Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Archive for the ‘Adults’ Category

Storytelling Starters ~ Seeing the audience, seeing yourself

Saturday, January 12th, 2019

We all know the syndrome. The start of a new year makes you eager to sort things out, throw things away, clean your cupboards and your shelves, pursue new objectives and resurrect plans you’d half forgotten about.

For me, this new year has done all those things. It has also brought the satisfaction of seeing that  Nursery World, the magazine that specifically deals with working and living with early years children, has now brought out the big piece on storytelling with early years children that it commissioned me to write towards the end of last year.

Seeing the photos:

Writing my Nursery World piece made me aware all over again how important it is for us storytellers to keep our flame burning by helping new generations of potential tellers to know what storytelling can do.  The new pleasure has been seeing the wonderful photos that were taken to go with the piece. Anna Gordon, the freelance photographer extraordinaire who was commissioned to take the photos, has generously agreed to my using two of them to illustrate this blog today. My thanks to her and to Nursery World and to the centre where the photos were taken. Actually seeing the photos – and in the top one here I’m holding up what I know as my rainbow cloth – makes me very aware of how the children are responding. In fact, seeing the photos made me think a lot about audiences and how important it is to the storyteller to think about the different ways in which they respond. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Jumping In

Saturday, December 29th, 2018

Perhaps it’s always like this at this time of the year. Christmas is over. New Year is coming. So you  start sorting through the detritus on your desk, clearing space for the future. You get out your new diary and, going through last year’s, note into the new one the birthdays of your friends and family for which you must send cards. Then as you continue the sorting, you perhaps turn to My Documents on your computer and, looking down through the list of folders, become engaged by all the items you can’t remember putting there. Or in my case just now, you start searching for something you definitely remember storing there but now can’t find because you can’t recall precisely in what folder you filed it away.

Specifically I started looking for Jumping In. It’s a piece I remembered writing a few years ago in which I tried to describe one of the favourite activities of myself and my friends when, as a child, I still lived in Fishguard.  Throughout the summer – indeed, from as early as April if I could get round my mother – we’d go down to the harbour in Lower Fishguard and, when the tide was sufficiently high, spend many happy hours jumping into the sea from the top of the quay. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Following links

Saturday, December 15th, 2018

A story that quite often returns to my mind is the West African story of three brothers who, each in turn, ask their father for the portion of money he has saved for them because they now want to leave home to go their own way. One by one, the three set off. All travel far afield, each creating his own journey, until the day they independently decide to return home. Strange isn’t it that, travelling home, they happen to meet at a crossroads?

Naturally when the three brothers meet, they embrace and sit down and talk. Naturally, too, in the course of their talk, they become keen to show each other the extraordinary objects that each has acquired on his travels.

What the first brother brings out of his bag is a fine old telescope. But as each of the brothers takes a look through the telescope, they all see their father lying desperately ill and near to death. What are they to do? (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Out of currency?

Saturday, December 8th, 2018

 A surprise arrived in the post this week. The message inside said, ‘This is your Christmas card, Mary.’ But what was inside was not a card. It was a book written by one of the people who has most inspired my storytelling life  – Betty Rosen. Her book contains a fine selection of her poems and prose pieces. Its intriguing title is I Have a Threepenny Bit and Some Other Things.

Betty was the wife of Harold Rosen. They both came into my life during the early days of what can now be described with capital letters as The Storytelling Revival. Under the leadership of an excellent local authority English adviser by the name of Alastair West, the Borough of Redbridge had become a pilot authority for the Oracy Project. The Oracy Project was about the development of spoken English across all ages of children in education in the UK. Betty and Harold were often called upon to introduce people to what it was all about not only in Redbridge but up and down the land. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Visiting, revisiting

Saturday, November 24th, 2018

During a visit I made to Grace Hallworth this week, she kindly gave me a book of Arab folktales. Even as I glanced through it at that time, my eyes alighted on this clever little tale. (I’ll give it a new title: No-brainer.)

