We consider ourselves lucky for having the pleasure of collaborating and working alongside such talented and dynamic interns at the Centre for Stories. Over the course of 2019 (and leading into 2020), a number of interns made their mark at the Centre in some way—so let’s celebrate them!
Meet Sophie Raynor. As soon as Sophie stepped through the doors of the Centre for Stories, she fit right into the family—her ability to connect with people as well as her positive can-do attitude immediately makes anyone feel comfortable and at ease. Sophie approached any circumstance with love, kindness, and (most importantly) spunk, which was the perfect recipe for tackling her daily tasks and navigating the wonderful world of community arts.
Sophie’s 10-week internship ultimately turned into a 8-month long volunteer role where she volunteered her expertise in social media, marketing, and communications on many different internal and external projects at the Centre for Stories. Sophie also worked extensively on developing marketing plans and spruced up our social media for projects such as 16 Days 16 Stories, Side Walks, and (currently) Backstories.
We’ve been incredibly lucky to have Sophie, and so it is our pleasure to introduce her to you.
Tell the readers about yourself.
I’m a 28-year-old under-employed middle child who’s now seven safe years on from a terrible front-fringe haircut. I’ve spent most of my life living on the same street as the Cambridge International Food Court. I studied in Fremantle, worked in Melbourne and Dili, and came back to mum and dad’s almost a year ago. I write freelance articles, manage not-for-profit social media, make pickles, borrow books from the library and swim laps at the local pool. I started interning with the Centre for Stories about eight months ago, after returning home to Perth and wanting to be useful. I don’t know about my utility but I’m having a wonderful time.
In your time interning at the Centre for Stories you’ve been working on sprucing up our social media, developing marketing plans, and improving communication. Firstly, thank you. Secondly, can you tell us a little about your methods, what changes (big and little) you’ve made, and what challenges you’ve encountered along the way?
People seem interested in the Centre’s social media, to be frank—which makes the job very easy.
In other places I’ve worked, the same two people like your every Facebook post, you fret about falling metrics, and it all feels like a limp sort of afterthought to the actual, important work. But here, our social media followers seem genuinely, earnestly and unashamedly interested in what’s going on and who’s doing what. That’s wonderful. I first found out about the Centre through its Instagram, and it’s a pleasure to be on the other side of it—doing the small things I can to introduce this place to others.
I haven’t made dramatic changes since I started—I did force everyone into a house style of unspaced em dashes, and started being overly friendly in Instagram DMs with people I hadn’t yet met—but I hope the research, goal-setting, competitor analysis and strategy planning I’ve helped out with this year can help the Centre reach more and new people through its social media. The more people that know about this place, the better.
There’s a pervasive idea that social media is an easy job, a young person’s exclusive domain, or a mere announcement that happens after the truly meaningful work has been completed: a Facebook photo of the village’s newly completed water tank, or a snap of the book once it’s been published. I find this frustrating. Without dramatically overstating the role of social media in our work, it’s part of people’s everyday lives, and it’s a wildly accessible and useful tool for articulating and sharing information. But we tend not to treat it like it’s useful. Alana Hope Levinson writes in her excellent essay on women in social media, The Pink Ghetto, about the troubling ‘invisibility’ of social media management: “When an article blows up on Facebook, who gets credit? The report who wrote the story or the engagement editor who came up with the prompt?” The story is critical, of course. But it’s fraught to forget the role of social media in bringing new ideas into our lives.
You’ve also worked on some pretty cool projects, from Side Walks to Backstories, to helping out at Bread & Butter and Lit Live. What’s been your favourite and why?
I’ve genuinely enjoyed everything I’ve worked on at the Centre, and one of the good things about documenting activities means you have a ready-made excuse for inviting yourself along. The few evenings I’ve spent at Bread & Butter have been particularly special, though—crammed into the kitchen, running steaming dishes to guests in the dining room, twisting around volunteers as you stack dirty plates and fill water jugs, repeating new-to-me food names over four burners bubbling; that moment when you’re called over to peek your head round the hallway door and listen in quiet awe to the storyteller tell their story. That’s felt really special; when you’re all in there together.
