Digital storytelling at
Health and Wellbeing
March 2008 saw an exciting
collaboration between Sheffield
Hallam University's Faculty of
Health and Wellbeing and Pilgrim
Projects Ltd, Cambridge.
Thanks to faculty funding made available
due to our commitment to service user
involvement in health and social care
education, research and curriculum
development, the social work and
occupational therapy subject groups joined
forces to enable a three day digital
storytelling workshop to be held at the
Robert Winston Building. As a result, I have
pleasure in introducing eight short video
presentations made by service users and
carers. These can be used to inform and
enhance teaching and learning within the
In the following pages the service users and carers themselves say a
little about the experience of making their digital story and how it
has been used so far.
To view the stories go to:
What are Pilgrim Projects
and the Patient Voices
Pilgrim Projects has pioneered the use of digital
storytelling in healthcare. The Patient Voices
programme (www.patientvoices.org.uk) is thought
to be the largest resource of freely available digital
stories in the world. Through its carefully
developed methodology, the programme facilitates
the telling and sharing of stories of care by all
stakeholders. The innovative model of free
distribution of resulting stories for use in health
and social care education and quality improvement
ensures that those voices are heard, and that the
investment of storytellers is nurtured to develop Pip Hardy (Pilgrim Projects) with workshop participants
maximum social capital.
To view the stories
Go to www.patientvoices.org.uk click on ‘the
The stories are free for all stories’ at the top of the screen. You will find
to download and use - see all the Sheffield Hallam stories by clicking
details on the Patient "healing journeys" on the left hand list. You
Voices website about the can also go straight to the stories by clicking
creative commons licence. on the title of each of them in the electronic
version of this newsletter.
It is clear that the
process has had a
profound effect on
many of the
their capacity to
contribute to the
faculty has been
enhanced - but let’s
hear it from the
Tony Sumner (Pilgrim Projects) with Christine (workshop participant)
A long and troubled road
My story covers surviving childhood abuse. Writing and remembering about the events from my
childhood was far from easy, given the sensitive nature of the subject. However, there was so much
support from fellow storytellers Pip and Tony from Pilgrim Projects, and most of all from Sheffield Hallam
staff, that the story has been told. Shortly afterwards, I was asked by one of the lecturers if I would show
the story, and answer questions from students - around 90 of them.
Needless to say it was a scary thought, but I agreed. The students were “ Would I repeat
attentive, inquisitive, as their questions proved, the questions even the experience?
spilled over into the coffee break, throughout the whole event the Yes I would. ”
students were very respectful, which made it easier for me.
I found the whole experience enlightening for me, and I would
hope for the students also. No matter what the subject, the one thing I can say is, the support from the
user and carer network, University staff and students I’ve come across, has made the whole thing
worthwhile, and indeed has helped me along my recovery road. Would I repeat the experience of making a
digital story about my own experiences? Yes I would. Would I recommend it to others? Yes I would.
My lost little boy
Christine has been involved with
service user and carer initiatives
including the Expert Patient
Programme for several years.
She has used these experiences
not only to enhance teaching
and learning here at the faculty
but also to grow in her own
confidence and skills. In her
digital story she tells a very
personal story of the loss of a
baby in tragic and unresolved
circumstances and how support,
inspiration and help came from
the most unexpected of places.
Once upon a time...
How is it that I have given birth to four children who are completely
competent and confident on the computer? It's almost as if their umbilical
cords were attached to a laptop. How come I have none of their skills or
finesse? Maybe it's a generation thing........of course it is?!!
So for me signing up for a three day digital story Workshop was an
adventurous thing to do. In fact I don't think that I even thought about the
fact that I would be tied up to a laptop for three days. I was much more
interested and lured by the thought of being out of the house far away from
my caring commitments and by the prospect of good company and free
lunches. Laptops didn't enter my thought process.
