Rae Story runs the Media Art sessions at St Luke's Art Project, enabling people to use computers and digital cameras to produce artwork. Currently this project is running a community publishing house called SLAP-DASH Publishing, specialising in working alongside local artists to facilitate the process of people publishing their artwork using the latest in print-on-demand technology (see http://stores.lulu.com/stlukes and 10 new books internal link).
Rae has worked in community-based projects in Manchester for ten years, she has a Phd in Cultural Aspects of Hearing Voices and is an honorary research fellow of Manchester Metropolitan University. Her current artwork is focused on creating community publications. As well as running Slap-Dash Publishing she is also working alongside other community projects in long-term documentary projects to capturing activities by way of story telling and photography, and producing high quality bespoke publications.
Rae is a photographer and practising artist. Rae also works as a Qi-Gong and Chinese Medicine Practitioner.
I use photography and storytelling/narrative interview techniques in my work with community groups and individuals to enable people to share the way that they see and feel about their lives and the world around them. Following my background in Psychology, & Anthropology I am interested in the aspects of our lives that cause us to struggle and overcome adversity. In particular I am interested in mental and physical health, death and dying, impoverishment and social change. Two areas to which my work frequently returns are creative urban exploring and documentation of communities. I organise explorations of the lived-in city and collect oral histories – in particular, peoples’ stories about themselves and their lives which constitute an ongoing changing life trajectory that helps to provide meaning and make sense of our diverse life events. Often my work culminates in bespoke, high quality publications and exhibitions of artwork that serve to celebrate the work and achievements of local people and to challenge the stereotypes of these communities. I am not an art therapist. However, I choose to work with members of the community who are often socially isolated and excluded, including people with severe and enduring mental health problems, refugees, asylum seekers, unemployed people, young people at risk and older people.
Rae begain working at St lukes Art Project in 1998 when she was commissioned to produce an evaluation of the Art Group. The Wise & The Foolish became a landmark publication well ahead of its time capturing the ways in which participation in this art project enabled people with mental health problems and emotional distress to live a better quality of life, providing meaning, weekly structure, social interaction and external goals. This work has been presented at many art and health conferences and is often cited in research papers into Arts & Health.
Rae’s own artwork is often playful and experimental. Using a range of media she investigates her environment, does self-portrait work and has recently returned to practising life drawing.
Give Us A Voice 2004/5 was a collaboration between Rae Story at bloom and Paula Duffy at Trafford Asylum Team, to explore what it is like to be a refugee or asylum seeker living in Old Trafford, using story telling techniques and digital images to illustrate and capture peoples experiences, providing a platform for refuges and asylum seekers to tell their stories to other community members. This work became a permanent exhibition at St Brides in Old Trafford, a travelling exhibition which has been in shown in many venues around the North West, used in training seminars and has been integrated in Old Trafford Library Services archive of local peoples oral history, and images from this project were purchased by Black Health Agency as part of their ongoing health awareness promotion.
Cookbooks: Zest 2005, The Healthy Living Network for North Manchester commissioned artists Rae Story and Alison Hilton to work with refugee communities in Cheetham Hill around food health and culture. This work resulted in the community Publication of ‘CookBook’ a colourful and varied scrapbook-style cookbook including recipes and food tips from the areas diverse cultural heritage.
Zest & Having a Voice 2006, Following the success of the first cookbook, Rae and Alison were then asked to work in Miles Platting with a Friday Morning women’s group. The group comprised older women who had lived in the area for most of their lives and we ran workshops around the type of food that they had cooked in their families. Manchester Tart was a successful publication that celebrates these women’s skills, collects traditional Manchester meals and has sold thousands of copies around Manchester and continues to be a best seller. Money raised from the sales of this book have been returned to the original groups to further their work and the book has been used in food workshops for local families
Start Arts in Salford: Using these skills in photography and interviewing techniques Rae has been commissioned to document the Garden Project at Start Art Project in Salford. The garden project runs along side the art projects and is open to people with mental health needs. During one year in the garden Rae has followed this group, running workshops in documentary photography, capturing the different activities, seasons, planting calendars as well as talking to the individuals and following their stories throughout this process. The final publication will collate images and text capturing the development of plants and landscape as well as the personal journeys of the garden group members.
Urban Walks: Born out of in a mutual interest in Situationist artwork and dada interventions and the needs of people living in the urban community, I set about arranging a series of investigatory art works that took local people, armed with cameras, audio recorders, pencils and paper into their local streets to map, look, listen and meander. seeing the ordinary with fresh eyes and reclaiming a sense meaning in the flow of time and space of our city centres. The first project Urban Explorers Escaping a map took a group of about 10 local people around Moss Side, Hulme, Whalley Range and Old Trafford, resulting in a self-published, user-created publication which came second the Community Care Awards 2004. Since this first project Rae has run walking groups in Ardwick and Longsight and done many park art walks with different communities around Manchester.