DHI is a really good example of a project taking risks with fresh approaches. Peer led to some degree, it uses the symbiotic and therapeutic value of one addict helping another. There also seems to be a lot of creative projects available to the clients, so I was very excited to be working with DHI.

We started our relationship with DHI with a short 2-day training workshop in April. DHI Support staff Nicky, Emmie and Sarah (who is now co-facilitating) attended and we went through the basics of the Centre for Digital Storytelling method of delivering workshops. After a brief introduction to the Seven Steps of Digital Storytelling we made some very simple stories. I think it was a great opportunity to allow the commissioners to get some hands on experience to better understand what would be required from any potential participants thus allowing them to better assess suitability for the workshop.

A few weeks later we started on the first of a series of 5 workshops with peers accessing DHI's services.

We did a 3-day workshop and 3 films were produced. The storytellers were a little reluctant at first to put pen to paper to write the script. Marc it became clear, began to approach the telling of the story through images first and written script coming after. Dave worked steadily and conscientiously towards finding the point of change and brought it alive nicely. It was rewarding how open the group were as a whole to trying a variety of approaches to the project. K had come with a degree of self-awareness and insight into her story that was, I believe partly informed by her work in the field over the years that she has been in recovery. Her story was built on a very strong script, an understanding of what she wanted to do with the finished film and an on-going reflective approach to how best to tell her story and what it's meaning was to both her and her intended audience.

On the next workshop the following week Darren, Mick, and Ana made a diverse range of films. The theme of family came up again. Things left unsaid to a family member and unresolved and that needed to be examined and re framed, and expressed with a new insight. Ana told a story about days gone by at the Stonehenge festival. We are in a continued communication about how she can expand on the story to do a larger piece on this important area of British cultural history. Be interested to see where it goes. Darren’s idea grew into a meditation about how a genuine act of kindness can free an individual from the constraints of being judged and labelled and encourage a rebirth. A great subject for a digital story if ever there was one.

A couple of weeks later we were back working with Sam, Gemma, Marie and Roy. Again a range of experience in the room. It was fascinating to see the stories develop. Sam told a story about being robbed while in addiction and the spiritual progress he has made that allowed him to forgive the perpetrator when they met again in more positive circumstances. Gemma had a powerful story to tell and pushed through into extra time to do justice to it. Marie was really open to new ideas about fresh approaches to the use of images especially. Roy worked hard honing down his script and I think got a powerful experience from the reframing of his story while editing. I felt that the story was very much still being processed as he was relating it which presented certain challenges. A great group with lots of learning, and of course some unique films.

The following week we again embarked on a fresh set of stories with Steve, Wayne and Dave. We didn't have the wonderful Sarah co-facilitating for some of this workshop, which was keenly felt at times. Dave had a clear idea where he wanted to show his film as he had seen Marc's on the Chandos House treatment centre website. This was interesting to me as it fed into theme of the community of stories I thought could develop, where one story might bounce off another or connections would start to form. Wayne told a clear direct story about a feeling of mortality from a near drug overdose and how that inspired him to start to turn his life around. Unfamiliar with the software at first, he soon picked it up, even with half an eye on the summer afternoon sunshine blazing outside. Steve had come from the Life Recovery group. He set about using his skills at writing poetry to craft a truly unique, honest and original film

The following week we ran a workshop with Roz, Bex, Rory and Toby. Roz had come from the Family and Carers service at DHI and had a story she had reflected on about a family relationship she was struggling to come to terms with. She absorbed the ideas we discussed around The Seven Steps of Digital Storytelling and came in on the second day with a really full and rich script. She hunted down the images she needed from her archive and the result was a film that exudes integrity and a nuanced reflectivity. Toby battled through some false starts to arrive at a story alive with spontaneity and dark humour. He brought some musical elements into the film and we discussed ways he could use the software he was learning about in the group to further his future music projects. Rory had a clear story from the start also partly about missed opportunities and the need to learn from these experiences and turn what at first appears to be failure into important life lessons to live by. “Never Give Up”.



Bristol is, as we know heaving at the moment with different projects. There's a real atmosphere of people getting busy. I thought it would be interesting to get stories from a range of different projects in the city, to kind of take a temperature of the city’s home grown projects, the energy, the hopes and goals and the unifying themes and problems.

The first workshop we delivered was at Gladstone’s treatment centre in a very stately Georgian townhouse in the heart of Bristol.  Following the Centre for Digital Storytelling method more closely that we had hitherto done we were rewarded with some deeply personal stories full of insight and self- awareness. It was interesting to see how crucial giving adequate time to the story circle (in which we share story ideas collectively) proved to be. The group genius really does help to inform and enable a deeper level of insight into the kinds of stories the storytellers feel are really right for them at that particular time.

“Who do you think you are telling the story to?” become a main consideration during the process and it helped the storytellers to focus the stories. Some of the stories were very powerful messages to family members. These proved to be very intimate and they decided the storytellers would prefer to deliver them directly to the family member rather than have them shared publicly.

There was a wide range of technical experience in the room and this encouraged a variety of different approaches to the making of the stories from the use of paintings to some virtuoso video manipulation.

The participants stayed late most nights to finish the stories and there was a real feeling of ownership of the stories they wanted to tell.

A rewarding experience with lots of learning. We had quite an emotional viewing of the films on the last night of the workshop. I think it was a powerful workshop for all involved. 

Thanks again to Avy, Lizzie and Louie for their hard work.

