Our Journey: Storytelling for Everyone


Emily Churchill Zaraa from Migrants Resource Centre reports from a migrant storytelling conference chaired by PhotoVoice

[gdlr_quote align=”center” ]Wherever you are in the world, you can sit behind a window and shout against migrants. But after the last swearword, try to put yourself in their situation. Just put yourself outside of your window.[/gdlr_quote]

These are the opening words of Lighting Your Way, a photofilm by Sudanese journalist and refugee Anwar Elsamani, which asks you to put yourself in the shoes of those who are forced to cross borders:

Light Your Way from Dimple Patel on Vimeo.

It could just as easily be a manifesto for My Journey, a multimedia storytelling project I have been coordinating at Migrants Resource Centre, which aims to tackle the demonisation of migrants by opening windows to their real-life, human, unstereotype-able experiences.

Between February and August 2014, 38 Londoners from all over the world – Anwar was one of them – took part in free training courses in multimedia storytelling, producing photo and audio stories, films and comic strips about their lives.

The stories that emerged were diverse, moving and surprising – you can see and hear them at www.my-journey.org.uk.

Self-expression through creativity is also at the heart of BEAMS, a pan-European project Migrants Resource Centre is partner to, aimed at changing the public discourse on minorities.

Here in the UK, a diverse group of students from Globe Academy worked with music social enterprise Soundcastle to exploring their identities on their own terms, through music:

As these two projects draw to a close, we wanted to give more people the tools to tell their stories, as well as to inspire/ inform others who would like to run participatory arts projects in their own communities.

On Friday 28th November we held ‘Our Journey: exploring migrant stories through multimedia and the arts’, a conference with a definite difference chaired by PhotoVoice Projects Manager Matt Daw.

Delegates from as far afield as Birmingham and Leicester gathered at Paddington Arts for a day of talks and hands-on workshops by a fantastic line-up of media and arts professionals:

How do you build trust within a group? And how do you help new photographers understand how their photos will be read by different audiences? Matt Daw from PhotoVoice shone light on these questions and many more (see PhotoVoice’s online resources here) before sending his group into the streets for some hands-on learning…

Rachael Perrin from Soundcastle got us up and drumming on our bodies to demonstrate their physical approach to music workshops. See Soundcastle’s BEAMS toolkit for more useful techniques.

Digital Content Creator Esther Freeman gave some fascinating advice on getting heard in traditional and social media, which she has since posted on her blog.

Comic strip artist Lindsay Pollock of Positive Negatives got his group putting pen to paper

Radio journalist Dimple Patel (left), led delegates in storytelling through audio

The drama group explored journeys with Rachel Keeling of Evenkeel, starting with the struggle to get up that morning…

I also did a talk highlighting the free media production software and sites we have found useful for My Journey (links are listed on the Facebook group below, or you can email me for a copy).

After an action-packed day there was a buzz in the air and a real sense that people wanted to put what they had learnt into practice in their own projects. One said:

“Great everything. Thought provoking, stomach pleasing, great people, good connections/sharing!” – in case you were wondering, stomach pleasing was a reference to the delicious food by migrant women’s catering enterprise the Chickpea Sisters.

I felt inspired to start a Participatory Arts and Media Facebook group for everyone interested in community arts for social change – a space for us to share ideas, ask for advice and publicise our projects: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1540369632874067/

Hope to see you there!

Thank you to our funders:
The Big Lottery Fund (Our Journey conference and exhibition)
The Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Programme of the European Union (BEAMS)
City Bridge Trust (My Journey)
Contact Emily Churchill Zaraa, Empowerment & Communications Officer at Migrants Resource Centre: EmilyCZ@migrants.org.uk
All photos © Anwar ElSamani