Where it begun realy

Where it begun realy

​'I dont think it makes no diffrents where you start the telling of a thing. You never know where it begun realy.'

Photo by Fancycrave on Unsplash

The opening quote is from Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban, a post-apocalyptic novel set about 2000 years in the future.

It's an interesting exercise to ask people in a workshop when they think the story begins. You'll get months, years, sometimes decades of difference in the dates people offer. A couple of instances come to mind.

Running narrative workshops for the Audit Commission in around 2008 with local councils about strategic financial governance and asking when this time period began. Eventually most workshops ended up with the 1997 election.

Running a workshop in the then newly refurbished Whitechapel Art Gallery on innovation with around ten museums and archives. We'd confidently set the beginning of our timeline at 1953, the Festival of Britain, when piecing together the past in order to explore the future. In the end, though, it went way back, to somewhere like the start of the Embroiderer's Guild. The visual essay by Julie Reynolds is here, and is worth flicking through.

I write at least in part because I've been invited to be part of a glorious virtual gathering, Story the Future, which will be running through most of September.  In thinking about what to write to invite others to join our gathering, and so very rusty as I've really not written for two or three years in any kind of exploratory way, I've been thinking about the tangling and untangling of story threads that we may or may not be aware of. Also thinking of Paul Costello's brilliantly simple idea that a story has a beginning, middle, end. It's just that your end might be meeting the beginning, middle or end of many other stories that ebb and flow around it.

Also, I hold close the idea that Andrew Curry once put me on to (hence the Whitechapel timeline exercise) that you need to look back twice as far as you look forward. Without a past you cannot imagine your future.  This is also true in patients with dementia, and organisations who destroy, or do not take care of their pasts as they change.  If we do not tend to the narrative threads that bind the past to the future, we fragment and fracture the future in that act.

Bint no writing for 100s and 100s of years til it begun agen nor you wunt never get a strait story past down by mouf over that long. ...All them other storys tol by mouf they ben put to and took from and changit so much thru the years theyre all bits an blips and all mixt upRussell Hoban 'Riddley Walker'