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#393 Tell Your Story at Northgate High School with Suffolk Archives, Art Eat and more

Sally Samson

What did we do?

Northgate’s Tell Your Story project was built upon the concept of young people sharing personal stories as a means to build connections, overcome divisions, create a sense of belonging and increase confidence. The focus was to create an interactive memory box that bought together audio recordings with photographs that reflected the diversity of the students and the activities they undertook. The project involved working with students to script and record their stories, as well as recording additional activities such as a visit to the Suffolk Archives, an interview with the Mayor of Ipswich, a visit by Frank Bright MBE (Holocaust survivor) and interviewing residents at Westerfield Residential Home. Part of the project also involved creating an outdoor tree stump story circle and classroom in partnership with Ipswich Borough Council, Suffolk Wildlife and Parks team as well as an art installation (a mural) in partnership with Art Eat. The project was delivered within Northgate High School, except for the external trips. 

Staff from Northgate High School facilitated delivery of the project, supported by project partners including Chronicle Digital Storytelling, the Suffolk Archives, Ipswich Borough Council, Westerfield Care Home, Art Eat and Suffolk County Council. 

The project built upon existing activities (Forefront) undertaken by the school to support language and literacy acquisition, personal, social and emotional development. In addition, the school ethos of respect, determination and teamwork was enhanced by extending these through the new partnership with Chronicle and Art Eat as well as existing partnerships such as Suffolk Archive  

Students involved in the Tell Your Story Memory Box and installing the story telling circle comprised of 13 year 7 and 8 students including those with diverse and rich cultural and language (EAL) backgrounds as well as learning and behaviour needs (e.g. ADHD). English Additional Language (EAL) first languages spoken in the group included Arabic, Roma, Romanian, Thai, Lithuanian, Portuguese and Italian. In addition, a student with experience of being a refugee.  

Community Day Great Get Together on Friday 24th June when we launched the Tell Your Story Memory Box at the Hold workshop, street fair and celebration assembly made up of 270 year 7s, 5 year 8s, 30 year 9s.  

We ran Art Eat workshops to launch the designs for the outside learning area which will include a mural. Taking part were 3 artists, 5 year 9 and 45 year 7s.  

At the celebration assembly were 24 guests including family of the Forefront Tell Your Story project students and year 9 students presenting at the assembly. Please see the attached programme.  

School Staff: 4 

Others: 12 including staff from Suffolk Archives, Chronicle, Suffolk County Council, the Mayor of Ipswich and Frank Bright MBE and 4 Suffolk Wildlife team members who worked with the students on the story telling circle.  

The memory box was displayed and demonstrated at our new year 7 induction parents’ evening.  

Summary of impact

The project helped to build the confidence of students and give them a stronger sense of pride, self-respect and belonging. The process of researching, scripting and recording their personal stories helped them to think about their own life experiences, ambitions, and connection to the local area. Additional activities helped the students to consider the history of the local area, life stories of other people, and appreciate the linkages to their own interests and situations. Skills enhanced by the project included creative drawing, writing, research, media (audio recording and interviewing) and vocal presentation skills. The Tell Your Story memory box, storytelling circle and mural have been created which will form a lasting legacy for the future and enable others to enjoy and learn from the project.  

Some of the students had the responsibility of running the workshop and stall at the Community day explaining and demonstrating the memory box and presenting at the afternoon assembly, students who surprised us, and themselves, in so doing. Parents approached staff to express their pride in their children and all that they have achieved. 

We tracked the student’s development in a selection of categories to measure the impact of the project. Please see the attached summary. Overall there were significant improvements in all areas. 

Some key positives from the project included: 

  • Seeing the students rise to the challenge of scripting and recording their stories and witnessing the confidence levels of students increase throughout the course of the project. 
  • Seeing the students respond to the opportunity of sharing their stories as well as actively engaging with others (including the Mayor, Residential Home residents and Frank Bright MBE). 
  • Seeing the positive concentration and engagement of students during many of the activities. 
  • EAL students developed English skills especially speaking and pride in their first language and cultural heritage.  

Steps taken

Our Tell Your Story project achieved several of the Hullabaloo22 outcomes including: 

Outcome 1: Education providers enrich the cultural and creative curriculum in their settings 

  • Students learnt about their peers and associated cultural traditions through the sharing of personal stories. 
  • The students researched local history and heritage during a visit to the Hold (Suffolk Archives) and interview with the Mayor of Ipswich. 
  • Students learnt about wider cultural history via interviews with Frank Bright MBE and local residential home residents. 
  • The students were required to script their stories promoting writing skills. 
  • The students illustrated their stories by creating illustrations. 
  • The memory box was decorated in themes that involved students’ writing and languages. 
  • The students had to record their stories using audio requiring them to present their scripts. 
  • The students enjoyed the opportunity to use their first language. 
  • The memory box and mural work is expanding their scope in the project with a particular focus on human rights and the school’s commitment to inclusion  
  • The students had to use their creative skills to design the story telling circle to fit the space  

