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Community storytelling

AHRC funding contributed towards the establishment and development of a centre dedicated to the study of storytelling. The George Ewart Evans Centre for Storytelling has had many positive impacts on local communities and community groups and led to the creation of a self-funded independent business that works with and advises public services, charities and cultural institutions.   

The George Ewart Evans Centre for Storytelling (GEECS) is the only UK academic research centre devoted to the promotion, teaching, research and development of storytelling in all its forms. Storytelling is both a unique art form and a valuable tool for promoting understanding and communication. Its uses range from healthcare and social work to working with disadvantaged communities, and can be instrumental in enhancing inclusion and social justice at individual, local, national and international levels.

Award Information

AHRC ref: AH/F006764/1
Funding opportunity: Research Grant
Areas of Impact: Communities
Lead RO: University of South Wales

The Centre’s storytelling research has made a significant and wide-reaching impact on civil society and cultural life by taking storytelling out into a range of communities; helping to enrich lives and imaginations and provide them with opportunities for personal expression. Strong partnerships have been forged with a diverse range of social organisations and charities, often at grass roots level, which has encouraged change through renewed understanding of different lives and voices. An example of this diversity is ‘Taking the Field’, a project between GEECS  and the Marylebone Cricket Club which used digital stories as a way of creating a digital presence in the museum at Lord’s around the community histories of grassroots cricket.

One of the AHRC funded projects carried out through the centre is Project Aspect, which has worked to ensure that the research into the benefits of storytelling for increased public engagement in the climate change debate continues to have an impact on national and international environmental policy. The project curated stories of climate change, and presented these through digital media aimed directly at influencing public debate (through the engagement of ‘hard-to-reach’ sections of society), understanding and policy. Research findings have been presented to senior staff at the Government Department of Energy and Climate Change and the Cabinet Office, as well as various public fora and have been acknowledged as leading in the field of climate change communication. The findings of Project Aspect are disseminated at international conferences ensuring the impact continues and has a global reach.

The AHRC also joint-funded a GEECS project with the BBC called ‘A Public Voice’, which looked into the social impact of digital media and how it can be used to enable good communication between communities, businesses, the media, other public bodies and organisations. Aside from helping digital artists, researchers and practitioners realise the potential of social technology to enrich the lives of individuals and groups, the project also provided BBC Wales with evidence of the new ways audiences consume content. This has enabled them to take a more considered approach to the way they address the needs of licence payers.

Such is the success of GEECS, that Professor Hamish Fyfe and Professor Mike Wilson have been able to play a key role in the establishment of Storyworks, which undertakes consultancy work into the power and use of storytelling and narrative across a range of public services and with commissions from more than 20 organisations to create digital, multi-media narratives. Storyworks fully realised its potential in 2013 as a spin-out and now operates as a commercially-independent business, generating economic prosperity, and applying insights from GEECS research to public service and cultural sectors, whilst maintaining close links with the Centre.

For more information on the project visit: The George Ewart Evans Centre for Storytelling.

Gateway to Research Project Links: A Public Voice – Access, Digital Story and Interactive Narrative, Sep 2007 – Aug 2008.

Associated image: Colin's story on ProjectAspect.org