North Ayrshire digital project brings community stories to life

The StoryBird Project logo
Category: Press Releases

A six-month pilot programme to improve digital skills by exploring and recording the personal life stories of people in North Ayrshire has been hailed a resounding success at an event to showcase the results.

The Digital Storytelling project was funded by the Scottish Government and managed by Scottish Book Trust in partnership with North Ayrshire Council.

At the Celebration Event on Thursday 12 October, the short films created as part of this StoryBird project, were screened for the first time, to an audience of local people, arts and public sector officials. It was the culmination of a pioneering programme which tapped into the personal experiences of people not currently benefiting from the many positives digital technology can offer.

At the event, Marc Lambert, CEO of Scottish Book Trust, the national charity changing lives through reading and writing, praised the enthusiasm and engagement of the local people who took part.

Two Digital Storytellers in Residence were appointed in March to run the project, which was based at Saltcoats Library and aimed to help people become digitally connected by sharing their stories.

Filmmakers Jim Gibb and Sabine Hellmann spent six months working with participants throughout North Ayrshire, supporting people who were not already digitally engaged to develop their skills and confidence, and also to build their understanding of how being confident online can improve their lives.

Jim Gibb is a multimedia and audio graduate and his most recent projects have included creating e-books with primary school pupils from North Ayrshire, exploring storytelling and drumming in Africa, creating a spoken word soundscape of the Battle of Somme, and teaching animation to school pupils in the Western Isles.

Sabine Hellmann is a filmmaker, video trainer and graphic designer. Most recently she was involved in a three-year development project in Malawi facilitating video workshops with rural farmers. Since then, Sabine has trained young carers from Glasgow with Venture Trust and a community group at Bridgend Farm in Edinburgh.

The Digital Storytelling project worked with specially identified communities and groups in North Ayrshire, supporting individuals to film their own stories about personal experiences that are important to them. Jim and Sabine worked with North Ayrshire Council Library Services, schools and Scottish Book Trust to collect the stories as part of the libraries’ local history archives, and enable the stories to be easily shared online.

The project also up-skilled library staff, local volunteers and community organisations to ensure the work could continue at the end of the residencies.

The project:

  • Introduced people to the web and helped them build their digital skills whilst they learnt why it is important for them to be online;
  • Improved basic digital skills amongst participants in a fun and creative way;
  • Ensured groups across the community can access equipment from the library for storytelling purposes;
  • Valued the voices and experiences of a range of people from local communities traditionally least likely to participate or be represented in the cultural life and artefacts of the area;
  • Contributed to a living, growing local history resource within the library;
  • Encouraged skill-sharing between generations, different parts of the community and between libraries and their audiences.

Among the 10 groups that took part were Kilbirnie Girls Group, Arran View Care Home, SAMH and Addiction Services. At the event, a representative for each of the 10 groups introduced their work and showed their film for the first time. The issues explored in the films included mental health, addiction and bereavement.

Marc Lambert, CEO at Scottish Book Trust, said: “Scottish Book Trust was delighted to work in partnership with North Ayrshire Council to deliver this Scottish Government funded Digital Storytelling project. Research suggests there is a link between those least likely to participate with digital culture and those most likely to be disenfranchised from society.

“People least likely to be online are those facing other, often multiple, forms of social isolation. In particular, levels of digital uptake are significantly lower amongst older people, people with disabilities and people living in deprivation.

“The project enabled participants to have their voices heard. Individuals are more likely to develop their confidence and interest in telling personal stories when they feel that it makes them part of a wider community. We have been very impressed by the results of their work and their enthusiasm to take part in what, for many, was a very personal journey.”

Louise McPhater, Cabinet Member for Communities at North Ayrshire Council, said: “This has been a remarkable project which has affected so many people on a really personal level. It has allowed people to become more digitally involved and that has a transformative effect on their lives, whether that’s through gaining knowledge, improving their skills or even just making new friends. It really shows what can be achieved through partnership working.”

Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, said: “The Scottish Government is committed to enabling everyone in Scotland to develop their digital skills, and storytelling represents an excellent way to introduce people to the digital world.

“While this project is aimed at helping people learn and grow as digital citizens, it will also enable them to contribute to our rich history of storytelling. During 2017’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, this project represents a perfect example of preserving what matters to us in the present, while enabling future generations to access our rich heritage and learn from experience.”

Scottish Book Trust previously ran a programme of creative residencies in libraries called Reading Champions. This latest iteration of these residencies began in March 2017 and will run until February 2018 with Digital Storytelling pilot projects in North Ayrshire, now completed, and Fife.



Notes to Editors

For further information, please contact Lindsay Clydesdale, Media and PR Manager at Scottish Book Trust, on or 0131 524 0175.


Scottish Book Trust

Scottish Book Trust is a national charity changing lives through reading and writing. We inspire and support the people of Scotland to read and write for pleasure though programmes and outreach work that include: 

  • Gifting books to every child in Scotland to ensure families of all backgrounds can share the joy of books at home.
  • Working with teachers to inspire children to develop a love of reading, creating innovative classroom activities, book awards and author events.
  • Supporting Scotland’s diverse writing community with our training, awards and writing opportunities.
  • Funding a range of author events for the public to enjoy and promoting Scottish writing to people worldwide.      @scottishbktrust