Community Development

Between us Helen and Rick have worked around the world with people of all ages and backgrounds: as individuals, focussed groups, random groupings and whole communities.

To give just a few examples, our sessions have engaged and involved:

  • refugee and English learners’ groups,
  • older people (both intergenerational activities and focused reminiscence),
  • whole community oral history initiatives,
  • people in conditions of rural isolation or urban deprivation,
  • women’s groups,
  • parenting groups,
  • youths and youth leaders,
  • people with mental health problems,
  • groups for people with every disability except the profoundly deaf,
  • social inclusion schemes,
  • after school and holiday playschemes

“They’re better than a knife fight” Javanese street kid, when inter-gang rivalry almost interrupted an event.

Different ages, needs, energies and settings require radically different approaches, but the essence of both Helen’s story focus and Rick’s music work is to give people

  • space to listen, reflect, and make their own inward connections.
  • ‘tools’ and confidence to express themselves creatively
  • desire to reach out and share with / listen to others
  • experience of the positive effects of being part of a mutually supportive group.

“In your tactful way you have brought out the best in all of us.” (Joe, Sheppey Project 2001)

“You made me feel so special; made me realize I had something to say” (Joyce – Somerset Story Project)

Projects draw on, and weave together, stories of all kinds:  true life anecdotes, folktales, fantasy, history, local lore, myth and fragments of memory.
Once shared, participants’ stories are recorded and transcribed, and form the basis of some form of final ‘outcome’ -again determined by the needs of the project.

“When our parents died we didn’t need tombstones -we had their stories.”
(Duncan Williamson, Scottish traveller and storyteller.)

Our projects have been set up in response to rural isolation, urban depression, intercultural or intergenerational mistrust, social or regional change or development, or simply a desire for community celebration.

Past ‘outcomes’ include a mixed media exhibition / a story walk / an intergenerational performance /a picture book / an audio collection /a story seat / a memory web/ an illustrated local map. Some projects have a variety of complementary outcomes:

‘After Offa – Living Life Along the Border’ (2011-12) was a year long Heritage Lottery funded initiative. We worked with communities and four schools in Powys and Shropshire celebrating, recording and archiving changing patterns of life and work along the English/Welsh borders.  Workshops, storywalks, performances and recordings culminated in the publication of a CD, book and story map pack.


Through these workshops Helen seeks to bring people together to share experience and to celebrate connection and culture, breaking through language and other barriers (mixed age, mixed ability, mixed expectation). We begin with simple stories – sometimes no more than the story behind our own names – and drawing, craft and even cooking, tasting, and tactile activities. These prompt fragments of memory, fun, and communication in all languages at once, even without words. Gradually we find ways of sharing true life stories, related folktales, dreams, myths and beliefs within the group. From this point, if wanted, we work together to find a satisfactory way of presenting these to a wider public.

Such public outcomes have included a ‘life-threads weave,’ storycloths, dual language books and tapes, a ‘taste and talk’ installation.

“You give me such confidence; you make me remember stories and because I am with you I find that I can tell them, and the words come out alright…” (participant in refugee women’s project ‘Sensory Detour’ / Apples and Snakes.)

“Thank-you for giving me the words to pass on a part of me to people with my blood but not my language”

“Stories speak in pictures. You have shown me I can use that language here.”


Each group, each person is different. Through story and music we try to create a group atmosphere where people can feel more confident to express themselves in a variety of creative ways: not to impose a set of preconceptions on a group but rather to prepare solid ground on which people can walk fearlessly.

Following a 3 month residency as Visiting Artist at the Redwoods Centre, Shropshire in 2013, patients responded so well that Rick has held weekly drumming and rhythm sessions on psychiatric wards there ever since.

A well intentioned man found a falcon.
He’d never seen a hunting hawk before.
“Poor bird,” he said. “What a state you are in.”
He cut back its talons, straightened its beak, and trimmed its feathers.
“There!” he said.”Now you look like a bird again.”
And he went on his way very pleased with himself.


We have 101 reasons for working with ‘youth’ groups, but please do not ask us in simply to “develop their job interview techniques.”

Nasrudin was being interviewed for a job in merchant banking.
“What have you really got your sights on?” asked the personnel manager. “We like people with a bit of drive, a bit of ambition.”
“Good.” said Nasrudin. ” I want your job.”
“My job? Are you mad?”
“Perhaps, “said Nasrudin. “Is it a necessary qualification?”


In addition to one-off, sometimes themed performances and workshop work in conjunction with schools, we have worked specifically with both libraries and museums on numerous tailored projects, including:

‘Frances Fisher RIP’
The Lincolnshire Libraries Bookboat
‘Tall Stories Big Sounds’

We have worked particularly closely with Camden, Lambeth and Islington Libraries and with the following museums:
Bedford Museum
Science Museum
British Museum
Museum of London
Kensington Palace Museum
Mythstories Museum, Shropshire