Saturday (27th) marks the start of annual National Storytelling Week, a joyful celebration of the power of sharing stories.

Hilda Kalap, Project Coordinator of Devon’s multicultural history project Telling Our Stories, Finding Our Roots, says: “Before humans were able to write we made sense of the world through an oral history tradition – telling stories which were then passed from one generation to the next. Stories emotionally connect us which is much more powerful than a presentation full of facts and figures. Stories can lead to greater empathy, a shift in understanding and behaviour and a more inclusive society.”

On 26th January, eight of the project’s volunteers were trained in archive research at the Devon Heritage Centre in Sowton and will use these new skills to uncover hidden multicultural stories for the first time to end the myth of a monocultural county.

Centred in the towns of Ilfracombe and Honiton, there’s still scope for more volunteers from those towns to join the project – ideally people with an interest in heritage, history, storytelling and interviewing. The hours are flexible, full training given and expenses covered.

By the end the project will have produced new resources for museums, schools and communities that leave a more accurate depiction of the true multicultural nature of Devon’s history.

Says Ms Kalap: “Our stories connect us – and that’s vital at a time when the world is going through turmoil and conflict.”

Emerging stories include Honiton’s long and fascinating Romany Gypsy heritage that goes back many generations. As well as the experience of African American soldiers stationed up at the Dunkeswell airbase, just outside Honiton during the Second World War. The American army at the time was segregated along racial lines. White GIs and the ‘coloured troops’, as they were known, lived and ate separately, and even drank in different pubs.

The Telling Our Stories, Finding Our Roots project began in June 2023 and will take 18 months to complete, finishing at the end of 2024. It is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

It continues two previous Telling Our Stories projects in Exeter, Tiverton, Bideford and Okehampton.

Examples of some previous oral histories are here:

For further information and for those interested in volunteering please contact Hilda Kalap, Project Coordinator, 

Tel: 07983216793

Notes to Editors:

The project is run byDevon Development Education a global education charity (reg 1102233), based at The Global Centre, 17 St David’s Hill, Exeter, EX4 3RG, with over 20 years’ experience of providing expertise to schools and communities in Devon.

We develop and run projects with groups throughout the county. We aim to provide a ‘window on the world’, to enable children and adults to understand links between their own lives and those of others worldwide; and to develop skills, attitudes and values which enable people to work together to bring about change to create a just and sustainable world.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund was set up in 1994 to fund projects of all sizes that connect people and communities to the UK’s heritage.  In that time it has invested £8.8 billion in heritage and supported 51,000 heritage projects.