Storytelling festival set for Livingston

Livingston will be home to tall tales, fabulous fiction, and amazing anecdotes this summer with the launch of a new storytelling festival organized by local social enterprise, Spark.

Plans are being made for a week-long festival in June that will include a series of events in local venues, aimed mainly at children with stories told in a range of formats, including book and poetry readings, plays, music and films.

There will also be a series of workshops for individuals and families to enjoy during the school holidays including with animation by Aardman Animations, creators of ‘Wallace and Gromit’.

Spark, whose aim is to reduce loneliness and social isolation by providing activity groups, trips, events, and volunteering opportunities, has appointed local storyteller, narrator and public speaker Colin Williamson as a diversity and inclusion ambassador.

Colin has dyslexia and autism and he uses his storytelling skills to help spread awareness of the conditions.

Spark is asking for volunteers and storytellers to get in touch and join a working group that will meet later this month to plan and finalize arrangements.

Chief executive Jane Deary said: “We would like to showcase the rich tapestry of occupations available to our young people and older generations.

“People who may wish to train and gain the skills and experience to fulfill careers linked to their passions. There is a wider world of possibility than the lived experience to date and stories are a window to that wider world.

“Spark aims to bring together those willing to share their stories to be the catalyst to that window of opportunity.

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“The stories may be written, spoken, sung or in film. What they have in common is the thread of interest, a passion, a belief, and a willingness to navigate the challenges of the journey to achievement and fulfillment that the opportunity provides.”

“She added: “One example of this is World Record Breaker Cyclist, Josh Quigley, a local young man who came to Spark to share his story of how taking up cycling led to overcoming mental health issues.

“His inspirational talk resulted in a number of our members taking up membership of Xcite Sports Center who brought along an indoor bike to the event.”

It is envisaged that the festival will be staged in local schools, community gardens and libraries, as well as at Spark’s Neighborhood Center in Craigshill, from Monday, June 20.

Local housing association, Almond Housing, has agreed to provide free books for under-fives living in its properties.

Spark’s ethos focuses on ‘three pillars approach to wellbeing’ to local people to develop their creative, physical, and mental potential.

The social enterprise hosts a series of regular groups at its premises in Craigshill, including for sewing and needlework, crafts, film making, carpet bowls, walking group, seated exercise, mindfulness, singing and sign language as well as running a choir and men’s and veterans’ groups.

It also runs a basic IT course in partnership with Sky Cares, a charitable foundation run by local employer Sky, whose employees take part in a ‘buddy a learner’ scheme to help users of Spark’s services to develop their skills and confidence in using mobile phones , tablets, and laptops.

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In addition, Spark organizes trips and community events as well as operating Spark Creations, a social enterprise shop that sells handcrafted items made by volunteers and donated goods.

Through this, it creates and sells bespoke, personalized gifts, including letterbox presents, sweetie bouquets, wellbeing boxes, handmade greetings cards and baby gift baskets.

During the covid pandemic, it operated a telephone befriending service as well as delivering hundreds of food parcels and goodie bags to vulnerable households in the area, it also developed an outreach service, providing practical help, social and volunteering opportunities.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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