This podcast series, recorded in front of a live audience at Conway Hall, features thought-provoking talks given by individuals who’ve faced life-changing experiences and who are using their experiences to come up with solutions to create social change. Being the Story gives them a platform for their ideas. Our podcast runs alongside a programme of live events, training and a spokesperson network to diversify the voices we hear in the media and beyond introducing new voices and perspectives into mainstream conversation.
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As a child Milly had dreams of being a journalist, but her young adulthood was consumed by a cycle of addiction. Milly shares her story from her introduction to radio in rehab, to becoming a regular reporter for Radio 4’s flagship programme Woman’s Hour, where she’s found her niche in reporting on subjects she has personal experience of, telling stories with nuance and empathy.
Laura’s story is one of hope and survival against the odds. Diagnosed with secondary breast cancer 11 years ago, she shares her experience of cancer and its impact. Through psychological intervention and support Laura has learned to live more presently, understanding that it’s our vulnerabilities that makes us all human. Driven by her experience of cancer, she campaigns with cancer charities to try to make a difference for others.
Steve was a struggling warehouse worker by day and hip-hop performer by night. After a chance encounter with award-winning documentary maker Sean McAllister, Steve was asked to get involved in A Northern Soul a film Sean was making. Steve shares his experience of putting his life in the spotlight through the documentary, the issues it raised and how he’s now trying to create new opportunities for young people in Hull.
Charlie Craggs is a broadcaster, author and trans activist. Charlie shares her insights on trans-activism, what’s next in her fight for equality, and how we can all continue to break down the understandings around trans experiences because as Charlie puts it ‘prejudice and hate comes from fear and misunderstanding’.
Families face many obstacles to overcome poverty. But the insights of the people experiencing poverty are invaluable and people of influence are starting to listen. Raising two sons as a single parent in the East End of Glasgow, Caroline has felt the impact of poverty firsthand. Caroline shares her campaigning journey to address poverty and how experts by experience can share their knowledge to influence approaches to reducing child poverty.
Marissa shares her journey as a domestic worker, from facing financial abuse and sexual harassment to finding a family who treated her well. She talks about the challenges that changes to government policy have had on the women she seeks to support, and her fight to ensure that domestic workers have their rights recognised.
Nigerian-born Peter came to Britain in 2010 and works as a barber in Clapham, London. In a collaboration between Empathy Museum and Migration Museum, Peter shared his experiences of migration for ‘A Mile in My Shoes’ where visitors of a giant shoe shop can literally walk a mile in the shoes of a person whilst listening to their story. His barbershop also provided material for Inua Ellam’s critically acclaimed play, Barber Shop Chronicles. Peter shares what qualities are needed in his role as a barber.
Lady Unchained’s mission is to prove that there is life after prison. Through poetry she tells her own personal story and the untold stories that are often left untold, because of shame or labels. This inspired her to set up Unchained Poetry, a platform for artists with experience of the criminal justice system. Lady Unchained performed a selection of her poems at Being the Story.
“We are more than faces at windows held high”
How often do we hear the voices of the residents of Tower Blocks? In a collaboration between The Royal Exchange Theatre and One Manchester housing association the residents of four high-rise blocks in Manchester created ‘Can you Hear Me From Up Here?’. Produced by Tracie Daly the performance explores the lived experience of Tenants and attitudes towards people who live in social housing, prejudices and stigma, isolation, and the hopes and aspirations of those housed there. The residents performed a sequence from their play.
Hassan shares his personal story of fleeing his home and job as an English teacher in Damascus, Syria to journey to Europe. He will share his experience of turning the camera on himself in the BBC2 documentary Exodus to record this life-risking journey that thousands of refugees have made. He has provided a voice for many unheard refugee stories and he’ll discuss the implications of this.
Lorraine’s son Dwayne was a few months short of his 21st birthday when he was fatally stabbed in Brixton in 2014. He was acting as a peacekeeper helping a younger boy and died as a result. Dwayne was from Brixton’s Angell Town Estate and had created a boxing club to address its lack of facilities for young people. In her talk Lorraine shares her quest to turn Pain into Power, relaunching the boxing scheme as Dwaynamics in his memory. Dwaynamics helps young people develop life skills through boxing, training, mentoring and employability workshops.
Award-winning photographer Giles Duley shares his story; moving from music and fashion photography to humanitarian and losing both legs and an arm whilst photographing the US Army on patrol in Afghanistan. He talks about the ability photography can have to transform lives. Recounting how a small gift changed his life and how that led to his work documenting the refugee crisis in Lebanon for the UNHCR. Duley tells the stories of normal families caught up in the Syrian civil war, and his belief that each act, no matter how small, can create positive change.
Mandy shares her personal story of being in an abusive relationship and how this led her to campaign about domestic abuse. Mandy has become a voice for those who don’t have one increasing awareness and understanding. Mandy’s experiences informed the Radio 4 series The Archers domestic abuse storyline, for which she met with the lead actress. The response to this story has put a spotlight on an issue at a time when services for women who’ve experienced domestic abuse have been cut drastically.
*Trigger warning: Mandy’s story contains details some may find distressing
Clare shares her work at the Empathy Museum, the world’s first experiential arts space dedicated to helping us look at the world through other people’s eyes. A Mile in My Shoes is an interactive shoe shop where visitors can walk a mile in someone else’s shoes – literally. The exhibit holds a diverse collection of shoes and audio stories exploring our shared humanity. From a sewage worker to a sex worker, a war veteran to a prison psychiatrist, visitors can walk a mile in the shoes of a stranger whilst listening to their story.
