Once Upon a time, quite possibly now, there was a place filled with imagination and ideas.

There is nothing quite like losing yourself in a good book, but now families across County Durham can help shape the adventure as part of a virtual storytelling project.  

Durham County Council’s community arts team has teamed up with North-East theatre maker, writer and performer Ruth Mary Johnson and sound designer Nick John Williams for Story Team– an exciting project that tasks the audience with coming up with the next chapter.

On Tuesday, 5 May, at 2pm a video of Ruth reading the opening of the story will be released on the council’s YouTube channel and shared on a special Facebook page www.facebook.com/storyteamdurham 

Families will then be invited to come up with suggestions for what happens next, either with a drawing, sentence or just a single word. Entries can be sent by email to storyteamdurham@gmail.com up until 12pm on Friday, 8 May, when Ruth will bring all the ideas together for the next instalment of the story. This will be released on YouTube the following Tuesday. 

This pattern will continue for four weeks and in each video, Ruth will share storytelling prompts and hints under a specific theme, with the first week focusing on building up descriptions of place. Throughout the process, families will also be encouraged to share ideas and chat about the project on the Facebook page.

The finished story will be released in full on YouTube on Friday 5 June, featuring sounds and video footage captured by members of the Story Team Facebook page.

Last year, Ruth and the Gala Theatre co-produced an adaptation of Chicken Licken, which toured community centres, schools and venues across County Durham.

A video still of North-East theatre maker, writer and performer Ruth Mary Johnson introducing Story Team

Ruth, who also directed and starred in the production, said: “I love making stories with people, especially with communities in County Durham who I have learnt so much from as a theatre maker, working on productions like Chicken Licken. 

“Whilst we can’t be in a room together this time, we hope to capture the ideas and imaginations of families at home as we build something new together. It feels like an exciting challenge and I’m so excited to see what Story Team creates.”

Kylie Lloyd, community arts manager at Durham County Council, said: “We are delighted to be working on this exciting storytelling project with Ruth, who brings such passion and creativity into everything she does.

At a time when we all have to stay at home, Story Team is a wonderful way to keep youngsters entertained while nurturing their passion for storytelling and reading. The  Facebook page will also create a sense of community and help people to stay connected during the lockdown.

To subscribe to the council’s YouTube channel, visit www.youtube.com and search for Durham County Council.


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