The Story Bridge 

(November – December 2013)

The Story Bridge project is a concept dreamed up by myself and Greet Pauwelijn, owner of publishing company Book Island inspired by Book Island’s most recent title, Maia and What Matters by Tine Mortier and Kaatje Vermeire. The Story Bridge project is an inter-generational storytelling project. We’ve just finished the pilot that has been funded by Kapiti Coast District Council, via the Creative Communities Scheme.

Maia and What Matters is the story of a young girl who shares a close bond and similar dynamic spirit (as well as a love of cake) with her grandmother. When Maia’s grandmother suffers a stroke Maia finds that their bond is able to transcend aging, illness and death. As well as its poignant and moving story, Maia stands out because of the beauty of its illustrations.

The Story Bridge Projects took these illustrations as its starting point and then, by employing the TimeSlips method (described here), encouraged those taking part to create new stories and new illustrations that could be shared between different groups. It’s purpose is to celebrate the power of the imagination as something we all possess. The imagination, and the stories that we can create by delving into it, can be a bridge that transcends differences caused by aging. In celebrating the imaginative capacities of ourselves and others, we hopefully recognise what we have in common, whether our age is 9 or 90, and new understanding and empathy for each other can be built through the genuinely fun process of making up stories together.

For the pilot project we worked with a class of ten and 11 year olds at Raumati South Primary School and a group of elders within a care facility at Coastal Villas retirement village in Paraparaumu. As part of the project  both groups had the opportunity to create their own stories using the same pictures, with the children working on new art work to go with the stories, that they later presented to the elders. The children learned skills in storytelling and story-making, while also exploring issues around aging and it’s effects including memory loss. Reading Maia and What Matters and exploring the themes in the book was also a key activity for the children.

The project culminated in bringing the children and elders together over two consecutive Fridays to share their stories with each other and to co-create new stories together – a magical and inspiring experience for all involved. The children also sang for the elders, and together we all devoured mountains of waffles for afternoon tea prepared by Greet from Book Island.

Here’s a recent article about the project.

The images from Maia and What Matters that we have been using to inspire new stories:


Maia boat

Finally, here is one of the delightful stories co-created by the elders and children during one of their sessions (this one used a photo from the TimeSlips kit as its inspiration). In reading this story, please note that each line comes from a different person. They also made up the title!

The Heaven Rider – with no money

Story created by Students of Raumati South Primary School and Residents of Coastal Villas Care Facility based on the following picture:


There is a girl about to go across the world for an adventure. She has been learning to fly for a long time and she is very good.

A person was walking along the beach and came across a shed with a woman wearing a raincoat holding a steering wheel. That will never fly!

The woman had landed on the beach, and seen the other person.

Her name is Sarah Van Swedenberg.

Her name could be Isla.

She’s not in Paraparaumu!

She is shocked because she has crashed on the beach.

Even though she has crashed she is feeling safe because she is wearing her father’s raincoat.

The raincoat has magical properties.

Women don’t have hats on their raincoats.

The lady wants to go to Heaven.

And she wants to go to Paris, the City of Love!

It will take three minutes to get to Paris and then her whole life to get to Heaven.

The engine is supercharged and very powerful.

She is going to try as hard as she can to get the shed to fly.

With a magical raincoat there is no reason the shed wouldn’t fly!

All the way to Heaven.

Because in Heaven there needs to be a big shed to store all the tools.

Before she went to Heaven she went to Paris and saw the beauty.

The End