This week, the Sandy Lane Storytellers Project begins - a series of creative writing workshops in community groups across the Skelmersdale area. The project, funded by the Arts Council England, with grant money secured by Friends of Sandy Lane and the Arts Development Service, focusses on the Sandy Lane shopping centre, a 1960s precinct that sits at the heart of the oldest part of Skelmersdale - and the history and heritage that underpins this community. Visual art workshops are also running in the community for the project led by fantastic artists One Red Shoe. They are blogging about the project here.
The first workshop was at Park Children's Centre's Busy Bodies Group. The numbers were a little low, due to Easter holidays. However, it was a delight to meet and chat with the folk who came along. I had planned some activities, but actually the way the session went, it felt more productive to spend the time engaging with the parents, carers and children who attended, to talk with them about their experiences of living in the Sandy Lane area, how they use the shopping centre, what things would make it better and their thoughts and reflections on community in the area. It was an important reminder that no matter what I bring along to any session, the key to this project is the people within the community and letting sessions flow from them and how they choose to engage with it.
We also shared about favourite stories. This was the conversation that really sparked people's enthusiasm. It was lovely to hear about what kind of stories the children particularly engaged with - two firm favourites being Julia Donaldson's 'The Gruffalo' and McBratney and Jeram's 'Guess How Much I Love You.' Other comments included a love of touchy-feely and lift the flap books. Everyone had something to say about the stories their children loved, and that led onto the stories they themselves love. It confirmed how important stories are for people of all ages. and how crucial storytelling is, which is really at the heart of this project - making space for people to tell their stories.