About the Project
In the beginning was the word
And soon after, there came many words and many different stories. For as long as human beings have walked the earth, they have sought to chronicle their lives in ways that transcend time, space, and even language. They became the stories they told, and those tales charted a roadmap to understanding who they and their descendants were as a people. Stories became the most powerful way to immortalise life: if it happened, it was history and would be written; if it didn’t, it would be imagined and be told.Collage by Sijya Gupta
Storytelling is one of the most powerful devices we have because stories build worlds — worlds we have, worlds we want, and worlds worth fighting for. But what happens when stories are weaponised by those seeking to destroy those very worlds? Stories can also betray and amplify the structures of power and blindspots in our everyday life, which perpetuate the status quo.
In an attempt to combat those structures, we have arrived at Narrative Change, a collective practice that aims to explore some of the most critical questions around stories and storytelling:
Is it enough to think of what stories we tell?
What happens once a story is told?
How do stories spread?
How do stories not just reflect the world but change it?
How do stories orient us towards hope?
Can stories lead to collective action?
Welcome to Once Upon a Tomorrow: a project that has emerged from some difficult observations about the challenges of diversity, inclusion, equality, engagement, and belonging in the complex and contested worlds we live in. Once Upon a Tomorrow (OUaT) is a co-created, critical, collaborative, and distributed deep-dive that brings together narrative experts to think, explore, prototype — and imagine new modes of narrative change that lead to collective action of hope. Over the course of the next three months, we will come together through Action Labs, Knowledge Studios, and Narration Hubs, to create a resource set that shows the possibilities and hope of how narrative change can be generated through collective action for hopeful futures.
Over this period, we will work distributed but together, remotely but intensely, in synchronous and asynchronous sessions that are co-created with this group of narrative experts. We will draw upon our individual expertise and collective experiences to create baselines, curate galleries, and produce toolkits that help understand and show how narrative change practice can be implemented.
And so we asked our narrative experts our first question: “Through your presence in this world, what do you hope for?”
Art X Company
|A strategic consultancy operating at the intersection of arts and access, Art X Company offers consulting, research, curation, audience development, and management services to the cultural sector in India. They conceptualise, curate, and execute interdisciplinary initiatives and research projects across cultural and creative industries in India.
"Through my presence in this world… we hope to enhance access to learning and development and professional opportunities, elevate research in the arts, and establish platforms for capacity building and sector development in the Indian and South Asian creative sectors."
|A theatre artist and storyteller, Gupta directs Mirror Workshops for children’s theatre. She is a member of the Indian Storytelling Network, ASSTITEJ India and the Federation of Asian Storytellers.
"Through my presence in this world… I hope to bring people together, build the bridges of communication — through not just words but let our bodies speak, our shadows dance, and create a kaleidoscope of stories, which creates empathy for all living beings."
|A performance storyteller and storytelling educator, Ellrodt has been working as a performing artist since 1987; and primarily with narrative since 1996. He is currently the chairman of the Association for Storytelling Pedagogy.
"Through my presence in this world… I hope to help myself and others around me to be aware of the beauty that is all around us. With my work as a storyteller, I hope to bring a little peace and joy into the hearts of human beings."
|Born in 1965 in Switzerland, Cantieni’s novel Grünschnabel was the finalist for the Swiss Book Awards 2011. She is the founder of ALPHABET LAB (2021), a service that approaches storytelling in a playful and creative way.
"Through my presence in this world… I really hope to connect and create. Connect words to create stories, connect ideas that lead to action, to foster understanding between people."
|Dr. Shah is a feminist, humanist, technologist working in digital cultures. He wears many hats as an academic, researcher, educator and annotator. He is the Chair and Professor of Aesthetics and Cultures of Technologies at ArtEZ University of the Arts.
"Through my presence in this world… I hope to practice care as a form of building communuties"
|Balogun is a librarian and podcaster. She curates and hosts the podcast, ValidThoughts, where she speaks about the concept of homeland and belonging. She is also currently the head of library services at Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan, New Delhi.
"Through my presence in this world… I want to inspire young Black girls to reach higher than ever before, to go places they never thought they’d be able to explore, and to just live life."
|Antony is the co-founder of the Bangalore Literature Festival, and director of the Bengaluru Poetry Festival. She is a columnist with CNBC, The New Indian Express and The Times of India.
Through my presence in this world… I hope to be a connector of sorts, a team member in the HR department of arts, culture and literature; to be the blank space where refections meet and create.
|A journalist, writer and a language activist, Raje is passionate about Marathi language, and children's literature. She has published eight children's books so far and is working on three more.
"Through my presence in this world… I would like to spread love for regional languages – through speaking, reading, writing, singing and most importantly, thinking in your mother tongue."
|Roy is a co-founder of Bookaroo, India’s first multi-city international children’s literature festival. She started her journey into the children’s literature world in 2003, by setting up an independent children’s bookstore Eureka!
"Through my presence in this world… I hope to spread the joy of reading amongst children. Encourage them to imagine, empower them to question. And to bring creators of books closer to children."