about me

I am curious about how the process and product of life story practice can enhance the quality of day to day living.

I have experience working alongside people with memory loss and learning disabilities. Sometimes I work with people on their own and sometimes with the support of a friend or relative. I work with people in their home environment, wherever that might be.

I have an interest in recording the stories of people who have come up against adversity and found ways to work with it or around it.

I use a variety of techniques to support my practice including life history research, oral history methods, digital story-telling and photography.

MEMORY LOSS 

I have training and experience of working alongside people with memory loss and dementia who are living at their family homes or in residential care. Capturing your memories can be beneficial on many levels  and I will work with you sensitively to explore how recording your story will best support you. I have been working with residents at a care home for people with dementia and as well as supporting them to tell their stories, I have been exploring ways in which their stories can work to enhance their day to day lived experience.

LEARNING DISABLED PEOPLE

People with learning disabilities are particularly vulnerable to having their life stories hijacked. By acknowledging the inequality of the interviewer-interviewee relationship and deliberately stepping into a position ‘alongside’ the narrator it is possible to reduce both the power and bias of the interviewer. Sensitively tuning in to individual communication styles, developing a culture of openness and trust and adjusting to the narrator’s pace of cognitive reasoning can create the foundations necessary to allow individual stories to be told and celebrated. The accessibility, cost and ease of use of digital media facilitates this process. Drawing on my experience, together with related research and inspired by the development of digital storytelling techniques, I have developed useful methods, in both individual and group work, to address the many challenges of recording the authentic voice of learning disabled adults. In 2017 I completed a PhD that examined the ethical and methodological challenges of including people with PMLD as participants in life story work.

LIFE’S CHALLENGES

I am particularly interested in recording the stories of people whose lives have changed due to an unexpected turn of events. Inside My Dance is the story of dancer and choreographer Angela Lane whose middle child has a rare genetic disorder. Our collaborative project used oral history methods to record and thematically analyze Angela’s story. We found creative ways to present both her spoken story and the memories bound up in the muscles of her body, which were expressed through dance.

Find out more about Inside My Dance here:

https://noellemccormack.wordpress.com/2012/03/03/inside-my-dance-oral-history-project/

Waiting for Someone to Listen is a collection of themed interviews in which four women speak about their experience raising a disabled child.

Find out more about this project here:

https://noellemccormack.wordpress.com/2013/03/18/waiting-for-someone-to-listen-mothers-experiences-raising-disabled-children/

PHOTOGRAPHY

Photographs are a valuable trigger for memories of people and places. I can scan, copy and digitally edit old photos for reproduction. I am particularly interested in portrait photography and enjoy experimenting with digital apps to create unusual and bespoke results. Photographs occupy a central role in my oral history & life story work. ‘Inside My Dance’, an oral history project about the life of dancer and choreographer Angela Lane, and how her life changed in response to her daughter’s disability, was exhibited as a multi media exhibition in which my photographs were used to express the story through muscle memory and movement.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/23177984@N08/sets/72157617284796151/

You can look at other sets of my photos on Flickr here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/23177984@N08/sets

Find out more about using old photos here:

https://noellemccormack.wordpress.com/2011/06/19/family-photos/

DIGITAL STORYTELLING

Digital storytelling was first developed in Berkeley, California in the 1990s. It is a useful tool for telling short stories of up to 5 minutes and uses photography and sound to create powerful films.

The Center for Digital Storytelling emerged out of the artistic and cultural ferment in the United States during the 1970s and 80s. During this time, arts practitioners and educators across disciplines challenged the notion that art should be reserved for the gifted or the professional. Recognizing that lay practitioners could make enormous creative contributions, these pioneering artists wanted to make art accessible to all – especially those traditionally left behind. The work of these artists and a broad range of collaborators gave voice to powerful stories of harm, healing, and hope in the midst of social and political conflict. Joe Lambert Center for Digital Storytelling storycenter.org

In 2013 I traveled to Paris to take part in a workshop run by Joe Lambert, founder of The Centre for Digital Storytelling. We learnt about how to make digital stories using our iPhones. You can read more about my experience here:

https://noellemccormack.wordpress.com/2013/08/26/turning-the-tables/

ORAL HISTORY

I am an experienced interviewer and use digital recording equipment and editing programmes to deliver high quality sound. I was trained in the use and critical analysis of oral history methods while studying at Sussex University. As part of the course I spent a work placement at Brighton Museum and Art Gallery working along side the oral history curator and researching the history of the Theatre Royal. My interviews formed part of the sound archive and were presented through listening posts in the final exhibition.

Oral history is the recording of people’s memories, experiences and opinions. It is:

‘A living history of everyone’s unique life experiences. An opportunity for those people who have been ‘hidden from history’ to have their voice heard. A rare chance to talk about and record history face-to-face.  A source of new insights and perspectives that may challenge our view of the past.’ The Oral History Society http://www.ohs.org.uk

After completing my studies I was funded by Living Imprint to use oral history research to record the story of dancer and choreographer Angela Lane. As project leader, drawing on a range of oral history skills and methodology, I worked independently to research, interview, transcribe and thematically analyse the story and prepare the voice extracts for a public exhibition. The multi-media exhibition made use of archive photographs, text, sound and film and was presented in a creative and thought provoking way. I worked successfully within a limited budget and time frame. The CD and DVD of the project are held at the British Library Sound Archive.

You can listen to my public recordings here:

https://soundcloud.com/noellemccormack

TALKS AND WORKSHOPS

I value spending time with others who are passionate about life story research, oral history and digital storytelling and am a regular attendee of workshops, exhibitions and conferences. I run workshops about practical and ethical approaches to doing life story work. You can find out more here:

https://noellemccormack.wordpress.com/2013/07/29/life-story-workshop/

And I have given talks at a variety of conferences including the International Oral History Association, Hampshire Oral History Society, Brighton School of Nursing and Midwifery: http://www.brighton.ac.uk/snm/serviceusersandcarers/mental-health-conference.php

I have exhibited my portrait photos at the annual Brighton Festival’s popular Artists Open Houses trails and the collaborative project Inside My Dance at Brighton’s Jubilee Library: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/inside-my-dance-exhibition-tickets-563515490

Specialties: oral history, life story work, photography

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