Q&A: Caroline Jester, Community Gatherer

Who are you and what do you do?
In this project I've been the Community Gatherer and have had the privilege of talking to people about their lived experience of mental ill health, whether that has been personal or professional. The recordings of these conversations will be kept at Gloucestershire Archives as well as being sent to the creative team who will look at ways of incorporating these stories into the performance.

How did you get involved with the Never Better project?
I work as a freelance writer, dramaturg and theatre practitioner and always keep an eye out for fascinating projects and I saw this advertised and applied. I work with interviews a lot and feel passionately about work that challenges stigma around mental health. This one attracted me to apply because it was a conversation with the past and the present and was an approach I hadn't encountered before.

How many people did you speak to and how were submissions collected?
I've spoken to around 30 people and I contacted organisations and individuals with information about the project and sent them an invitation to meet and share their story. A couple of the meetings were in groups and one was a writing workshop with Strike A Light's youth theatre.

How did you find the collection process?
A privilege to be part of this process.

What did you experience during the process?
What I discovered was that within each of these stories is a resilience that is important for all of us to listen to but also the power of community, the need to listen to the individual and offer support where we can. This isn't necessarily medical support, support can come in many different ways.

What do you hope people will take away from Never Better?
A sense of hope for the future by looking at the past in the present.

David Drakeley