Interview with Katrina Kirkwood
Katrina Kirkwood has worked extensively with Breaking Barriers, led the Rhondda Lives! project with Valleys Kids, BBC Wales and the National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales and assisted on the Communities 2.0 digital inclusion project at the University of Glamorgan as well as working with independent community groups, schools, libraries and individuals.
Why do you call yourself a "digital and storytelling artist"?
I'm an artist who helps people find a story, then uses a computer to put it together.
Maybe as a traditional digital story
Maybe as a film
Maybe as a book
Maybe it'll be a true story, maybe it'll be fictional
Maybe it'll go with a live performance
Maybe it'll be part of a campaign
Maybe it'll fit as an exhibition
Why are you so passionate about stories?
I've loved stories ever since I was a child. They are a digestible and memorable way of learning about the world and making sense of it. There's masses of academic research describing how human beings make sense of their experiences through telling stories about it.
I like the way stories communicate at a gut level — a well-crafted story can by-pass intellect and prejudice.
And a story can travel — it carries one person's ideas to another, and another and another. And as it travels, it affects the people who hear it, often building understanding for the person or culture it came from.
Not only that, stories generate more stories, which in turn generate even more stories. It's never ending.
What's your background?
I've always made things. Making things that mean things to people has been a constant through my life. I had initially trained as a medical research scientist by doing a Ph.D at Bristol University, so when my children were settled in school, I took advantage of the opportunity to re-train by doing a degree in Art and Aesthetics.
How did you get into helping people tell stories?
When I was doing my art degree I became fed up with making work that focussed on me, and I wondered if it would be possible to tell other people's stories.
I made a series of installations exploring how much you could put yourself in other people's shoes. This culminated in a solo show at The Gate, Cardiff in 2005, at which point I realised it was almost impossible to really fit into someone else's shoes, so I moved into trying to help people tell the stories they wanted to tell.
What's the best bit about your job?
I love meeting all the people. I've met people I'd never have dreamed I could meet. I never knew the world was so full of wonderful and fascinating people.
I love going to all the different places. I've been to places I didn't even know existed and my outlook on life has been altered and broadened.
I love the delight and pride on people's faces when they see their personal, private story in a proper, professional digital format.