A pilot research initiative has culminated in the inaugural Story Festival being held at Griffith Film School (GFS).

In collaboration with Brisbane City Council, the Creative Arts Research Institute, the Griffith University Postgraduate Student Association and Griffith Creative Arts schools, GFS has been working with four South-East Queensland high schools using storytelling to help solve societal problems and create real impact for youth across social and cultural boundaries.

Thirty students aged 13 to 15 from St James College, Yeronga State High School, Glenala State High School and Kenmore State High School have been developing their skills through a series of workshops in their chosen genre (film, short spoken story, song writing, animation or photography) led by experts in storytelling from each field.

Deputy Director of Research and Engagement at GFS and award-winning filmmaker Associate Professor Peter Hegedus said the project came about following a shared desire to make a difference in the lives of young people.

Associate Professor and filmaker Peter Hegedus

“We really liked the idea of bringing kids together from different parts of Brisbane who have different backgrounds, challenges and socioeconomic factors and having them share their stories, cultures and lives with one another and the broader community,” he said.

“There’s so much pressure on kids these days in terms of careers and diversity, but we’ve found storytelling does have the capacity and potential to help young people and people in general develop their own identity.

“While this has been an engagement project, it is also a research project and we’ve been investigating how storytelling can become an effective tool in helping young people find their voices and develop their own identities.”

The Film School held workshops leading up to the festival with students working with teachers, PhD students, and Masters students from across Griffith’s creative arts schools to develop their stories, with the festival marking the culmination of their work with participants performing songs, telling oral stories, and presenting their films and animation.

“It’s been amazing seeing the change in the kids throughout the process,” Associate Professor Hegedus said.

“A lot of them were quite timid and closed in before and now they’ve become quite articulate, which is very special.

“They’ve all been working hard these past few months to develop their own stories and we’re very proud of them all.”

The team also hope to continue the research project by reconnecting with participants in a few months’ time to see what impact the stories they’ve created and the experience they’ve had with the other students has had on their journey.

It’s also hoped the festival will continue to develop into an annual opportunity celebrating diverse identities and voices, while providing opportunities for connection, positive influence, and social change.