Emotional connection through the power of storytelling lies at the heart of Devon multicultural history project
Saturday (27th January) marks the start of annual National Storytelling Week, a joyful celebration of the power of sharing stories.
Hilda Kalap, Project Coordinator of Devon’s multicultural history project Telling Our Stories, Finding Our Roots, says: “Before humans were able to write we made sense of the world was through an oral history tradition – telling stories which were then passed from one generation to the next. Stories emotionally connect us which is much more powerful than a presentation full of facts and figures. Stories can lead to greater empathy, a shift in understanding and behaviour and a more inclusive society.”
Ms Kalap gave an interview to BBC Radio Devon
Tomorrow (26th) eight of the project’s volunteers will be trained in archive research at the Devon Heritage Centre in Sowton and use these new skills to uncover hidden multicultural stories for the first time to end the myth of a monocultural county.
Centred in the towns of Ilfracombe and Honiton, there’s still scope for more volunteers from those towns to join the project – ideally people with an interest in heritage, history, storytelling and interviewing to take part. The hours are flexible, full training given and expenses covered.
By the end the project will have produced new resources for museums, schools and communities that leave a more accurate depiction of the true multicultural nature of Devon’s history.
Says Ms Kalap: “Our stories connect us – and that’s vital at a time when the world is going through turmoil and conflict.”
Emerging stories include Honiton’s long and fascinating Romany Gypsy heritage that goes back many generations. As well as the experience of African American soldiers stationed up at the Dunkeswell airbase, just outside Honiton during the Second World War. The American army at the time was segregated along racial lines. White GIs and the ‘coloured troops’ as they were known, lived and ate separately, and even drank in different pubs.
The Telling Our Stories, Finding Our Roots project began in June 2023 and will take 18 months to complete, finishing at the end of 2024. It is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
It continues two previous Telling Our Stories projects in Exeter, Tiverton, Bideford and Okehampton.
Examples of some previous oral histories are here: