• Amy Lord started The Story of You & Me to help people connect with their loved ones

  • The project provides people with the tools to record their stories and those of their family members

  • Many people find hands-on craft activities to be calming and therapeutic

The Story of You & Me is a project that started when I realised how much connection with other human beings can be gained from storytelling.

About seven years ago, I was chatting with my parents about their mothers as part of a research for a project I was making about motherhood. So many stories came out of those discussions that I’d never heard before and from the sharing of those stories, there came priceless moments of connection that gave me an immense sense of wellbeing.

As a result, I was inspired to create a project that would give other people an excuse to do the same thing – to talk to their family members and have real conversations, rather than throwaway comments whilst still looking at a screen or a rushed phone conversation on the way to catch a train. The seed was planted. But it wasn’t until I lost my final remaining grandparent earlier this year that I realised I had missed my chance to record so many of the stories of his life that were now lost, and my sense of self, context and heritage was greatly affected. And that was the motivation that spurred me on to bring the project into being.

I developed The Story of You & Me in the form of a toolkit containing the things needed to help people make their own book and use this as a vessel for recording their own stories and understanding the power of their own creativity. To record recipes, place recommendations, holiday traditions, favourite family stories, ghost stories – anything they didn’t want to forget.

Craft in general is a great way to get people to slow down and not only do something creative, but do it away from a computer or phone, with tactile materials where they can hold the final result in their hands and have something to treasure that they can be truly proud of. I’ve done various crafts from a young age and continue to learn new ones now, I thoroughly believe it is this that has given me the ability to cope with the world and all it throws at me – it puts me into a state of flow and switches my brain onto a different track. I find it so rewarding and it’s definitely a sure-fire way to get a healthy dose of dopamine for me!

People have taken part from all areas of the UK, firstly in workshops in the North East when I was testing the concept, then latterly, by buying a toolkit that I have been posting out to people across the country. I’ve shared online video tutorials of me talking through the bookmaking techniques I developed to make this project completely accessible even for people who don’t have any previous experience of crafting. So technically anyone can take place, from anywhere.

I’ve used bookmaking throughout my practice ever since learning the basics in a module on my degree course. I find it’s a craft with so many different levels, it can suit everyone - even those who think they’re not creative. In this project, I’ve actually combined a few different techniques so the books people make are sturdy and satisfying but also easy and don’t take too long.

The feedback I’ve had back from participants is that they have found both the crafting element and the writing/recording element highly calming, therapeutic and cathartic.

“I had wanted to make a tribute to my mum, who died this year, and making a book about part of her life that was important to her was a perfect way of doing this. I’m not sure how I would have approached it without the project, and perhaps I still wouldn’t have got round to it. Working on the whole process, from writing to binding, felt very empowering and slightly cathartic. It certainly made me feel close to my mum and it would have made her very happy and proud.”

People have used the project to make time for their friends and family; some people have bought toolkits and got together to make their books, or they’ve made one for a loved one as a gift.

I’m actually making one at the moment to give to my unborn child one day. I’m five-months pregnant and haven’t had an easy journey so far, I’ve found that making this book has enabled me to hang on to the positive and exciting things rather than turning towards worry. It’s also something I would have loved my mum to have done for me!

I deliberately scheduled the project to take place over January which can often be a dark and trying time for a lot of people, especially combined with post-Christmas come downs and the weather in the UK. I thought the idea of spending time in a warm and cosy space and getting on with some book-making, perhaps using stories people might have collected over the holidays, would be something to look forward to and enrich a sense of wellbeing.

I’ve been encouraging people to connect online with what they’re doing and share the experience of making their book so people can see which other brilliant humans are out there, recording their stories and crafting.

Further reading

10 ways mindfulness boosts your health

How to maximise your learning potential

Understanding and managing family dynamics

7 things we should be teaching children

Family constellations: the invisible ties that bind us