Hippodrome to screen films created for the People’s Story Project

From fairytales at bedtime to spinning a yarn in the pub, Scots have always been renowned for storytelling.

Friday, 16th August 2019, 8:30 am
Private viewing...in Falkirk Town Hall in June was attended by some 60 participants. (Pic: Whyler Photos of Stirling)
Private viewing...in Falkirk Town Hall in June was attended by some 60 participants. (Pic: Whyler Photos of Stirling)

And a unique project, funded by the Scottish Government, led by the Scottish Book Trust and supported by Falkirk Community Trust’s library services, tapped into that.

For the last nine months, Sabine Hellmann from the Book Trust has been working with individuals and groups across Falkirk to digitise their own personal stories.

Everything from holidays to liver transplants, sporting achievements to local history has been documented.

The Waiting Game...was the emotive subject chosen by Falkirk grandad John Mortimer for his very personal story, detailing his wait for a liver transplant.

And on Tuesday, August 27, some of the many videos shot for the People’s Story Project in Falkirk will enjoy a public screening at Bo’ness Hippodrome.

While the participants enjoyed a private viewing at Falkirk Town Hall in June, it will be the first public viewing.

And for Sabine, the most difficult thing has been choosing which of the 56 videos to include.

She said: “People in the community have very interesting stories to tell but never get the chance to.

At the stationhouse...Billy McFarlane was just a boy when he had to collect coal from passing trains, in payment for his dad William's work on the train drivers' watches!

“We gave them the opportunity to tell their own stories – whatever they wanted to share – be that a very personal story, a special memory or the industrial or social history in their area.

“They are all available to view on our Vimeo site so people can enjoy them.

“But the Hippodrome screening will signal the end of the project and celebrate all the local storytellers.

“I’d love to be able to show them all but that won’t be possible in 90 minutes.

Booking in...for her latest stint in the limelight, storytelling is nothing new for Mary Johnston who published a book, after learning to read and write at the age of 60.

“Around 20 or 30 of the stories will be featured.”

While the project is now nearing completion, library staff and many of those who took part have been trained how to use the iPad video equipment which will be left in Falkirk Library for future projects.

Sabine added: “It was important to share the skills so that the project will have a lasting legacy here.

“Many of the people who took part had never used editing equipment before but they were eager to learn and have shared some really fascinating stories.”

Among the storytellers are FDAMH creative women’s group, Forth Valley Recovery Community, TCV – The Conservation Volunteers, Callendar House Storytelling group, Forth Valley Sensory Centre, Albany Court Sheltered Housing, Avonbridge Community Café, Falkirk Sewing Studio, the Care Words project and Jupiter’s Our Shed group.

There are some very personal stories among their number.

Proud Falkirk Bairn and grandad John Mortimer, for example, appears in two videos – one for the British Liver Trust’s local support group and his own story, The Waiting Game.

In it, John documents how he was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver and how it felt waiting for a transplant.

The video ends with the good news that, after a 13-month wait, John received the call on February 10 and his succesful transplant took place the following day.

He now volunteers with Forth Valley Recovery Community and spends one day a week volunteering at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, as peer support for those waiting for a transplant.

John (61), who worked as a chef in the Merchant Navy for 28 years, said: “The transplant gave me a new lease of life and I enjoy giving something back.

“I was happy to share my story as it may help others who are going through the same thing. The transplant unit in Edinburgh is posting the video on its web page.”

John’s daughter Jillian and granddaughter Elsie May (2) are also proud of him.

He added: “I couldn’t have got through it without them. The wee one laughs when she sees me on the video!”

Billy McFarlane (76) from Avonbridge recalls life at the railway station at Blackston.

He now lives in the stationhouse which his dad used to rent as a signalman.

Billy still misses the steam trains passing by but not so much the coal collections!

He said: “My dad William was a watchmaker and used to fix all the drivers’ watches.

“They repaid him with coal which me and mum had to gather quickly when they chucked it off the train!”

Billy, a former coach builder, and his late wife Betty ran the corner shop and cafe in the village for 10 years. Now, the proud grandad loves looking after his son Rory’s children, Sophie (10) and Dean (8), who live right next door.

He met Sabine in the community cafe and she persuaded him to take part.

He added: “I got flustered narrating it so I could have shared so much more.

“But I’m happy with it and looking forward to my pals seeing it at the Hippodrome.

“I donated some of my dad’s old lamps and watches to the train restoration museum in Dunfermline which is showing the video to visitors. I was quite chuffed about that too.”

Mary Johnston (75) from Grangemouth is used to storytelling as a member of the Callendar House group.

However, iPad filming and editing was completely new to her. That didn’t hold her back though ... no surprise when you hear her story. She only learned to properly read and write when she was 60 and has since written a book!

Mary, who has four sons, six grandchildren and seven great grandchildren, is now looking forward to the public screening in Bo’ness.

She said: “I didn’t think I’d be able to do it as I’m not great on the computer but Sabine was a great teacher. It just shows you’re never too old to learn something new!”

All of the stories are available to watch at digital-stories.scot, as well as on the project channel at vimeo.com/channels/peoplesstoryproject.

The public screening will be held on Tuesday, August 27, from 6pm at Bo’ness Hippodrome.

To reserve a free ticket, call 01324 504693 or visit bit.ly/2K45eIa.