Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Archive for the ‘Visualisation’ Category

Storytelling Starters ~ In need of sunshine

Saturday, October 24th, 2015

Sniffle …snuffle … sneeze. Snuffle … sniffle … sneeze. I’ve had a horrible cold. I’ve still got a horrible cold and it has made me remember a Kenyan story I once came across which I’ve always enjoyed telling to children.

P1010187A Kenyan story: In search of Sun

There was once a boy called Kabebe (though in Jan Knappert’s African Mythology, he’s a man and not named).

Kabebe’s family always had colds. His brothers got colds, his sisters got colds, his mother and father kept getting colds. So one morning early, Kabebe got up (too many sniffles and snuffles around him to sleep?) and, standing by the door of his house, he saw the sun climbing up into the sky. It seemed to rise from a far-distant mountain (imagine the colours, imagine the sight).

‘I’d like to find that mountain,’ Kabebe said to himself. ‘I’d like to see where the sun rises from and I’d like watch as it goes into the sky.’

Without any ado, Kabebe set off. (Imagine the journey – a river with crocodiles in it? Another river with very strong currents? Night falling and the sound of hyenas?) By the time Kabebe reached the bottom of the mountain he’d been aiming to find, the day was over and night was falling. He settled down to try and sleep. (Noises he heard? The fears that he felt?)

As day was returning next morning, Kabebe woke and started climbing the mountain. But by the time he got to the top, the sun was already way up in the sky. (Disappointment?) Yet there on the top of the mountain, what do you think Kabebe saw? A golden palace! (Big? Glowing? I’ll leave the words to you.)  (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Catch the magic

Saturday, May 30th, 2015

P1070369In Pembrokeshire (again), I’m starting to prepare some workshops for Pembrokeshire National Parks. They’ll be training sessions for wardens, rangers and volunteers. But more of that anon. This week’s unmissable experience was another kind of storytelling – an art installation in Narberth.

Place of magic

Narberth – or Arberth in Welsh – is a crucial place in the Mabinogion, the epic cycle of medieval Welsh stories.  It’s where the stories and their magic begin. Today, Narberth is a dynamic little town where many varied artistic events take place – including oral storytelling. But the installation I went to see is an unique work of storytelling of another kind –  in painting, carving, words, animation and film.


Sarah and Tim Williams are the makers. Sarah is becoming well-known throughout Wales as an artist. I’ve known her since she was born and value her work very highly. Tim is an enormously skilled craftsman in wood and also a musician. Tim and Sarah got married a few years ago and Tim recently persuaded Sarah to sing with him on one of his albums, thus revealing that she also has a fine voice.

Together, Sarah and Tim have created an extraordinary, gallery-filling piece about their Pembrokeshire world. Sarah’s place of upbringing is in the north of the county, Tim’s in the south. Their new work brings both parts together in a circular installation which you enter to view. (Tim used a portable swimming pool as its basis).

The installation (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Cry from the heart

Saturday, April 25th, 2015

In the library this week, I picked a slim little volume called Search Party off the New Books shelves. ‘Wow,’ I thought when I opened it up and saw poems about poverty and homelessness, disadvantaged kids, aspiration and anger and love.

George the Poet

P09George the Poet is a young black British man. His parents came from Uganda. He succeeded in getting into Cambridge where he studied politics for six years. But he wasn’t happy with where that was leading. Now he is a rap poet. He has a strong and powerful voice and he’s using it to express what he feels needs expressing.

George the Poet’s poetry challenges all complacencies, for example about the way disadvantaged children fall behind in school. I hope he gets widely heard. He not only has the intelligence and the language to speak out in protest. He also has some spot-on ideas about how to change things.

School Blues

School Blues begins by clearly stating – with accompanying statistics – how children from disadvantaged backgrounds enter secondary school with lower literacy skills than their peers. The second verse begins like this:

It’s time to stage an intervention –
One that’s designed for engaging their attention. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Draw Me A Story

Saturday, March 28th, 2015

P1070182 This Wednesday I made my trip to the Story Museum in Oxford. And if you ask what a Story Museum is for, an unbeatable answer was provided by the late-lamented Terry Pratchett. ‘Asking why the world needs a story museum is like asking a fish what water is for.’

