Hidden Stories On Tour

Presented by Root Experience, Hidden Stories is back in its hometown of Brighton for an informative and uplifting day at the Jubilee Library. Hidden Stories shines a light on the experiences and struggles of people living with ‘invisible conditions,’ which encompass any mental or physical condition not externally ‘obvious’ or ‘seen.’ This can be anything from depression to diabetes, autism, arthritis, HIV, fibromyalgia, OCD and many more.

Stirred up plenty of reflection and thought

Those affected sometimes hide their difficulties due to fearing social implications, such as stigma or judgment. The event shares those experiences and invites us to realise that we aren’t quite as different from each other as we might think. Hidden Stories gives an empowering voice to the unique struggles that we experience, in a way that connects us all. It explores what is ‘normal’ through thoughtfully created interactive exhibits, a conversation table and a playfully illustrated graphic book given free to all visitors.

Through cartoons and illustrations drawn by Tinne Luyten, the free Hidden Stories book powerfully conveys the everyday worlds people living with unseen (or misunderstood) disabilities, the impact of hiding their vulnerability and the sense of isolation it can bring. One illustration shows a person waking up in the morning and getting ready for work, selecting which mask to wear that day. An illustrated story follows the journey of a character as they try new strategies to manage their condition and reach out for support, to live a better life.

The interactive exhibits explored concepts such as the impact of the language we use to define ourselves and the labels we carry. One exhibit had a wall made of wooden blocks with adjectives written on them. It seemed to symbolise the building blocks that form who we are and invited us to consider whether the words we use to describe ourselves are limiting, or inspire us to be our best self. Another exhibit reflected on the labels we give ourselves (or that others give us) and whether they are supporting or limiting. Easily missed at the entrance of the Library was a small photography display. Taken by Sarah Hickson, the images are anonymous (not showing the subject’s faces) yet feel deeply personal and spark the untold stories in each of us.

A particularly poignant part of the exhibit allowed visitors to read letters written by people with experience of invisible conditions. Each told a unique story of struggle and hope, with feelings that each of us can relate to. The result is a depiction not just of an invisible condition, but of the human condition. The tactile way the letters had to be unpegged and individually opened from the golden envelopes to read, made them feel all the more personal.

While the interactive exhibits stirred up plenty of reflection and thought, the ‘conversation table’ made the essence of Hidden Stories come to life. This was a large table with with two friendly volunteers and plenty of free chairs where anyone could sit down and chat. A few of us took a seat, and within seconds, we were having a good old chat like we’d all known each other for years. Occasionally, we’d turn over one of the conversations cards scattered on the table with prompts such as, ‘What’s the difference between an illness, condition or disability?' We talked about how words such as disability often carry assumptions that can be unhelpful, and how being misunderstood can lead us to hide how we feel, which can makes us feel worse. We talked about what makes us ‘us,’ and how we’re all on a continuum; neither sane nor mad but everything in-between. We also chatted about everything from vintage cars to baking cakes... because we’re human and unique and we all proudly live on 'Planet Not-Normal'.

Without realising, we’d been happily chatting away for an hour. It just shows that when the right space is created, a group of strangers can instantly relate on a deeply personal level. All it takes is a desire to listen. We all carry hidden stories; they’re part of who we are, and what connects us.

Reviews by Anna Lucia

Komedia Theatre

Angela Barnes: Rose-Tinted

The Old Market

Geoff Norcott: Taking Liberties

Jubilee Library

Hidden Stories On Tour


Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now



The Blurb

We’re all human. We’re all vulnerable. We all have parts of ourselves we hide or that are unseen by the outside world. We invite you to bring your whole self into the room for an interactive unveiling of Hidden Stories. A poignantly funny illustrated book that invites curiosity, conversation and compassion around what it’s like to live with an ‘invisible’ condition such as anxiety or autism. Come along and pick up a free copy and join us as we remove our masks, rip up the labels and question whether ‘normal' means anything at all. Supported by ITV’s People’s Project.

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