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Storybank; Stories of the past, told today, for the people of tomorrow

Updated: Apr 14, 2019

Do you have a story to tell? Whether it's butter making or net fixing, we want to hear from you as we attempt to bank the past, to re-imagine the future.

Images from Scoil Saidhbhín's 4th Class Storybank sessions

Back in June 2018, we launched Storybank; one of the ways that the CoDesRes project is contributing to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 11; Sustainable Cities and Communities by embedding the SDGs in ways that are local and relevant.

Storybank is a year-long project that aims to connect with the need to move towards a more sustainable future and consider how the past could help us towards such a future, by looking at the heritage of sustainable practices on the Iveragh Peninsula. The project is gathering stories of the innovation and the ‘make-do and mend’ ethos that is still within living memory, through specially-designed ‘storybanks’ that recycle plastic bottles that carry a message or story.

In addition, NAISC Storyteller in Residence; Seán O’Laoghaire is leading the Storybank Primary School Education Programme, beginning with Scoil Bhreanainn; Portmagee and Scoil Saidhbhín; Caherciveen in January and Scoil An Ghleanna; The Glen in February. Sean’s visits to the classroom involve a focussed, creative process told here in the Seanchaí’s own words.

‘After returning home and trying to tidy up the old house,I found one of my Dad’s old work bags (he wore many hats; one of which was of a harness maker). This bag got me thinking of how the movement of reusing, recycling and mending isn't a new concept, but infact, it is a reusing of very old traditions.

Through my work with CoDesRes, myself and Dr. Anita McKeown fashioned and devised the “StoryBank” project. StoryBank is a gathering of all the old knowledge, about fixing, repairing and reusing through stories of people’s memories. In developing the StoryBank Educational Programme for primary schools, we are not only creating channels of information and conversation, through the students, into the wider community, but creating a renewed pride in keeping things for longer and learning a new skill set and attitude.

On my visits to the classrooms, I very slowly and gently begin to explain, how wonderful repairing and reusing “stuff” can be and buying something new, should be a last resort. The students take this new found pride and interest into the community, re-lit the flame and come back with some great stories.

At the start of a workshop, I rummage through the classroom bin and find some plastic containers. The children are asked to have a think, how the containers could be used in another way. Then, they take turns coming up and making a presentation on their ideas. It is amazing, what wonderful ideas come up, from flower pots to pencil holders.

I then ask questions like, ‘why don't we use them?’ ‘Is there any difference between a flower pot and an empty yogurt carbon with holes?’ This conversation leads on about the attitude towards buying new commodities, as opposed to repairing them. We chat about the pride of mending tools, clothes and everyday items, that existed in older times. We chat about antiques and their value. I then ask the class to come up with a good question to ask someone, in the broader community to get them chatting about these themes and they go off and ask someone (usually, a grandparent).

The answers that come back can be informative, entertaining and extensive. We also start making art pieces with clean empty plastic containers, using string, tape and sticks to create the structures. The most exciting part of the Storybank Project, is that each class determines and applies its own individual personality to the project. Each class and/or school will determine their own display of the work and ideas gathered, but at CoDesRes we will definitely be celebrating the project, during Heritage Week, 17 - 25th August, 2019.

The Storybank education programme encourages learning a new skill set and changing behaviour in practical ways by introducing skills that will become increasingly necessary to face the challenges of the future; creativity, communication, collaboration and critical thinking.

In addition, artists Seán O’Laoghaire and Dr Anita McKeown will tour the Peninsula in the summer of 2019, using the community link bus; gathering and documenting stories from Kells to Castlecove. In the tradition of itinerant storytellers, they will gather local knowledge and tell stories in exchange for bed and board on the project themes. All of the stories will be exhibited throughout heritage week with a public exhibition and series of events. For more info or to get involved, contact Anita or Seán or call 083 365 9355.

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