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Murray Journal

From Murray Park to world stage: Story Crossroads prepares for 2030 Olympics of storytelling

Jun 02, 2023 01:10PM ● By Shaun Delliskave

Holly Robison performs at the Story Crossroads festival at Murray Park. (Photo by Vladimir Chopin, courtesy of Story Crossroads)

Story Crossroads, a local nonprofit storytelling organization, held its hybrid summit and festival from May 8-11. Audiences from Utah and worldwide could enjoy this event on their computer screens and in Murray City Park. This year, they celebrated the “state of the art” for a worldview of oral storytelling’s past, present and future, and this year included the Jewish, Islamic and Deaf communities. 

Story Crossroads has doubled its impact in the last two years, making it a local sensation. However, the organization is committed to remaining hybrid despite the ease of simply focusing on in-person events. The group continues to work toward World Story Crossroads, an Olympic-level event in 2030. Story Crossroads is establishing ambassadors locally and from other continents with a multibroadcasting and extreme hybrid experience to prepare for this transformation.

Rachel Hedman, the executive director of Story Crossroads, said, “In order to be ready for World Story Crossroads, we will have ambassadors in each of the six major continents. Eventually, we plan on having ambassadors from every country though that will take some time. We expect to have Story Crossroads all around the world much like you see for ‘The Moth’ (a radio program) or what is happening with StoryCorps. We’re patient. Yet, we are growing at quite a steady and exciting rate.”

Since its inaugural festival in 2016, Story Crossroads has provided American Sign Language interpretation to attendees. The organization aims to have voice interpreters feature more from the Deaf community. With this year’s hybrid summit and festival, they are taking steps to build a bridge of understanding and respect with the “state of the art” addresses and performances.

Story Crossroads received training through the Utah Division of Arts & Museums called “Breaking Barriers” to be more conscientious and active in being accessible to all people.

“We want to put those trainings into action and continue to foster creative and compassionate communities locally and globally,” Hedman said.

During the event, attendees experienced a mix of virtual and in-person events. The use of multicameras provided a better experience for audiences who were joined by a computer screen. Some storytellers prerecorded and presented in a “Virtual Field Trip” format, telling their tales in creative locations, such as storyteller Julie Barnson, known as the Queen of Ghost Stories, telling a ghost story in a graveyard.

Regarding the upcoming World Story Crossroads event in 2030, Hedman said, “We will have a six-day event with each of the six major continents represented on each of the days. Right now, we have attendees from each of the six continents. We look forward to when we receive broadcasts and live performances, and workshops from these continents as well. There will be a call for academic papers as well as Old World and New World storytelling.”

Story Crossroads’ has committed to inclusivity with its passion for storytelling. Along with including the Deaf community, the organization sought to bring Jewish and Islamic communities together. 

“We need to listen before we can talk. That’s a standard rule (spoken or unspoken) in the storytelling world. We are thrilled to have three people from the Jewish, Islamic and Deaf communities. Then, we need to be willing to go to them. Go to their centers and community events. We cannot expect everyone to come to us. Building relationships that really go somewhere takes time. We are willing to invest in that time. Besides, we are already planning as far ahead as 2030,” Hedman said.

To guide them, Story Crossroads brought in Liz Paige, associate director of the United Jewish Federation of Utah; Dr. Mohammad Kaleem, youth director at the Islamic Society of Greater Salt Lake; and Pamela Mower from the Division of Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

More information can be found online at  λ