The first half of the year saw the completion of a major project “Wise Words in Wild Places” funded by Arts Council England, Shropshire Council and Energize, Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin and supported by the Shropshire Area of Natural Beauty, Shropshire Outdoor Partnership, Shropshire Library and Shropshire Archives.

The question the project was designed to answer was “can on-line viewers become active listeners and experience the essence of a storytelling performance, retaining their ability to build unique pictures in their heads?” And on a practical level, as Covid-measures receded, it became important to encourage people to spend more time in the countryside. Over the year we commissioned 10 videos for site-specific Shropshire stories: a storyteller created the audio track for each, film-makers accompanied this with either ‘slow tv’ or archive footage specific to each site, or in one case an animation.

The resultant videos are available via QR codes at the sites, on YouTube or through the Mythstories’ website. A leaflet complete with QR codes was distributed throughout the regional day-tourist area to encourage families emerging from Covid isolation to visit these sites.

Storytellers also led five storywalks at different sites, accompanied by an ‘expert’ on the sites’ flora, fauna or industrial heritage. Again aimed at families emerging from Covid isolation, these walks proved so beneficial that funding was secured from The National Lottery Fund Local Connections Fund for a further three walks in the second half of the year.

Storyteller Sal Tonge tells a tale on a storywalk

Wise Words in Wild Places was artistically evaluated by commissioning an artist to produce a sketchbook reacting to the films. This sketchbook and those done by young people who attended the walks were exhibited at Shrewsbury Library in September/October 2021 alongside QR codes leading to the videos.

Joseph Scrobb with his sketchbook

The Zoom Away With Words storytelling club for young people, part-funded by a grant from the Community Fund initially flourished, with monthly on-line meetings led by storyteller volunteers and interim on-line meetings between members. Parents were asked to supervise the young people when on line and a number of parents encouraged their children to engage with the project, practising or researching the stories in between club sessions. Over the summer the families were able to meet up to socialise. In the autumn the on-line sessions were augmented by a monthly in-person meeting at Shropshire Library and a project on local tales, funded by the Arnold Clark Community Fund, commenced. The young people recorded local tales, which were uploaded to Mythstories’ YouTube channel. They then designed postcards sign-posting their recordings which were printed and sent to friends and family members over the Christmas period. A final celebratory event was held in February 2022, with 8 families attending.

During the year Mythstories’ Arts Award Adviser worked with one young home-educated person to successfully complete her Silver Arts Award. The main artform was Poetry and the young person led a public poetry-walk around Shrewsbury as part of her Leadership challenge.

Jet leads her poetry walk around Shrewsbury

In Spring 2022 Mythstories’ volunteers worked in partnership with The Hive a creative venue running wellbeing projects based in Shrewsbury, to facilitate a series of workshops for home-educating families which looked at the history and legacy of the now redundant Newport – Shrewsbury canal. The Hidden Waterways project, funded by the Lottery Fund for Heritage, involved many different artforms and the home educating families chose to use pottery.

Three workshops were held in March 2022 (a further two workshops took place after year end during April), with all being fully booked and 19 different families attending, some on multiple occasions.