Supporting young people has been a lifelong passion for Sam. In this talk he shares his own personal story of how he has overcome barriers from his tough background and rejected the labels given to him to become a successful social entrepreneur. He founded Support the Youth, a community interest company based in Blackpool, to assist young people not currently in education, employment or training (NEET). He challenges us to help support and empower future generations and give them the confidence to choose their own identity.
Andiamo was founded after husband and wife Naveed and Samiya had their son Diamo in 2003. He had a difficult birth due to medical negligence leading to Cerebral Palsy and sadly passed away in 2012. They share their journey; how their difficult personal experience finding orthic braces for their son spurred them on to revolutionise orthotics technology to ensure that no child anywhere in the world must wait more than a week for their medical device. They drive forward through empathy, designed around the child and their family.
Sue’s mantra is “find the story and give the client a voice”. A housing solicitor for 25 years she runs a busy court housing duty scheme, providing last-minute help to people facing eviction or repossession. Sue shares her belief that in order to find solutions, it’s important to know someone’s story so you can properly advocate on their behalf and ensure they get access to justice. She sets a challenge to those in positions of power to put a spotlight on what is happening to some of the most vulnerable in our society.
Emma shares her story being diagnosed with young onset Parkinson’s Disease at only 29. Emma has made it her mission to raise awareness of Parkinson’s and fundraise for Parkinson’s UK. This journey has taken her from an unexpected diagnosis to winning awards and being featured in ‘Cosmopolitan’, where she reached out to other young women. Through her social media campaigning, Emma has done so much to raise the profile of this condition and believes that having Parkinson’s was the making of her.
Brigitte Aphrodite is a Punk Poet, Musician, Writer, Theatre Maker and Feminist Showgirl. Brigitte will discuss how performance can be used in mental health education and will be performing a selection of songs and poems from her critically acclaimed musical ‘My Beautiful Black Dog’ which tackles the complexity of our mental health and challenges the stigma that surrounds depression – but it’s not depressing – it’s joyous, funny and hopeful. Brigitte has performed at Reading and Leeds Festivals, Latitude, Bestival and sold out runs at the South Bank WOW festival and Hackney Showroom.
When Jonny Benjamin talks, people stop and listen. Jonny is a mental health campaigner, writer and presenter. He shares his story, being diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, a combination of schizophrenia and depression at the age of 20. During his recovery Jonny started making YouTube films about the condition that have been watched by hundreds of thousands of people across the globe. Jonny now speaks publicly about living with mental illness and has given various interviews on TV, Radio and in print around the world to help educate and break stigma.
Peter Mitchell, a former journalist and television executive, has been in recovery from alcoholism for 10 years. He is Chief Executive of the Road to Recovery Trust, a Newcastle-based charity that supports 12-step, abstinence-based recovery from addictions. He believes addicts face many barriers to recovery but one of the hardest to overcome is the image of the disease itself. While society is quick to praise those in recovery, it’s likely to brand those in active addiction as weak-willed. There is a need for better-funded treatment and a greater understanding of this much misunderstood condition.
Dan Dewsbury is a BAFTA-nominated Director with a strong belief that the issues raised in documentaries can lead to real change.Dan shares how he started his career on a BBC traineeship programme and has worked on Louis Theroux, Storyville, The Detectives, Crime and Punishment, Hospitaland The Mighty Redcar.That series –exploring the inequality of opportunities for young people in Redcar-won two Royal Television Society awards. He talks about the sense of responsibility he feels to accurately portray people’s lives, often filming them at crucial and intimate moments of their lives.
Steve and Dave are united by their love of Hip-hop which had a huge impact on their lives, and motivated them to co-found the Hull Beats Bus with Nigel Taylor. The Beats Bus is a mobile recording studio building confidence through music and art. They’re bringing creative workshops to children across Hull who wouldn’t normally be able to access the arts, being deemed ‘hard-to-reach’. The Beats Bus is changing the lives of the children involved and Steve and Dave want to encourage more arts-based education to help young people thrive.
Originally from Angola, Belmira came to the UK from Portugal and settled in Newcastle. She has been volunteering with The Comfrey Project for 10 years, which works with refugees and asylum seekers on allotment sites across Newcastle and Gateshead. Belmira manages the garden at one of the sites, improving her English. It’s all in her name – Belmira means ‘nice view’ in her native language. When she’s in the garden she forgets the time and forgets her problems. Belmira believes we could all gain a lot from getting involved in the outdoors.
Amanda is representing a collective of twelve women sharing their experiences of street prostitution in Hull. Their book An Untold Story shared their stories of abuse, pain and loss and also exceptional courage and hope. The stories help shatter stigma and foster understanding for women with similar experiences who face marginalisation. The women’s stories have gone on to be featured on BBC World Service, BBC Woman’s Hour and The Big Issue.
Ignition is a south London brewery, founded by economist Nick O’Shea in 2015 as a not-for-profit organisation with the mission to employ people with learning disabilities and showcase their many talents and undiscovered skills. The team has a lot to offer and with the right support and care, they can make beer that competes on the open market and satisfies the thirst of any customer. Nick shares what it takes to have a new idea and implement it