Podcast: Why storytelling is important in a pandemic

Storytelling Research: Dr Emily Underwood-Lee

Dr Emily Underwood Lee - Forty Voices

The stories in 40 Voices, 40 years transformed policy and service provision for victims of domestic violence in Wales

People turn to stories to make sense of what's happening

Hello and welcome to Sixty Seconds Spotlight. I’m Emily Underwood-Lee, Research Fellow at the University of South Wales.  My research explores how we tell and listen to personal stories.  

Stories are a key to understanding.  They help us see how we got to the place we are now and why that matters on a human level.  They help us to imagine the kind of future we might want to have.  By listening to the stories of others we can understand what it means to be in their position and we can build empathy and understanding. 

When policy makers, service providers and others listen to the stories of the people they serve they are able to improve their provision and better meet the needs of their communities.

The COVID -19 pandemic has changed the way many of us relate to the world around us.  We are separated from some through social distancing while also making new connections as communities come together in mutual aid or as key workers show extraordinary levels of care.

Many health boards and organisations are turning to stories. They are collecting the stories of people living at the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic and the stories of our communities as history is made.

One area that I focus on is storytelling within healthcare, for example in my collaborative work on the Storytelling for Health Conference with Swansea Bay Health Board and the associated publications, and the recent work I have been doing at Great Ormund Street Hospital exploring how the arts can help parents of children in hospital care.

The sociologist Arthur W Frank famously described illness as a ‘call for stories’.  Perhaps a global pandemic calls for stories on an unprecedented scale.

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About Dr Emily Underwood-Lee

Dr Emily Underwood Lee, research fellow

Professor Emily Underwood-Lee is Research Fellow at the George Ewart Centre for Storytelling at the University of South Wales. 

Her research focuses on little heard personal stories from those whose voices may have been marginalised and on the differences that hearing these stories can make in policy, practice and daily life for both teller and listener. 

She has a particular interest in performance and the maternal, autobiography in performance art, and stories of gender, health/illness and heritage. 

Professor Emily Underwood-Lee has led on a number of funded research projects including Forty Voices, Forty Years in collaboration with Welsh Women’s Aid,  Storytelling for Health in collaboration with Swansea Bay University Health Board,  Kicking Up Our Heels at Great Ormund Street Hospital and Performance and the Maternal with Lena Simic of Edge Hill University.

You can see Emily Underwood-Lee's research outputs here.

 To discuss collaborative or industrial research, please contact USW Exchange.

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