My visit was to attend the launch of a book – the new second edition of  The Oxford Companion to Children’s Literature. This is a wonderful tome. First published in 1984 it has now been refreshed and brought up to date by Daniel Hahn. Danny as he’s normally known had got me to redo the entry on Storytelling for this new edition. Hence my invitation to the launch. I enjoyed it. There were lovely people to meet – the good people who run the Story Museum where the party was held, people who do interesting jobs at Oxford University Press who publish the Companion, and, marvellously, Mari Prichard who co-produced the original edition with her late husband, Humphrey Carpenter. Mari is Welsh and, in true Welsh style, we found we knew lots of places and people in common.

Draw Me A Story (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Repertoire Refreshment 3: The Quest

Saturday, February 14th, 2015

So here’s the third of my blogs about that beautiful story from the Arabian Nights which I’m preparing for telling in a fortnight’s time.  The first blog gave a brief idea of the story as I’d remembered it over a number of years. The second itemised the three treasures in the story that I’d completely forgotten about. Now here’s the main body of the story.  I’ve simmered it down to its bare bones. That’s how I work when I’m starting from a written story. Visualisation must do the rest. Here goes.

The set-up:

P1070107Farizad and her two brothers, Farid and Faruz, live in the beautiful garden which was created by the gardener and his wife who were their parents.

Now the parents have died.

One day an old woman comes to the garden and says to Farizad: This garden is beautiful but it would be perfect with 3 rare treasures – the Talking Bird, the Singing Tree and the Golden Water. Farizad asks where these can be found? In the mountains on the road into India.

Farizad says she must go and find them. Farid and Faruz say, ‘No, we’ll go.’ But then they agree that one brother must stay to look after Farizad.

Quest of Brother No. 1 (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Repertoire Refreshment 2: The Golden Water

Saturday, February 7th, 2015

P1070096OK I found the book and identified the story I’d vaguely remembered. I had to search quite hard: the book turned out to be a hardback and bigger than I’d remembered. It’s Stories from The Arabian Nights,  the stories retold by Naomi Lewis with beautiful illustrations by Anton Pieck. I was surprised to see it was published way back in 1987 (Methuen Children’s Books). Did I review it for The School Librarian? I can’t remember and I can’t check – I recently threw out my old copies.

Three images from the story sang out as I re-read The Tale of Farizad of the Rose’s Smile. How could I have forgotten them? They’re what make the story so lovely. Each is something that must be obtained to make the garden where the girl and her brothers live into the most beautiful garden that it could be.

So this week I’ve decided to concentrate on those three items. The rest of the story can come next week. But now it’s time for visualisation. Time for the unspoken words that may come to mind as each of these three special things is really looked at. Time to imagine the scene they might make when they’re finally brought together in that already lovely garden.

Item One: The Talking Bird

If it was in your garden, the story says, all the birds of the air would flock to behold it. The bird is called Bulbul al-Hazar.

Item Two: The Singing Tree

If this tree was in your garden, all the lutes and harps in your home would break their strings with envy. Its leaves make a sound so ravishing that nothing can match its sweetness. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ My storytelling goes for a walk

Saturday, October 18th, 2014

P1060967The sky was bright blue. Sun poured through the window. My friend rang up: ‘Let’s walk. We’ll meet for coffee.’ ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘I’ll set off right now.’ It was the right thing to do. Later can so easily become never. Besides the long walk to Tooting Common from Brixton allowed time for my thoughts to dip in and out of my mind and settle. Here are some of them:

How lovely it was…

. . . to get two excellent comments on last week’s blog. Liz said she’d tried the Doors visualisation to powerful effect. She’d closed her eyes and over the next 20 minutes had brought to mind all the doors that had opened up in her life and led her to where she is now. Karen wrote about a boy who’d had extremely distressing eczema and who was taught a visualisation that brought him great relief in which he saw a cellar door that led down to a calming pool in which he could immerse himself. From mind to body, it’s powerful stuff.

