adult workshops, Communication, Community, connection, creative writing, creativity, Family, storytelling, workshops

Let’s Raise Each Other Up

Your voice reminds me
That I do not know all things.
Thank you for that gift.

The biggest gift we can give someone is recognition. We can thank them for their hard work, commend them for their talents, celebrate their victories. We can tell them that we can see their suffering, their challenges and their obstacles. Recognition can be eye contact, a hand on the arm, a laugh. It can be a pay rise, a gold medal or a qualification.

When I think of the stories I have heard or the books I have read, the tales that have truly resonated with me are the ones where I see something of myself. Mostly this recognition is there through a shared inner conflict but sometimes it is about circumstances. Some stories get under my skin and I carry them endlessly for days, weeks, months or even years. Other stories pass though my ears to my voice and I move onwards leaving that story behind.

When it comes to the books, I want to read a similar type. They tell tales of some far off, often imagined land or time, where characters contend with something other worldly. Everything about these books have been considered, scrutinised, maximised to telling the best story. These stories are everywhere, packaged for all ages and stages.

When I think of the stories that stay with me, they often came at a moment that I had no idea I was going to hear them. These stories are not ones I would pick up off a book shelf or are stories where I recognise myself. They are often tales of injustice. They catch at my heart, holding it still and squeezing it tight at the unfairness of a situation. These stories are told in ways that are unedited. The way they are told is not considered in the same way that the books above have been. They are told, because the person telling them wants recognition. Even though, I do not see myself in these stories, I see the person talking.

In the whispered worries of participants in community settings, underneath the ‘what if I am not good enough’, there is a thought that has come loose. Its untethered to what has gone before. Its raw an it speaks amongst the scrunched up paper in the bin. It says ‘No one wants to hear my story.’

I love books and could spend hour after hour reading. However I often wonder are we representing everyone or are we only representing some? If you feel like you don’t belong in a book, you probably think you don’t belong in a story. If you feel like you don’t have the circumstances to write a book, you probably feel like you don’t have anything interesting to say.

‘I have a notebook stuffed with things I want to write and one day I might’

Not only does the story disappear from you lips but it disappears from the ears of the listener. Its gone to some far off corner of lost property and we all loose an opportunity to share an experience or a connection. Reflecting on the last few years, we have lost so much. So many chance encounters and moments shared with others. So many voices that have been behind closed doors.

So let’s open more doors. Let’s gather together. Let’s share our stories. Let’s Listen to each other and in doing so let’s raise each other higher.

Communication, Community, connection, creative writing, creativity, Family, Joy, storytelling, Wonder More, workshops

Let’s Listen To Each Other

The recent passing of Thicht Naht Hanh has been felt across the world by so many, including those who knew him as ‘Teacher’.  Those who leave such a legacy also open a door to many with their passing.  I have to admit to only recently looking more into his teachings and this week at Story Stitchers we have begun that journey by listening. Listening to podcasts and audiobooks, reading and sharing. 

We believe that true, unconditional and active listening are in many ways as vital to our very survival and happiness as the air we breathe. 

When you make the effort to listen and hear the other side of the story, your understanding increases and your hurt diminishes. – Thicht Naht Hanh

First impressions 

As a child I was always taught the value of a smile, a firm handshake, looking people in the eye etc.

Recent years have challenged the importance, relevance and appropriateness of some of these ‘good first impression’ staples.  The pandemic has made the handshake an endangered species and masks have converted the smile into sparkly eyes and waves.

The biggest thing I have taken from these shifts is that while still valuable, maybe first impressions shouldn’t carry the weight they sometimes do. Someone might be late because they are the most generous person in the room, not because they are unreliable or don’t care. Someone might have scruffy shoes because they spend their time thinking how to be better at their job, or how to be a better person, rather than worrying about their shoes. Maybe eye contact is a battle that this person just can’t take on, but they are actually very comfortable in themselves and therefore a huge asset to any team or room. If we take time to listen to them and the information they give us, then we have already moved past so many obstacles.

