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Finding your place in the story

How do you connect with place? What is it about a place that helps establish meaning for each small story? How do the samenesses and differences between places help to remind you of who you are, what has meaning for you, your family, community, company?

People, place and time are some of the most common themes that act as anchors in those small stories that we collect in Zahmoo. For me, one of the most useful resources on place and story is the website of the English charity Common Ground.

Small, but highly influential in Britain and elsewhere, Common Ground have long championed the idea of particularity, or local distinctiveness: what it is that makes a place distinctive, different – and special. Special enough to be an anchor for a personal story, personal meaning, personal and shared value. As Sue Clifford puts it, on the website, in her essay ‘Places, People and Parish Maps‘:

Local, really local, significance is rehearsed in a subtle dance of detail and patina: we understand a place in close up, through stories retold, meanings shared, accumulations of fragments and identities. Our appreciation of it is often only tested when unsympathetic change threatens, or has already materialised.

Take a wander through their list of ‘Rules for Local Distinctiveness‘ – as also shown in that poster above – and see what ideas and images some of those ‘rules’ trigger off for you.

“Value your own values!”, says one of the rules; “democracy thrives on discussion about things that matter to us.” If you’re gathering stories as a community, what stories reflect your values? In what ways do your stories describe the things that matter to you? How would you collate and re-use those stories to “let the experts in on your terms” – the last part of that rule?

“Reveal the past! Decay is an important process. Don’t tidy things up so much that the layers of history and reclamation by nature are obliterated. Let continuity show.” That’s as important to a business as it is to a community: remembering where we come from, and honouring where we come from, is essential to that collective sense of ‘who we are’, our identity as ‘us’.

And much the same with another of the rules: “Get to know your ghosts”, it says, “the hidden and unseen stories and legends are as important as the visible.” What stories do you have that show how the unseen past comes through into the present day?

“How do we know where we are in time and space? How do we understand ourselves in the world?”, ask Sue Clifford and Angela King, in another essay on the website, ‘Losing Your Place‘:

Local distinctiveness is essentially about places and our relationship with them. It is as much about the commonplace as about the rare, about the everyday as much as the endangered, and about the ordinary as much as the spectacular.

The same is true of our stories: cherish them, by storing and re-using them here.

November 10th, 2011 by Zahmoo
Filed in: For Business, For Community, For Family, Research
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Zahmoo is a story bank for collecting and sharing your family and business stories.