by Signe Sander
In February the first local workshops of the Digital Participation project took place in collaboration with the Gallo House, a social café in Aarhus. The participants got a chance to tell their own stories while learning new digital tools.
The Gallo House is a café in the Danish city of Aarhus, but not just any café. The people around the Gallo House are working to promote openness and knowledge about mental health issues. They are arranging events, for example debates or talks, and they have furthermore created a community for vulnerable citizens. People come there to hang out or to get useful information on how to live with mental health issues. As many other cafés all over the world, the Gallo House is closed due to the coronavirus, but they agreed to become a part of the Digital Participation project by finding participants in their community for two workshops. The workshops were the first local Danish workshops of the project, conducted by Upstream Stories in January-February 2021.
The Erasmus+ project, Digital Participation, aims to provide adult people at risk of exclusion with innovative digital tools to improve their life conditions. In the workshops with the Gallo House we used the participatory methods, Digital Storytelling and Participatory Photography to reach this goal. The workshops took place online, a space that we are not yet so used to in our workshops, but which is a new chapter that we want to explore more.
The first week the participants worked with photos. The facilitators, Dorthe Bækby Olesen and Amalie Vilslev Juelsgaard, inspired them to explore their creativity. They showed examples of photography and gave the participants creative exercises as homework in between the online meetings. The end result was a series of beautiful photo collages, consisting of photos from the everyday life of the participants. An everyday life which they were incited to see in a new light. As one participant said subsequently, they were “encouraged to see the beauty in the world”.
The next three weeks the group worked with films and storytelling. The facilitators supported them with new creative exercises. Exercises that were to help the participants find a story which was meaningful for them, a story they wanted to tell in that moment. A digital story works on several levels. The base is the written story, a manuscript which the participants record as a voice-over, then imagery, which can be anything that supports the meaning of the story and if the storyteller wants, they can use additional sounds and music, also working to back the atmosphere. All layers are created or chosen by the participant, which they in the end edit together to a small film which can be shared as they like. The whole process takes place in the group which continuously share and give feedback to each other’s stories.
The workshops turned out very successfully. The participants were not only given new digital skills, such as editing and audio recording, they were also inspired by the group and the facilitators. A safe space was created in the workshops, even though it was online. A space where the group could open up to each other and tell about personal things. Where they could support each other and help each other to look at their stories from different angles. Where they could unfold their creativity and express themselves through art, without feeling too pushed or stressed. They now all have a little piece of themselves in the form of a photo collage and a film, which they can share if they want to, with whom they want to, and they are ready to explore the new digital tools by themselves.
You can find the films from the workshop, that the participants agreed to share, here.(link is external)
Link to Gallo Huset(link is external)
Partners of Digital Participation