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"I tell you this story to break your heart,

that it be broken open

and never close to the world again"

(Mary Oliver)

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Stories For Change

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Stories for Change is an art and well-being organization based in Devon working with women's groups and gender-related issues, promoting social change, through the use of autobiographical theatre and storytelling in the community.

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.

OUR STORY

In 2017 we were awarded National Lottery funding to run programmes addressing mental health symptoms in women and to work with refugee women, supporting cultural integration and promoting gender equality.
In 2018 we received more funding to facilitate marginalised women to tell their stories.

Our programmes in the first half of 2020 focused on:
Women in recovery from illness
Work with Young Women (age 18-26), on vocation and body image
 
In September 2020 we received support from Coronavirus Community Support Fund to offer resource-building courses supporting those impacted by the pandemic, prioritizing those with long-term health conditions or mental health challenges.
 
This work continues in 2021 and 2022 with additional support from National Lottery Community Fund.

In 2022 and 2023 we are extending our support to women impacted by symptoms of menopause, offering mentoring, workshops and a monthly support group.

We are currently running a campaign funded by Rosa:

"Menopause- the New Story"

Currnet workshops: Workshops Page

Our Group Members:

 

Agata Krajewska MA (Performance Training) is theatre trained, a Somatic Psychotherapist and Play Therapist. She has 16 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, personal story coach and facilitator. He is dedicated to supporting gender equality and across gender dialogue.

 

Making Her-Story

With Agata Krajewska and Rooh Star

 

In 2018 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.

 

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