CityLife Stories: Intergenerational Community Life Writing

In 2014 I co-founded CityLife Stories, a community engagement and research project in London that gathers life narratives from older urban community members by pairing creative writers with them for conversational sessions, from which they produce biographical stories. CityLife immortalises the history, vibrancy, diversity and ever-changing landscape of the urban environment, and platforms unheard voices for a new way of storytelling and holding meaningful exchanges.

I have contributed to design and methodology over its four separate phases and manage project development, writer training, and ethical framework. I develop and maintain participant safeguarding protocols, and facilitate effective, collaborative relationships with a wide network of community partner organisations that so far includes establishments such as Age UK, Toynbee Hall, Ageing Well Dagenham, Pepper Pot Day Centre, Cody Dock, and Stones End Day Centre. I contribute to research and fieldwork including sourcing information on localised services and networks providing support to marginalised and/or vulnerable groups, and have coordinated the editing and production of almost 100 stories from the communities we work in. I manage all contact between writers and community storytellers, including the conversational workshop sessions, training the writers in ethics, voice and representation, and supporting everyone through the project from beginning to end and beyond.

Our latest phase COVID: Lockdown Stories, funded by the British Academy, took place remotely for the first time in our history due to restrictions, creating connections and conversations between younger and older people, while we all found our way through the 2020/2021 lockdowns. As of July 2022 we are planning our next phase, and seeking funding to support this. We are also in the production stage of our next print anthology, showcasing the last Lockdown Stories phase. Keep scrolling for previous publications and some photos of the earlier EastLife years, 2014-2017.

Biographical Stories

Biographical pieces I have written for community elders on this project can be found on my Writing page.

CityLife Publications

Masserano, E., Dodd, S., Maddison, S. & McWatt, T. (2021) ‘Stories of COVID-19: Social Pasts & Futures in the CityLife Project,’ The Sociological Observer, 3(1). Available at: (Issue 3)

McWatt, T., Dodd, S. and Maddison, S. (2015) (eds.) EastLife: An Anthology of Life Writing. London: University of East London (PDF format, .epub format, .mobi format)