IMAGINE driving through a country town and being able to hear the stories of the community, from the people who live there.
That is the ambitious goal of Mark Thomson, creator of Long Story Short.
After writing numerous books, telling stories about men’s shed culture and Australian yarns, Mark is setting his sights on the digital age – working with people in regional areas to share their own stories, in their own voices via podcasts.
“I have come across a lot of great storytellers and I’m fascinated by storytelling as an artform, but it is still kind of hidden,” he said.
“There is no Certificate IV in yarn spinning, but I think there is a power in it.”
Mark’s dream is to make use of the rapidly growing medium of podcasts – with a regional twist – to take local tales, and the people who tell them, to a new audience.
He said there was potential to make use of the emerging technologies to allow people to tell their own stories, instead of relying on mass media to tell it for them.
“Podcasts are a gift – the digital world brings many horrible things to our lives but this is one of the good ones,” he said.
He is midway through developing an app to fulfill his goal of local towns telling their own stories.
The app will be populated with local stories, which are connected to towns on a map.
When someone drives through a location, the mobile phone’s global positioning system will recognise the place and share the appropriate stories.
“People’s experience of driving through the bush would be completely different,” he said.
“It is something in a place that gives people a reason to stop and a better understanding of the place.”
Mark is building an early demonstration of the app – he needs more funding to get the plan to fruition – and has some initial stories he is working on to help populate it. For one, he is working with those in the Sherlock region who can still remember the days of horses working full-time on the farm.
“We tend to romanticise those days but it was very hard work,” he said.
Another is the story of the Coonalpyn silos.
“It is a stunning artwork that has literally stopped people in their tracks and had the ability to hold people in a little town,” he said.
His podcast will look at the story of the artwork but also the background to the silos.
“In a good year, when that’s full, it has basically hundreds and thousands of loaves of bread and people driving past have no idea of the significance to their lives,” he said.
His initial project is being funded through the Coorong District Council, so he has placed his focus on that region and those stories.
But he believes there is the opportunity for the concept to be used in other rural areas and help cement a connection between travellers and regional towns.
“If you’re travelling through a place and meet someone and they tell you an interesting story, you never forget it,” he said.
STORIES HELP BUILD STRONG NETWORKS
CONVERSATIONS could be key to helping reduce the incidence of suicides in the Coorong area.
The Coorong District Council has teamed up with the local Suicide Prevention Network, using a $20,000 grant from SA Health, to form Coorong Conversations Matter and open up dialogues.
Coorong Conversations Matter SPN Chair Julie Barrie said the grant funding would make a huge impact to the efforts of the committee and its volunteers.
“Even in its infancy, our Conversations Matter program has already started to open up the local dialogue on mental health and suicide in our district," Mrs Barrie says.
“We know rural men are in the significant suicide risk category, and this demographic makes up one of our biggest population groups here in the Coorong.”
Among the projects under Coorong Conversations Matter, the council is working with Mark Thomson on Long Story Short.
Helping lead this project is the council’s Community and Corporate director Nat Traeger.
“Connecting people with one another through local stories helps to overcome isolation, and we’re using this idea to develop a creative program for local people to be a part of,” she said. “Long Story Short is our answer, and rural men are helping to lead it.”
Mr Thomson said suicide was a tough issue to “solve”.
“But getting men to talk is a very significant aspect of suicide prevention,” he said.
He said the art of story-telling could help boost self-esteem.
- Details: Mark Thomson 0419 865 821 or firstname.lastname@example.org