#Phonar Session 4 – Lisa Potts & Spoken Narrative Reflection.

At the age of 21, Lisa Potts was working in her first position in education at the nursery St Lukes Primary School in Wolverhampton. On the 8th July 1996, Lisa found herself in an unimaginable situation where she risked her own life in order to save many young children. On a day like any other, children aged 3 – 4 were outside enjoying a picnic when she saw a male jump over a 6ft fenced armed with a knife. After rushing to get some children inside, on her return to get more in she saw the male had jumped another 3ft fence and injured 2 parents. With adrenaline taking over and her initial instinct to protect the children, as the man approached her she put her hands up to protect her face meaning he cut her across the arm leaving her severely injured. He went on to attack and injure 2 children, fracturing a young boys skull. As Lisa continued to try and protect others, he also cut her across the back, shoulder and the back of her head. He then put his machete in his pocket, walked out and wasn’t found until 48 hours later. Children remained hidden all over the school petrified whilst the man’s bag was discovered containing more knives and bottles containing petrol obviously with the intension to set the school alight. Lisa spoke about the way she felt removed from the situation as she watched the chaos unfold around her after the horrendous incident, how her life changed in minutes and the change it had in the community. She spent 2 and a half weeks in hospital with surgery, a plate and pins and had to relearn to do basic things. The press were keen to find out the story and what had happened whilst the police tried to fight them off. Wanting to get back to a normal life as soon as possible, Lisa decided to speak to local press which then went out to national press. The male had lived in a flat in the area for many years, although thought to be a little strange had never been a threat to anyone. It was later found out he suffered with schizophrenia and was a cannabis smoker – he didn’t know what he wanted to do but he wanted to attack someone. Media followed Lisa round as she essentially “became a celebrity overnight” and received letters to attend award ceremonies such as the Pride of Britain. Even after such bravey, Lisa didn’t know how to deal with such publicity and attention, doubted herself being at awards ceremonies and didn’t want to be seen as taking in advantage. In court, Lisa held the machete and had to explain how he attacked her, whilst he explained that she ‘got in the way’. He remains in a psychiatric ward until this day and after what he did to her, Lisa explained how she feels sorry for him with no-one to support or help him. Whilst she questioned how she would ever be able to get away from the media, Lisa has gone back to her normal job and got on with life.

Listening to this talk by Lisa Potts was an incredibly moving, allowing you to piece together the situation in your mind, as well as the horrific injuries and her thoughts and feelings. Such a huge act of bravery putting herself in front of this attacker in order to protect the children in her care. As we reflected upon it in the #phonar session, some considered it strange for her to be able to recount the story without being emotionally attached. Does it make it easier for us to tell a story if we detach ourselves away from it? Or does losing that emotional connection lose part of the story? This made me think back to looking at the talk by Sarah Kay – If I Should Have a Daughter and whether we felt immersed. I found that the way she spoke with an interesting and exciting tone encouraged me to feel engaged but felt lost in the speed in which she spoke. However with Lisa Potts, she spoke with a steady space and normal voice but with the context of the story I was immediately gripped. She didn’t play anything up or down, she just told it how it was and I think this a really important aspect for listeners to engage. It allows us to feel like we are on the same kind of level as the story teller.

After listening to the talk, I did a brief internet search to see what articles I could find related to the incident. It was interesting to consider her response to the media and with some of the articles how the story got twisted, both in big and small situations such as an article for the Daily Mail where apparently Potts had spoke of her disappointment in the payout from the incident whereas in the talk she says she didn’t want all the awards and attention to become about her taking advantage of the situation and getting money which leads us to question the authenticity. This made me think of how Stephen Mayes and Fred Ritchin spoke of how a story is sculpted to fit the aims of the publisher – Lisa’s story has essentially had important information excluded in order to make a ‘juicier’ unique story. It has been brilliant to be able to hear the true, unimaginable story from Lisa herself rather than any edited versions.

Lisa Potts’ story can be heard here.

Spoken Narrative.

Record a personal story to share with the group. You should speak your story in person and it’s telling should last approx. 2 minutes (if you prefer to record and publish in advance, that’s fine, otherwise it’s delivered live in session and stays within the closed group). You should especially consider your choice of story/subject, your audience and your verbal delivery – in terms of your script, language, pace and intonation. No accompanying soundscape. No pictures. Just a story.

When given the brief of the task, I was really excited to be able to hear stories. I was unsure of whether they were meant to be personal or lighthearted as I considered what I could tell about myself. After listening to Lisa Potts’ talk, it made me think about telling a story of where I had helped someone, and found myself ringing 999 for the first time in my life.

“One day I was walking home down Gulson Road with my boyfriend when I looked over to my left and saw a bike on the floor with a person lying next to it who appeared to be having a fit. I obviously knew something wasn’t right, so we both rushed over. As we went over, other people were just walking past as if they hadn’t seen. When we got over to him, his eyes were rolled back in his head and he was foaming at the mouth, possibly from taking drugs. Someone else at this point had stopped and dialled 999, however as English was not their first language they passed the phone over to me. They started asking me a number of questions like how old did he look, was he was breathing, did he have any marks on his skin.. I had completely forgotten you even got asked questions, I thought you just rang and they came. Luckily, an off duty police offer drove past and stopped to help. What was probably only 5 minutes felt like an eternity until the ambulance arrived. I still don’t know to this day whether he was okay and he will never know who helped him that day, but I will always know that I helped potentially save somebody’s life.”

This was to be a closed class creating a ‘safe space’ to share our stories. I am not the best of public speakers and can often get very nervous, however I was excited to share this. When I told my story in class, I decided just to talk from memory. Even though I felt prepared, my heart was still pounding and this probably affected how I told the story as I rushed. However I think talking from memory made it more personal rather than preparing it and reading it off a sheet. It allowed me to make eye contact with people who were listening which makes them feel more engaged. There were many different views from people as to how personal to make their stories and different opinions on how they wanted it to be presented. In a photograph there are 3 people – the photographer, the subject and the viewer. The subject is always the weakest. By doing this task, we were able to put ourselves in the place of the subject and how vulnerable they can feel. Myself and Jenny Stonely were assigned the task to gather the general feelings of how people wanted to present, with the majority being happy to share in a big group however there was a few who felt more comfortable working in a small group. This was a really interesting session not only to be able to learn more about people, but uncover things you may have not necessarily ever found out and the confidence people found to tell these stories – hopefully through the power of trust within our circle which shows how important it is to consider how the subject in a photograph needs to build a relationship of trust with the photographer. After also hearing moving, personal stories from some in the class I would like to revisit this task and possibly create another response.


~ by victoriasimkissphotography on October 22, 2014.

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