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Between reality television, radio
shock-jocks and the 24-hour news
coverage of such luminaries as Lara
Bingle, it can often be difficult
to find something meaningful in
today s media landscape.
Which is why StoryCatcher on ABC Radio is
one of the most exciting projects to have emerged
this year. The stories of West Australians are recorded
in a portable sound studio, then the sessions are
edited into short, digestible snippets of about
five minutes -- often encasing a single memory or
fraction of a life history.
The segments are then played on air during
regular ABC programs, as well as being available
to podcast online. The edited snippets, plus the full
recordings, are also available to participants to take
home and keep as a valuable record of a family story.
"We feature voices that you don t normally hear
on the radio," says the project s executive producer,
Susan Maushart (above).
"It s about capturing the stories of people from
all walks of life, which is kind of a euphemism for
saying normal people -- not celebrities, sporting
figures or politicians. So it s very real. And I think
people have a hunger for that in a world that is so
Photoshopped and pre-prepared."
The StoryCatcher concept is based on a similar
project, StoryCorps, which airs on US public
A new project by ABC Radio is collecting the stories of
West Australians from all walks of life. text jessica matthews « image craig kinder
radio. More than 50,000 everyday people have
recorded their stories for that series since it began
seven years ago.
"I m a huge fan of it, as is Deborah Leavitt, the
manager for local radio here in WA," says Susan.
"We were talking for years about doing something
similar at the ABC."
After the StoryCorps model was used in the
pitch for funding last year, the project was granted
a six-month trial that ends in June.
"We are, of course, assiduously working to
obtain further funding," says Susan. And if funding
ceases, the podcasts of the recordings made so far --
a fascinating array of anecdotes from people from
all walks of life -- will still be available online.
In the meantime, StoryCatcher has ventured
everywhere from Fremantle to Harvey and the
Fairbridge Festival in pursuit of untold stories.
"The idea is to visit the regions and outer parts
of the metro area where the ABC doesn t usually
get to penetrate," says Susan.
People are invited into the mobile sound studio
(converted from an old caravan) to record a half-
hour session, usually with a friend or relative on
hand to ask questions.
"There s a little booth so people can sit opposite
one another and we give them coffee, tea and bis-
cuits," says Susan. "So it is a really non-threatening
space with a cosy, almost home-like atmosphere."
Jazz saxophonist Paul Andrews entered the
StoryCatcher studio with his daughter Gabby, who
had just returned to Western Australia on holiday
from her studies in Sydney.
"I hadn t seen her for six months so we were
really excited being together," says Paul. "It was
just lovely that Gabby could be there to ask me a
couple of questions and we started talking about a
few things that I wasn t expecting to come up."
The conversation he shared with his daughter
captured the love of music that has been with Paul
throughout his life, from the first time he heard
jazz as a six-year-old through to his experiences as
a musician in the army.
"I sent that link to my family and friends,"
says Paul. "Some of them haven t seen me or
Gabby since she was a baby. So it was just great
for them to hear."
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of StoryCatcher
however, is its ability to connect the community.
"I think it gets to something very fundamental
about what it is to be human," suggests Susan.
"Stories are the way that we make meaning
of our existence. When we impose a kind of
narrative on the things that happen in life, it helps
us to understand ourselves. I know that sounds
very grandiose, but I do believe it s true." sm
Listen to StoryCatcher online at abc.net.au/
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