Cross Cultural Story Sharing – Staffordshire Library Service
This six month ‘Cross Cultural Story Sharing’ project was focused around Burton on Trent Library and was a joint project with East Staffs Borough Council (ESBC) and the county ESOL co-ordinator.
The project began with an informal consultation by the East Staffs’ Storytelling worker (ESBC) with the 190 adult learners currently signed up for ESOL classes in and around Burton on Trent. The ESOL co-ordinator is based at Burton Library and several classes meet regularly in the library. Learners (together with teachers and support workers) were encouraged to come along to a free morning workshop in April led by professional storyteller Sef Townsend. The session aimed to enthuse learners about sharing stories, poems, songs, recipes or riddles from their own culture – either in their own language with a short summary in English, or for the more confident learners, in English.
The storyteller worked in the afternoon with teachers, support workers, local storytellers and library staff to develop their skills and confidence in encouraging learners to use storytelling techniques. This workshop focussed specifically on working with people who are learning English as an additional language and particular approaches necessary.
During May, as part of the East Staffs Web Storytelling Festival, a public event took place at the library, featuring people who attended the April workshop plus anyone else who wished to share a story from their own culture. We also provided a selection of food and drink to create a festive event and a crèche. Sef Townsend was compere for the event, as well as contributing stories to add to those told by the ESOL learners and general participants.
Between June and October, ESOL learners were encouraged to develop their story-sharing skills by their learning support advisers, teachers and library staff. A further 2 workshops were held with the guest storyteller to develop the learner and teachers skills over this period
In October, in an event linked to the ‘Word of Mouth’ NYoR theme, a second story sharing event took place. This built on successful elements from the May event. The session was also open to a wider audience and participation.
Aims and objectives
- For Staffordshire Library Service and Arts East Staffs: Community Team to work in partnership with new arrival communities, using storytelling and story sharing as a means of promoting cultural understanding and community cohesion
- To develop participants language skills and confidence
- To promote storytelling as an accessible and cross cultural art form
- To develop the audience for storytelling locally
- To develop librarians’, teachers’ and learning support assistants’ skills and confidence using storytelling as a participatory arts and reader development tool
- To sustain, develop and build on the reputation of the library as a safe space for new communities to meet and exchange stories
- To raise the profile of Staffordshire Library Service and Arts East Staffs participatory work with ‘hard to reach’ communities
- The library service and Arts East Staffs to work together to develop and manage a participatory arts project
- To engage a storyteller to work collaboratively with teachers, learning support advisers, local storytellers and library staff on a cross cultural project
- For the storyteller to enable participants to develop their storytelling and speaking skills in public at two public events, open to wider audiences
- For the storyteller to work with teachers, learning support advisers, local storytellers and library staff, passing on skills which can continue to be developed beyond the life of the project
- For the participants to take part in joint events at Burton Library where they practice and showcase the work that they have done
Link to the National Year of Reading
This project enabled people to share stories, poems, riddles, rhymes and recipes from a range of cultures during both Mind and Body and Word of Mouth NYR themed months.
Mind and Body: Sharing stories between individuals or cultures is one of the strongest ways to promote community health and well being. Whether people are sharing traditional stories from their own culture, or their own story of their lives in Britain, there is potential for greater understanding and shared cultural awareness as a result. For new communities recently arrived in Britain, these sessions afford the opportunity to create positive, creative links between cultures, promoting cross-cultural understanding and appreciation. The workshop sessions also focussed on both imaginative (mind) and physical (body) skills required when telling stories – from use of descriptive language and painting pictures for the audience to gesture and breathing skills.
Word of Mouth: the events corresponded with ‘word of mouth’ themes such as celebrating storytelling, reading out loud and live literature. By leading up to this month with workshops and development work, we ensured we made the most of the session.
Kevin Reynolds (District Manager): email@example.com