Screenshot showing eleven of the participants in Stories of our lives

On May 23rd, we paused from our usual storytelling and conversation format to check in with each other, find out what everyone was enjoying and wanting more of from our online group.  It was a lovely meeting, where we celebrated what we had achieved together and collaborated to create ideas for the future, both in terms of themes and ways of reaching others who might benefit. 

Here is some feedback gathered from the participants during this session which I have extracted from the video recording of our Zoom conversation. We would love to read about what you think of our project so far. Read to the end to find out how you can share your thoughts.

Jean

Using zoom for this project has been a good thing. I am using it elsewhere too.  I’ve had some issues with my laptop but I’m learning as I go.

During the meetings it is surprising that we start from one point and end up somewhere else completely.  Whatever the topic it’s just ended up being a trigger for different thoughts.

I have found it really interesting. We are mixed in age and experience and it is so valuable to share with a different group outside your own circle and get those different perspectives and interpretations on the topic and what it meant to each individual.

I have enjoyed writing up my thoughts each week.  I like writing. If I do it immediately, I tend to get the feeling of it as well as the facts of what I remembered.  The only problem for me is that, once I start, I can’t stop and tend to ramble on!  So I have had to cut down a lot.  It’s a good thing though to have a word count as it helps me to focus on the point.

Susan 

It takes practise to get used to zoom and other similar technology, but you gain confidence by doing it.  As an 85 year old, it’s meant I have had to work rather hard on this stuff.  I did a course with my husband a while ago which helped but all this technology is moving on so quickly that we don’t keep up as quickly as we get older and our memories aren’t what they were.  I have to remind myself of this fact and remember not to get cross with myself.  It’s by doing it that we build the confidence to help us develop and deal with this new technology.

Experience of life gives us different things to say about these topics.  I remember some customers who came into our  newsagent’s (the business my husband and I ran). People would come in to talk, particularly at the weekend, as they lived alone and were desperately lonely. I think they did this because loneliness is particularly hard to deal with at the weekends for people without families.  It reminds me of now, how we are isolated, dependent on noises from the outside, like children playing, neighbours talking.  The connection on here, Zooming , really helps bring us all together, we can see each other and share.  We can Facetime too, I speak to one friend on there.  We have been friends since we were 5 years old.  It’s lovely to have that one to one time together and really have a catch up.  It’s wonderful.  We were only seeing each other once a year before this.   I was unaware of how good this technology could be.

On both sides of this storytelling project, the participants each want to know about the other.  I’m curious by nature who others are and what they do.  It’s good to take the time to get to know each other, bit by bit.

I have really enjoyed reading what people have written about me on the blog and that I have come over as well as I have.  Whoever has written has seen the point that I was making and I have been very happy about that. 

Margaret 

I like being able to see one another’s faces each week because although we’re writing for the blog together, it just wouldn’t be the same if we hadn’t had the experience of meeting virtually.

We are locked down but opening up by getting to know a new group of people through this experience. It is fascinating to hear the different stories which have emerged and I have felt energised after the meetings.

I agree with what Susan said about weekends being a potentially lonely time for people. Between Christmas and New Year was always really busy when I worked in public libraries, often people who’d been alone over the holidays.

I’m enjoying having more practice in writing, it’s getting easier.  I always write a lot more and then cut it down.  I just capture the thoughts first and then edit afterwards.

Tony

I’ve enjoyed the challenge presented by the need to embrace new IT skills. The imaginative topics stimulate a lot of feelings and ideas.The meditations are the right length I think.  They give us just enough time to focus on a couple of things, any longer may induce too many thoughts or distractions.

The next paired discussion part of the session gives us a great opportunity to develop the ideas introduced in the first section.

After the meetings, I feel energised and that carries on into the day.

Regarding the writing, I have appreciated the opportunity to practise and develop something which I have always enjoyed doing.  It is nice to have an objective and a “deadline” and wordcount to work to too.  My writing is a way of communicating with the world.  At least to those who read it anyway.  I want to share it.  It wouldn’t feel the same if it wasn’t shared.

