My feelings around storytelling have been mixed over the past ten months being an Expert Citizen. Due mainly to the use of it, but attending Being the Story has really challenged my perception of it. Seeing the passion of the speakers and their commitment around the issues they talk about, made me realize the power and influence of the testimony they put before me.
It was the uppermost privilege to hear about Eddie’s (Liverpool Waves of Hope) battle with alcohol, and the importance of finding that meaningful use of time which was so key in his recovery. I could really relate to this as volunteering was important to me in my recovery and I wouldn’t be the person I am today without it. I can tell Eddie will gain healing from telling his story and potentially giving others much needed inspiration.
Earlier this year I came across an amazingly well produced book full of powerful stories, the title was ‘An Untold Story’. I remember thinking to myself how incredible it was that the collective of people involved were able to produce something so poignant and evocative. Amanda came along as one of the authors, representing the twelve women involved. The value their stories have brought to my life is priceless, they write about pain, loss and abuse in a way which is so moving and brutally honest.
You cannot help but be inspired by their incredible resilience and bravery, and I can imagine a lot of women who are still very much caught up in the fight will benefit from their insight. I have been so blessed to be able to view their work and I am so looking forward to meet them at our annual Expert Citizen conference. Rarely do we hear accounts so vivid and true, as a nation we are used to hearing derogatory tales from the press, with sensationalist headlines which focus on an individuals’ history, ex-addict, former criminal and raging alcoholic for example. So being able to hear these stories directly from the people without a journalist putting their spin on it is really refreshing.
When we were introduced to The Geezers I remember how comfortable I felt being in their company, they spoke about the importance of creating a group for senior gents. They formed The Geezers due to recognizing the fact that some seniors are left being socially isolated due to bereavement. Doing activities together is only part of what the club is about, they have been involved in pioneering inter generational project’s too, as well as collaborating with young local people on film projects. It was when they introduced us to the “Wheres my boozer gone” campaign where they produced a naked calendar to raise awareness around the issue of the community losing a vital resource, I was so glad to see their community spirit, and they knew how to make us laugh. They have inspired me into thinking about how a group for men could benefit those in my community, and inspire men to open up and talk about issues which they would usually be reluctant to talk about. Getting through that huge barrier of pride, and becoming a valuable part of our community.
A group of people I have never come across and I totally admire and will always remember are the Ignition Brewery guys, Nick O’Shea introduced us to the non profit organisation which was formed due to his recognition of the value of individuals with learning disabilities can bring to employers. He showed us how this was achieved and the challenges he faced in the process of creating the Ignition Brewery. One thing that stood out to me was the frustration he spoke about concerning people’s perceptions of an individual with learning disabilities. In the face of adversity he has formed not only a brewery, but he as employed the people from the Mencap group he volunteered at on a Tuesday afternoon. For me this is an amazing thing Nick has achieved and goes to show that we should be looking at challenging society’s stereotypical view that dictates us to hideaway individuals with learning disabilities. Thank you Nick for persevering and smashing through those walls of ignorance, you and the Ignition staff have shone a light on something special and have carved a path for others to follow. All in all I left the event feeling proud and inspired by all of the speakers, and also with a changed view on story telling. I now see the true value gained from it and how empowering it can be for the person especially. Thank you to everybody involved and I am so grateful to say I was there.
I look forward to implementing things I have learned from the event which will benefit my own storytelling.
Lee Dale, Expert Citizens of Stoke – Voices.
Stoke Expert Citizens are an independent group of people who have all experienced multiple needs – combinations of mental ill health, homelessness, addiction and offending behaviour. They all have powerful stories to tell, and use their unique skills and experiences to be a voice for others. They give their ideas to services of Stoke-on-Trent to help guide and shape them to improve the care of multiple needs citizens.