2022-23 | Creative Story Exchange

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'Creative Story Exchange'


Knowledge Exchange Fellow
Dr Nicholas Perkins   |   Faculty of English   |   University of Oxford

Partner Organisation
Oxford Health Arts Partnership   |   Angela Conlan

Dionne Freeman


What happens when stories are passed from one person to another – between friends, down the generations, or across different groups? Are they like objects that are exchanged? Are stories a kind of gift?

These and other ideas about objects, gifts, people and storytelling are at the heart of Nicholas Perkins’s recent research on medieval literature. His book, The gift of narrative in medieval England (2021; out in paperback 2023) examines the dynamics of the gift in stories circulating from the twelfth to the fifteenth centuries, including by Geoffrey Chaucer and the anonymous author of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. He has developed the ideas in his research into an exhibition in the Bodleian Library, ‘Gifts and Books’, which will be open from June 16 to October 29, 2023 in the main Weston Library gallery space.

For Creative Story Exchange, Dr Perkins is working with Oxford Health Arts Partnership (OHAP), along with artist and educator Dionne Freeman. They will introduce groups of students from two schools in Oxford to some of the items and ideas from the ‘Gifts and Books’ exhibition. Through workshop sessions, the students will develop creative responses to the themes, texts and objects, sharing them with hospital patients at City Community Hospital – mostly older people recovering from longterm illness or injury. The project will open up a dialogue amonsgst and between the groups, and reflect back on some important features of medieval stories: the power of telling; how stories both identify and link individuals; and the way that objects, especially gifts, are a form of storytelling in themselves.

Some of the creative responses made by students and patients will be displayed in the Weston Library alongside the main ‘Gifts and Books’ exhibition, both reflecting on it and becoming part of an ongoing conversation about the power of storytelling.

Dr Perkins talks about his research and looks at some of the items featured in the exhibition during on Radio 4’s The World this Weekend.

Listen to the interview here – 

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