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Janet feels that it is very important to find the stories of our communities and share them. Both the stories that our ancestors told about the landscape, and the personal stories that we have on our day-to-day living. Finding how a personal story can make its way from our lips, to become a folktale to another’s ears. Researching for all three of her books she has sought out local people to tell her a story that they knew.
Janet welcomes invitations to work with communities to find and respect the stories- whether its personal oral history, local events that need rediscovering and retelling, or exploring how our daily lives can become part of the future tales that are told.
Sharing personal stories of community can also help bring broken communities together, and she has been involved in projects that help address this.
Below are examples of those projects.
Age to Age in Stories and Songs
By Roger Watson and Janet Dowling
An account of a community story and song project in Bracknell , taking the stories of older people, turning them into songs written by children in local schools, who then sing the songs back to the communities of the story givers. Janet did this project four times with Roger Watson, and after illness forced him to retire, continued for another three projects with Rob Harris.
Roger compiled the stories and songs from the first four projects in Age to Age in Stories & Songs: Bracknell BERKS 2008 – 2010.
Storytelling as a Pathway to Peace
Storytelling offers a pathway to peace. Sharing personal stories from areas of conflict invites participants into a space where they can be heard and are able to hear the other side of the story. From that space it is possible to move to a shared place of understanding and possible resolution.
People in conflict hold their ground because they do not feel heard. In June 2009, as part of a project with Roi Gallor of the International Storytelling School at Forest Row, East Sussex, I travelled to Israel and Palestine with a group of storytellers to explore how storytelling can support different sides of a conflict to share their personal stories. Once people feel that they have truly been heard, they can both start to listen to the other side of the story, and begin to move to a mutual resolution. We put this process into practice in communities in Israel and Palestine, culminating in an arts festival which brought those communities together. For some Israelis it was the first time they had met someone from Palestine. For some Palestinians, it was the first time they had met an Israeli who was not pointing a gun at them.
Follow the link below (Button) to read the account of the storytelling project in Israel and Palestine to bring communities together, in association with the International Storytelling School in Forest Row, East Sussex.
First published in Facts and Fiction 2009, and reprinted in other journals in the UK and US.
Storytelling in the Care of the Dying and the Bereaved
Janet worked as a bereavement counsellor and used storytelling to support people.This work is not for performance but is very much part of my community storytelling.Working with people’s personal stories, using traditional stories, or facilitate the client to make up a story about their own experiences to enable them to find different strategies to help them manage their feelings. She has run workshops on how to do this at Cruse bereavement care conferences and with different bereavement care groups, as well as supervising bereavement volunteers.
She was awarded a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship in 2006 to go to the US for this work and in 2015 was one of 300 Churchill Fellows invited to meet the late Queen to celebrate 50 years of the Churchill Fellowship.
The past 18 months have been unprecedented: the unanticipated deaths from Covid-19, the ‘non-covid’ deaths hampered by Covid-19 restrictions, and the feeling of hopelessness by families unable to share last days with their loved ones to say the things they always meant to say… Amidst all this, our society shies away from talking about death. Our fears and worries about facing it for ourselves, the impact of the death of others, and the myths we tell each other, stop us from discussing death because we fear it will make death happen sooner.