Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Archive for the ‘All ages’ Category

Storytelling Starters ~ Something for all

Saturday, January 16th, 2021

A capital letter makes a lot of difference. It can make someone feel official, authentic – as if whatever they do is much more than playing about. So consider how it can categorise a person too. Is someone who writes things inevitably a Writer? What about someone who just writes? You don’t have to use the capital letter. Perhaps the writer is someone the world in general can regard as a writer. But what about someone who writes, perhaps even writes a lot, who isn’t publicly recognised as such?

I started thinking about this knotty question because of a friend of mine in Pembrokeshire. (Liz, this is you.) She writes. She writes stories, sends them off to magazines and sometimes gets them published. She also writes stories which she reads to her grandchildren. They love her stories and often ask her for another. Is this friend of mine to be regarded as a writer? Officially, I suppose not. She doesn’t fill her time with it. It’s something she does along with all the other things she does. Yet I think the world needs to think again about her and people like her. For in a way, the world has probably become too categorising, separating what’s done professionally from what’s simply but genuinely done as part of life. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Powerful stuff

Saturday, October 3rd, 2020

Mr Laurie Machel was a very elderly man who lived in an old-fashioned block of flats on the South Lambeth Road. The flats are still there and when I go past them in the car nowadays, he often pops into my mind. As I recall, I’d been put in touch with him by Age Concern and I visited him numerous times. He was a practical man. Indeed, one reason he’s often come back to my mind of late – for it’s years ago that I knew him – has been as a result of my recent hip operation. The operation has meant that I’m using crutches to get about. So I’ve had to be thinking about handy ways to transport objects  I need from one place to another in the house. Mr Laurie Machel used to do it by tying the things he needed directly onto his zimmer frame or putting them into cloth bags which he’d hang on the bars. Alas, a pair of crutches is not nearly so viable as an object transporter.

One extraordinary thing about Mr Laurie Machel was that as a very young man before the First World War, he’d had to travel to Japan.  This journey had come about because, having left school at the earliest possible moment to work in a garage in Stockwell, he’d one day had the experience of meeting a Japanese prince who turned up at his garage to try and find someone to come to Japan to look after his racing car collection. Mr Machel got the job. The prince’s cars never got to go anywhere: there was nowhere for them to go. But nonetheless the prince wanted them kept in tip-top condition.

Mr Machel told me that being in Japan at that time long ago was like being in a kindergarten. Japan had not yet joined the modern world. Everything was tiny, small and neat. And as things turned out, Mr Machel was not able to spend much time there. The world was on the verge of World War One and as war came closer, he had to travel back to England. How he’d got to Japan in the first place had involved travelling on the Trans-Siberian Railway, which was quite an experience in itself.  Now, if I remember rightly, his return to England was on board a tanker.

Other than because of his clever way of transporting items around his flat, I have no idea why Mr Machel came back to my mind this week. Nor do I know why, also this week, my memory has been frequented by a young black man who was one of the people in a storytelling workshop I was asked to give in Cape Town during a storytelling trip I once made to South Africa. The trip had been organised by Alan Kenyon, a marvellous teacher-trainer in the sciences field who had a passion for stories and storytelling. Sadly, Alan has now passed away. I’d first got to know him when, on a long sabbatical visit to London, he’d attended a number of the storytelling workshops I used to run at the Drill Hall with storyteller friend Karen Tovell.  (And, oddly, just this week I had another cause to remember those workshops when I received an out-of-the-blue email from another person who used to attend them many years ago.)

The events that Alan Kenyon organised for me to run in Cape Town were fantastic affairs, wonderfully multi-racial at a time when, with Nelson Mandela newly at the country’s helm, such things had become both possible and valued. The young black man I’ve mentioned above happened to become the other person in a pair with me during one of the storytelling exercises in one of the workshops that Alan organised. The exercise was to do with stories of change. I’d asked people to recall to each other in pairs any story of notable change that had occurred in their lives. The change recalled by the young man who found himself working with me was the very first occasion when he’d gone away from the village where he’d grown up. His story was very moving. As he finished it, , he looked directly at me and said, ‘This is the first time I have looked a white woman in the eyes.’

Powerful stuff. But then storytelling can be just that. Powerful stuff.

PS: Sunflowers have nothing at all to do with the subjects in my blog this week. But sunflowers are marvellous things and the ones in my photos are particularly marvellous to me because they grew in our garden.

Storytelling Starters ~ Dream and Imagination

Saturday, September 26th, 2020

Long ago, the top room of our house became known as the Dream Room. Lodger after lodger who lived there – and our lodgers were mostly good friends in need of a place to live for a while –  reported on the extraordinary dreams they had there. Perhaps it was something to do with the shape of the room, the sloping ceilings and the little casement window looking out over the garden.

Or perhaps it was the sense of being high up, far away from the business of the house down below. Or perhaps it was a sense of security in which you could float away into the colours of dreams without worrying whether you’d ever get back.

It has been one of the pleasures of living in this tall terrace house that when you’re at the top of it, you are far away from the life at the bottom, the cooking and eating and sweeping and talking. I probably haven’t ever spent enough time up there to really relish the sense of security it gives. But I’m pleased  to have been able to extend the space to others. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Any old bones?

Saturday, September 12th, 2020

The rag-and-bone man regularly came round the streets of Fishguard where I grew up. We kids would be playing Jacks on the front doorstep or What’s the Time, Mister Wolf? round on Victoria Avenue and we’d hear the rumble of his cart, look up and see his tired-looking horse and hear his echoing cry as he went on up the street. ‘Any old rags?’

