Julia Gwynne

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Julia is an actor, writer, storyteller, social worker and trainee dramatherapist who loves the power of stories.  Julia is a social work graduate of Nottingham University and theatre graduate of L’Ecole de Jacques Lecoq as well as the Laboratory of Movement Studies.  She has worked for twenty years nationally and internationally both performing in theatre and working with vulnerable children and families using stories to connect, explore and recover.  Julia currently spends a bit of time working with children and families in the fostering sector, a bit of time writing stories, a bit of time performing, a bit of time studying and the best of time with her five year old son.


The Story of StoryStitches

StoryStitches came about when Mothers Who Make suggested a commission to create a piece of art.  Throughout all the Mothers Who Make meetings and spaces, much as I loved them, I felt I was weakly holding onto the titles of performer and writer with an ever-loosening grip.  Could I claim to be a maker when I wasn’t really making much? I was becoming a performer who didn’t actually perform and a writer who had a few ideas whilst making a sandwich but seldom had a pen or paper to jot them down.  I began reflecting on my lack of creative output since becoming a mother and then realised this was utter rot, complete nonsense – I was creating all the time.  I spent my days making; playing, painting, inventing characters, reading stories with funny voices, building dens, making props, moving, singing, composing songs, dancing and telling stories.  It was the telling stories that caught my imagination for the commission. What was so different about creating a story for my son than creating a story for readers or theatre?  Less polished perhaps, less produced, but full of love and they still have to work.  If they work my son sits quietly, his eyes beginning to see another world and space, he starts asking for more, he remembers them, he starts creating his own or requesting we write them together.  And if they don’t work, he leaves or starts talking about something else.  What a wonderful critic.  And I noticed that the telling of stories held within it a sense of togetherness, a shared space, a journey together, it calmed us, soothed us, but also excited us, inspired us.  Then I started thinking about other work I had done with vulnerable children and young people as a social worker working with children who have experienced abuse and young people at risk of exploitation; it was the story work that resonated most deeply and it was through the stories that I saw change.  

Good.  I had decided that I was allowed to be called a Maker and a Mother.  I then decided it was this that I wanted to pursue for my commission.  Not my own stories particularly, although I have written a few down but the sense of sharing the idea that stories are wonderful and that we can all make up a story. I gathered resources, gathered ideas and looked for somewhere to play.  I wanted to work with parents who didn’t think they were artists, because I think we all are, given half a chance, so I found a school and tried to make my ideas sound exciting at a coffee morning.  9 people were convinced.  And so we set some dates and we stitched some stories… 

I deeply belief in the power of stories, made up stories, stories based on memories, stories passed down from one generation to another, cultural stories, stories from books, stories that are very silly, very serious, very beautiful, very sad.  Stories are an essential part of what it means to be human and we have shared stories for thousands of years, they can take us anywhere and I think they are vital for children and adults alike.  

This support has meant a great deal. It is the first time that my work as an artist has been valued in a way that allows me to include my mothering rather than have to work around my mothering. It is the first time I was able to combine my artistic pursuits with time spent with my son and feel as though this combining was valued, welcomed and encouraged. I had held the idea for StoryStitches for a long time, but this micro-commission enabled me to approach schools with some funding so the doors opened more easily and the ears listened more readily. This gave a big push to a waiting snowball. As a result the snowball now has momentum and is growing. The school that hosted the workshops have asked me to return with the same series of workshops, a neighbouring school have
requested that I run StoryStitches for them and the original school has commissioned me to make a story show/workshop for children in Years 2,3 and 4. All thanks to MWM.
— Julia Gwynne