No-brainer:

One morning, two woodcutters on their way into the forest noticed the spoor of a lion on the path. (The spoor, by the way, is the animal’s trace or track.) (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Pointers

Saturday, November 17th, 2018

Ever noticed how a particular theme can crop up as if from nowhere and make itself felt over a period of your life? How does that theme begin? Where does it come from? What makes it continue? Is there something in our individual minds that is seeking out the kind of meaning the theme can make? Perhaps these are good questions for storytellers to consider.

New friends:

Over the last ten days, Paul and I have been visited by two very lovely, very different young women that we feel we’ve somehow inherited from their parents. One is one of the twin daughters of two Kenyan friends I made when I was 18 years old and in Kenya to do Voluntary Service Overseas. By now, both of the parents have died. But somehow – and it feels quite wonderful that this is so – the friendship is being renewed and continued by the children of those two friends, and not only on visits that one or other of them has needed to make to the UK but also by email and Facebook. Sadness and regret at the loss of the parents is thus transformed into something new. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ A new note

Saturday, November 10th, 2018

My new venture is singing lessons. It’s going well. My singing teacher, Bianca, is tall, Australian, young, good-looking and full of spirit. At least half of every lesson so far has concentrated on the production of voice, diaphragm and larynx, position of head and tongue, the focusing of sound and other such matters.

How strange, I’ve been thinking, that as someone who has worked as a storyteller for three decades – or is it four? – I have never had voice lessons before. A number of voice workshops, perhaps, but not anything continued and concentrated. In my work, I suppose I felt confident that my voice could reach the back of pretty much any audience. I remember being asked to tell a story to 800 pupils in a black school in South Africa. The 800 pupils were seated outside (always more difficult and certainly not very personal) but it went off OK. Big halls at such events as Festival at the Edge also seem to have gone alright. Awful acoustics, surrounding noise: all kinds of obstacles have occurred and there’s been the occasional failure. For instance, I remember one person coming to me after a story I’d told to a crowd of other storytellers standing around me at some festival or other. She was bothered. She hadn’t heard the last word of the story. That felt unforgiveably awful! (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ From acorn to oak tree

Saturday, November 3rd, 2018

Yesterday morning, I did a story session for 12 children and their teachers from two North Lambeth schools. The event was organised by ADD (Action Aid for Disability) which is a charity I support. The children had been chosen for their artistic ability. What they did in the session yesterday was designed to  contribute to a book.

How things grow! It reminds me of a favourite riddle of mine. The question asks: What’s the definition of an acorn? And the answer? An oak tree in a nutshell.

The story begins:

I remember that the first personal contribution I made to the work of ADD came after a visit I made to their offices when I was shown an inspirational video in which a man called Peter Ogik (I’ve mentioned him before in this blog) talked about his life. Peter was born with albinism. Growing up in Uganda, his life had been very hard. In Uganda, people with albinism are harassed, cursed and sometimes killed. But Peter’s father had always inspired him to be brave. He’d always told him  he was ‘special’. (more…)

New encounters

Saturday, October 27th, 2018

After the ceaseless activity of our week in Toronto, we are now coming to the end of my birthday week in the quieter surroundings of Lakefield. The Autumn colours have been gorgeous, a beautifully patterned snake soaked up the last of the sunshine on one of the trails we walked. But these last days have been greatly shadowed by news from New Zealand of the massive stroke that has been suffered by one of our dearest friends. We await more news. The distance from here to there feels immense. 

Storytelling has figured during this last week in an unexpected new way. Wherever I’ve come into contact with First Nation people – in their communities, centres, shops or books – I’ve been struck by the indications of the importance to them of storytelling. Their stories are a central part of their current efforts to gain proper respect for their rights and their culture. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Where Corals Lie

Saturday, September 29th, 2018

Years ago in a project at the Commonwealth Institute as then was, the wonderful Kathie Prince was the musician, I was the storyteller. It was a brilliant time and, for me, one of its most enriching aspects was how much I learned from Kathie. For instance, I learned the involvement with audiences of varying age that can be brought about through little songs where the audience can help create new verses by offering fresh ideas t0 fit in the pattern. Or where involvement is deepened through the use of differently fascinating instruments. (more…)