Getting to know…Anne Dignan

Anne Dignan, recently welcomed onto the Scottish Storytelling Forum’s Directory of professional storytellers, has quite a story of tragedy and transformation to tell.

In her early forties, she received the shocking news that she had dry macular degeneration [MD]. This meant the loss of her central vision, for which there was and still is, no cure. Tragically, Anne had to give up her much-loved job as a School Teacher, because she could not see well enough to teach effectively and keep control of the class. After her diagnosis, she gave away all her books – “It was the hardest thing I ever did, I felt like I was giving away my own children!” Followed closely by the tragedy of losing her mother and then going through a divorce, her life was at a low ebb.

But it was discovering oral storytelling, that changed her life. Anne missed telling stories to her pupils. She went to a storytelling workshop led by Margaret Bennett in the Scottish Storytelling Centre, and realised – you don’t need books to tell stories! Hearing about the local storytelling group, ‘Burgh Blatherers’, she went along and hasn’t looked back since! One of her stories is in Burgh Blatherers’ 2022 book, ‘From the Burgh and Beyond’.

She was encouraged to join the Scottish Storytelling Forum’s Apprenticeship Scheme and is very proud, that in 2023, she was accepted onto the Scottish Storytelling Directory. Also in 2023, she won the Tall Tales Oscar – one of her proudest moments.

Anne now discovers that her storytelling abilities have enabled and empowered her to be a spokesperson for various organisations because of her own lived experience with macular degeneration.

She is an ambassador for Deafblind Scotland and was invited to the Scottish Parliament in early 2024, for a debate to discuss whether the Nordic definition of deaf blindness should be adopted in Scotland.  The Nordic definition is a social model of disability where patients with a second sensory loss, are profoundly impacted in every aspect of their daily lives. At present Anne is participating in two projects- ‘Touching Lives’ and ‘Right to Dream’, both raising awareness about dual sensory loss/disability. With Deafblind Scotland, Anne is going back to the Scottish Parliament on 28th June for further discussion.

Anne runs a support group for the Macular Society, giving something back to the Society for the research funding being used to find a cure or treatments for wet and dry macular degeneration.

Recently Anne was approached by Rona Mackay, SNP MSP for Strathkelvin and Bearsden who champions Deafblind Scotland, to speak to the Scottish Parliament as a member of the public.  This is usually a four-minute slot on a Tuesday morning before the start of the day’s business.  When Anne told Rona “But I am a storyteller, not a politician!” Rona said “I know, that is why I am asking you”.

Anne doesn’t let her disability stop her. She has delivered inspirational talks to organisations like ‘Art in Health Care’ and various sight loss organisations., which gives her great joy. She freelances for National and other Galleries, telling stories about the artwork as well as discussing art, combining her passions of art and storytelling.

It appears that she has risen like a Phoenix out of the ashes – who knows where her storytelling journey will take her next!