As the sun beat down on Brighton last Thursday evening, hundreds of day trippers licked ice creams and drank cold beers on the seafront. Brightonians hurried home from work to make the most of the warm sunny evening. And I cautiously pushed open the door to a building I’d walked past many, many times without really noticing. Inside the cavernous room were 50 or so empty chairs and a handful of Little Green Pigs. The launch of Street Stories was upon us.
A night to remember
I’d turned up as a volunteer to help with the event. Mostly because I wanted to learn more about Street Stories, as I hadn’t been involved in the project. My job was to meet and greet. So each time the door buzzed, I swung it open to welcome people in. Hot, smiley mums and dads with little children in tow. Folks who’d helped with the project – other volunteers, a photographer, people from the library and Brighton Housing Trust, even a few poets. Mayor Lynda Hyde in her mayoral finest with her chauffeur/minder in tow. And finally a gaggle of excited children – ten or so of the project writers who had just walked the trail from the library to First Base Day Centre.
The space was full and buzzing. People took their seats in anticipation. After an introduction to the project, we watched a wonderfully touching 7-minute video about the making of Street Stories. Pete from Little Green Pig brought Chris from BHT and the young writers to the front, and interviewed each person. They were shy, but brave – squirming under the attention. Suddenly the formal part of the evening was over, and people relaxed into little clusters of casual chats – about the project, about their children, about the festival and what was next for Street Stories. One of the most memorable conversations I had was with a family who had delayed moving to Canada so their daughter could see the project through to the end. It meant that much to her, and to them.
The power of Street Stories
So what did I learn about Street Stories? That it can be life-changing to give children time with people they wouldn’t otherwise interact with, especially those we often think of as ‘not like us’: refugees, people with disabilities or who have experienced homelessness. That creating a sense of empathy in young people is one of the most powerful things we can do to help them grow into happy, well-balanced, caring adults. And that making a safe space for kids to combine that empathy with imagination and a pencil can lead to some astounding writing.
Street Stories has done all of this and more. It’s a wonderful tribute to the spirit and kaleidoscopic nature of Brighton. It’s a festival must-see. Go – you won’t regret it.
Little Green Pig Story Mentor