Celebrating the Stories of Church Street

It has been two years since Karen Matthews and Judy Sillito launched Weasel Tale Digital Storytelling at Studio 96. The McCauley-based business has now completed projects with the Edmonton Public Library, the Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts, NorQuest College, The Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers, the GRIT Program, and NAIT, as well as several public workshops.

This spring, Karen and Judy are excited to work on a new local project called Church Street Connections. Funded by a McCauley Neighbourhood Revitalization grant, this project will capture the personal stories of members of various Church Street congregations and turn them into three to five minute videos.

The Church Street Connections Project hopes to build connections between congregations and with members of the broader McCauley community. Storytellers may choose to share their stories in community events or on church websites. They may also include them in the free Showcase event that will bring congregations and community members together at the conclusion of the project.

The project is also meant to increase understanding of the historic importance of this area of the city. McCauley’s churches reflect its diversity, from its original Indigenous inhabitants to the waves of immigration that continue today. Storytellers may have been born or currently live in McCauley, or may have settled here when they first immigrated to Canada. Many people return weekly to McCauley to attend church despite having moved from the neighbourhood years ago.

The group process used in digital storytelling connects age-old storytelling practices with modern-day digital media production. It does not require any special technical skills. Each workshop begins with a story circle sharing, where storytellers are given gentle, supportive feedback by the group and facilitators. Participants are then supported to craft their videos using personal photos or video, recorded narration, and non-copyright music.

These workshops can be adapted to a number of formats depending on the needs and wishes of the participants. Some may choose to work together across different congregations to create their digital stories, others may work within their own church groups, or even one-on-one with a facilitator.

It is hoped that the project could be the first in a yearly signature event that celebrates personal storytelling in McCauley. Over time, this collection of stories will capture both the history and the evolving multi-layered personality of the neighbourhood. The stories may also serve to help the broader Edmonton community appreciate the significance of Church Street as a reflection of the evolving diversity within the city.

To register or find out more about this project, contact Karen Matthews at (587) 988-7493 or karen@weaseltale.com.

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