I have been a carer for over 20 years now and have found that life can
be limited and somewhat isolated. This workshop was to be a big adventure
for me. It took some organisation to cover my caring responsibilities and I was never certain until the last
moment that I would actually get out of the door- but I did!! An achievement in itself. I left with newly
washed hair, wearing my favourite top and a big smile on my face. On reflection it was no surprise to me
how wonderful it was to be out of my house and around other people.
It was no surprise to me that the people I worked with were an absolute delight. We all took an
unforgettable, emotional journey together and helped each other
along all the way. It was no surprise to me that I enjoyed hearing “ We all took an
people's stories and telling my own and what a privilege that was.
It was no surprise that I enjoyed all the coffee breaks and lunches and
the freedom of not being in my caring role.
But what was a surprise to me was that I actually LOVED using together ”
the laptop every single bit of it. I found it a complete delight. I
discovered the film editor in me — determined and compelled to make images appear on the screen at just
the right moment fitting in with the voice over and music to perfection. I had not realised how creative
this work would be and how much it would soothe my soul. For three days I left behind my normal routine
and became utterly absorbed in the art of digital story making. Eat your heart out Stephen Sondheim
there's a new kid on the block.
Of course the experience would not have been the same without the two amazing facilitators we
had. Along with their intuitive emotional support they had the knack of making everything seem possible
and then being there to help you when it all went wrong. It was one of the best learning experiences I
have ever had.
After the three days it took a while to get over the excitement of it all. I found myself wanting to tell
everyone about what I had done and felt immensely proud of myself. I have been touched by other
people's response to my story. I had not anticipated how much my story would reach into people's hearts or
how much insight and depth of understanding it would give. I know that I will always remember those
three lovely days and will carry the memories of them in my heart for the rest of my life.
So if you ever get the chance to attend one of these workshops don't hesitate to say yes just go for
it!! You'll not regret it.
Fragile, with care
For the past 21 years me and my husband have cared for our 43
year old daughter, she has multiple sclerosis and for the last
four years severe epilepsy. The last seven years have been 24/7
intensive care especially since she came to live with us following
her divorce. It's been a very long hard battle with those in
authority and power—nothing has been easy, and made much worse
by the uncaring attitude of people who work in these positions. For
21 years we had suppressed and I suppose let fester the way we
were told or rather not told of Maxine's illness, which caused great
distress, me and her dad could never discuss it without breaking
down, it hurt so much. In March 2008 I was invited to take part in
‘digital story telling’ with Pilgrim Projects through Sheffield Hallam
University. How privileged and fortunate was I? At first I didn't
know what my story would be, I knew it was going to be about our
situation, but how do you choose a piece out of a 21 years old
jigsaw? My husband said why not start at the beginning? And again it caused
us distress and in between our tears it was decided the topic would be how How do you
the news was delivered to us. choose a piece
The telling of the story and the making of the DVD, with the out of a 21
year old jig
wonderful support and help of Tony, Pip and Julie was a wonderful
experience and has enabled us finally to bring this hurt to the surface and
deal with it in a most positive way in that we feel some good will come out
of our despair. Any health professional embarking on having to deliver such news will hopefully after
watching the digital story ‘Fragile deliver with care’ will prepare themselves and the recipient to be in a
compassionate, caring manner and place. Digital story telling certainly has a place in the healing arena.
My DVD has been shown at the University, the 'Forum' events that have taken place and Barnsley
Social Services. It’s going to be shown at Quality Care partnership events this year. We have shown it to
our GP and of course to everyone who comes to the house!
Thank you so much to everyone involved for my chance to have taken part.
Something from nothing
How often we bury unpleasant experiences in our lives. We have lived through
them and survived, but we no longer wish to remember them. When it came time
for me to relate my story my first few words trickled out, but then the gates opened
wider and my thoughts spilled out like a torrent from my lips and rainfall from my
eyes; the wells were well and truly open. I was
shaking when I finished speaking, but I felt no “ There were
embarrassment because there were reassuring reassuring smiles
smiles from all the other storytellers; they from all the other
It is important to come to terms with they understood. ”
challenging episodes in our lives; that is what I
learned from the digital storytelling experience. Uncovering something that we have
buried deeply can be painful, but once it is done, it is done and relief surely follows.
