This page is in two parts. The first part is about Capture Wales, the BAFTA-winning community storytelling project that I originated and developed at the BBC back in the early 2000s. The second part is a comprehensive list of my own digital stories complete with links to the Vimeo player.
BBC Capture Wales
Our project, delivered through workshops run in the community, was about enabling people to make and edit a short piece of broadcast quality TV 'on the kitchen table' using digital tools; and to see it published. A simple enough task by today's standards but, back then, something almost inconceivable. For, although the worldwide web had been with us for almost a decade, most people in UK had yet to find a use for it. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, the iPhone together with all of what we now do using social media, shopping and banking online, were yet to come.
Harlech, March 2003. BBC Capture Wales workshop.
At the BBC we aligned the Corporation's desire to get closer to its audience with the Welsh Assembly Government's ambitions around 'digital inclusion' and also our own quest to understand how the digital age might allow 'big media' to become more democratic.
Digital storytelling was the name we used to describe what we did. It was a term that, along with much of the research that we relied upon, came from America. Since that time many have used digital storytelling to describe a whole range of practices and consequently it has many meanings. Here is what we meant by it.
Tight As Sonnets
Capture Wales's digital stories were multimedia narratives, short movies told in the first person, with feeling. Scripted out of memory and using the materials to hand — voice, still pictures, video if available — we made them using home computers. Our approach insisted on a strictness of construction: 250 words, a dozen pictures, and a duration of about two minutes. Done this way it was a form that tended to elegance and, when made as a shared experience in workshops run by skilled facilitators, the stories produced were often tight as sonnets. Multimedia sonnets from the people.
As one who from the outset had made audio recordings as well as photographs, I was always on the lookout for a cheap, user-friendly and effective way of combining sound with still pictures in a presentation format.
In the pre-digital 1980s when I worked at Granada TV in Manchester (Celebration, May 1981) and also at ATV in Birmingham (Getting On, March 1982), I did get my hands on some high-end broadcast equipment. But the processes were awkward, expensive and time-consuming. The tools available were few in number, labour intensive, industrial in scale and their use limited only to those who could navigate a fiercely contested labyrinth of job demarcation. I was frustrated.
It was another fifteen years before an affordable technology, one that enabled video to be edited in real time on a personal computer, became available. And by then, happily, the internet was also starting to shape itself as a platform for the publication of what we once called 'rich-', but were now to start thinking of as 'multi-', media.
Dana Winslow Atchley III
In the USA early-adopters showed what was possible.
Here one person working alone with a computer and often only with a handful of photographs was producing, on a very limited budget, stories that were not only elegant, witty, compelling and impassioned but with a very distinctive scrapbook aesthetic. Text crawled. Images fragmented, reappeared, floated, came and went. And always there was that voice, light, good humoured, intent.
Atchley worked with Joe Lambert at the Center for Digital Storytelling (now Storycenter) in Berkeley California and, in November 2000, researching for the School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies at Cardiff University and financed by the Welsh Development Agency, I went there to learn all I could.
What amazed me about Atchley and Lambert, was that they were able to teach sophisticated picture and video editing to first-time computer users in just a few days. I immediately began thinking about how what they did might be applied to broadcast television back home. A top-down industry which had for too long exercised 'a radical monopoly' (as Illich would have had it) over the means of production, could now be given a shake, from the bottom-up. Rather than 'being done' by television, people could 'do' television for themselves.
So, in 2001, I borrowed this Californian model of digital storytelling and, with support from colleagues at Cardiff University (in particular Prof. Ian Hargreaves, the director of the Centre for Journalism Studies), pitched it to BBC Cymru Wales. We promised to open up the airwaves for a wide range of new users, giving a voice to people who, until then, had been thought of only as members of the audience. And so, in Mandy Rose's DigiNation unit at Llandaff, the project was embraced and got underway. Joe Lambert came over from the States to deliver our first workshop and then, slowly and steadily, we began recruiting and training, building up our team of workshop facilitators, turning what we'd learned into something that might just work for a broadcast audience. That October in Wrexham, we ran our first community workshop.
Over five days, workshop participants (usually the first ten people though the door) learned how to write scripts and sequence their pictures with a voice-over to produce concise, considered narratives. We visited miners' institutes, welfare halls, pubs, arts centres, schools, colleges, every kind of meeting place, all over Wales. We worked in both the Welsh and English languages and we trained a team to work in England too (BBC Telling Lives).
In the BBC digilab, Llandaff, Cardiff, January 2002. Left to right: Greg Dyke, BBC director-general; Karen Lewis, Capture Wales producer; Menna Richards, controller BBC Wales.
As we had hoped, participants found digital storytelling to be remarkably empowering and, imagined as a tool of democratised media, they quickly realised its potential to change the way we engage in our communities.
The results astonished us. Across Wales photographs discovered the talkies and the stories told assembled in the ether like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, a gaggle of previously invisible histories which, when viewed on the web and on television, told the bigger story of our time, the story that defines who we are.
