALL FM on Friday 21st January at 1pm. The first show is all about walking for wellbeing and includes an interview with buzz Neighbourhood Health Workers Aron and Laura, listen in live here allfm.org/radioplayer!