I look back at the workshop and I know I did the right thing because it changed the
way I viewed others, but most especially it changed the way I view myself.
I hope that people suffering from depression and lack of self-esteem might
benefit from seeing my story. We can all feel very isolated at times but by sharing stories we can begin to
understand that we are not alone.
My digital story is not
finished yet, but I chose to
record some memories from
my holidays in the Isle of
Man which involved
swimming with seals. At the
digital storytelling workshop
the tutors Tony and Pip
were very interested in this.
They recorded my
description of the events
and used the illustrations as
a setting. I thought they
worked very hard and
consequently got some very
good stories from everyone
at the workshop. Marjorie (left) with her carer Belinda at the workshop
Peaks and troughs
“When told that the
length of the story had
to be restricted to
three minutes, I asked
if they really meant
three hours because I
can go on a bit”
by Nev Wheeler O.B.E.
I was invited to take part in a digital storytelling course at Sheffield Hallam University run by Pilgrim
Projects. It involved IT at which I am hopeless. However with a lot of help from staff I enjoyed it. We had
to write our own personal story about an eventful period in our lives. When told that the length of the
story had to be restricted to three minutes, I asked if they really meant three hours because I can go on a
bit. With some prudent editing of my script I got it down to just over four minutes, remarkable! My digital
story describes events in 2006 when I finished up in hospital twice—once for a week and again for six
months. In contrast I was awarded the OBE the same year. Because of the ups and downs of my story I
called it ‘Peaks and Troughs’. I did a voice over, found pictures to illustrate it and picked suitable music.
In the end I was quite proud of the DVD. I have been asked to show my DVD to two or three different
audiences including over 70 social work students and a big meeting for stakeholders in the revalidation
process. I feel the DVD has been a powerful tool already in presentations to a lot of people. I understand it
is on the internet which will reach an even wider audience.
“ I feel the DVD has
been a powerful
tool already in
presentations to a
lot of people ”
Jane and Peter’s journey
Earlier this year I received an invitation from Sheffield
Hallam University to attend a digital story workshop. I
felt privileged to be asked to attend this workshop.
Although I have to say, I did attend the workshop with an
open mind but with mixed feelings. I am pleased that I
overcame my feelings as I really did enjoy the workshop.
I did my presentation on chronic renal failure, as my
husband is currently suffering from this condition. A few
days before I attended the workshop my husband had to go
on to emergency haemodialysis. This was a tremendous
shock to us both at the time.
I was contacted by Pilgrim Projects. Pip and Tony
asked me if they could use my story, as they have got a
colleague who had seen my presentation and he thought it
was very good and he wanted to know if he could use my
story for a workshop he was taking for the NHS.
Thinking of using service users
and carers in your course There are many people who helped make the workshop
planning and teaching happen. A big thank you to all of you.
activities? thank you to all the workshop participants for sharing
Contact Viv Lowndes-Smith their amazing stories with us
(firstname.lastname@example.org to Pip and Tony from Pilgrim Projects for working
0114 225 5636) who co-ordinates the tirelessly during and after the workshop
service user and carer involvement in to Richard Badger and the technicians who supplied and
the faculty and maintains a database of set up all the laptops and made sure we did not trip
contacts with service users, including over all those cables
those who have contributed to this to hospitality for their sensitivity
newsletter. to all my colleagues in the occupational therapy
Want to know more about
to Gail Mountain and Gordon Grant who agreed the
Contact Julie Coleman at
to Viv-Lowndes-Smith and Paul Benson, whose support
and relationship with the service users and carers made
0114 225 5657 or contact Pilgrim
the workshop the success it was
Projects directly, through their website:
Thanks also to Paul Benson, for his very efficient and
detailed administration of the project.