What About Our Stories?

January 7, 2013
By: Kevin Van Lierop

Growing up in London I really never experienced what the city had to offer. Sure, my parents took me to Storybook Gardens, the Balloon Festival and from time to time we made trips to downtown but thats all I knew. Growing up I never really appreciated what was out there in the city, that was until I moved and things changed.

Five years ago I moved from one of London’s suburban neighbourhoods into an older and more established neighbourhood closer to the core of the city. I started to spend my days and nights downtown, exploring and experiencing all it had to offer. Slowly I began to examine and ‘take in’ the rest of the city, outwards from the core, over time realizing that London encompassed much more than I ever knew.

During recent years I’ve spent more and more time learning about this city and the places I call home. I’ve read through old news stories and headlines, dug through historical books, looked at maps of all shapes and sizes and have explored artifacts, art and culture from previous decades. With each new piece of media I consume I find the personal stories and accounts that define this city, its people and generations past.

Each and every day I meet people who have stories to tell about the Forest City, some are good, others bad; collectively these stories make the city what it is. Some stories are short anecdotes, poems or rhymes about things that once were, others are longer and more dynamic works of literature or essays that focus on what is and what can be. The individuals that I talk to have experienced this city, they have relationships with it and they have stories to share.

As I consume more and more of these stories I often think if they will be around fifty to a hundred years from now. I wonder if Londoners of the future will be able to look back (much like I’ve been doing) to understand what London was like through this era beyond the conversations created by traditional news outlets. Just as ‘history is written by the victors’ I believe that far too often the stories told, descriptions crafted and histories documented are done so by those that have the means to do so and may not reflect a complete or representative reality.

There are so many stories, images, essays and pieces of literature that create an important and defining record of London’s history which are currently being lost and will continue along this path if we don’t take the time to capture them. These perspectives and stories need to be retained so that they will exist in the future for others to experience and learn from.

I want to capture, read and share the stories about London that go beyond those we see in the headlines. I want to leave a narrative about this era in London’s history that is worth reading, one that reflects a greater reality.

Perhaps I am alone in wanting these stories to exist beyond today, into the future for decades to come, or maybe there are others that see the value that capturing and sharing them has, either way I don’t want to lose these important parts of the culture and history that make London what it is today.

The Forest: Stories of London, Ontario

The Forest will be a book publication capturing and sharing the stories about London that go beyond those typically published in daily headlines. This publication will be a collection of stories, images, essays and pieces of literature, both fiction and non-fiction, about London submitted by Londoners. The Forest will construct a narrative of the Forest City from as many voices as possible, leaving perspectives, stories and an account of this city’s history so it will exist in the future for others to experience and learn from.

More information and submission details can be found at the-forest.ca or by contacting myself at forest (AT) kevinvanlierop.ca.

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