Our Voices, Our Dovecot
Roger Hill from the Dovecot Memories Project explains how storytelling can be a powerful way to engage and strengthen communities. In Dovecot, Liverpool, it’s done just that.
“The power of community storytelling lies not only in the stories created, but also in the process of their creation. Stories can help bring a community together and bridge differences. They teach us about life, about ourselves and about others.
“Telling our stories as a community gives us a sense of being a part of something bigger, part of something that matters to us. The process has been a really positive one. First and foremost it’s been fun. But it’s also given local residents a chance to get to know each other better.”
The group secured funding from People’s Health Trust for an intergenerational heritage project in Dovecot.
As part of their project, the group invited local storyteller, Roger Hill, to work with them and help tell their story.
“I’ve worked in many communities over the years, always by invitation, but this project will stand out boldly in my memory as one of the very best.
“I was invited to get involved with the project in late spring of 2015 by Christine Gibbons, who was supporting residents to deliver a series of story-sessions with older members of the Dovecot community.
“I had been running story-telling sessions for some time in Merseyside, but these sessions were to be devoted to the stories of Dovecot as recalled by the people that lived there, many of whom gathered each Wednesday at a Lunch Club.
“For the first six weeks, people came and went, but eventually we ended up with a regular core group who we called the ‘Board of Directors’. They were all residents from Dovecot, many of whom had lived there their whole lives.
“Over the months we used recorders to document memories. We involved children from the local primary school, St. Margaret Mary’s, who did a brilliant job in interviewing the older residents and we collected all sorts of pictures and memorabilia for the archives. Then it was time to find something to do with all the material we’d collected.
“We agreed that we had enough to make a play, a book, and an exhibition – and even a film. So we did all that, with the help of students from Broughton Hall High School, a local filmmaker, Nick Moss, and a lot of other people from the area. Local people acted out some of the material in the film, set in the present day with flashbacks to the 1960s. Many of the members remember this as a very special time for people in the area.
“The project’s been 18 months of fun and antics for all concerned. We’re proof that these types of projects can lift the hearts of a community and reach out to other local people who have been too busy making ends meet to be directly involved.
“Dovecot has had a few ups and downs over the years, but it’s now feeling quite ‘up’. This project could bring a lot more people together to continue with the work we started. It’s always hard to know what to do about our lives now without looking back to see where we’ve come from.
“The booklet we produced, the accompanying exhibition, and the play and the film, are our legacy. They are all reminders that the future of Dovecot is in the hands of the people who live there, and, whatever Life throws in our way, if they want to live happily and well, and if the different generations work together – it’s all there for the making and taking.
“The past tells us so.”
Dovecot Memories Project was funded by People’s Health Trust using money raised by HealthFit through The Health Lottery. The project was supported in kind by Alt Valley Community Trust.
To read more about great ideas funded by the Trust, click here.
To watch a short film about People’s Health Trust, click here.