Storytelling and Community
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of South Wales
Unit of AssessmentMusic, Drama, Dance and Performing Arts
Summary Impact TypeCultural
Research Subject Area(s)
Studies In Creative Arts and Writing: Film, Television and Digital Media
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies
Summary of the impact
The George Ewart Evans Centre for Storytelling (GEECS) is the only UK
centre devoted to the study of storytelling and its applications. Our
research has supported the
development and renewed public awareness of storytelling as a powerful,
democratic art form. The
impact of our storytelling research is both cultural and social as it has
understandings of community formation, connectivity and capacity through
Collaboration with 16 national, international and local partners since
2008 enables the impact of
our research to secure both a wide reach within civil society and attain
real significance within local
GEECS was founded at what was then the University of Glamorgan (UoG) in
April 2005 by
Professors Fyfe (2004 - present) and Wilson (1997 - 2010), with an
internal grant in recognition of
their expertise and reputation in the field of storytelling. Wilson's
expertise lies in the field of
popular and vernacular performance and his academic research is greatly
enriched by the 15
years he spent working as a professional storyteller, actor, director and
writer in community
theatre. His research has documented the resurgence of storytelling and
has led him to work on
the interface between storytelling and digital technology and the way in
which the internet has
enabled the telling and sharing of 'extraordinary' stories of the everyday
experiences of people.
Fyfe has expertise in community theatre and community arts more broadly.
His research has
provided powerful arguments for understanding storytelling as a creative
practice that cuts across
the arts, enhancing understanding and empowerment of diverse individuals
and groups in society.
Through both traditional academic published research and commissioned
reports for bodies such
as Arts Council Wales (see 3 and Fyfe REF2), his research has revealed how
storytelling and its
analysis provides us with powerful ways of understanding the everyday
knowledge and ways of life
of our fellow human beings, many of whose voices are not routinely heard
in our society. Inspired
by the Centre's namesake's collection of oral history, Fyfe and Wilson's
research has brought
together evidence from an eclectic range of sources including historical
and folkloric studies,
community regeneration, performance, and health discourses (see 3).
However, their research has
also been alive to the new opportunities afforded by digital storytelling
and its capacity to offer
people both the opportunity to learn new skills and literacies whilst also
generating compelling first
person stories that help individuals and organisations communicate with a
global audience (see
Fyfe REF 2).
This research led GEECS to become a key partner in the establishment of
Storyworks in 2009
Storyworks undertakes consultancy and research in
the field of narrative and storytelling with a particular focus on public
services research. It has
received commissions from more than 20 organisations (e.g. Equalities and
Commission, Newport Social Services, Aneurin Bevan Health Board) to create
narratives. Karen Lewis was recruited to lead the unit from the BBC, where
she was producer of
the BBC's award-winning Digital Storytelling Project, Capture
Wales . Storyworks fully realised its
potential in 2013 as a spin-out that now operates as a
generating economic prosperity, and applying insights from GEECS research
to public service and
cultural sectors, whilst maintaining close links with GEECS. Lewis has
since become co-director of
GGECS with Fyfe, completing her MRes in 2012.
Fyfe and Wilson's storytelling research has responded to the knowledge
transfer and catalyst
agendas. For example, in 2009 Wilson and Fyfe received a £184,000 grant
from the Technology
Strategy Board to undertake collaborative work with the Marylebone Cricket
Club (MCC) to unearth
and preserve the history of local cricket clubs (see 5.1). Alongside
published academic research, a
MCC website (http://www.takingthefield.com/)
and museum display were curated to ensure that the
research had reach and significance both within and outside the academy.
GEECS' research has
made an important cultural impact on the revival and development of
storytelling as both a
performance practice and a means for better understanding individuals and
society. It has shared its findings with a wide range of stakeholders
thereby influencing civil
society, public discourse and policy making.
References to the research
1. Fyfe, H. (2003) `She Danced and We Danced': Artists, Creativity
and Education. Belfast: The
Evidence of quality: This monograph emerges from research undertaken in
and was influential in establishing its Devolved Government's culture
2. Wilson, M. (2005) Storytelling and Theatre Basingstoke:
Evidence of quality: supported by an AHRB award, this monograph is
widely used in
storytelling and drama teaching in universities throughout the UK and
was submitted to RAE
2008 in UoA65.
3. Fyfe, H. (2005) `Changing Spaces - Building Social Capital in Wales
Creativity', Welsh Assembly Government ISBN 1-84054-124-5
Evidence of quality: Submitted to RAE2008, this Welsh Assembly
was commissioned by the Assembly's Culture and Welsh Language Committee
to identify and
evaluate the impact of working across sectors in education, health,
social inclusion and
regeneration of communities to support the varied application of the
4. Wilson, M. (2008) 'Tale-enders: Gathering the Oral Narrative Heritage
of Welsh Cricket',
Journal of the Inclusive Museum, 1:3, pp.83-90
Evidence of quality: Article in peer-reviewed international journal
emerging from research
supported by an AHRC award.
