In March 2022, it was the turn of our project partners in Ljubljana to host the second Story Valley Transnational Project Meetings after the success of our first in-person meeting in Edinburgh back in October 2021. Here’s a snapshot of what we got up to during our time together.
Day One: Lazy lunches, a history of Ljubljana, and a look around Švicarija
The meeting informally started for some of us by getting reacquainted over a lazy lunch in one of the many bars, cafes and restaurants along the Ljubljanica river that runs through the city centre. Having caught up and with our stomachs full of pizza, we then met the rest of our colleagues for a walking tour of the city. Our guide, Gregor, walked us through the city sharing fascinating insights with us into Slovenia’s communist past as part of Yugoslavia and the impact of this period of history on Slovenia today. The tour provided the opportunity to get a feel for the city whilst also learning about the (often less well-known) history of one of Europe’s smaller nations.
The tour ended near Tivoli Park – a wonderful green space situated just a short walk from the city centre and the location of our evening plans. A slightly uphill work through the park took us to Švicarija (Swisshouse), which – perhaps rather unsurprisingly is Alpine in appearance. Recently renovated, Švicarija hosts resident artists and creatives, and we were lucky enough to have a tour of the building including some of the studio spaces. In this beautiful setting, we were treated to a dinner comprising various traditional Slovene dishes and, of course, plenty of Slovene wine!
Day Two: Story Valley updates and a trip to SMGŠ
Day two kicked off with more sunshine and hanging out at Vodnik Homestead. Vodnik Homestead is the birthplace of Slovene poet, priest, publicist, archaeologist, linguistic, translator and headmaster Valentin Vodnik (1758-1819). Today, it is a multi-purpose literary centre that hosts events, workshops, concerts and exhibitions and is also the home of Ljubljana UNESCO City of Literature. After a small tour of the different parts of the building, we enjoyed a coffee in the front porch of the building accompanied by the two rather friendly local cats who are a regular presence there and proved rather popular with us all.
Once suitably fuelled, it was time for the serious business of holding project meetings, sharing progress updates since the meeting in Edinburgh, workshopping ideas, and developing plans for the project moving forwards. The discussions we had were as lively as ever, with everybody sharing ideas for how we can make Story Valley even more exciting and spread the word about the project as far and wide as possible. Meeting in-person as we have done twice now seems to provide the opportunity for more free-flowing discussions than over Zoom, and really seem to help with the development of the project as a whole.
After lunch in a little local restaurant next to Vodnik Homestead (eating everything on your plate was obligatory, unless you wanted a telling off from the owner!), we all jumped on the bus to pay a visit to our project partner Srednja Medijska in Grafična Šola Ljubljana (also known as SMGŠ, which is far easier), or in English. SMGŠ is a secondary school specialising in Media and Graphics, and during our visit we were given a tour of the school and the different subjects taught there. Students and teachers shared their work with us, including typography, video production, printing (including 3D printing!), and book binding. It was great to learn more about what is happening in one of the schools taking part in Story Valley, it really brought the project to life and made it feel more real.
Day Three: Evaluation, inspiration, and possibly the best pizza ever
The third and final day of the meeting was held in the beautiful Town Hall right in the heart of the city. We started by sharing some of the results of the evaluation work we have recently been doing with the students and teachers in the partner schools and colleges who have been taking part in the initial trials of implementing the Story Valley approach to teaching and learning. Sharing the latest findings of this work resulted in fruitful conversations regarding potential tweaks to make ahead of the next round of trialling teaching materials and further questions to ask in later round of evaluation. This process of listening to and learning from on student and teacher feedback will ensure the final Story Valley outputs will be of the highest possible standard and have considered the perspectives of those who have experienced Story Valley for themselves.
We were then joined by various Ljubljana partners to learn about some of the exciting creative work happening across the city, which proved to be very exciting and inspiring indeed. We heard from representatives from the Storytelling Festival and Storytelling Studio, Fabula – Literature of the World Festival, Itn. Festival, Library under the Treetops, and Tinta International Comics Festival. It was great to hear from the people who play such an active role in making Ljubljana the vibrant, colourful and creative city that it is, be able to ask them questions about their work, and build new connections and relationships with them. The meeting finished on a real high with everyone feeling energised by these presentations.
After some downtime in the afternoon, where some walked up to Ljubljana Castle, some sought out ice-cream, and others opted for a restorative nap, a few of us walked to an embankment on the river called Špica for a local beer or two and to watch the world go by after a productive couple days. The meeting ended on a real high thanks to our hosts’ choice of restaurant for the evening, where many of us agreed that we were treated to some of the best pizza we have ever eaten. It was so good, in fact, that some decided to save their crusts and take it to the airport with them the next morning.
Counting down to the third meeting…
The second Story Valley Transnational Project Meeting continued where we left off at the end of the first meeting in Edinburgh. It provided an opportunity for everyone on the project to get to know each other a little more, spend time together in a beautiful city, and (most importantly) have some really productive discussions and further develop Story Valley. Similar to our visit to Edinburgh College in October, our trip to SMGŠ really brought the project to life and allowed us to become acquainted with the people taking part in Story Valley and the spaces where it all happens. A big thank you needs to go to our project partners in Ljubljana for planning such a brilliant trip and hosting us in their wonderful city.
Next stop for Story Valley – Friesland!
Katie Harrison heads up the IO3 working group of Story Valley, led by Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature, which is primarily responsible for the production and dissemination of the Policy Framework and Toolkit. Katie holds a PhD in Linguistics (Modern Languages) from the University of Nottingham, where she also currently works as a postdoctoral research fellow. Her areas of research specialism include sociolinguistics, multilingualism, language education, and Slavonic languages.