Outcome 2: Providers inspire & support young people to develop careers in the creative sector 

  • The focus of the project was to build an interactive memory box, an innovative tech product developed in Suffolk by Chronicle. The students enjoyed seeing the box and understanding the broader work of the company in helping to record life stories. 
  • The Suffolk Wildlife team inspired the students to connect with the natural world; learning about wildlife habitats and native reptiles as well as importance of taking care of our environment as they prepared and installed the outdoor story telling circle and made bird boxes. It is planned the circle will be used as an outdoor classroom as well as for regular guest speakers into school to tell their stories. CCTV cameras will be installed in the bird boxes.    
  • Mural workshop- students learnt the stories of Jewish artists who were murdered in the Holocaust and worked with living local Jewish artists to begin their designs for the outdoor learning area and were inspired to develop their creative skills  

Outcome 3: Arts and cultural providers attract more children and young people from under-represented communities to take part in the cultural offer in Ipswich 

  • The students involved in the project were from diverse backgrounds, new to the UK and marginalised communities. The visit to The Hold, Christchurch Mansion and the Mayor’s Parlour provided the students with a local cultural experience and knowledge of local heritage. 
  • They learned about Ipswich parks  
  • The students learned about Murals at the Waterfront  

Outcome 4: Providers support young people to develop creative skills for life, especially supporting mental health and resilience 

  • The project helped to build creative skills for life. Of particular note, the students had to overcome their anxiety to interview, present and record their stories with confidence. In addition, students had to prepare questions for the Mayor and the Westerfield Residential Home and to use these as a basis for interview, thereby building their communication skills. The students learnt about resilience through having to re record and add additional information to their original audio recordings.  
  • Some students developed confidence and resilience in handling creatures such as slow worms, snakes and spiders   
  • Some students developed skills for life in learning to use tools necessary to build bird boxes and the tree stump circle. 

Outcome 5: Providers support young people’s attainment in creative subjects 

  • Throughout the project students designed art works for the memory box, posters for the Community Day and the end of year/project celebration. Some students have difficulties with hand eye coordination and found working in different art media liberating, photography, handling tools and audio recording   

Outcome 6: Education settings develop as hubs for high quality arts and cultural experiences  

–     The story telling circle and the outdoor learning area will provide an opportunity for extracurricular arts and cultural experiences. Outside speakers will attend  

  • The memory box and outdoor mural will become a focus for recording stories of our school and local community as opportunities present themselves. 
  • The memory box and mural projects model will be used by our wide range of other working groups including Human Rights, Dora Love Prize and Diversity and Inclusion.   

Outcome 7: Providers support whole family engagement in culture 

  • The community day provided an opportunity for families to enjoy the outcomes from the project and listen to the stories created by the students. An end of year/project celebration is organised for the project groups families and school staff on Wednesday 20th July 2022  
  • We plan to continue recording the stories of our students and their families as part of our provision for engaging our non-English parents who meet at the school once a week.  

 Outcome 8: New partnerships develop between community organisations/groups and arts providers 

  • The project helped to build a new relationship between the school and Chronicle, Art Eat, Suffolk Wildlife Rangers as well as enhancing relationships with organisations such as the Suffolk Archives and Suffolk County Council 

What would we do differently


  • Students involved in the projects had a range of learning needs including processing, behaviour and EAL. With this in mind, project tasks needed to be differentiated e.g. scaffolding for writing tasks. 
  • Students level of maturity was sometimes a challenge, but they developed resilience and soft skills.   
  • We were fortunate to have a multilingual member of staff to help with interpreting and translation for some of our EAL students.  
  • Time and funding constraint; the mural is at an early design stage. 


  • Memory box needs to capture more students’ stories and be inclusive as well as family voices to build a diverse and rich learning archive.  
  • Mural to be installed.    

Are there parts of the project you will continue to develop and deliver?

As mentioned, as a school, ideally, we hope to develop the projects involving other groups in the school and in the community e.g. our EAL parents, Diversity and Community and year 9 Dora Love Prize groups, if resources and funding allows. 

The story telling circle and mural in Frank’s garden will be developed further to become a hub for reflection, learning and contemplation for students, family, staff and the wider community. 

We plan to continue to showcase our memory box in school and the local community and use it as an example of young people sharing their stories to help achieve the school’s aims to make everyone in the school community feel respected, that they belong and see themselves represented. It is planned that audio recordings of students and families for the memory box will continue.  

Were young people involved in co-producing this activity?

Yes. Young people formed the core focus of our project, being students from Key Stage 3. The students were strongly involved in setting the direction for the project via their research and creation of the stories for the memory box, design for the circle and mural. The creative element was very much a result of their interpretation and reflection of the aims of the project.

Resources to do something similar yourself

How the Tell Your Story project fitted into our wider "Community Day" programme

Impact - end of project

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Sally Samson, Northgate High School
chronicle digital storytelling