Listening to your own curiosity

Sometimes the person we find the hardest to listen to is ourselves, for example:  the impact or effect of our presence, or when our presence isn’t there. The world can be a busy place where we may feel judged or under constant pressure to be useful. We need to be on time, we need to provide, we need to be organised, motivated and driven. We need to help out the team, be there for our partner and family, keep in touch with friends, do our bit for our community, country or planet. Then we hopefully reach somewhere near the end of our task list, we eat and stop, just in time to go to bed before it all carries on tomorrow. There are many who talk about the need to stop, switch off, take time and escape. With our work we find that we also need the space to listen and be listened to. This can be going along to a class or workshop and having some new people in your life asking you about you and then you listen to others and are genuinely curious to know more about them. Or maybe it’s at work with colleagues who are sharing an idea or information that takes you by surprise or reminds you there is plenty you don’t know about them. Listening is often talked about in situations of major conflict and violence or in politics. But there are so many of us who just don’t get to be around others in a space where everyone listens to each other. A chance to express ourselves, to share in similar or very different views. The chance to go back into the rest of our lives and take in more from it. To listen. To actively listen. It may begin with those closest to us and then we find we are curious about other fascinating and wonderful people that we come into contact with during our lives. As we learn more about them, we learn more about ourselves.

And the great thing about listening is that we can do it straight away, right now. It is also a tool that never runs out and has infinite uses and benefits.

Thank you for listening.

Tom

Story Stitchers

Communication, Community, connection, creative writing, creativity, Joy, storytelling

Let’s Tell Our Story Together

We’re playing Pooh sticks. We are on a bridge, each armed with a stick of one size or another. All waiting in anticipation to let go. All wishing that our sticks won’t get caught in the reeds on the river bank on the way through. All hoping that we have picked a good stick. All holding our breath to see who’s stick will appear first on the other side of the bridge. Its a quiet nervousness mixed with bubbles of excitement.

The bridge we are stood on remains a constant. A solid structure from one side to the next. It is our place to play. It is over a hundred years old, this stone bridge. So many feet have passed over it. Bricks laid by hands that history forgot. Time marching onwards and the river flows below. Endless water washing down the mountain streams to a rapid river, under our bridge and out to sea.

My story of playing Pooh sticks with my children is linked to playing Pooh sticks with my cousins in the stream near my Grandpa’s house under the watchful eye of our mother’s who played Pooh sticks with their own cousins.

My story of playing Pooh sticks on this bridge is linked to all the feet who came before me, all the water that has flowed under it, the two opposing banks and the division that was healed through the foundations of the bridge. My story can only happen because of all those other stories that have come before. My story can be told in many ways with many connections and conflicts and characters.

The most magical thing about my story is that it has no doubt triggered other stories in you. Your childhood games, bridges you have crossed, gone and much loved grandparents. Tales of meandering rivers, hiding amongst the bull rushes and splashing in streams in moonlit dips.

In telling one story, we trigger more. In triggering more stories, we create a space for other stories to exist. We let the words of others fill our heads with images. We sit inside each others lives and worlds and loves and hates. We build bridges were there were none and discover hidden paths to memories and places that maybe we have forgotten. In telling one story, we tell many. We listen to a story, we connect. We remind each other to look up, to play, to explore, to take risks. We see ourselves in each other and we marvel with joy in sharing. We tell our stories together.

Stories can build bridges 
Between people, places and ideas.
They are a circle.
They never really end,
But seed new beginnings and possibilities.
They help us make sense of chaos,
Overcome conflict,
Change the way we breath.
For who has not gasped
Or held their breath
Or sighed, or sobbed or giggled
At the wonder of it all.
Communication, Community, connection, creativity, Joy, Kindness is Radical, storytelling, workshops

Let’s Gather Together

Let's Gather Together 
In any way we can. 
Whether we are collectors or a collective
We could be powerful.

Let's Gather Together
And discover the joy
That fills each of us.
We could be curious 

Let's gather together 
And listen with open ears.
For such an act of kindness
Is the grassroots of change and growth.

We are gathering in the soft glow if our screens, our virtual circle looks like a series of square windows. Perfectly aligned. We can see each others homes. Our plants, our pets, our pictures. Sometimes a child drifts in to say good night. We are a jumble sale of people. The colours of each small window vary. We are not all the same. We have different tastes, different drive, different experiences, but we all here to listen. To lean in and be taken by poem, prose or song to a world away from our perfectly aligned windows or the hum of our computers working, or our plants, our pets and our pictures. Our minds are filled with images of family roof tops dinners in India or a photography studio in Conwy or a a vibrant wedding party outside a registry office.

