Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Archive for the ‘Props and Resources’ Category

Storytelling Starters ~ Head gear

Saturday, August 24th, 2019

On Thursday or Friday every week but sometimes not till Saturday morning, the question arrives in my head. What to write in this week’s blog? Often the answer seems to be there already as if I’d already been considering the question. Sometimes I haven’t got a clue. Like this week. Yesterday I didn’t have a clue. I just had to trust that something would come to mind.

Why bother?

A friend asked the other day: ‘Why do you bother?’ My only answer can be ‘because I like doing it.’ My sense of the weekly obligation requires me to think over whatever may be in my mind. Recent events.  Topics that, however briefly, have grabbed my interest.  Stuff I’ve been reading. Things that have been said to me directly or things I’ve overheard.

From all these various tributaries to what must pass as my river of thought, something has to  materialise to provide the spur to a blog. But in a way that’s just like storytelling. I’m sure all storytellers would say the same. Countless times on your way to do a session or sessions, you’ll have known pretty much what stories you’re likely to tell. You’ll have thought about them in preparation, identifying themes and finding links. But there’s also the more immediate links that, in the event, prove invaluable. These may come from what happens on the way to the venue or from recent encounters or from things people have said. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Stories: Why bother?

Saturday, August 10th, 2019

A tiny pink bird has migrated to my desk from the cupboard in my study where I keep my notebooks, stationery and some storytelling stuff. It perches on a small chrome clip and the other day, I persuaded it to come across to my desk to keep me company. Perhaps I thought it might decorate a present I was planning to give to someone or other. By now it looks likely to stay.

But I like it. I like the birds in my life. Since installing a bird-feeder in our garden, we regularly see a troupe of goldfinches arriving – often eight or ten of them. Not surprisingly, these have attracted a bustling gang of pigeons that gather below the feeder to hoover up the scraps of fatball and grain that drop onto the grass when the little birds feed. Plus a lovely pair of robins arrive quite often, moving quietly round the garden’s edges before visiting the area below the bird-feeder. The bossy green parakeets are not so welcome. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Remembering

Saturday, July 27th, 2019

 ‘Tennyson is crossing the desert!’ A few days ago, that was the strapline on one of the emails in my Inbox. It was followed a day or so later by ‘Tennyson has crossed the desert!’

Such a headline does make you think. For me, it brought to mind a grand-looking poetic figure, bearded and with hair reaching down to his collar: what could he be doing walking the desert? And on his own? Perhaps dreaming up new poems along the lines of The Lady of Shalott or Enoch Arden?

Tennyson, the cuckoo

Well, no! The Tennyson that had succeeded in crossing the desert was not the Victorian poet-laureate but a cuckoo, one of this year’s tranche of cuckoos named and sponsored under the auspices of the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology), its movements tracked as it flies alone across the vast distances that bring it into Central Africa and then back again to the UK where, of course, we think of it as ‘our cuckoo’ even though it’s in the UK for only a few weeks. (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 2: The storyteller

Saturday, January 26th, 2019

So here I am, thinking about props and the usefulness of them. Props attract attention, they hold attention. Interesting objects, puppets, dolls together with fascinating bags and boxes: all can be part of the art of the storyteller. Last week, I wrote about the single object that may set the scene for a story. But a set of objects can also be good as well as fun to put together.

A set of objects sets the scene in a different way. It reflects the fact that there will be different scenes in the story and is very helpful for younger children. Showing the objects one by one before the story begins gives them an initial sense that the story will progress through different scenes. Then showing them again at the end is a great way to remind them of the story. Perhaps you do this as you put the props away in the bag or box from which they’ve emerged. (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 ~ 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 Starters ~ Bags

Saturday, June 23rd, 2018

Handbag, sandbag, eyebag, party bag … Bags have always been a passion of mine to the extent that, these days, creating birthday cards to send to friends, I attribute them to Old Bag Productions. I suppose my passion began long ago: taking part in Eisteddfod competitions as children, we’d be given beautiful little lace-edged bags, a coin inside, as prizes. Afterwards I’d hang mine from the mirror on the dressing table in my bedroom.

Bags can be fascinating in themselves – ‘Why have you got that bag, Miss?’ – and that’s one of the strongest reasons I’ve always loved them in my storytelling work, and not only when working with children. But also the fact that you’re carrying a bag naturally leads on to more. So much can go into bags, so much come out.  A beautiful cloth, an endearing soft toy, a strange sound-making instrument. Or maybe what emerges is another smaller bag with, inside it, a collection of objects for a particular story. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Cough, sneeze, spit, blow

Saturday, February 24th, 2018

Cough. Sneeze. Spit. Blow. Reach for another tissue. Sneeze. Cough. Spit. Blow. Take another couple of Lemsip capsules. Cough. Cough. Cough. Cough. Consider going downstairs to make a new hot water bottle.  The process becomes unending. Get out of bed. Boil the kettle. Refill the hot water bottle. Make a hot drink.  Revert to the bed. Wonder how long this is going to last. What about the jobs that need to be done?

Strange how all sense of urgency subsides when the bugs have taken over. My new book, Storytelling and Story-Reading in Early Years, officially  comes out on March 21st. Even as the Marketing Department at Jessica Kingsley swings into action, there’s loads to do to get ready. A new day dawns. Send stuff to Early Years magazines? Write a piece I’ve promised for the Pre-School Leadership Alliance? Do some new recordings to put on my website? Make a list of personal contacts in the field to alert? (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Mirror, mirror

Saturday, February 17th, 2018

What happened became something I’d never forget as the young Masai moran stared at the camera, stared again, then summoned the others to come and look. One by one, they took turns to do so.. And why? What the first young man had seen was a reflection of himself in the camera lens. Now everyone else had to have a look too. Camera had become mirror. And this was fascinating to those Masai people for, at that point anyway, they had no mirrors.

This encounter occurred during a weekend safari trip made by myself and my then boyfriend at some point during the nine months I spent in Kenya as a VSO (Volunteer for Service Overseas) before I went to University. At that time, the VSO scheme was for school-leavers in the belief that the time those accepted onto it spent in developing countries would have a powerful and probably beneficial effect on them and also, in terms of what they could do to help, on the communities they went to. They were certainly right in regard to myself and the long-term effect. (more…)