You have spent some time in Timor-Leste and seem to be quite drawn to the region and people. Can you tell us a little about your connection to Timor-Leste and how your relationship with the region has impacted your life?
I first visited Timor-Leste in October 2016 on a trip with the not-for-profit I was then working for. We funded an education project in the country’s capital, Dili, and they decided to combine a monitoring and evaluation trip with some filming for a fundraising video, tacking me and two filmmakers onto the visit. I was incredibly nervous about the trip and convinced myself it’d go terribly: I didn’t know how to produce, I didn’t know the people I was working with, and I hardly knew anything about this dusty, dirty city. But I didn’t need to worry. The trip went well, we filmed what we needed, the colleagues I travelled with remain my dear friends today—and among the dust and grime of Dili I leaned into life on a sunshine island, with teeming tropical reefs and never-ending coconuts chopped open before you.
Six months later, I’d quit my city job, applied for and received an Australian Volunteers assignment overseas, and was on a plane back to Dili. The two years I spent in Timor-Leste were some of the best and some of the hardest of my life—I was firmly out of my comfort zone, I was big and hot and sweaty and awkward, I didn’t get any of the subtle nuances of everyday life, and I was working with poor language skills and a hefty inferiority complex. Which, of course, ended up being everything that made those two years so good: I shed self-imposed expectations, I divorced self-worth from achievement, I learned how to ask for help, and I leaned into not knowing what comes next.
Timor-Leste helped me grow up and grow into myself. My time there was some of the most important of my life.
The Centre for Stories is made up of an eclectic group of people from all walks of life. We also consider ourselves to be pretty open minded, compassionate, and we aim for the Centre to be a ‘safe space’ for writers, storytellers, and arts practitioners. What was your experience of the culture at Centre for Stories? Were there people you encountered at the Centre that made an impact on you?
I officially returned home to Perth from Dili in April 2019. I was thinking recently about what that year was to me, and I decided that it was as much about the physical act of returning home as it was the feeling of being at home within myself.
That self-growth my time in Timor-Leste unlocked for me is crucial in that, but so too was my time at the Centre for Stories. It’s a place where I feel useful, valuable and valued; it’s a place where everyone’s welcome and everyone’s actively included; it’s a place where every idea and every contribution matters. I’ve never been so easily or unconditionally accepted for who I’m showing up as in a place as I have here. It feels like home as much as very few other places to me.
We love a good story. Tell us a short story about a time when you encountered something remarkable.
Earlier today we had our regular Thursday lunchtime pasta cartel—carbs and collective action; $5 in the tin for a share in lunch better than you’d be able to buy yourself—and creative director-cum-pasta chef Robbie chose my favourite pasta without my telling him. That felt remarkable.
But I always like reading these other intern chats, and everyone else has an exotic-sounding story of travel and near-tragedy. A couple of years ago I was driving with friends in a tiny, mini Rav-4 along bumpy rural roads in Timor-Leste. We were just a couple of hours into the treacherous, nine-hour-long drive back from a secluded coastal village when the Rav coughed and spluttered; belched forward a few metres, and promptly gave up. We were four white women alone, stationary, on a dusty track in the middle of nowhere. After an hour of fiddling under the car’s bonnet—with what we’d later learn was a busted fan belt—we were talking about walking back to the main road to try and flag a bus to the nearest town, when around the bend what should we see but the Red Cross-branded four-wheel-drive of my friend’s workplace. She flagged down her colleagues, they towed us an hour to their outskirts mechanic, and then the next day, when the car was still comatose, called friends who drove us seven hours back to Dili. The mechanics fixed the car, we thanked our saviours profusely, and to this day I’m grateful for the well-timed help and incredible generosity we found on those dusty, pot-holed roads.
What’s on the horizon for you?
To the relief of my mother, I’ve secured gainful employment, and will probably be in Melbourne by the time you publish this interview. I’ve accepted a part-time position managing communications for a not-for-profit that works with people just released from prison, which I’ll be balancing with a degree in journalism at RMIT. I leave Perth on Sunday.
I’ll still be the gal behind the Centre’s social media posts for a little while—I’m really excited to work on Backstories with everyone this year. And I’m leaving kicking and screaming, so I suspect I’d jump at any chance to come back.