Unique collaboration tells the untold tales of Sheffield

The University of Sheffield is set to showcase an inspiring example of how universities can give back to their local communities, as an innovative project entitled Storying Sheffield opens its doors to the public on Friday 17 June 2011.

Storying Sheffield is a ground-breaking module in the English Literature degree programme that aims to bridge the gap between academia and the wider world. The module does this by teaming up English Literature undergraduates with members of the surrounding community to create Sheffield stories.

Many members of the community enrolled on the course have suffered mental illness, come from disadvantaged backgrounds or may have previously felt excluded from the environment of higher education. With an open mind and desire to learn, they are enrolled as short-course students and complete the course alongside students on the full degree programme.

In experiencing higher education for the first time and creating unique, innovative work, the short-course students gain confidence, skills of self-expression and raised self-esteem. Long-course students learn about their local community, consider perspectives of people from different backgrounds and learn the value of thinking beyond the traditional limits of academia.

The students work together to create a representation of a story from the short-course students' life, which is often a narrative deeply connected with Sheffield and their life in the city.

The course motto accurately captures this ambition – 'telling untold tales'. Students learn about various forms of narrative in order to create their own, with seminars each week covering different types of storytelling, for example film, performance or poetry.

In March they were joined by the new Professor of Poetry at the University, critically acclaimed poet and screenwriter Simon Armitage. Led by Simon, the session helped everyone involved to contact their inner poet, with brilliant results.

The Storying Sheffield exhibition will give each short-course student their own area in which to exhibit their story of Sheffield. The exhibits that will be on show this year include four three-foot canvases, an amateur film, and a chest of drawers filled with memories.

Neil Bates' installation involves a Sheffield Wednesday-inspired goal post and audio that takes the listener back to Neil's childhood growing up as a foster child in the seventies. Neil commented: "Storying Sheffield has helped me prove myself, away from my troubled past. It has given me the confidence to pursue further education and I am looking into courses in journalism."

Rebecca Holland, a student who is involved in Storying Sheffield as part of her English Literature degree, said: "Storying Sheffield is unlike any other module on my course. It gives you so many different tools which are applicable to real life, aside from providing an insightful approach to narrative. I feel like I am really engaging with the city as opposed to just living in a student bubble. At the moment the value of arts and humanities degrees is being questioned and I feel this module proves their worth."

Dr Brendan Stone, lead academic behind the course, said: "Storying Sheffield aims to draw out and celebrate the richness of everyday life, and in particular to present stories and voices which are less likely to be heard in mainstream culture. I'm very keen that universities engage with wider society and that we do all we can to open up educational options for as many people as possible. It's a privilege to be involved with this project."

Notes for Editors:
Storying Sheffield has already received high praise and recognition around the city, with the short documentary film Women of Steel. Women of Steel was a project run by last year's students, who developed their interest in the community and conducted a series of interviews with women who worked in the Sheffield steel industry during World War II. The film continues to gather media interest and is a regular feature at documentary festivals, exemplifying the successful interaction between students and the surrounding community.

To find out more about Storying Sheffield, and view more multimedia contributions to the project, visit:
Storying Sheffield

For further information please contact: Amy Stone, Media Relations Officer, on 0114 2221046 or email a.f.stone@sheffield.ac.uk