People don’t relate to issues. People relate to other people. People relate to other people by their stories. Stories connect the past and present to the future. Our stories and our learning from them honors and respects our ancestors and us. Stories can awaken future generations to their potential. In essence, the exchange of stories is the one true way we can connect as humans.
Storytelling is a means of organizing. People respond to stories. They may contest them or mash them and cause great discussion. Or people may build solidarity by sharing their own stories through an organized exchange. The power of sharing stories has incredible and far reaching social, political and emotional impact. And of course, storytelling is a creative endeavor. Every time we tell a story, whether it’s when making a speech or taking pictures, we create something. We discover ourselves and each other, and what we can accomplish together. By creating, we stay hopeful and strong. We testify.
Each community has its own traditions of storytelling, from elders sitting around the fire to the latest story hubs on social media. We hear stories every day, and we tell them every day: to friends, partners, children and grandchildren. Stories are everywhere. Telling a story in a safe space can be cathartic, revelatory, healing and empowering. It can also be unsettling, uncomfortable, and painful. A collective process of creating and sharing stories becomes a crucible that helps to resolve these conflicting emotions.
Traditionally, libraries have been the keepers of stories. Long aisles of books, drawers full of maps and leaflets, reels full of microfilm, all containing past and contemporary truths. Thunder Bay Public Library will be taking story collection to another level. A storytelling festival called Outside the Lines: Diverse Stories by Diverse Storytellers is being planned as a multi day event in November 2020. Outside the Lines is the first of its kind in Thunder Bay. Not only will this event celebrate diverse storytelling by diverse storytellers, it will be inclusive and void of barriers. TBPL hopes to address barriers to attending a typical conference / workshop and will attempt to remove them. As such, we will endeavour to make this a free / low cost event with safe space with AODA compliant physical access. We want to hear from everyone, including those with non traditional gender identity, people from diverse ethnicities, youth, seniors, persons with unique mental and physical health needs, our Indigenous community and ultimately anyone with a story to be told.
Often stories are captured on paper with text and while Outside the Lines will encourage the written format, all formats of storytelling will be honoured. For example, we might expect throat singers, artists of spoken word or graphic novelists to attend the festival. The focus of the event will be on the production ability onsite for participants. Printing equipment, recording equipment and other means of capturing a finished product will be available to the participants. Workshops will be led by respected artists from the local and national literary community.
Storytelling allows people to peek into someone’s conscience to see how other people think. Once we understand one another, we can identify our shared vision for a better world and work to make it a reality.
Do you have a story to share? Watch this space as details roll out for Outside the Lines or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for information.
Margaret Demillo – www.tbpl.ca. If you have a comment about today’s column, we would love to hear from you. Please comment below!