In a world where originality is becoming harder and harder to achieve, an ex-UCLan student is standing proud, holding a sign. Michelle Thomas, a Theatre Practise graduate now living in London has spent an entire two years buying stories for £1. The project, called One Pound Stories, started as a desperate attempt to do something during a particularly prolonged period of unemployment.
Michelle stands in random places around London, like Greenwich Park, and offers to pay people a quid for their story. So far, she has collected stories of escaping cults, being chased by panthers in the Himalayas, favourite One Direction members and even finding God through LSD. The stories come from average people that one might encounter on a day to day basis and are recorded verbatim with uhms, aahs, stutters – the lot. The aim is to give the reader an authentic experience of listening to someone’s story, in their own voice.
When asked about the success of the project, Miss Thomas said she was convinced from day one, when after a cold day of standing in a park holding her sign; she had 15 stories and something to do.
[The response convinced me that there is a need for this work – all of us have a story to tell, if only someone would ask.]
Two years on and the project is still going strong with one hundred of the stories set to be published by Unbound. Even the publication of the project continues with the roots from which it started; as a crowdfunding venture where readers subscribe to the books they want to see published on www.unbound.co.uk. By putting the power in the hands of the people, Michelle is set to publish a book about people that people want to read – a completely new product in the market. Projects like One Pound Stories have become increasingly popular in recent times. More and more artists are becoming inspired by the anonymity of living in a big city. This is reflected in Michelle’s demonstration of how the people that you might encounter in daily life have their own unique story to tell. Social media has also helped hain recognition and a following for their work and you can follow all updates on One Pound Stories on Twiiter (@onepoundstories).
‘Humans of New York’ is another such project and while she wasn’t aware it existed when One Pound Stories first started, Michelle has been influenced by other artists such as Sophie Calle and DV8. When asked about how UClan was a contributing factor to her work now, Michelle was eager to explain how she took park in the Drama and Film societies and even took a show to the Edinburgh Film Festival during her time in Preston.
When asked about how UCLan contributed to her life as an artist, Michelle said “the big thing I realised at UCLan was the importance of making my own experience – there wasn’t a huge live arts scene when I was there, so I spent every summer in Edinburgh at the Fringe festival, seeing lots of different shows that I could refer back to the following year. I also joined Drama and Film societies to get more experience and took a show to Edinburgh, and I spent lots of time watching interesting films, reading, filling my brain.” Living in a smaller city meant that opportunities such as producing and watching live shows were not as accessible as they are in bigger cities such as Manchester, but this in turn meant that creative ideas were given more importance for their potential to turn into something tangible. One Pound Stories is a great example of alternative creative projects that are being undertaken post university in an economy where jobs in the creative industry are becoming a lot harder to come by. In a society where you need experience to get experience, Michelle maintains that it’s important to keep your goal in sight and to be proactive as ‘creative practitioners’. Not only is the work original and personally rewarding, it’s a great way to enhance your CV and improve your practise. Her words of advice – “Don’t tell people what you’re capable of – show them.”