5. Fyfe, H. Wilson, M. Rose, M. Meadows, D. Lewis, K. and Pratt, S.
(2009) `A Public Voice:
Access, Digital Story and Interactive Narrative' in A Collaborative
Journey: The BBC/AHRC
Knowledge Exchange Pilot Programme, BBC/AHRC. ISBN 9781626204201.
Evidence of quality: this report was commissioned and widely
distributed by BBC nationally.
Hard copies provided on request.
6. Wilson, M. (2009) 'It's beyond Candide — it's Švejk' — Wise Foolery in
the Work of Jack Lynch,
Storyteller' in Sara Brady and Fintan Walsh (eds.), Crossroads:
Performance Studies and Irish
Culture, Palgrave, pp.45-57.
Evidence of quality: Chapter examining orality and performance in the
figure of the storyteller in
peer-reviewed edited book.
Details of the impact
The Centre's storytelling research has made a significant and
wide-reaching impact on civil society
and cultural life by taking storytelling (in all its diverse forms) out
into a range of communities and
organisations. Our research has helped enrich the lives and imaginations
of the people and
organisations with whom we have worked, providing them with opportunities
expression and creativity. Our strong collaborative ethos of working in
partnership with diverse
social organisations and charities, often at grass roots level, has been
central to our ability to bring
about change through renewed understanding of different lives and voices.
In the process, our
research has also delivered tangible educational and economic benefits by
skills from our research centre to the citizens and communities with whom
we have worked.
Rooted in the conviction that storytelling is a creative practice that can
have a positive impact on
quality of life and mutual understanding in civil society, our research
has also had an impact in
policy-making by both providing powerful evidence of the effects of policy
decisions and debates
on the lives of ordinary people, and by advocating for the value of
creative arts practice as a
process that helps build individual and community assets, by fostering
social inclinations and skills
critical to civic renewal. Details of the impact are best indicated
through examination of some of
GEECS's collaborative outputs and how they ensure the reach and
significance of the above
Impact: Public Services.
The `Who Do You Think I Am?' project applies Fyfe's research on the
benefits of participation in
the arts (see for example 3.1 3.3 and Fyfe REF 2), making an impact by
improving the delivery of
public services for homeless people whilst promoting an understanding of
marginalised individuals. It was a collaborative project carried out in
2010, led by Fyfe for GEECS,
in collaboration with British Telecom, Boomerang TV, Cube Interactive and
Housing Association, which resulted in six short films (http://vimeo.com/40769899)
the stories of homeless people at the Cardiff YMCA Housing Association.
Who Do You Think I
Am? was funded by a grant of £44,715 from the Welsh Assembly Government
interest in Fyfe's research among policy makers. The project had a direct
impact on vulnerable
young people's opportunities and ability to imagine a better future. As
well as the benefits for the
young people involved, this project helped professionals and organisations
better understand and
meet the needs of vulnerable people. (See 5.2).
Impact: Economic Prosperity and Education.
Communities 2.0 (C2.0) (http://George
Ewart Evans Centre for Storytelling.tumblr.com/) is funded
with a £6.4M ERDF/Welsh Assembly Government grant and works in areas of
social and economic
deprivation. This project, led by Fyfe and Lewis, ensures the impact of
much of the Centre's
research around the benefits of participation in storytelling and digital
arts for improving the
employability of the digitally excluded and enabling participation in
civic and economic life (see for
example 3.1, 3.3 and 3.5). It has enabled over 22,231 individuals and 232
community groups to
become digitally literate, better accessing civic and consumer life,
becoming less isolated and
improving their employability. The initiative is a collaboration between
GEECS, Wales Co-
operative Centre, Pembrokeshire Association of Voluntary Services, and
Council and runs from 2008 to 2014. The Centre's team have been directly
disseminating best practice in digital creativity and passing on skills to
demographic groups likely
to be excluded, for example, the long-term unemployed and the elderly.
GEECS have also
provided public conferences, seminars and research events to ensure the
work reaches policy
makers, community organisations and other stakeholders (see 5.3).
Impact: Public Discourse.
GEECS research has had a significant impact on extending the range and
improving the quality of
evidence and argument to enhance public understanding of climate change.
