Memory Box My Newcastle

Putting a lid on Memory Box My Newcastle: After a year of lots of hard work, we celebrated the end of Memory Box My Newcastle at the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle, complete with tea, cake, and a film screening.

We had a great day on Tuesday celebrating the end of our Memory Box My Newcastle project. Over the past year, if you’re not already aware, we’ve been working hard along with digital storyteller Alex Henry and Newcastle Adult Learning Services to deliver a digital inclusion project to older learners. In libraries and community settings across Newcastle, the learners were given the opportunity to attend free workshops that would see them turning their personal recollections into digital stories using iPads. This diverse range of stories is now available a bespoke iPad/iPhone application, designed to remain as a freely available social historical archive and public resource.

To celebrate the end of the third and final phase of the project, we held a screening at the Laing Art Gallery to showcase a selection of stories for all the participants and their friends and families to enjoy. It is of course much more common for grandparents to attend events that their children and grandchildren are a part of, so this was a truly wonderful opportunity for them to have their moment, meet up again, and get the chance to watch each other’s creations. So, with a turnout of 70+ people, and after a lot of mingling, we settled down with tea and cake in hand.

Flo-culture had the privilege of having renowned poet, playwright, and critic Sean O’Brien (who has also contributed his own story to Memory Box My Newcastle) to introduce the screening. Author David Almond, another Memory Box contributor, has said that it’s a “wonderful, creative, democratic project”, and Sean O’Brien’s introduction recognised it in very much the same vain. Emphasising the value of telling one’s own story, and particularly the ability to now capture these stories so easily with modern technology, Sean commented on the many stories that have been lost over time.

Sean tickled the audience with stories and anecdotes about his parents, told to him, and told by him, to us. Of course, the most common way for stories to be passed down from generation to generation is orally. The great thing about the Memory Box however, is that it’s authentic, capturing these kinds of stories, but in the original teller’s voice. It is, supposedly, the real story, the real history. This real history is exactly what the project was designed to capture. However, even the real stories are a fiction for Sean. Stories, as we all will know from our grandparents, can often seem implausible, embellished, emphasised or skewed. Fiction, he believes might just hold more truth than we might care to acknowledge. As a writer, it’s his job to portray these truths.

So with a leap of faith, and on our guard to take everything with a pinch of salt, we watched Sean’s own Memory Box story about the Lit and Phil, an old haunt and source of inspiration for him over the years, as well as the screening of a select few of the stories created in the workshops. These stories and more, ranging in date and topic, including memories of the war and before, through the 60s/70s/80s and all the way to the present day, can be found on the Memory Box website  and on the Memory Box app.

– Flossie