Before we get to who we are and what we do, shall we talk about our name? It’s one of the first things people ask about!
Mile 91 is a town in Sierra Leone. Catherine and Ben worked there during their first story gathering trip, all the way back in 2007. We were working in fundraising and communications roles at an international development charity at the time and that trip was the catalyst for a dream of making storytelling our full time job. Fast forward to 2011 and we had both left our day jobs and were collaborating as freelancers. In summer 2013 we bit the bullet and Mile 91 was born.
In the early days our work was almost entirely focused on story production for charities, but people who do good things don’t just work for charities so our client base has widened considerably. Today, we also count sustainability teams, unions, funders, academic institutions and other social change folk as clients.
The work has evolved too. We still work on the production side of things – what’s not to love about meeting incredible people and unlocking their stories? But the world has changed, tech has advanced and storyteller and audience expectations are different.
We have an established programme of training that develops the story gathering skills of staff, partners, volunteers and service users. Through our strategy work we support organisations to audit their work and to establish robust systems and processes for story gathering and co-creation.
We have a talented team of associates working alongside us.
Catherine set up the story team at an international development charity in 2006. Since then she has helped many organisations develop their story strategy and establish the systems and processes needed to run an effective content gathering function. She is quick to identify barriers to productivity and helps teams break down silos. She set up and leads the popular Story Network and has developed our storytelling masterclass programme. She oversees the production planning process for all clients and is the first port of call for new business enquiries. In short, she’s a planner through and through!
Ben has been working around the world for 20 years, photographing and filming in challenging environments and very different cultural contexts. In the UK his work has taken him from hospitals to Buckingham Palace to puppy training camps. His natural friendliness means he gets the best out of his subjects (whether they have two legs or four!) and he’s helped countless clients develop their brand photography. He designed our popular smartphone filmmaking course which has now reached over 1,000 budding filmmakers and he leads on our work to develop the co-creation capabilities of our global clients.
Alex has been writing powerful stories for charities for well over a decade. Through Mile 91 she has worked with the British Red Cross, TUC, Teenage Cancer Trust, ChildHope and more. Alex’s natural warmth encourages people to open up and she loves digging for the ‘gleaming details’ that make her stories stand out. Her most memorable Mile 91 moment was interviewing Dai Donavon, the trade unionist and former miner whose story inspired Pride – one of Alex’s all-time favourite films.
Formerly a Sky journalist, Sarah has since worked in story gathering roles at Comic Relief, VSO and Crisis. She has been a Mile 91 Associate for 10 years, during which time she has also trained and worked as a Yoga Therapist for children and young people who are facing mental health problems. Using this therapeutic, trauma-informed lens, Sarah is passionate about ensuring people sharing their stories feel safe and supported. Her work has taken her to Sierra Leone, Bangladesh, India and Rwanda.
Ben is an award-winning filmmaker whose work has been shown on TV and at festivals across Europe. He specialises in campaign films for charities – his films for the homeless charity Crisis have received over a million hits on YouTube. For Mile 91, Ben has worked on films for Sense, Chestnut Tree House, Centrepoint and the Red Cross, among others. He is also a trainer for our smartphone filmmaking course. He has made films with musicians including Rufus Wainwright and filmmaker Ken Loach.
Ruth has worked in story gathering for more than 20 years, at NSPCC and the BBC. She specialises in working with adults who have experienced childhood trauma and amplifying the voices of marginalised communities. Ruth’s friendly demeanour and empathetic nature allow her to navigate sensitive subjects with care and ensure those she works with feel heard and supported. She works with us on delivering our advanced interview skills training and storytelling masterclass programmes.
As a sustainability copywriter, Lucy makes sure brands on a mission have the right words for the job – whether that’s helping an ethical pet food start-up disrupt the status quo, or supporting the world’s biggest fashion brands as they call for change across their industry. Lucy has been a copywriter for over a decade and has supported Mile 91 on several projects. She joined us in helping the TUC celebrate their 150th anniversary with 150 stories about the people who have shaped the union movement.