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Farewell to 2021

Photo of the Centre for Stories team at our end of year party

The Centre for Stories team at our end of year celebrations. From left to right: Robert Wood, Kobby Asomani, Sisonke Msimang, Claudia Mancini, Caroline Wood, Nina Thethy, John Wood, Logan Griffiths, Jay Anderson, and Zhanna Needham.

As we say goodbye to 2021, we reflect on what has been another big and busy year at Centre for Stories. In March, the second annual Backstories festival saw us holding events in 14 backyards across the state. We can’t wait to welcome you to Backstories again in March 2022 for more backyard storytelling events in Perth and regional Western Australia. Side Walks was also a big hit this year, with six events held in venues across the Perth CBD and Northbridge, culminating in a wonderfully insightful discussion between Kim Scott and Elfie Shiosaki at the State Theatre Centre. You can now revisit recordings of Side Walks 2021 online.

In February, three new board members – Jane den Hollander, Rachel bin Salleh, and Jade Bradford – joined us to provide their considerable expertise and guidance to the organisation, and our Creative Director, Robert Wood, was awarded a Westpac Social Change Fellowship in March, an opportunity which he has used to fuel his personal and professional growth and forge new connections over the course of the year.

In May, we were thrilled to launch our first-ever online oral storytelling course, The Art and Science of Storytelling with Sisonke Msimang, which guides people through our signature story training process over seven self-paced video modules with accompanying worksheets. This resource has proved invaluable for many of the storytellers preparing to share stories as part of our projects, festivals, and events, and we’re so excited to be bringing our unique approach to oral storytelling to a whole new online audience.

We’ve run some great community storytelling projects and workshops this year, including the Words To Live By video story collection, funded by Healthway, which showcased the ways in which older Western Australians embrace the values of Act Belong Commit within their daily lives and champion positive mental health; and the Nayimbi African Cultural Pathways project in partnership with BridgePro Sports, which saw us deliver a series of oral storytelling workshops to young people of African descent, where participants heard stories from elders and received basketball coaching as part of an intergenerational engagement experience.

Young basketballers who participated in the Nayimbi African Cultural Pathways Project with their BridgePro Sports coaches

Young basketballers who participated in the Nayimbi African Cultural Pathways Project with coaches Tiwa Olowoyo (left) and Carmie Olowoyo (right) at Centre for Stories.

We have also been able to fund, through the great generosity of community donations, a new elder-in-residence program to commence next year that will engage older storytellers from a range of backgrounds and provide a space for them to write and share their stories and experience with our community of emerging creatives. We also had two wonderful writers, Zarah Burgess and Franchesca Walker, participate in Bayswater Café Residencies at Drip Expresso, funded by the City of Bayswater.

In July we announced the Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli Fellowship for Writers, a $10,000 three-month fellowship at Centre for Stories awarded to mid-career writers in recognition of their literary achievements and active engagement in social justice issues. In September, we were delighted to announce Aisyah Shah Idil as the recipient of the inaugural fellowship. Thanks to Baden Offord, John Ryan, Christopher Macfarlane and Centre for Stories’ founders John and Caroline Wood for making this fellowship possible.

We’ve had great success in continuing to develop our youth program, particularly with the pilot youth oral storytelling program we ran at Aranmore Catholic College, which saw students from their Intensive English Centre (pictured below) deliver powerful stories from their lives; and our creative writing project at Yule Brook College, led by writer-in-residence Rashida Murphy, which resulted in a collection of poetry and short stories titled We Know Who We Are – now available for purchase in our online shop.

Claudia Mancini Jay Anderson and Sisonke Msimang with Aranmore Catholic College students

Centre for Stories team members Claudia Mancini, Jay Anderson, and Sisonke Msimang with Aranmore Catholic College students who took part in our youth storytelling program.

We’ve mentored 12 emerging writers and had 12 hot desk fellowship participants as part of our Writing Change, Writing Inclusion program this year. The third round of hot desk fellowship applications has now closed, and we can’t wait to welcome our next hot deskers to Centre for Stories in early 2022.

