Stories of Our Lives is an intergenerational, community-led group who share and gather their stories and lessons, our reporter Ruby Fatimilehin, caught up with the founder, Jolene Sheehan, to learn more about the stories that are share, which are inspired by both the current unprecedented times we are living through and also from the past experiences.
The Stories of Our Lives group, which has members ranging in age from mid-20s to mid-80s, was formed in partnership with Chorlton Good Neighbours and met in-person to create a written record of stories gathered from coffee mornings and guided chats.
The founder of Stories of Our Lives, Jolene Sheehan from Chorlton, said: “I wanted to find a way of bringing people together that was mutually beneficial for everyone involved. I was used to seeing food banks and voluntary groups, but I wanted people to be creative and contribute something whilst also being helped. People give their stories and the people that are listening are giving back creativity. It’s an exchange.
“The best thing about Stories of Our Lives is the connections. Seeing friendships form across generations and between people from different countries and backgrounds. I love that we’ve got a shared focus because I lead different groups and it’s always nice for people to chat, but at Stories of Our Lives we create something that is bigger than those individual links. There’s an us that is created because we are doing something together.”
Jean, a member of Stories of Our Lives, said: “It’s so valuable to be able to share with a group outside your own circle and get different perspectives and interpretations on a topic and find out what it means to each individual.”
Last year, Stories of Our Lives created a book that contained more than 50 stories. Stories told at the group were recorded by local writers and the resulting pieces were combined to form chapters that had the same theme.
Jolene said: “We gathered all the stories together and promoted it through Chorlton Book Festival and Chorlton Arts Festival and gave a copy to everyone who was involved. The local people who contributed to the funding allowed everybody to get that reward of having their work in print.”
Since the outbreak of COVID19, Stories of Our Lives have continued to meet up to write and tell stories over a series of online calls.
Jolene said: “Straight away, I thought, I don’t want this to stop. I’m going to see if people want to get involved. So, I reached out to a few people and we experimented. The technology was challenging but everyone helped teach each other. I’m no expert, so we’ve been learning as we’ve gone along.”
Susan, a member of Stories of Our Lives, said: “As an 85-year-old, it takes practice to get used to Zoom and other similar technology, but you gain confidence by doing it. I was unaware of how good this technology could be.”
Margaret, another member of Stories of Our Lives, said: “We have been locked down but also opened up by getting to know a new group of people through this experience.”
Stories of Our Lives have an online blog that shares the stories of group members.
Jolene said: “I’d love people to read the blog and comment with their own stories and share the blog as much as they can. I want to celebrate the efforts of everyone and there’s so much to read and so much content, especially at the moment. It’d be lovely for people to see these stories because it will help them to reflect. Read it, then reflect yourself. Go out and use those topics as conversations with your family and friends and you’ll learn more about them. That’s what I’ve found.”
Learn more about Stories of Our Lives: https://storiesofourlivesnow.org/