Individual storytellers: David Tytherleigh
David Tytherleigh talks about the inspiration behind his Digital storytelling project, The Little Frenchman.
-I moved into Richmond, and he was the little man that lived in the house opposite. We'd see him in the afternoons coming out onto his porch, and that was it, basically. And he started to sort of trust me, or tell stories.
Roger was my neighbour. He lived across the road in a dilapidated weatherboard cottage surrounded by an overgrown garden. Everyday, he would stand by his front gate, and watch the passing traffic, and occasionally engage in a conversation with a passer-by.
And after Roger died in 2002, I'd collected bits and pieces. My photographs of Roger in nursing homes, and I have his passport. All these old photographs of Roger that I collected that were just in a box. And I wanted to put something together, piece something-- a story about him.
Roger carried in his jacket pocket a small photo of his father, given to him by his grandmother in later life. Declared an orphan of war by the French government, Roger, age 12, began working as a pastry cook, and in 1939, prior to the outbreak of war, was called up into the Army Reserve. He was captured by the Germans in 1940 and spent the next four years as a prisoner of war, escaping three times but always recaptured.
I think anyone could do a digital story. It's very hard to put someone's life into three minutes, but as a medium, I think it was a great medium.
On Sundays, I would visit him, and we would sit and play cards, listen to Edith Piaf sing, and eat little colored marshmallows. Sometimes we just sat in silence and held hands.
His life-- his life has been recorded, and he did exist, and people have got to hear about him. And I feel that if someone sees the story and then they see an aged neighbor or someone down the street, and they just take the time and get to know that person, that they might hear their stories. And I think it's very important for elderly people to be recorded.
I feel that as a community, we let Roger down, that the service that he had given in his younger life was not returned to him in his later years. He had stories to tell and share. This is his.