The Best Story Wins

Despite the challenges, we all love the Midlands area and everything that it offers. Matt Hogarty from Love Howick and Tommy Deuschle  share with us how they are changing the ‘Midlands story’ to a positive one filled with magic.


We all love a good story. Whether it’s a bedtime tale told while tucking children into bed, a casual exchange in the checkout line, the motivational talk from a coach before a sports team takes to the pitch, or the story we replay over and over in our minds – we all derive pleasure, meaning, purpose, connection and belonging from storytelling and sharing. 


There is an initiative starting in the uMngeni region with a fresh opportunity to rebrand our region. I felt it vitally important to use this moment to craft a new narrative for the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands and develop a vision that would inspire us all to invest in the future we all dream of. 


This was the goal of the Midlands Story Mapping Session. We gathered nearly 100 role-players (government, business, media, academics, NGOs, youth, churches, etc.) from across the KZN Midlands ‘story’ to collaborate on a new narrative that would inspire and propel us forward as a collective. This dynamic session was facilitated by Tommy Deuschle from Artisan Africa, a leading digital communications company with bases in the USA, UK, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Tommy is known as one of the most influential young Zimbabweans under 40 and also founded a company that looks at entrepreneurship and media. His impressive resume includes “working with the Zimbabwean government to rebrand the Nation.” 


The Story Mapping Session took all participants on a journey of distilling ideas, experiences, emotions and hopes into key statements that would reflect how we see our beautiful home. The result was statements like, “a serene and magical place where innovative arts and opportunities collide with a vibrant culture and charming people”, “our safe streets sing with the sound of unity and hope”, and “the rhythms of ubuntu inspire our people and fuels their dance of greatness”. 


Like any story, there are necessary twists in the plot that evoke suspense or excitement to keep the listener engaged, and with many twists and turns in the plot of our Midlands story, the next part of our gathering tasked participants with the job of reimagining our problems as opportunities. The most incredible creativity was sparked as problems like ‘infrastructure issues’ were reimagined as opportunities to explore and implement smarter solutions, and ‘our unemployed population’ was seen as a ‘pool of innovation and hustle waiting to be deployed to change the playing field in our economy’. What emerged was a powerful realisation that what we had in our relatively small community could only be described as ‘Midlands Magic’, and so began the race to share this magic with the world. 


It is said that ‘the best story wins’ and I have never really understood how one can claim their story is better than the next. But after being in the room with a hundred envisioned storytellers who found their voice during this activity, I can confidently say that we managed to design and draft the best story, our story, a Midlands story.


Since this catalytic moment, this project has moved from the concept phase to content creation where the Love Howick team, together with a skilled scriptwriter, videographer, and narrator, have brought these words to life in a series of short videos titled Midlands Magic. These are designed to give every one of us who calls the Midlands our home a reason to put our roots down deeper and be the change we want to see – positively contributing to building the future we want to see. 


We also hope that this series of videos will also enable us to tell our story to the world, attracting visitors from abroad, investors and fellow South Africans to see what is possible when we all dream together. 


There is a Native American proverb that says: “Tell me the facts and I’ll learn. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.” Our hope is that this project will spark a groundswell of positive stories that will live in our hearts forever, and help us to keep reaching for a better tomorrow, remembering that each of our stories matters.


The Midlands Magic video series is set to premiere on various online platforms (including The Midlands website and social channels) later this year and we eagerly anticipate that these ‘best stories’ will win over your heart and inspire you to see this place and its people as truly valuable.

Words: Matt Hogarty