Our quarterly literary journal Portside Review set sail with its first issue in March, and we published a subsequent three issues over the course of the year. Portside Review now contains over 120 unique pieces including prose, poetry, interviews, and sound from talented creatives connected to the Indian Ocean. We’re especially proud to have published – in a first for English readers – a selection of collective Adivasi literature. Thanks to Akash Poyam, writer and assistant editor at The Caravan, for helping us bring these pieces to publication.

Special thanks to Managing Editor Robert Wood, Production Manager Logan Griffiths, and assistant editor Lauren Pratt, as well as our editorial interns William Huang, Maggie Leung, and Sachini Poogoda for successfully bringing this project to life. Subscribe to Portside Review for the best writing that the Indian Ocean has to offer, and look out for issues five through eight next year.

Portside Review Team – Logan Griffiths and Robert Wood with interns William Huang and Maggie Leung

From Portside Review (left to right) – Production Manager Logan Griffiths, Intern William Huang, Managing Editor Robert Wood, and Intern Maggie Leung.

In mid-October we were lucky enough to take a team trip down to Margaret River for a few nights to relax and recharge in nature together. We shared some fantastic meals (including an epic pizza night), entertained ourselves with a pianola, and spent time exploring the stunning coast and bushland of the region.

A major highlight of the trip was being taken on a cultural walk one morning by Wadandi Cultural Custodian Iszaac Webb, whose wide-ranging knowledge and engaging storytelling provided us with insight into traditional ways of living on the land, a variety of bush foods, and the strong cultural connections to Boodja (Country).

In November, we were honoured to be able to attend the AIM WA Pinnacle Awards Gala Dinner celebrating leadership excellence and outstanding businesses and organisations in Western Australia. Being a finalist for The Perdaman Asian Engagement Excellence Award was great recognition of our commitment to ongoing engagement with the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions through our storytelling projects, interviews, and literary publications.

Three important events rounded out the year for us. On 6 December, we held a fabulous end of year party to say thank you and farewell to all of the amazing staff, writers, storytellers, and supporters who make up the Centre for Stories community. On 9 December we hosted a PEN Perth Human Rights Day event, Between the Light and The Darkness, which commemorated International Human Rights Day with a series of powerful poetry readings, both in English and in native languages, of the work of imprisoned writers from from Afghanistan, China, India, Myanmar, and Vietnam.

Finally, the talented team from Pulch launched Pulch-in-print at Centre for Stories on 10 December. The youth-led magazine, which operates out of Centre for Stories, features over 25 young people from all across Western Australia, championing poetry, art, memoir, graphic design, activism, and writing by creatives under the age of 26.

A copy of youth magazine Pulch in Centre for Stories Library

A copy of Pulch-in-print at Centre for Stories Library.

As the year comes to a close, we also say farewell to our wonderful Finance Officer Nina Thethy, and welcome Zhanna Needham to the role. We thank Nina for her time with us and her valuable contribution to the team, and know that she’ll always be a part of the Centre for Stories family. Nina and Zhanna have been working closely together over the last few weeks to get Zhanna across all of our financial processes, and we look forward to moving into the new year together.

Since 2015, we’ve played a critical role, not only as an inclusive meeting place in our local community, but as an amplifier for the diverse and often marginalised voices in our state, nation, and region. We know from experience that storytelling empowers while creating understanding and forging connections, making a real difference in people’s lives. Please consider making a donation, big or small, and join us in building an inclusive and harmonious society.

We’ll be closing the doors to Centre for Stories until Monday January 10, when we’ll be back refreshed for another year of exciting new programs, projects, events, and publications. In the meantime, keep reading, listening to, watching, and sharing our amazing archive of stories. It’s been a fantastic year for all of us, and we couldn’t have done it without you. From the whole team, we wish you a safe and happy holiday season and we can’t wait to see you again in 2022!

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