At OpenStoryTellers we are always working on creative projects and have delivered lots of unique and pioneering projects over the years
Lift off - Peter the Wild Boy & Fanny Fust
Lift Off is OpenStoryTellers' theatre project, funded by Arts Council England. The Storytelling Company will develop their two theatre shows, Peter the Wild Boy and Fanny Fust. Both shows tell the true stories of hidden histories - Fanny and Peter were real people who had learning disabilities and lived in the 1700's. Their stories are as relevant now as they were back then.
The company will also deliver educational workshops based on the themes that arise in the stories - capacity and consent, the social model vs the medical model of disability.
Memory People is OpenStoryTellers' innovative social enterprise led by people with learning disabilities. It is funded by the National Lottery. Memory People aims to help people who have difficulty recalling or communicating memories by developing resources such as memory boxes, story quilts and photo stories.
These memory resources will help people give voice to their personal histories and help family, friends and those working with them to understand more about their personal identities.
A member of OpenStoryTellers describes why this project is so important: “People who can’t talk have memories, you can tell by their eyes, when they look at a picture they pick up. If you can’t share your memories and it is hard to communicate, it’s upsetting and you feel scared and worried”.
The Fortunes & Misfortunes of Fanny Fust
In 2017, OpenStoryTellers was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Brigstow Institute to research the story of a young woman called Fanny Fust.
Our storytellers with learning disabilities worked in collaboration with historians at the University of Bristol to uncover this fascinating hidden history. The group delved into 18th century culture to get a feel for what life would have been like for Fanny, visiting places including the Pump Rooms and the Fashion Museum in Bath.
They devised an amazing theatre performance based on Fanny's story. She was an heiress with severe learning disabilities. She was tricked by her friends and abducted by a fortune hunter. She was taken to France for marriage. Her story raises questions as relevant today as they were in 1787.
Friends Meet Up - FMU
FMU has taken place over many years as part of OpenStoryTellers. It is a creative friendship group for people with learning disabilities and autism. The group has worked in partnership with various creative professionals to make music videos, comedy sketch shows, drama and dance pieces.
FMU has performed at the Frome Independent Market, the Big Mix Disability Diversity Day and the Frome Children's Festival.
Storysharing For All
Storysharing® For All was a 3 year project, supported by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. Our team worked at Three Ways School, Exeter House School and Warmley Park School to embed the Storysharing® communication approach. Storysharing® improves the communication skills of young people with complex needs.
Storysharing® enables students to develop a firm foundation in narrative. If we can tell others what happened to us, and how those experiences have shaped us, we have a better chance of them understanding our position, respecting our wishes and knowing how to support us in the future. Storysharing builds emotional literacy and consequently is a great tool for independence, choice and control.
The need for young people to be able to value their own stories and be heard is fundamental, particularly as young people are now able to make a significant contribution to their transition processes and education and health care plans.
OpenStoryTellers was one of the first groups in the UK to receive a Heritage Lottery Fund grant to allow people to share their memories of growing up in two local long stay institutions, Selwood Hospital in Frome and Norah Fry Hospital in Shepton Mallet.
Years ago, many people with learning disabilities spent much of their lives in long stay institutions. As the generation who remember these times are getting older, we felt it important to record their memories of life in the two big local homes, as well as those of the staff who worked there.
The project was led by Brian Marshall, a trustee and storyteller who lived in both settings, Dr Nicola Grove, the founder of OpenStoryTellers and Professor Dorothy Atkinson who started out as a social worker visiting both institutions, and made the oral testimony of people with learning disabilities her life’s work, most recently at the Open University.
Richard Bellamy, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund South West, said: “Clearly the success of the project has reinforced the fact that we are indeed a nation of story tellers and that we want to explore and dig deeper into our past and discover more about what really matters to us”
Long Stay in Mendip – Living Memories Exhibition
The memories and stories that we collected over the course of the project have since been featured at Black Swan Arts (Frome) and the Glenside Hospital Museum (Bristol). The exhibitions featured community film maker Howard Vause and artworks by Robin Meader Artist. No photographs of residents seem to have been taken during their long years in the institutions; Robin’s pictures illustrate their memories in powerful images that stay in the mind.