Our society is in many ways held together by stories. You could say that imagination, narration and fiction are the fabric of our commonality. Literature shows us what we share, and it reflects the different ideas and feelings that live in society. Stories activate the political and cultural imagination, enable the exchange of perspectives, contribute to mutual trust and to a more empathetic relationship with other worlds, thoughts and visions.
However, not everyone has the opportunity to tell and share their story, because they do not master the art of storytelling, do not speak the language or have no stage. There are stories that we do not hear.
The impact department of De Nieuwe Oost | Wintertuin makes room for recalling, recording and sharing the stories of older people and of people who have fled to the Netherlands, and it uses literature as a means to connect people.
House of Stories is a programme that offers creative writing classes to residents of care homes. The programme’s strapline is ‘Prose instead of Prozac’. House of Stories is a talent development initiative for (aspiring) writers in their 70s and over. They are given younger mentors who are experienced writers. Great attention is paid to stimulating memories, using photographs, objects and even smells. The stories are published in a printed volume, as well as online. Care is taken to present this well and the authors are professionally photographed in the same way as a commercially published writer would be. They are also given training in how to present their writings and stories on stage.
The House of Stories programme is also implemented in care homes on Curaçao (Kurá di Kuenta) and in Spain (Casa de Relatos), with local writers as the mentors.
Foto door Marcel de Buck
Foto: Vincent van den Hoogen
In the Writing Workshop for Newcomers, De Nieuwe Oost | Wintertuins applies the methodology that was developed in the writing and storytelling projects with seniors. The creative writing process in this workshop complements the language classes that participants take at NT2 schools (Dutch as a Second Language) and it focuses on artistic expression in Dutch. The Writing Workshop for Newcomers takes place in public libraries, where professional young writers assist newcomers in writing stories, poems and columns in Dutch. With this project, the participants will be placed in De Nieuwe Oost | Wintertuin’s network of artistic makers, they get access to various types of stages in the cultural sector (both with publications and performances) and they get a place in the public debate.
Together with the initiators of the Facebook page “Humans of Heumensoord“, De Nieuwe Oost | Wintertuin created a special and carefully made book in response to the refugee flow that reached the Netherlands in 2015. In the book Humans of Heumensoord, twelve refugees are portrayed during and after their stay in refugee camp Heumensoord – in texts, photos and illustrations. The aim is to show the faces and stories behind the figures and anonymous images. During the making of the book, the – mostly novice – journalists, writers, photographers, designer and illustrator were guided by the editorial staff of De Nieuwe Oost | Wintertuin.
Lastly, with the project Robotstories, De Nieuwe Oost | Wintertuin develops packages with interactive stories for social robots that are used during the often long and intensive treatment period of children with cancer. Together with writers, programmers, art academies, universities, hospitals and primary schools De Nieuwe Oost | Wintertuin develops literary content for a social robot that aims to reduce stress by interacting with and entertaining chronically ill children.