We’re delighted to present this guest blog post from Dawn Kelly. Dawn is a 2011 English literature graduate from the University of Sheffield. She was part of the Storying Sheffield project during the second and third years of her degree. This summer she is preparing for a move to Barcelona where she aims to teach English to speakers of other languages. She spends her free time writing, travelling, and drinking copious amounts of tea.
Dawn during a Storying Sheffield workshop
As a young A-level student I would daydream about all the fun times ahead at university. I knew the drill, I would work hard and play hard, I’d live with people my own age, I would spend nights frequenting the SU bar and days sitting in the park under a tree with a selection of books to be studied.
I was clearly a little unrealistic; it becomes impossible to focus on Milton after a late night and besides, it rains a lot in Sheffield and your papers blow everywhere in the park. I was about to realise that there’s a whole world outside that bubble that I had envisaged for myself and it went a little something like this…
I found that the best stories were not on my reading list, they could not be discovered in the library and I could not find a TV adaptation of them if I was short on time. (Not that I did that, ever…) In fact, my favourite stories of love, heroism, highs and lows, fear, joy and devastation were not written down at all but came from the lives and mouths of the people of Sheffield, the people that we were lucky enough to work with over the Storying Sheffield Project. The people who thought that the stories they had to share meant little to others.
How about stories of divorce? Finding yourself at your lowest and picking yourself back up, complicated pregnancies and visits to mental health day centres to find that the people there are just like everybody else? How about the one about a young girl from Sheffield who had to climb to dizzying heights for 13 hour shifts operating a crane in the steel industry during WWII, or the ones about underage drinking, cigarette smoke and romantic encounters with teddy boys at Saturday night dances, stories of trips to new places, from America to Skegness, stories of saying goodbye to friends too soon.
Stories that make you realise we’re all a lot more alike than we thought we were.
And there lay the realisation, stories didn’t have to be written down and studied to be admired. They didn’t have to have essays written about them or lectures devoted to them. Some of the best stories arise from a quick chat with a stranger, and all you need to do is listen.
Dawn’s Storying Sheffield journal
Dawn’s work with Storying Sheffield included creating an installation with Harold, and helping to make the Women of Steel film.