"I tell you this story to break your heart,
that it be broken open
and never close to the world again"
Stories For Change
Stories for Change is an art and well-being organization based in Devon working with women's and men's groups, promoting social change, through the use of autobiographical theatre and storytelling in the community.
In 2017 we were awarded National Lottery funding to run programmes addressing mental health symptoms in women, to support cultural integration and to promote gender equality. In 2018 we received more funding to work with both women and men in recovery.
Our programmes in the first half of 2020 focused on:
Men in recovery from addiction
Women in recovery from illness
Work with Young Women (age 18-26), on vocation and body image
Over the last three years we have worked with hundreds of participants from various backgrounds, building their inner resilience and making their voices heard by a wider community.
In September 2020 we received support from Coronavirus Community Support Fund to offer resource-building courses supporting all impacted by the pandemic, prioritizing those with long-term health conditions or mental health challenges.
This work continues in 2021 with additional support from National Lottery Community Fund.
Our courses are designed to support through the remainder of the crisis, reduce the impacts of social isolation and assist the reintegration into life.
The groups provide much needed emotional support, resume contact with other community members, space to share our stories of this time, process uncomfortable feelings and to be witnessed by a wider group.
We aim to provide holding for vulnerable people and those in crisis.
We particularly welcome those experiencing loneliness, depression, anxiety, PTSD or addiction issues.
We are offering small in-person groups and day workshops, following social distancing and health recommendations, as well as online groups and one-off events for those who feel vulnerable or anxious about resuming contact with others.
More information: Workshops Page
Our Group Members:
Agata Krajewska MA (Performance Training) is theatre trained, a Somatic Psychotherapist and Play Therapist. She has 14 years of experience of running transformational workshops for women in the community.
Rooh Star is an eco-feminist passionate about creating empowering spaces for women. She has been facilitating and teaching eco-educational groups for over 15 years. She is a song-writer and performer and she works for the NHS.
Phil Barber is an experienced Life Coach, Story Coach and Facilitator. He has worked with Michael Meade, Malidoma Some, and Bo Eason. He has written a well-received autobiography, performed and directed several personal story performances.
He runs "Stories of Men" groups.
STORIES OF MEN
With Phil Barber
In these critical times struggle and adversity can suddenly confront us, and we are called into change. More than ever we need to draw on our natural creativity and have access to the ‘great character’ of our own story. We are all ‘story carriers’ and our personal stories have a way of opening our hearts and feeding us vital information. When we care for our stories they feed us confidence, guidance and wisdom.
Catching, crafting and telling our personal stories activates the part of us that wants to draw back the veil on our experiences. Vulnerability is essential to real transformation, and solo-autobiographical is a vulnerable and courageous journey. When we break our shells we reveal our hearts and claim our genius self already present and trying to awaken.
In these workshops you will be engaging in creative ways to uncover and unfold stories of your life. You will be supported by a small community of like-minded men. There will be writing, reflection, poetry, movement, and short personal performances, and you will discover the stories important to your well-being waiting to be told.
Contact Phil : 0775 9588 071
With Agata Krajewska and Rooh Star
Last year our group “Stories for Change” have received National Lottery funding to run personal story workshops for women. We called the series “Making Her-story”. Since that time we’ve worked with nearly fifty different women and witnessed their many tales: poignant and unique, yet weaving a collective tapestry.
The power of personal performance for social change has been harnessed before. Second-wave feminism of the late 1960s coined the phrase “personal is political”, pointing to the connection between personal experience and larger social and political structures. In women’s solo autobiographical performances, personal narratives revealed wider cultural and political meanings.
In the feminist collectives of the 1970s, there was recognition of the connection between performance and community building. This potential was revealed in the women’s workshops I have conducted. There was a mutual recognition of the shared experience of both adversity and victory that led to greater solidarity and intimacy. I saw women rise towards empowerment, using the performance space to redefine their identities and claim a “new story”, to find their “new myth”.
Through their performances women voiced what was important to them, e.g. connection to nature; anger with consumer culture; social issues; motherhood; sexuality or childhood experiences and trauma.
They often voiced what’s been hidden, or something that’s on a cultural or social margin. At other times it was a quest for or an affirmation of identity. Some pieces contained a dilemma that led to a resolution.
At times, in their performances, they chose to honour and remember people from their lives, bringing them back to life, speaking what was needed to be said. Rituals of transformation and completion occurred.
Being visceral creatures, we elicited the creative material through embodiment. These wise bodies carry stories. As we played out our stories, we were revealed to each other and to ourselves, and our vitality was freed up. Paradoxically, as we digested and released the story, we were more present and available.
We encouraged bringing awareness to sensations and perceptions with an attitude of curiosity and “unknown-ness”, as if discovering being human and meeting the world for the first time. Our senses sharpened; colors became more vivid, sounds more distinct. Focus on a present activity became more clear and easier to maintain. There was a “lightness of being” to our sense of self and a quieting of the mind.
This in turn had an impact on our sense of identity. By engaging in this way, identities “loosened up”. The initial state we were identified with as “me” we found to be transient. Our creativity served our awakening.
We were moved and astonished at the profound effect of being witnessed by others with open awareness. After that the deep mirroring offered in structured feedback brought about a deeper sense of welcome and acceptance. Paradoxically, celebrating our differences led to a wider sense of permission, inclusion and belonging.
We were humbled and inspired to witness these rich, intimate sharings. In the course of the work, we have learned that each woman is a heroine in her own right; a survivor of extraordinary adversity, able to bring herself forward with courage and dignity. They spoke of sharing their stories in a safe space as a way of “putting them down”, as a source of learning, not a burden to carry.
We found that it is often in challenging situations, when they might have felt victimized, that they developed their precious gifts and strengths. In that way they have transformed the rough material of their experiences into gold.
One of the women said to me, ‘there is a story in me that wants to be told.’ It is as if stories have a life of their own, as if stories belonged to life itself.
You can tell your story and choose its significance. Or, you can tell a story of how you want it to be. You can tell your own Creation Myth in each moment.
Your story is my story is Her-story.