Fyfe, Wilson and
Lewis's research on how storytelling can be employed to assist in
understanding the impact of
flooding has had a global reach (see for example Fyfe and Wilson's paper
at the UN conference
`Dealing with Disaster' (11 - 12 Nov 2009) hosted by the Nepal Government
and Lewis et al's `Archiving memories of changing flood risk:
explorations around knowledge for resilience' (2013), Journal of Arts
and Communities, 4 (1-2), pp.
46 - 75.). Lewis's work on Project Aspect (www.projectaspect.org)
ensures the research into the
benefits of storytelling for understanding climate change continues to
have an impact on national
and international environmental policy. Project Aspect is a pilot project
funded by the AHRC and
carried out by GEECS in collaboration with University College Falmouth and
White Loop between
2011 and 2013; the research curated stories of climate change, and
presented these through
digital media aimed directly at influencing public debate, understanding
and policy. Research
findings have been presented to senior staff at the Government Department
of Energy and Climate
Change and have been acknowledged as leading in the field of climate
(see 5.4). The findings of Project Aspect are disseminated at
international conferences (e.g.
`People and the Planet' July 2013, RMIT University, Melbourne, and
`Transatlantic Solutions to Sea
Level Rise Adaptation: Moving Beyond the Threat' October 2013, Old
Virginia) ensuring the impact continues and has a global reach.
Impact: Policy Making and Civil Society.
Commissioned research projects, reports and published articles by GEECS
have provided direct
benefit and impact for government, NGOs and charities informing and
influencing policy debate
and practice and illuminating cultural values and assumptions (see 3.3).
Fyfe's reports `Arts and
Public Engagement' and `Hand and Hand' for Arts Council of Wales (ACW)
have been presented
to the Culture Committee of the Welsh Assembly Government, where Fyfe was
an invited speaker.
`Hand in Hand' has provided evidence for ACW planning and policy which has
led to over 5000
young people having greater access to and participation in arts and
culture (see 5.6). Fyfe's
`Changing Spaces' report (see 3.3) was debated in the full Welsh Assembly
and is acknowledged
as being influential in bringing about a number of cross-sectoral
initiatives such as the current
collaboration between the Departments of Health and Culture on developing
the Arts in Health in
Wales. Fyfe et al's research on BBC Wales (see 3.5) has been presented
widely through BBC
Wales (see 5.8) and has also had an impact on Digital Storytelling
Practitioners and other artists
enhancing the creation of cultural capital to enrich and expand the lives,
sensibilities of individuals and groups.
Sources to corroborate the impact
For evidence regarding Taking the Field
- Final Report for Technology Strategy Board and grading letter.
The project was assessed as "Very Good" by the Technology Strategy
For evidence regarding Who do You Think I Am?
- Letter from Cardiff YMCA Housing Association"a positive and
innovative way of working with
homeless people, giving a voice to one so often neglected".
For evidence regarding Communities 2.0
- The Evaluation of Communities 2.0 — Interim Evaluation Report
"those participating in the Programme... show far higher levels of
digital inclusion after
participation than the population in these areas as a whole."
For evidence regarding Project Aspect
- "The 'art' of climate change communication", Adam Corner,
theguardian.com, 18 March 2013.
Available online: http://www.guardian.co.uk/sustainable-business/art-climate-change-communication.
"What's interesting about the Aspects approach is that while the
medium appeals on a cultural
level — films, storytelling, and anecdotes about the world around us —
the films are also putting
into practice good principles of climate change communication"
For evidence regarding Hand in Hand and Arts and Public Engagement
- Letter from Director of Engagement and Participation, Arts Council of
"We used the evidence from the report in the business plan we
submitted to DCELLs (then
DfES) to be considered as a partner in the ESF funded Reach the
Heights programme. Our
bid was successful and as a result, from 2007 -2013 we managed an ESF
distributed circa £7 million to over 70 projects in the convergence
area of Wales. The projects
involved over 5000 young people [...]"
- Minutes of the Welsh Assembly Government Arts Strategy Board, Thursday
8 May 2008.
Note direct references to Hand in Hand (paragraph 5.3) and A Public
Voice (paragraph 5.3).
For further evidence regarding A Public Voice
- Letter from Creative Arts Wales "The investigation in the report
into how digital storytellers
make use of social technology to support their activities made me
question my own
- "The Power of 8", 29 June 2009. Available online:
"It has shown that deep level academic analyses of BBC services are
of incredible value to
both the BBC and its audiences. It provides a key to unlocking the
full business potential of
digital media and has the potential to reshape how we deliver future
content, in ways we can
all be a part of."
For further information regarding the general work of GEECS
- Letter from Beyond the Border, Cardiff.
"as a respected expert in the Arts in Society, Professor Fyfe is able
to bring a breadth of
experience to the Board."