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UCLan unveils community project to share young people’s unheard stories

02 July 2015

Lyndsey Boardman

Story-telling festival and poetry competition launches venture

The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) has launched an exciting literary project sharing the personal stories of children from disadvantaged backgrounds using alternative interactive media.

The Stories to Connect project has been funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council as part of its Connected Communities programme. The project, which involves working with young people from Barnardo’s and other participatory groups, will gather stories about young people’s lives which might otherwise not be heard and turn them into fiction stories. These unique tales will eventually be shared using new ‘phygital’ ways of telling stories, blending physical objects with digital technology, such as through a robot in a community setting.

Dr Candice Satchwell, from the School of Education and Social Sciences, is leading on the project. She said: “We will collaborate directly with young people who access Barnardo’s services to enable them to tell their stories of resilience and transformation, and to have their stories re-told with the expertise of two well-known children’s authors: Adele Geras and Melvin Burgess. The stories will then be placed within ‘phygital’ artefacts in the community, which will be designed in collaboration with Barnardo’s young people.”

Candice and her team will initially train young people themselves to become researchers and collate the stories from their peers. Then the team will work with Adele and Melvin to turn them into collections of fiction before handing them over to a digital design team.

“We were impressed by the imaginative ways each poet linked the themes of science and sport - there was plenty of wit and strangeness and careful thought and invention.”

The 30-month project was launched at the UCLan Storytelling Festival, part of the wider Lancashire Science Festival, which brought together young people and their families from across the region with a variety of story-tellers, a puppet show, a scarecrow robot, a dramatherapist, a dance instructor, an art workshop and representatives from the Harris Library.

A highlight of the event was the announcement of the winners of a Lancashire poetry competition designed by UCLan Literature and Creative Writing students as part of a live literature project. The World Book Day/Science Festival Poetry Competition for nine to 13 year-olds attracted a large number of entrants from primary and secondary schools across the county. The young people submitted poems on the subjects of Sport and Evolving, inspired by the themes of this year’s World Book Day (Sport) and the 2015 Lancashire Science Festival (Evolving).

Two winners and two runners-up from each school were presented with a prize by poet and performer Terry Caffrey. The judges were Terry and Dr Robin Purves, UCLan Senior Lecturer and critic of contemporary poetry. Robin said: “The quality of the poems on the shortlist gave the judges a difficult but very pleasurable task in selecting the winners. We were impressed by the imaginative ways each poet linked the themes of science and sport - there was plenty of wit and strangeness and careful thought and invention. Congratulations to the winners and all those who entered this fantastic competition!”

The competition was organised by Dr Helen Day, Senior Lecturer in Children’s Literature. She said: “We had many wonderfully creative poems submitted for the competition which was a great way of promoting literature and creative writing to a young audience. By holding it as part of the Lancashire Science Festival we were able to bring science and literature together.”