“It’s about creating a safe, creative space for other creatives to connect with their tribe and opportunities to empower individuals to continue their own creative work.”

–  Roy Leighton, creative director of Undiscovered Country and founding director of Positive Peace Cambridge

COMBUST Case Study : Story-Exchange

As well as being the creative director of Undiscovered Country and the founding director of Positive Peace Cambridge, Roy is a senior associate for Independent Thinking Ltd and a visiting lecturer at Soka University in Japan. He was also a founding member of Lifeblood Theatre company in Northamptonshire and founding director of LAMDA Business Performance (LBP), the commercial training arm of The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.  Roy’s work focuses on values-based education, peace and conflict and the management of change. We spoke to Roy to learn more about his experiences of working with Narrative Alchemy Co-Artistic Director, Sean McGrath.

How did you first connect with Sean?

Sean and I have known each other for many years now as we work in similar areas of education. Our work uses the power of theatre and storytelling to support the serious issues of change and transformation. A few years ago we reconnected at a Royal Society of Arts (RSA) event in London, which is where we realised how powerful a mutual collaboration would be. Sean and I share a similar interest in research and the evidence base for storytelling. Our shared point of contact is storytelling, in all of its shapes and forms.

Tell us about some of the recent projects you have worked on with Sean

Sean and I collaborated on a theatre workshop to support the University of Cambridge’s Faculty of Education festival celebrating the legacy of Paolo Freire. Together, we developed and delivered the workshop to 10 individuals, which was well-received and voted ‘Student Event of the Year’ at the university. We have previously worked together on projects for schools on learning transformation and change management.

We have also worked on a storytelling workshop together although Sean led the story exchange aspect of the workshop. Working in pairs, individuals shared their stories, created prompts to draw out the narrative, and discussed the stories; it was a simple, effective process. As a participant, it was even more impactful than I expected.

What was the impact of the projects on the creative community?

As an actor, author and artist myself, it was a positive experience for me. I found a story that wanted to be told and the workshop helped me to understand more about myself and my own experiences. It was not unique to myself and my partner, everybody in the room felt similarly. Sean created the conditions for a story to be heard as well as told, which is a formidable experience. The workshop changed my own perception and understanding of myself and helped me gain the insight I needed to make positive changes in my daily life.

It’s about creating a safe, creative space for other creatives to connect with their tribe and opportunities to empower individuals to continue their own creative work.

Do you have plans to continue the momentum and work with Sean in the future?

Absolutely – we are currently exploring two school programmes. The first is an outreach project with the Cambridge Union (the world’s oldest University debating society) to explore the power of dialogue over debate and the second is ‘The Fire In Cambridge’, an applied theatre re-enactment and reflection based on the famous 1965 debate at the Cambridge Union between James Baldwin and William J Buckley.

Would you recommend Sean and his team to others?

I would recommend everybody engages with Sean’s work and I am more than happy to recommend Sean and his team to anybody who is considering taking part in one of his projects.

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