Flash forward to another gathering. We are in the room with parents and toddlers. There has been hushed moment with a book, a lively togetherness in song and now there is the gentle hub bub of noise as parents swap tales of the weekly challenges and children scrawl pens across pages mark making and mapping their wonder at how it works.

Flash forward to a group of teenage girls, stretching out on a quiet gallery floor. They are drafting poems about changing the world. They whisper ideas to each other. Every now and then their eyes light up at a great idea and an a smile unfilds hidden under their face masks.

Flash forward to the entrance to a community hall, 3 generations of a family arrive at the same time. The youngest aged 3 and 7 and filling a postcard with drawings and words and commitments of kind acts tomorrow. Granny is writing a message of thanks to the NHS and the parents are sharing what they love about where they live. They all hang their creating in a christmas tree amongst twinkling yellow lights. The children walk away with a chocolate coin and a sparkling wish bag that has come all the way from the North Pole. A thank you gift from Father Christmas for spreading Christmas cheer.

No one in any of these experiences was undeserving of the opportunity to express themselves. All were welcome to share something of themselves and a connection tonothers. All left, feeling a little brighter and a little comforted.

In a world if division , don’t minimise connection.
In a world of suffering, stop minimise joy.
In a world that can be cruel, stop minimise kindness.

Moments of connection, joy and kindness may be fleeting, but they should be celebrated. They are the ground work of curiousity, strength and resilience. That is our work as community artists, to generate a space to gather together.

Communication, Community, creativity, Games, Playtime, Schools, storytelling

Schools – Social Distancing Games

As primary schools are preparing to reopen its doors to children next week, we at Stitch have adapted some of our most loved drama games to get bodies moving, imaginations kicked into gear and children communicating at a time when social distancing is being practiced.

We have created a free pdf for you to download here and keep in the classroom.

Or you can simply browse through the selection below.

creativity, Family, Grow Wild Together, Home School, Nature, storytelling, Wonder More

Wild Wonder

Stay Curious, Grow Wild Together and Wonder More.

Wild Wonder is a podcast for families brought to you by Stitch. We explore the outdoors and share stories about what we discover. We curate the podcast involving our children as we believe that if children hear others speaking, it makes them feel powerful with their own voice.

Each episode includes a walk about with our children, followed by a story inspired by what we discovered on our walk. This current series of podcast is being made at a time when the UK is under lock down due to the Corona Virus. The conversations happen within walking distance of our house and were part of our daily outing. We found these conversations with our children allowed us to hit the reset button. We felt more connected to each other and the habitat that surrounds us (which maybe at a better time, we would have taken for granted.)

We hope this podcast and the supporting activities allows your families to connect to each other and the world just outside your front door.

Episode 4 – Woodlouse

Episode 3 – Jackdaw

Episode 2 – The Beech and the Oak

Episode 1 – Dandelion

Activities

You can find the most recent activities posted on Facebook or Instagram.

We have also created some activity sheets to accompany each story. These will be added below when a new episode drops.

We also have an account for Wild Wonder on Instagram where you can enjoy the photos of things we have found.

Photo credit – F Goodman

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Nook and Cranny’s Intergalactic Space Mission

Nook and Cranny are looking for brave space explorers to go on a mission to go across the Universe. They are looking for spectacular space stories that can take us out of this world.

Nook and Cranny’s Intergalactic Space Mission is designed as a fourteen day challenge to help you shape your stories. The activities could last as long as you like them to, but we think you can do them in 15 minutes. 

You can write, draw, move, make or tell to explore. You can look up what is actually out there in the stars or you can let your imagination roam through space capturing strange creatures, secret stars or unknown planets.

While these activities are designed for children, we think that they are a great intergenerational activity too.

You can download the full challenge below, including some extra resources to support this challenge.

Help Nook and Cranny complete their mission by sharing your creations:

Facebook: @storystitchers

Instagram: @story_stitchers

Twitter: @story_stitchers