Interview :: This Place Is Yours
May 21st 2013
With the aim of embracing creativity and storytelling on a foundation of crowd funding, Seraphina Reynolds’ This Place Is Yours project is ambitious.
Her new project’s website and book is starting a dialogue through the sharing of personal stories. Being a celebrity or a media personality is not a prerequisite for sharing a story at This Place Is Yours. In fact the only requirement is creativity; a trait which Seraphina believes is lodged in everyone’s brain whether they know it or not. Flog writer Rachel Sibley had a chat with Seraphina before the project’s official launch to discover why she started this fire.
Rachel Sibley (Flog) :: When did the idea for this project first start?
Seraphina :: So I started it while I was actually working at Oyster but it was a very different project back then. I guess I got the name and kind of an overarching idea that I wanted that I wanted to celebrate creativity but it was going to be done in a very different way and then in the year following that I went through a really bad spell of depression and it became a different project and it all just fit into place in an even bigger way than it had in the name and everything felt so much more related to the new vision. I guess it evolved over time but initially it was two or three years ago that I first got the idea.
R :: You used Pozible to fund the release of the book, how did you find the use of that platform?
S:: It was great it gives you a really amazing opportunity to do creative projects that would otherwise be impossible. I can ‘t laud it enough, I think people have to really have to know that you’re going into a really big task though and I don’t think I really knew how much work it would be, it was a lot of work. And I did it for a very long time so I think unless you’re mentally stable; don’t do one of these campaigns!! But otherwise it was amazing, it’s really amazing to see how many people support you when you do something that’s bigger than you or get to create in a way that people really connect to, it can be empowering and nice to know that people actually believe in what you’re about to do, because otherwise it’s pretty lonely.
“I want people to feel like they have somewhere to go to share their experiences rather than just over a bottle of wine with a friend”
R :: So the project is the book and an online platform in the form of a website, why both?
S:: The book is from our fundraising endeavour so that’s what we obviously raised money to create and we’re hoping it continues to bring money in to our organization so we can continue to tell stories and help people share their stories. The online site is for any one who wants to submit their narratives in written or video or art or photography, and it can range from literally anything. So if you want to talk about your neighbourhood, we have a story on there write now about the Marrickville Markets; or if you want to talk about a break up or you wanna talk about something like grief, or you wanna talk about love, it’s really open and it’s just so that we can start talking and start communicating on a level that matters.
R :: Is that what you want to happen through the online, for people to participate and start communicating?
S :: I want people to feel like they have somewhere to go to share their experiences rather than just over a bottle of wine with a friend. It’s really friendly kind of environment where I really hope that people can feel comfortable to share their stories because a lot of people think that the only people who can share stories are the famous ones so you’ll see these amazing narratives that are not just for writers, not just for artists. I really do believe that everyone’s creative so this project is very much for everyone to kind of feel like they have a place to go to tell their story and sometimes you don’t have friends you can share specific stories with so I guess I don’t want anyone to feel like they are alone in anything that they go through and I really want to bring every single conversation that we have into the same dialogue, whether that’s about love or pain, I think we need to start viewing our experiences as a whole, rather than good or bad and you know one is better than the other, it’s really just about being human. Some days are good and some days are bad and so if you don’t have anyone to talk to at the end of either of those days, you can share your story in This Place Is Yours.
“[The] purpose is mental health, social inclusion and social change through creativity and storytelling”
R :: Have you had much feedback from people who have contributed and things like that as yet? Have you had any people say they really love this platform?
S :: Yeah definitely, I mean we just launched the website so we have had a few stories up there. This one girl submitted a story, the Marrickville Market story actually. It’s actually about her breaking up as well, and how she’s had to find a new community through where she’s living now and she told me that one of her friends called her right after than and said ‘I just want you to know, I’m going through the same thing.’ And it was just so nice that it’s actually so nice that it’s already starting to achieve what I had hoped for. So yea there’s that, and we’ve had people sort of get back to us saying that it’s making them think about things differently and it was especially in the case of the book, I asked mainly my friends and people that I knew to share stories that I had heard from them, and I wanted them to express that in written or artistic form, whatever they chose and that feedback was pretty amazing. I had a few people say that it’s inspiring them to start that process of creation, inspired them to create more and so that’s kind of amazing, and even people that have read it are just say it’s very powerful and it’s making me think about things that I have gone through in my life and that’s exactly what we’re trying to achieve. I mean I know that the theory works because I’ve been through thing myself, so it’s very personal. I’m kind of backing that up right now with a PHD through UWS and the Young and Well CRC so it’s all tying all these elements together so I just want everyone to get out of it what I have I guess, through storytelling and that telling of experience.
R :: According to the website you have a whole team that helped with the book – how did these people get involved?
S:: I’ve been the person working at it full time and all those people have been amazing with their support. I think just talking about it, I had done projects before that were very solitary and I mean it’s lonely working by yourself! So you want other people to support the idea and I think I felt like this idea was bigger than me so it made me a little more willing to go out because I feel like it had meaning. It’s amazing that all you have to do to get people to connect to your vision is ask them to connect, to make a purpose. That purpose is mental health, social inclusion and social change through creativity and storytelling. I think that all the people that have become involved are really connected with that message and feel what the power of it all is. So in a way it was because I was really open about it, but a lot of people wanted to be a part of it on their own accord which was amazing and I couldn’t have done this without them, they’ve been super supportive and it’s been incredible to connect through other people.
R :: The launch event will have six speakers (including All The Best’s Belinda Lopez) talking about how the art of story has influenced them. Were you involved with getting them on board for this? Why did you think they would be good for the launch – or did they approach you?
S:: I mean I kind of, it took a little while to figure out what the vision was going to be, but then once that was sorted I just contacted people that I knew and whose work I had become familiar with. So I really just wanted to showcase a range of storytelling, a variety of viewpoints so that people could know that this is a project about storytelling and that you can take part of it in whatever mode you choose. So I guess I just wanted to celebrate storytelling, so we’re bringing together people that are very much active in the storytelling world in Sydney. I wanted to get people that engaged with storytelling on a full time basis so that they could show how much it has affected their lives. It was more about finding the people that would connect with the project and who knew about the power of story.
R :: Is there anything else you think Flog readers should know about the project This Place Is Yours?
S:: I’d just love them to submit their stories! That’s the biggest thing, I would just love them to get involved and start writing and start drawing and start expressing themselves because I think they’re going to find answers that they may not have ever had the opportunity to find out without creativity. Life can be a little bit meaningless and I think that creativity can be so powerful. I think there’s a lot of thinking ‘I can’t do this unless I write for a radio station or unless I write for a magazine or unless I’m a professional artist’, but yea you can! You don’t have to do it for a cause, do it for yourself, I guess that’s the biggest thing I want people to take away I guess.