Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Archive for the ‘Preparing’ Category

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…)

Storytelling Starter ~ The Stolen Child

Saturday, July 28th, 2018

Peppers is in Fishguard, the Pembrokeshire town of my birth and the first 14 years of my life. It’s also the venue for Summer Enchantment, the evening of songs and stories which Paul and I will be performing next Wednesday, August 1st, with David Pepper at the piano.

Paul will be singing the songs. I’m planning to tell two main stories plus a couple of short ones. One of the big ones is the story I know as The Stolen Child. It’s a Scottish story which I’ve relocated to the Pembrokeshire coast. If you might possibly be there on August 1st, perhaps you should stop reading now. On the other hand, does it matter if, when you start hearing a story, you realise you already know it? I don’t think so. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ The Rag-and-Bone Man

Saturday, June 30th, 2018

Last week it was bags. This week it’s rags, namely things which are so well-worn that, in times gone by, they were  generally only good for passing on to the rag-and-bone man. One such used to come round our streets with his horse and cart collecting big old items such as an old mattress and bags full of unwanted small items too. I remember the tone of his cry though I never worked out quite what he was saying.

My well-worn stuff this week is a joke, one which has been told so many times by me that it could well qualify as good only for the rag-and-bones man except that it possesses the extraordinary quality of still being able to make people laugh. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Moving the chairs

Saturday, February 3rd, 2018

‘Imagination,’ Grace said, picking up on the final word of the story I’d just told. ‘Imagination is ..’.: and her thought continued, ending in an invitation to anyone present to tell a story. Specifically, she turned towards a neighbour in the home where she now lives whom she knew had a story to tell.

And so the Story Sharing began, the second part of a day that had been arranged to honour Grace Hallworth at the end of the month of her 90th birthday. Grace remains a much-loved figure in the storytelling world. She became the first Chairperson of the Society for Storytelling, the SfS, when it was formed back in 1993. She’s told her stories at festivals, schools and storytelling events all over the UK and elsewhere. She has published a large number of books of her stories both for adults and for children. Most of all, she has been a powerful voice for the value of stories in allowing us to discover, express and share our innermost selves as human beings. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Settling into a story

Saturday, July 1st, 2017

Roses 3Do stories need explanation? And what kind of explanations might be needed for a story from an unfamiliar culture? I did wonder a bit about these issues while preparing The Tale of Farizad of the Rose’s Smile for telling to the older children in Wolfscastle School this last Monday. No wide cultural diversity there except for that between Welsh and English. Probably little awareness of Muslim culture. No great variety among children’s names. Certainly nothing like Farid, Faruz and Farizad.

But what explanation does a good story need? I plumped for just going ahead, telling the story without explanation. First I’d told the wonderfully daft story of Shemi and the Enormous Cabbage. Older they might be but they enjoyed that a lot. Then I came to the Farizad story. This is in a very different vein and how it begins is rather a shock. For it tells how, over the course of the three years following the marriage of the King of Persia to the youngest of three sisters, the king is told that his queen has given birth to a dead dog, a dead cat and a dead mouse. Can this be true? No, these are just lies. The queen has actually given birth to three babies and it’s her jealous sisters who have made up the stories.

Would they stick with it? (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Spot the common factor

Saturday, June 24th, 2017

27 ShemiAny storytelling booking obliges you to think. What stories will you do? How might they accord with an overall theme? And how might you relate to the particular audience? All such questions are heightened for me when it’s a booking with children.

This next Monday, it’s to be two sessions at Wolfscastle School, a delightful little North Pembrokeshire Primary school which I’ve visited on several previous occasions. But those occasions were some years ago and by now all the children I saw will have moved on. How will I try to engage my two different groups on Monday? What comments might they make? What questions might they ask?

Planning has been energising. For the younger group, I’ve decided on three favourite stories that accord with the particular theme which, said the headmistress, has been the school’s theme this term. I don’t know if you’ll spot what it is. 

Story One: 

The first story to come to my mind was one of the tall tales of Shemi Wâd, a local storyteller from the 19th century who remained a well-known character in North Pembrokeshire memory at least until the mid-20th century. When I published Shemi’s Tall Tales, I discovered that children – not just here but everywhere – absolutely loved them. One of the tallest and most enjoyable is The Enormous Cabbage. Here it is (in brief): (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Looking up

Saturday, May 27th, 2017

P1070076Here’s a story I remember with laughter and delight every time I think about Laugharne, the place where the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas lived and wrote and also where the novelist and story-writer Richard Hughes had his writing-room high up in the castle walls. This story was created orally by a small group of 11-year old children.