Linda

I have had a few issues with getting Zoom on my laptop but nevertheless feel privileged to use technology.  I know so many people who can’t and I feel they are missing out on such an opportunity.  It’s a good idea for them to access the blog by reading it, but they do need the technology so I am interested in knowing how we can support people past their barriers.  I have been using the topics we talk about on the phone who aren’t getting out and seeing people and it’s been really good to open up interesting engaging conversations with those people.  The telephone is the only way some people can speak to people.  It must be really frustrating for people who can’t get round their technology to get on.

The highlight for me during our meetings is to get to know someone, people that I wouldn’t speak to normally.  You can get more depth of conversation.  I would like even longer to chat to them.

The finished blog posts are a joy to read, they are so attractively presented.

Lindy

I think the whole format is great and there is no pressure to write anything up unless we want to.  It’s good to have a short form to work towards when we do choose to write, to write this way is a skill of its own. To try and find the kernel of what someone was saying and try and make it as important or moving in the writing as it was to the person doing the telling.

I have taken some of the ideas to use with the young people I work with.  “What can you see out of your window?” has been a particularly useful one to do with those kids who might have previously not had a window view, e.g. when they were in refugee camps.  The topics you have chosen have been excellent because they are so open and can lead us on to such a lot of other things. 

After the sessions I have felt calm. 

Alberto

I have found the whole thing great.  I acknowledge it is difficult to keep the meetings open and natural and dynamic at the same time but the balance we have achieved is very positive.  Would be good to keep the end of the meetings open so people can stay for a short while if they need or want to.

We are getting used to the format over the weeks and each other too.  This means the process is getting more collaborative, for example in how we share the stories we came up with together at the end of each session. One person feeding back for both stories shared and then the second person being asked “do you have anything to add” is a good way of doing it. 

Joe

It does feel more and more like we are seeing familiar faces and coming back to familiar friendships each time.  The warm up and warm down really helps us to feel like we are naturally coming together and leaving as we would in a real physical space.

Everybody is in it together, to get the same out of it.  You can’t tell who is new, who is more experienced.  There is no pressure to get it right.  It’s low risk.

It’s a really good time to have the meeting at ten o clock on a Saturday morning.

I feel ready for the day, properly energised.  The timing is great, ready for the day and for the weekend.

I have really enjoyed the writing when I have done it.  Sometimes I have felt straight away what to write about and the angle to take.  Other times, I have struggled what to say and haven’t ended up written anything.  I am glad there isn’t the pressure to write anything.

I was able to share my writing with my family via the link.  Feedback from them was my family really enjoyed reading the rest of the blog and what different people’s experience of lockdown has been.

Lucy

The meditations are really good.  The length is great and they have brought about so many happy memories.   It also feels even more comfortable to do them in the comfort of my home rather than in a public shared space. The meditation about rooms was lovely because at the moment I am living on my own and going back in time with the visualisation prompts reminded me of happy memories of having people coming round .  The way you did the meditation was really strong, it built up gradually and gave the basis for a really nice conversation with Babs.

After the sessions, I have felt wonderful and set up for the day!  A warm glowing feeling and the thought, right what am I going to do next?  After each one I have been to, I have just had the BEST day, I really have.

After the meetings I try to do the writing as soon as possible, to capture the thoughts quickly. Later, it becomes clear what the angle is afterwards and what I am going to say.  I’ve enjoyed writing freely rather than following the constrictions of my usual work-related writing.

Babs

I would highly recommend these meetings. It is so good to get to know a little bit of people’s personality.

The chats are a wonderful start to the meeting.

I really like the break out rooms and the fact it’s just a small group of a few people, I find it easier to communicate there, its personal.  I also like the large group for seeing everyone’s faces and I can listen to everyone. Another 5 minutes in there would be great.

I have been really grateful for Lucy for writing our conversations up.  I was a bit nervous when you asked me to write Jolene because I don’t write anymore, but then I actually enjoyed it!

Photo by Polina Zimmerman on Pexels.com

We hope you enjoyed reading our experiences of the project so far.  You can get involved too by letting us know your thoughts in the comments.  What do you think of the project and posts we have created?

Remember to subscribe to the blog to get updates with what we do next!

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