Tom Cheesman, curator of a fascinating new multilingual story sharing website, offers insights into how children’s tales opened up new worlds for Swansea locals under lockdown.
More Stories Swansea’ is a community art project, designed for pandemic conditions. Seed-funded by Swansea Council, the project aims to bring the city’s diverse local communities together, sharing languages and cultures across the internet and beyond.
We invite local people to record stories for children: fables and folk tales from their cultural traditions. They record on the phone and send in the audio files. We post the audio on our website (with a summary written in English and Welsh). Then, we invite local people to create illustrations and animations to go with the stories.
This game has a few simple rules. The participants must live in Swansea. They can tell a story in any language except English or Welsh, the official languages of Wales. Stories must be no more than 3 minutes long – the shorter the better. Stories and visual artworks must be suitable for children.
So far, we have posted 26 stories in a dozen different languages, plus half a dozen animated films and various other visual artworks. A mixtape of voices and visuals is on YouTube.
Zinia, a student beautician originally from Bangladesh, said at our first public Zoom meeting: “I was really happy to be involved in this project. It’s pandemic time, it’s really hard to cope. I have a five-year-old. And I really want people to know about my culture, how kids grow up there – I want to tell the differences. This is the best way to engage kids, they can see their story, see the differences, instead of feeling sad, when they can’t go out, can’t meet their friends. It was so fun!” Zinia told her story, “The Cow Boy and the Tiger”, in Bangla (story #1 on our site). Dai Griffiths, a music student, turned it into an animated film. He researched Bangladeshi villages, houses, landscapes and breeds of cow: “It was really fun learning about the culture. As a westerner, it really opened my eyes to what else there is in the world.”