The story:

Merlin was watching over the wall of his castle. Beside him was his favourite seagull. As he looked down, Merlin saw a family of parents and children, obviously tourists, walking along the foreshore of the estuary below. All were munching – crisps from crisp bags, chocolate from wrappers. Then as they passed, one by one they dropped their plastic wrappers onto the ground. Merlin was horrified. When the family had gone by, he sent his favourite seagull down onto the shore to bring him something else that was messing it up. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Mind as Hold-all

Saturday, March 11th, 2017

21993900-oriental-umbrella-isolated[1]Links have been a major theme in this blog over recent weeks. And by links I mean the kinds of associations that make themselves felt between stories  and things that crop up in real life. But as I settled to think about this week’s posting, I began feeling very aware that, so much of the time, we have to simultaneously hold in our minds all kinds of things which have no apparent connection. Maybe a small link pops up between some of them, maybe no link at all. Yet with or without threads to connect them, we still have to keep these diverse things in mind. Namely, mind as hold-all.

A 100th birthday:

This week, for instance, my mind was full of my friend Ella who, this Wednesday, reached the grand age of 100. On her actual birthday, she hosted a party for about 60 friends and I know we all felt full of admiration as she stayed standing to receive her guests and when it came time to cut her cake, walked across to it without any help of a stick. Ella’s memory and pleasure in life are intact. What Paul and I had made to give her was a Dear Ella book, a small recognition of the many memories of times past and present which she has shared with us. 

Umbrellas:

But meantime I’d  also had to get serious about umbrellas. This was because, this coming Monday I’ll be doing a storytelling day in a London school where their  Arts Week is going to centre on the painting by Renoir known as The Umbrellas. My only regret about the booking is that, since I’ll be there at the very start of the week, I won’t learn what the children will have made of the theme by the end of it. But never mind. What stories to tell has made an interesting challenge. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Seeing it out

Saturday, January 7th, 2017

Cropped paperweightProfessor Ruth Finnegan is a specialist in oral tradition. I remember being especially moved when I read her 1981 book on storytelling among the Limba people of West Africa. One storyteller she wrote about told her he’d need several days of preparation before telling her a particular long story she wished to hear. I won’t get the exact words he used quite right at the moment (the book is not to hand) but, as I remember it, what he said was that, in order to be ready for his telling, he’d need several days alone in his hut ‘seeing the story out’.

What especially interests me about that Limba storyteller is that he was blind. He was one of a number of renowned Limba storytellers of that time who were blind. 

Eyes and eyesight are currently much on my mind. Just before Christmas, I received a date – it’s next week! – for a cataract operation on my left eye. The right eye will. I hope, be attended to soon after. Both operations are now much needed: my sight has become foggier and blurrier as the days have gone by.

My personal situation has made me think a lot (and not for the first time) about the links between sight and storytelling. Perhaps the story in my repertoire that feels closest to me is the one that was entitled The First Storyteller in the book where I first came across it. It’s a Chinese myth about an Emperor’s son who was born blind and, in consequence, abandoned. In the absence of sight, the boy grew up becoming acutely attuned both to the world of nature and of people. What he heard, felt and experienced were what made him into a storyteller. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Haunted!

Saturday, November 5th, 2016

A story has been haunting me, going round and round in my mind. It’s kept returning over the last few weeks and, each time I find myself thinking it over, I wonder why it is there. OK, I love the story. And I love who I heard it from, storyteller friend Debbie Guneratne. But why is this story from her in my mind now? So many questions. But first let me tell you the story.

The Pointing Finger:

P1070076It was hot. So hot that even the air felt hot and, beneath his bare feet, the hard ground of the village square felt as if it was scorching his skin. The young man felt thirsty. He also felt worried. What was he ever going to do? His studies in the town were going well, his teachers said he was clever. But how was he going to complete his studies on so little money and with so little hope?

All these questions were turning over in the student’s mind as he sat on the bench in the village square that hot morning. Suddenly, there came the stir of voices and movement on one of the roads that came into the square. It looked like someone important arriving, surrounded by attendants and awed onlookers.

It was some kind of prince, that was obvious. His robes were richly embroidered, his hair was glossy, his beard well-tended and round his neck was a garland of flowers. The prince, if that’s what he was, swept into the square and looked around. There was very little to see – a tree that looked like it needed water, a fountain from which rose too little water to enable it to look like a fountain should.

As he walked grandly round the square, the prince suddenly stopped. His eyes, evidently, had fallen on the student who by now was walking along to the side of the prince, staring avidly at him‘What do you want?’ the prince suddenly said, stopping in his tracks as if he’d only now become aware of the student. For a moment, the student was silent, as if had no idea what to say. Then he quietly replied, ‘Anything … something … whatever you can give.’ (more…)