How grateful I felt

. . . for all the care that was taken by my host for my two performances in North Wales last week. In Llangollen last Friday, Fiona Collins (who is a storyteller of great and wide experience and also my very old friend) carefully arranged the tables and chairs, put up two lovely pieces of fabric behind my performing space, lit the candles she’d brought for each table and created such a warm and friendly atmosphere. The same kind of thing happened in Llandudno the following night. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Doors again

Saturday, October 11th, 2014

P1040451Doors have so many meanings, signal so many different things. At the end of the Second Branch of the Mabinogion (see below for details), there is a brief account of a marvellous journey. Seven chieftains are returning from Ireland bearing with them the head of Bendigeidfran, their leader. He has told them to bury his head on the White Hill in London. This will give protection to this island for the future (and by the way, it makes me think that, if his head is still there, we really have no need of Trident.)

On the way, the seven chieftains are twice delayed, once at Harlech in North Wales where, for seven years, they are enchanted by the singing of the birds of Rhiannon. Then they move on to the island of Gwales (it’s what we now know as the island of Skokholm off the coast of Pembrokeshire). On that island, there is a royal dwelling in which they find a large hall in which there are three doors. Two doors are open. One is closed. And Manawyddan, who is one of the seven bearers, says it must not be opened.

For 80 years, the seven chieftains do not open the door and in all of that time, they remain oblivious of all the sorrows they’ve ever seen or suffered. Nor do they age – and all the while the head of Bendigeidfran, provides good company to them as he had promised. Then of course – for it has to happen – one of the seven men opens the door that’s been shut and at that point they all know they must move on. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Elephant Luck

Saturday, March 8th, 2014


A girl pushes her fingers down the back of the rear seat of an abandoned Renault car in the scrapyard near her home. As she exlores the hole her fingers have found, she feels the hard-edged corner of what is surely a box. Determined to get it out, whatever it is, she returns to the scrapyard a day or two later. This time, she succeeds. She sees that the top of the box is covered with fabric which could be Indian or Chinese and inside, when she opens it, she finds a shining glass figurine of what looks like an elephant man. The elephant man will turn out to be a statuette of Ganesh, the Hindu god. But even before the girl finds that out, her questions have begun.

Questions on World Book Day:

At Ysgol Dafydd Llwyd in Newtown, Powys, on World Book Day this week, the children were brilliant at thinking what those questions might be. How had the box got down the back of the seat? Who put it there? Why? Who did it belong to? What might the figure be worth? How old could it be? Where was it made? Did it have any special significance? How much might you get if you put it on eBay? How long had it been in the Renault? Could you trace its rightful owner?

Ysgol Dafydd Llwyd: (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ The Shopping List

Saturday, November 30th, 2013

WIPs is the name we give to a group to which I belong. There’s no flagellation involved. WIPs stands for Works in Progress. Today, 30th November, we are having a long Saturday session in which all kinds of different things will be presented – songs, readings, piano pieces, a cello piece, some pots which one of our members has made, a sculpture another is creating and a piano duet that has been newly composed by the same group-member who is playing the cello.

For my part, I’ll be reading Shopping List, the story I mentioned last week. At the end of it (which will be just before tea), I’ll be asking the group if they can work out from the story what the shopping list had on it. For me, the experience will be a test of how well my story held their attention. For it’s a very true thing – it’s almost a storyteller’s rule – that you certainly won’t remember what you didn’t listen to in the first place.

Last week I said I’d include Shopping List in this week’s blog. But since the whole thing is four pages long in total, I’ll confine my offering to the first section. I do hope you enjoy it. I should add that it’s part fiction, part childhood memory, part current life. Items from the shopping list are in RED. 

The Shopping List Story:

It was early, but not THAT early, and already it felt like there was too much to do. (more…)