The BBC Legacy
Inspired by the BBC project, also benefiting from Welsh Assembly Government funding, seventy-two digital storytelling groups and projects sprang up across Wales. And ten years on, some are still active, including: Breaking Barriers in Caerphilly; and StoryWorks in Cardiff.
Each summer, digital storytelling enthusiasts from across the World would gather in Wales for 'DS', our Festival of Digital Storytelling.
Visitors who discovered digital storytelling during their time in Wales developed their own versions of the project when they returned home. Diego Vidart created Historias Digitales del Uruguay. Hanne Jones and Eli Lea in Norway started Digitale Fortellinger producing a number of broadcast projects for channel NRK including My Days in 2010.
Capture Wales went on to generate many hundreds of stories and our project won awards, including a BAFTA Cymru (2002).
BAFTA ceremony Cardiff, April 2003. Left to right: storytellers Paul Cabuts and Gaynor Clifford; Daniel Meadows, BBC Capture Wales creative director.
The BBC kept faith with us for almost seven years. By 2008, though, its thinking had changed. The Corporation no longer wanted to assist amateur user-producers to make their own considered narratives. What it now wanted for 'user-generated content' was smartphone footage that could be sent in and edited by BBC professionals. Gatekeeping was in, enabling was out. The door which in 2001 had opened so imaginatively to let us in was firmly shut. The experiment was over.
The Capture Wales website is no longer properly maintained so I can't make any useful links here to guide you through what we did. However, I notice that a number of stories (lo-res versions) have found their way onto YouTube: Paula Richards about the miners' strike in 1984; William Bleasdale about his brother; Shirley G Williams's Welsh language story Seren Wîb. Also, if you trouble to make the journey to view them in Aberystwyth, 588 of our stories are archived there in the National Library of Wales.
As for me, I've never stopped making digital stories.
back to the top
My Own Digital Stories
All are short-form considered narratives. They come in three distinct types:
1. First-person scripted stories, pictures and voice-over told with feeling, like the BBC Capture Wales stories.
2. Scripted stories about my documentary practice. Some are reflective collaborations made many years after the event with (or in Stanley's case by) a person who appears in the photographs.
The Shop on Greame Street
John Fox & Sue Gill
The Smoking Room
Looking After No.1
3.Talking pictures. Stories made with the voice of the person photographed.
Edward Wyndham Miller
BBC Capture Wales Team (2001-08)
Jody Abramson, Gilly Adams, Gina Carpenter, Huw Davies, Tony Dumont, Carwyn Evans, Lisa Heledd Jones, Lisa Jones, Karen Lewis, Dafydd Llewelyn, Daniel Meadows, Gareth Morlais, Mandy Rose, Rob Thompson, Simon Turner.
For a full account of the BBC's Digital Storytelling experiment 2001-2008 see:
* Meadows, Daniel, and Kidd, Jenny. (2009) Capture Wales, The BBC Digital Storytelling Project in Hartley, J, and McWilliam, K, (eds.) Story Circle: Digital Storytelling Around the World. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.
* Daniel Meadows on Digital Literacy. Coomes, Phil. BBC News in Pictures, 15 November 2011.
* Poverty in the Media: Being Seen and Getting Heard, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation report, July 2009.
* Habits of the Heart: Storytelling and Everyday Life. Fyfe, Hamish. 14 June 2007. Seminar paper presented at the George Ewart Evans Centre for Storytelling, the University of Glamorgan (opens as a .pdf file in new window).
Articles in Academic Journals
* Hartley, John. 2008. Editorial Who Are You Going to Believe: Me or Your Own Eyes? International Journal of Cultural Studies 11(1):7-10. (When the .pdf file loads, look at the picture on page 5, then scroll down to page 10 and start reading.)
This last one can be read online only if the institution from which you are surfing is a paid-up subscriber:
* Meadows, Daniel. 2003. Digital Storytelling: Research-based Practice in New Media Visual Communication 2(2):189-193.
r/t: 2 min, 21 sec.
I never knew my grandfather. He died in 1952, just a few days before I was born. But I do have a rusty tin box containing his and my grandmother's photo albums of their time in India.
Two astonishing Digital Stories. Late 1990s.
Home Movies (aka The Turn Film) celebrates Atchley's grandfather's annual ritual of marching his four sons out of the house, walking them up the garden path and then telling them to do a 360 degree turn for the camera. By editing several of these "turn" clips together Atchley gives us a beautiful yet funny sequence of a family growing up, something he reflects upon in voice-over. Time is telescoped.
Redheads is narrated, both to camera and in voice-over, by Atchley's mother Martha who tells of her childhood growing up on a farm in western New York State.
I paid my first visit to Atchley's Next Exit site in the spring of 2000 and we immediately began an email exchange. He invited me to attend a Centre for Digital Storytelling workshop in Berkeley, California, later that year... which I did.