Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Archive for the ‘Personal experience’ Category

Storytelling Starters ~ Gold

Saturday, April 6th, 2019

When you think about it, it’s sometimes very hard to say what makes a particular topic come to your mind. For instance, I have no idea what started me thinking about nightingales this morning. Not blackbirds but nightingales. Or perhaps instead of nightingales (plural) I should say nightingale (singular). For to my knowledge I’ve only ever encountered one. And it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life.

My personal experience:

It was on the island of Iona off the north-west coast of Scotland. Paul and I were visiting Oban on the mainland (my maternal grandfather hailed from Oban). In the course of our visit, we took a trip across to Mull and thence on to Iona where we were able to spend a few days staying in a remote little guesthouse where, each night, our host would call upstairs to say that the electricity was about to go off because he was about to turn off the generator. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Cat-you-like

Saturday, March 30th, 2019

Are you familiar with the story of how the cat got its purr? I was reminded of it while thinking about the elegant black, beautiful cat who came up to our room  in my husband’s arms a couple of days ago. Paul had been out on the doorstep, talking with our neighbour. Meantime, our front door was open, the cat emerged as if from nowhere and promptly walked into our house. Paul followed it in, picked it up and brought it up for my admiration.

Wow! The cat was obviously ‘owned’ – if ever a cat can be owned – with a smart collar and bell. He was in the most beautiful condition and at once I was reminded of all our past cats and how I’d like to have a cat again. After the death of Minky, our last lovely cat, we felt we couldn’t replace him with another. Then time went on and, several years later, we remain catless. Perhaps that beautiful black cat will bring about a change here. Who knows?

How the cat got its purr: the story

Meantime, that story of how the cat got its purr has winkled its way back into my mind. The story tells of how one of the animals, perhaps it was cat, somehow got hold of a big beautiful drum. Whoever he was, he loved to play it and when he did so at parties, the other animals were full of envy of the sounds it made. So envious did the other animals become that one of them – was it fox? – wanted to get it for himself. (more…)

Storytelling Starters: On the wing

Saturday, February 2nd, 2019

Last week I ended with the thought – or is it more of an observation? – that, in storytelling, you as the storyteller are your own prop. This applies whether you’re a professional doing your storytelling from a stage or in a group, with adults or with children, or whether you’re telling your stories informally. What you have in your repertoire is not only your stories but yourself, your voice, actions, sound-effects, expressions.

Promptly last week came a comment from a reader in New Zealand (Pamela, this is you). She and her family had just attended a storytelling session being given by Tanya Batt, a New Zealander whom, as it happens, I remember meeting years ago in North Wales. As well as the stories and how Tanya was dressed, what had made an enormous impact was her great range of sound-effects and actions.

Yes, sound-effects and actions. But there’s something else too which can enormously help a storyteller. It’s developing a range of little add-ins (and I’m calling them add-ins as opposed to add-ons). The sort of add-ins I mean can include all kinds of things that, over time, become a staple, but not inevitable, part of your repertoire. They’re things you can throw in, perhaps in the earlier part of a session when you’re introducing yourself and getting going. Or even later, perhaps between stories or even in the middle of one, a kind of throw-away that can recapture attention. So what do I mean by add-ins? (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Props 1: inviting response

Saturday, January 19th, 2019

Last week brought lovely comments on my thoughts about audience. So this week – and over one or two following weeks as well – I’ve decided to write about props. It’s a subject that interests me a lot. Why use a prop or props? Do they help or hinder a storytelling or indeed the storyteller? How many props might one use in a session and how is best to deploy them? And where might one obtain them?

Props stimulate questions:

Placed on a theatre stage, props can intrigue the audience. Props arouse subliminal questions. Why is that object there? Who is going to use it and when and why? But storytelling is generally less theatrical. So why would a storyteller make use of a prop or props? An immediate answer has to do with the very nature of a prop. A stick, a stone, a badge, a flower: a prop is some kind of object that has been selected with a view to intriguing or informing the audience. Perhaps it is itself going to be the subject of a story. Perhaps its colour or shape is going to be significant. Perhaps it’s a matter of who owned it, where it came from. Props stimulate questions. (more…)

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 ~ Going on

Saturday, January 5th, 2019

It’s that time of year. Sorting feels imperative, like it must take priority over everything else. The trouble is that when sorting happens, distraction occurs. You remember household jobs that must be done, friends with whom you must reconnect, enterprises you failed to pursue that now compel your interest all over again.

All these things are happening to me right now. But one aspect of the sorting that is pleasing is being reminded of stories. Sorting folders on my computer has brought me to folktales I love and haven’t told for a while. It’s also brought me to stories I’ve written and kept largely hidden. Re-reading them now – and they’re stories for reading, not telling – has made me think I might like to share them, even try getting them published. (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 ~ Bringing Hope

Saturday, December 1st, 2018

You know what it’s like. You’re vaguely expecting something to happen. Then suddenly it arrives and you’re surprised and delighted. In my case, it occurred yesterday morning when onto my doormat fell something a little  larger and heavier than the usual letter – not that many actual letters arrive any more. What comes are bills, oh yes the bills! And also of course endless advertisements for this or that.

What the post brought:

But this was the most delightful little book. It’s entitled Bringing Hope, the story in it was written by myself and, yes, I was expecting it to arrive sometime around now. But when I saw it, what proved an absolute delight was the illustrations, all bursting with colour and texture and all produced by pupils of two schools in South London, Reay and Wyvil Primary Schools. (more…)