EDP Swanage

It's really great to be doing some work with people in recovery. It's our natural area of interest here at Digital Witness. The experience of working with people trying to understand and re-frame their experiences and move on with their lives is a rewarding one. Change is at the heart of all stories and the difference between the chaos of active addiction and the dignity of embracing recovery can be powerful. It is life affirming in it's truest sense and inspiring to bear witness to.

The Swanage service users are at different stages, but all are quite early on in their recovery. The stories reflect this. There are a lot of references to the pain, fear and exhausting nature of living in addiction in their films. They all lead towards more stability, hope and self respect as the stories develop.

I had hoped to get some very basic stories down within the relatively short time frame, and was amazed by the speed with which the group as a whole embraced the tasks and the imaginative approaches each participant took. Each storyteller had different skillsets to bring to the table and they are well demonstrated in the individual pieces.

Paul came with a good understanding of the technical possibilities the project offered and was off and running, quickly producing an adept piece of work utilising a range of techniques from animation to multi track audio effects. Judith likewise had good IT skills that allowed her to shape a script quickly and freed up time to think about the story from an audio/visual perspective. Jen had a very powerful and heartfelt story to tell and picked up the digital skills as and when they were needed. Sam made up for lost time with a final day of diligent and focused energy, an inspired visual approach and what proved to be a powerful account of the perseverance necessary to overcome repeated obstacles to getting and staying clean.

I think we surpassed the initial brief as the willingness and openness of the group allowed trust to develop early on and we hit the ground running, which allowed us to get a lot more done in 3 days than I had expected. The standard of work from first time storytellers/filmmakers was remarkable.

I look forward to meeting the EDP group in Wareham on the 30th of August.


"This is where..." Digital Storytelling project.

The  “This is where…” project ran from the 30th March to the 5th April in Bournemouth library and was a great insight into Bournemouth through the eyes of those that live here.

The project’s aim was to rediscover everyday places through lived experience. We asked for memories, observations, reflections and stories people might want to share about places they felt an affinity with and felt were part of their own story. These were recorded on digital audio.

There is a dedicated local history scene in Bournemouth and I was lucky enough to spend some time with the members of some of the different groups. It added another layer of texture to talk to people who have historical insights into the locations they chose.

The age range of the participants was wide, from people in their mid thirties to late eighties. This added a rich diversity to the body of stories.

When I was researching images of locations to display in the exhibition which accompanied the project (to act as a prompt to spark potential stories) I came across pictures of a cinema that had been bombed on May 23rd 1943. Bournemouth has had some great cinemas over the years, being a resort town. I didn’t include these images as I thought it unlikely there would be anyone passing through the library old enough to have personally witnessed the event. And yet I found myself sitting talking with a couple that could both clearly remember that afternoon. John, who had been talking with his friend at the back fence, saw three planes passing overhead and “dived indoors under the stairs”. Eileen, on her way to the very cinema (it was a Sunday) arrived shortly after the bombing. “Ooh, it’s gone! We were most put out”. 

Interestingly, a largely untold story of poverty in Bournemouth was touched on. A couple of participants described areas of deprivation not found in the postcards of the 1930s seaside town.

There was a, and I use the word advisedly, pyschogeographical quality emerging as certain areas and a particular associated mood came up repeatedly.

The River Stour, and Throop Mill for example – what appeared to me to be the border between civilization and wilderness for the Bournemouth kids of the 1950s. Where the town ended and the countryside began. Groups of friends setting off unaccompanied, jam jars in hand. Boundaries. Different ideas of safety and danger, past and present, emerged.

Planes came up a lot. The airport. The air shows at Meyrick Park. The aeronautical industry has been a big part of the local history since the turn of the century. Eileen and John talked about an incident at the old racecourse at Ensbury Park, where horses, planes and motorbikes were raced in the 1920s. People also mentioned relocating to Bournemouth as children as family members were employed at the airport or associated industries.

Filming at the end of Bournemouth pier, with the Carlos’ story (which you can see here) fresh in my mind, I felt there was something slightly lost about the space. Stuck between heritage and underwhelming funfair.  The aerial runway seemed a glimpse into possible imaginative future uses. It felt like seeing an old bewildered workhorse still in harness. I wanted to juxtapose this to the narrative to explore the changing role of the pier in the life and experience of Bournemouth’s local people.

The sea, maybe unsurprisingly was a popular subject. The pull of the sea, the way the sea reflected and influenced the storytellers’ moods and the soothing effect of the sea’s power.

I revisited the locations after the interviews and photographed or filmed details. As a lot of the stories were historical some of the locations had completely changed. Some had changed surprisingly little.

I am interested in allowing connections to be created through the films. I wanted to use them to look under the surface of the everyday, re-examining these specific environments, using the camera like some kind of sonar, looking for clues, some details that I could ‘ping’ off, and find some kind of connection that slipped through time. I was looking for some kind of continuity in the landscape, like the sound of the water rushing through the sluice gates in Dorothy’s story on Throop Mill (which you can see here).

So out I went, wielding the camera like a metal detector finding possible resonances that might chime with the stories while being conscious of the need to respect the integrity of the stories.

It was interesting as I was editing the audio and the films to see the project change as it grew from one story to a few stories and a community began to emerge.

There was a tension between traditional oral history and personal storytelling in this project that would be interesting to explore.


“The analytical historian's business is to disentangle shred by shred like plucking the strand out of a rope. The result is the length of the rope but only one strand’s thickness, and although the strand may still be twisted from its position among the other strands it is presented nevertheless alone. The poet might be compared to a man who cuts a short section of the whole rope. The only thing is he must cut it where it will not fall to pieces.”

Humphrey Jennings   Pandaemonium