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Community

Community, what it means and when it helps us to thrive, is a source of fascination for me. So, during the past two sessions, I asked the in-person and then online gathering the same question, “What does community mean to you and when have you felt a sense of it in your lives?” 

Here are some voice clips I recorded during a meeting, followed by some written pieces we came up with on the topic.  We would love to read your thoughts too in the comments below.

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Working with Withington Library

Library shelves with a colourful array of books in the sunshine
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

On the 22nd of April, 4 members of the Stories of Our Lives group and I led a session at Withington Library for their regular over 50s club.  It was really lovely to widen our reach to more people, connect with them and hear their memories.  This blog post is a record of what was shared, both for them and for you, the reader, to get a better idea of the shape of our sessions.  

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Creativity

I picture creativity as a constant companion we all have, one who can always be relied on, even though how they appear is sometimes not as we expect or want them to be. 

An example of this is worry.  Sometimes I have found myself catastrophising over terrible things that might befall me or my loved ones, and the detail has been so vivid that I have had a physical reaction; heart racing, clenched stomach, tension in the shoulders and given enough time, tiredness.  As much as I don’t enjoy these side effects, I acknowledge and welcome the creativity that caused them as a loyal friend.  It is doing exactly what my brain requested it to, painting pictures in my head, so well that I believed them for a minute.  I also embrace this form of creativity because it has a conjoined twin who, guided by intention, brings me the ability to visualise positive possibilities for myself and others. When I combine this form of imagination with the energy of hope, I can turn what I have pictured into moments that bring intentions to life.  

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Friendship

There is no measure for such things, For this all Nature slows and sings.

from Friendship by Elizabeth Jennings  (1926-2001)

So much is written and sung about romantic love, but love between friends often isn’t celebrated or acknowledged in the same way.   In this blog post, listen to some of our conversations, read our stories and reflections on the theme, and share the joy we found in talking about the varied roles that friendship has played in our lives.  

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Memorable Winter Walks

This session took place on the 18th of December at Chorlton Library where we were joined by special guests from The Migrant Destitution Fund.  We shared some mince pies and brews as we got to know each other, then swapped memories of times spent walking in the wintertime. In this post, you can hear recordings of some of what was said during the session, read the reflections written after it, as well as see some contributions from some members of the Stories of our lives group who were not able to attend on the day.  This blog contains a wide scope of tales from the poignant, inspiring, funny, personal and evocation that will likely get you thinking and remembering your own recollections of strolls in the cold.  I recommend you get comfortable and cosy with a warm drink before you start to get the maximum benefit!

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Christmas Memories

This festive-themed post includes writing from an online session where I encouraged everyone to think about Christmases past then bring back some details to share with the group.  We communicated in laughter, relaxed chat and moments of contemplation, and all felt a little bit more festive afterwards. Merry Christmas to you from all of us at The Stories Of Our Lives group!

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Special Times Part Two

Welcome to the second blog post on the theme of Special Times, following on from a lively face-to-face meeting between fifteen members of the group.  I wish I’d been able to be there! Jolene said so many interesting stories were shared on the day, and people were so engrossed that it was hard to bring the meeting to an end. 

In this post, you can read Jean’s account of a very special story Esther shared with her about her son, his wife and their children.  You can see the art work Kathryn created after she and Anne were amazed to discover that they had lived in the exact same place in Crete at different points in time.  Finally, you can read Tony’s special memories of a happy “Blue-moon” day at Wembley stadium.    

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Special Times Part One 

At the request of the group, today’s topic for our online meeting was “Red Letter” days and holidays.  Reflecting on special moments that were physically warmer or emotionally bright for us, turned out to be the perfect choice to lift all our spirits during this transition into darker nights and chillier mornings.  

I started by reading the beginning of a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: 

"The holiest of all holidays are those
kept by ourselves in silence and apart;
the secret anniversaries of the heart."

and then guided the group to think about the moments that have most stood out for them and why. 

The conversation afterwards was incredibly rich and moving, with lots of laughter and memories shared. As always, it was so lovely to notice how others’ memories had a contagious effect on mine like yawning or laughter do!

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“I had one of those!” A community-building event at Chorlton Library.

Do you have objects around your house that act as a portal to a place filled with memories and stories? Our participants certainly do! We had lots of fun sharing our old items and their associations during this session which we co-hosted with Sophie Woodward, Professor of Sociology at Manchester University. The event was supported by the ESRC Festival of Social Science, which is an annual, UK-wide, free celebration of the social sciences. 

Objects shared by local people as well as members of the group were displayed around the room as a way to explore a range of issues, including things like interview methods, memory work and building connection and community.  It was a great success, with lots of fabulous stories shared and several new connections sparked.

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