Countering Harmful Stories With Better Stories

Last week, we were at the British Ambassador’s Residence in Sofia for a fundraising event with the Emprove Foundation for our Awakening Between the Lines Project. Here’s the speech we wrote for the event.

Good evening. I’m Will Buckingham, co-director of Wind&Bones, and over there is my colleague and Wind&Bones co-director Hannah Stevens. Wind&Bones is a social enterprise now based in Scotland, and we run projects at the intersection of writing, creativity and social change.

Early last year, when we were still living in Sofia, Hannah contacted Olia at Emprove, saying we should work together. Olia’s response was warm, immediate and wildly enthusiastic. So together, we came up with a plan for a storytelling project working with women survivors of abuse. From the start, we knew that what we wanted above all was to make something beautiful, something meaningful, and something transformative.

At Wind&Bones and Emprove, we share the belief that the issue of domestic abuse, in Bulgaria as elsewhere, is still under-reported, under-resourced, and widely misunderstood. And we also are united in the conviction that to tackle this issue, storytelling is one of the most powerful tools we have.

So this is what this project has been about: from its first beginnings, to the brilliant exhibition at National Gallery, Sofia, to the publication that is forthcoming. And we have been able to do all of this great work thanks to the generous funding and support of British Embassy, Sofia, for which we are very grateful.

We kicked off the project late last year with a series of intensive storytelling workshops with a group of women survivors, many of whom are here tonight. In the workshops, we wrote and shared stories in Bulgarian and English. And perhaps it might surprise you that although we were dealing with the most difficult of subjects, the one thing that characterised these workshops was the sense of life and of laughter.

The women writers with whom we worked, whom we now count among our friends, are an incredibly impressive group of human beings. Their stories are a testimony to their experiences. They are a testimony to the harms done by domestic abuse. But more than anything, they are also a testimony to the possibilities for a better world when we start to tackle this most urgent of issues. Only when we start to speak more about abuse, about those who perpetrate it, and those who suffer it, can we bring about the transformation we need.

At Wind&Bones, we believe that harmful stories can be countered best by more stories, and by better stories. Stories that help us together reimagine and rebuild our shared world. And this task of reimagining ourselves, each other and our society is a collective responsibility, whoever we are and whatever our gender.

So it’s a true pleasure to be here tonight celebrating these extraordinary women writers, their remarkable stories, and the beautiful artworks that accompany these stories.

And because the more stories the better, throughout this evening, Hannah and I will be asking for your stories. And as this evening’s event is all about freedom, we’ll be asking you to share stories about freedom. We’ll be over there throughout the evening at the table, with these story-cards where you can come and write, in whatever language you choose. We’ll be adorning the trees here with stories and, we hope, capturing some of them for posterity.

So to finish, it’s great to see a large crowd of you here to celebrate. This event is about connecting, and it is about storytelling. But, of course, it is also about fundraising. There are many ways you can contribute to this vital work. So what we want to ask of you is this: please be bold, be open to possibility, and be generous. And let’s use this as a precious opportunity to connect, to rethink and to reimagine so that we can make the world a little better.

We wish you all a very good evening.

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