The rag-and-bone man was a small, thin man as if he was nothing but bones himself. I suppose he did collect bones as well as rags. But I have no memory of that. However, I do have a special memory of bones from later, probably my young twenties, when Paul and I were in Corfu, staying in a house we’d rented out in the sticks. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Hip-hop

Saturday, September 5th, 2020

In my life, there’s been the Hippy-Hippy-Shake: a dance we did all the time in our teens. Then there were  hipster jeans and there were hippies who sat round smoking pot. But today the mere thought of hips brings back to mind the hip operation I’m to have a week on Monday. Am I apprehensive? Yes – even though everyone who’s had one tells me it’ll be fine and afterwards I’ll be running around like a new young thing.

Right now though, as I think about this blog, it’s not just the hip op that comes into my mind. Probably that’s because the apprehensive condition of my mind has started it running onto anything and everything that could include hips.  So for instance in comes that well-known folk song that I  well remember from when Common Ground (Helen East, Kevin Graal and Rick Wilson) used to sing it in storytelling sessions. In it the lonely old woman is sitting alone at her spinning wheel as into the room, body part by body part, come all the body bits that make up the Strange Visitor. First comes the great big feet, then the pair of thin thin legs followed by the great big muscly body which in my imagination now includes great big hips. And as all the body parts accumulate, the old woman asks the strange visitor why. Why have you come here? FOR YOU is the threatening answer. But of course this particular old woman is not to be overwhelmed. Up she gets and grabs a stick and beats the strange visitor out of the room even while, as at the start of the song, she goes on wishing for company. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ And in Bangalore!

Saturday, July 25th, 2020

I first heard from Swati Kakodkar, a storyteller in Bangalore in India, some five years ago when she wrote to me about storytelling. While we’ve had some good face-time I have often thought how much I would like to be able to meet her in person. Maybe one day that chance will arise! Meantime, to complete (for now!) my little series on storytelling spreaders, here’s some of what Swati has achieved.

As well as being the busy mother of a son and cooking for the family, Swati is a management professional who has worked in the areas of Brand Building and Corporate Communication. She is also a certified storyteller who holds a Diploma in Storytelling from Kathalaya Academy of Storytelling in India, an institution affiliated both to the University of Sweden and the Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh. In 2013, Swati founded Story ki Bory, into which she has poured all her varied experience. When I asked Swati the meaning of Story ki Bory, she answered that ‘bory’ means ‘sack’ in Hindi. So Story ki Bory means a sackful of stories. But the vision behind it is wider than any sackful. As Swati describes it,  the vision is ‘to make a definite difference and create a positive change through the transforming energy of stories and storytelling’.

Here are some of the different parts of Swati’s Story ki Bory project. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Too hot?

Saturday, June 27th, 2020

To me it has felt so hot over the last several days, it has almost been too hot! The sunshine and the heat have reminded me of a Chinese story I’ve told in this blog before. Back in 2013 in fact. (Phew! Have I been doing blogs since then?) Anyway, I think the story is worth retelling today since in the context of today’s concerns, the overheating of the earth is very much a current concern.

Too too hot

A long time ago, there wasn’t just one sun in the sky. There were six. In summer, in consequence, the earth became extremely hot. Too hot! (more…)

Storytelling Starters: What next?

Saturday, June 20th, 2020

What next? Ever ask yourself that question? I often do and this is because it often feels like there’s too much to do. Worse, it sometimes feels as if between all the things I’d like to do and the things I’ve got to do, the things I’d like to do get so far pushed to the back that they don’t get done at all.

Now, though, things are changing. After what seems like forever dealing with health issues, treatment for my fourth episode of cancer has come to an end and, for the moment anyway, I feel quite free.

So will it be writing more fictional stories as in my most recent book, The Uses of ‘a’? Or will it be continuing a kind of memoir of my storytelling life that I started and then left aside,  a book provisionally entitled A Storyteller’s Tale?  And what about Animal Antics, another project I conceived (and actually drafted out)  a little while ago?

Animal Antics is an animal alphabet, an A-Z of stories for children in the 8 to 12 age-range. This week, I took the step of asking Sarah Williams, a brilliant young artist friend of mine in Pembrokeshire,  if she would consider doing the illustrations for these stories. Hurray, she has said yes and has already started on them. Soon we’ll have a fine proposal to put to a publisher. And the next adventure will be finding one! (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Dead?

Saturday, May 16th, 2020

‘Your language is dead!’ I remember it as vividly as when it happened. The voice shouted out very loudly from somewhere above my head and went ringing out across the great spaces of the Royal Albert Hall. It was a man’s voice and the brief silence that followed felt nervous and chilly. Wisely, no response came from the stage below where Welsh musician, Cerys Matthews was performing. Cerys is a Welsh speaker. She did not respond to the man who’d shouted. Instead and very wisely, she simply went on to the song she’d just announced as a song that comes from Wales and is in Welsh. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Lockdown lifters

Saturday, April 25th, 2020

I’ve been missing my Pembrokeshire sea. I’m going to be missing it more and more. Each time I read in my newspaper about how long Lockdown is likely to last, the predicted length gets longer and longer. It’s vitally necessary but oh dear! Today, looking for distraction in my file-box of Songs, Poems and Sayings, I came across this lovely short poem by the American poet, Carl Sandburg:

The sea-wash never ends
The sea-wash repeats, repeats
Only the old strong songs
Is that all
The sea-wash repeats, repeats

(more…)