Monday, 17 December 2018

Saturday 15th December 2018
On a bitterly cold, damp, bone-biting day, we met at St Mary’s Church, to greet a visitor from Minneapolis.
Katie Thornton is a Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellow – which means she is exploring what burial spaces mean to people around the world, especially as increasing pressure on burial spaces forces us to re-configure our approach to commemorating and remembering our dead. She uses “digital storytelling” as the medium to explore these issues.
After warming up a bit with cups of tea and coffee, we ventured outside to give Katie a tour of our very typical Dales churchyard. As we explained, there’s nothing particularly unique about St Mary’s, but in our view that’s precisely what makes it so special. It represents the normal, the mundane, the grassroots history of a small community. This churchyard represents the history of ordinary people over many generations. There are no famous people – here we have the final resting places of mill workers, quarrymen, farmers and agricultural labourers, shopkeepers, teachers, craftsmen, and their families. Their life histories can stand in for the lives of ordinary folk across the country since the mid-Victorian period.
Back at Sue’s house, over a good buffet (thanks, Sue!), we had a wide-ranging discussion about how we have carried out our churchyard project, how it has brought together a team of people with a range of skills and interests, and what the project means to each of us – after all, we each have different perspectives, although happily these dovetail nicely into each other.  
Sue explains our project methodology to Katie

We were so absorbed in the discussions we completely forget that Katie was recording everything throughout the day. What could have been a bit daunting actually passed us by, we were so engaged in chatting with Katie. The day sped by and before we knew it, it was time for her to leave so she could catch her train back to York.
It was a very useful exercise simply talking informally with an interested outsider, making us reassess why we are doing this project, and clarifying what we feel we can get out if it, and where we take it in the future.  Katie was delightful company, and it was a very pleasant day.
Jane Lunnon