Surviving Through Story

Close on 100 people attended the ZOOM event on Thursday 24 September to celebrate the launch of the new Surviving Through Story website. The event was hosted by Nicola Grove from the Tizard Centre, University of Kent, and featured several keynote speakers including Baroness Sheila Hollins, founder of Beyond Words, and learning disability champion Pat Charlesworth.

In her opening words, Nicola reflected on the sea of information that we’ve all had to navigate over the past several months, including accessible information, and how the voices of people with learning disabilities have been largely absent.

In her keynote speech, Baroness Sheila Hollins reminded us that the Government has been slow to understand and respond to the needs of people with learning disabilities – routines and friendships had been disrupted and there was no-one talking to them about this. This informed the work of Beyond Words who produced a steady stream of new picture books, all free to download, with the aim of reducing anxiety and keeping people safe.

Stories are one of the best ways to help raise awareness about people’s lives

Baroness Sheila Hollins

Pat Charlesworth told us that the Surviving Through Story project is a way of people being part of something and that stories are a way of talking about what is happening to us.

Jan Walmsley, researcher and historian, reminded us that the voices of people with learning disabilities are not just missing today, they’ve been missing throughout history. Looking back through time, we usually only see them through a medical lens. As a society, we started to listen about 30 years ago with the publicatiion of ‘Secret Lives’ and ‘Know Me as I am’ and the Surviving Through Story website is building on this tradition of hearing the voices of people with learning disabilities.

Dr Simon Jarrett, editor of Community Living, made a powerful analogy with ZOOM, that our job is to unmute people’s microphones so we can hear their voices. You couldn’t hear everyone agree with this because we were all on mute!

We’re all historians because we all tell stories and we all listen to other people’s stories…it’s a really important part of being a human being

Dr Simon Jarrett

Liz Tilley, a researcher at the Open University, walked us through the new website where people can read, listen to and watch stories as well as see these represented through art and the celebration of lives remembered. The Surviving Through Story website was co-produced with lots of different people. The highlight of the event for many of us was the video story shared by Ajay Choksi, Rix team member and an inspiration to so many people.

Ajay, along with Rix co-director Gosia Kwiatkowska, has been fully immersed in stories with MYS (Me and Your Stories), a pan-European project that you can read more about here. MYS will be holding a virtual meeting on Saturday 17 October as part of the #erasmusdays programme and you can find a link to the event below.

Surviving Through Story launch event

Me and Your Stories event