Stop 4 – Made in Kitchener Walking Tour

It’s hard to believe that not too long ago 1000s of people lined King Street, from Waterloo to Kitchener to watch the Labour Day parade. This video from the Made in Kitchener Project tells the story of The Clown, The Horse and The Labour Day Parade. Take a look.

Made In Kitchener

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iPod digital storytelling brings out the geek in me

iPod Mobile Digital Storytelling Lab - image
iPod Mobile Digital Storytelling and Media Lab
Since I first put my hands on a serious camera, I’ve struggled with the Geek Factor – that thing where you want to touch the gear. It’s like walking around in fear you’ll buy a Leatherman Tool on an whim – the one with belt holster.

Then my son – whom I consider as far from Geekdom as one can get – got a Leatherman as a gift and was all ga-ga over it. Suddenly I was freed. Freed to indulge my gear fetish – in a healthy way.

One of the pieces of gear I consider a healthy choice is the iPod Touch I’ve been using for about a year now. It’s become my go-to, universal media tool.

In fact I recently used it to produce a 14 minute personal-story documentary in collaboration with inREACH, a social agency that offers support for young men who are trying to break connections with gang activity.

I use it extensively in my work as director of the Latitudes and Longitudes Digital Storytelling Project. I shoot still photos and video; write blog posts (like still one); edit video and record sound. At the digital storytelling project one of the greatest challenges is providing workshop participants with suitable technology environment for creation of their personal narratives.

In the past this has meant a fulling equipped computer lab with professional grade software and hardware – a tall order indeed for start-up art projects such Latitudes and Longitudes. This is where the iPod Touch comes in. I recently bought six basic iPods to form the basis of a mobile digital storytelling and media lab that I will be using in my future work.

First up is Local Food Bytes a series of two digital storytelling workshops designed to capture community stories about local food and its impact on peoples’ lives. The freedom afforded by a mobile media lab will allow me to hold these sessions at a neighbourhood coffee shop that offers a community meeting room and free WIFI to patrons – Misty Mountain Coffee Company on Queen Street South in Kitchener. You can get more details and register on the Latitudes and Longitude website.

I’ll also be using the mobile lab with a new project at inREACH, as well as at a Grade 5 classroom project funded by Arts Smarts Waterloo Region.

Two men who help me find the stories at inReach

My Grandfather Oscar

Both my grandfathers were sawyers.

Men who operated the main saw in lumber mills in the 1940s and 50s – a job long ago turned over to machines. Aside from this, they were very different men.
My maternal grandfather, Tom built his own sawmill powered by a diesel engine. Quiet, serious and introverted, he built a successful lumber business. However, he was a man I never seemed to able to get close to. He seem most at home in a dimly lit room with a glass of whiskey.
My paternal grandfather, Oscar worked in one of the last water-powered sawmills in Ontario. He was a gregarious, outgoing man who made a modest living working for others. He played the harmonica, read tea leaves and told stories.
I’m two weeks into a digital storytelling project with inREACH, a youth gang prevention program in Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada. As I work with these young men to help them find their voice and tell their personal stories, I feel a deep connection to Tom and Oscar.
I always ached to understand Tom. I was sure he had much to tell me, but his wealth of life experience remained out of reach. Oscar, on the other hand, showed me how to use the tools in his workshop, read my fortune in tea leaves and told me stories – stories of the lost being found and the found being welcomed home.
I bring the spirit of these two men to the storytelling workshop each week – Tom helps me explore the dimly lit rooms and Oscar helps me find the stories.

Digital storytelling taking root in the community

Back in June 2010 I planted some seeds at the Building Community Narratives Through Multimedia Storytelling one-day digital storytelling workshop I facilitated during the Community Arts Ontario Conference in Kitchener, Ontario.

Five first-time digital storytellers joined me that day to do a storywalk from Victoria to Cedar Street in downtown Kitchener. I’ve put together some of these stories in this short video:

These seeds of a community-based digital storytelling initiative have taken root and are beginning to blossom.

I recently completed a digital storytelling project with House of Friendship (@HOFKW) where four women who found help through the agency’s addictions services told their personal stories about recovery.

The agency’s executive director, John Neufeld (@JohnNeufeld98) is meeting with groups around Waterloo Region to show these stories – Voices from House of Friendship – and raise awareness of House of Friendship’s work

House of Friendship, at least for me, has been a benchmark social service organization in the community. It has great strength in recognizing needs and finding innovative ways to address those needs. Highlighting of these women’s personal, digital stories as part of the agency’s story is just one example.

It was truly a transformational experience to work with these women to find their inner storyteller and help them bring their deeply personal experiences to an audience of engaged listeners.

If you are a member of a group interested in finding out more about House of Friendship’s work in addictions services you can contact them to arrange an information session and a screening of the personal stories of four remarkable and courageous women.