Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Archive for the ‘Repertoire’ Category

Storytelling Starters ~ Saying ‘No’

Saturday, July 14th, 2018

‘Not in my name’ is the phrase that has frequently come into my mind of late. Now what often arrives there is simply ‘No’. Especially to Donald Trump, his appalling treatment of migrants and children, his dismissal of so many vital issues such as protecting the environment and his ignorant rudeness, including to Teresa May (whose policies I also cannot abide).

Yesterday was the day of protest. Trump vaingloriously trumpets his ownership of so many properties in Scotland and Ireland (thankfully not Wales) and seems to feel boastful pride in acknowledging that there will be public outcry against him. That’s no reason not to protest. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Serious stuff

Saturday, July 7th, 2018

This week, down in Pembrokeshire, I saw a boy sitting on a stone pillar at the back of Abereiddi beach. He was probably about 10 years old, in his hands was a book, a proper book, and he was reading. When we left the beach an hour or two later, he was still there, still reading. The sight felt emblematic to me of those things that make me feel joyful.

On Thursday evening on S4C (that’s the Welsh channel), there was an equally hope-inspiring item on a programme about the Llangollen International Eisteddfod. A choir from Indonesia was performing and a background item from Indonesia itself focused on a school where dance and music and other arts items play as prominent a part in the curriculum as any other subject. I think it was the Principal of the school who, in an interview, said how important the arts are considered to be all over her country. ‘We feel they give the children sensitivity.’ (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 ~ 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 ~Making memories

Saturday, May 19th, 2018

“We never thought of telling him a story”: the comment came from a smiling young couple with a boy in a pushchair after a talk I’d given at a nursery school. It will always ring in my mind. Stories, memories, family tales: they are not always happy but they are always important.

Going on holiday

As for actual events … well, by the time you read this blog, dear reader, I will be in Corfu. Hooray! A whole week’s holiday, hopefully in lovely warm sun. The weather forecast for Corfu seems pretty confident it’s going to be glorious there. But whatever the weather it’ll be time to read, swim, lie about, be reminded of the taste of ouzo and perhaps make one or two forays to admire the scenery.  (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ A ball of thread

Saturday, May 12th, 2018

Dear blog reader, I hope that what happened to me this morning doesn’t often happen to you.  I came to some kind of consciousness far too early, mind in an absolute spin. Still half asleep, I watched the spin going round, like watching clothes in the washing machine or feeling my mind had turned into a tangle.

A family funeral:

One item in the mix was the funeral in Plymouth on Thursday of an older cousin of Paul’s. During the service a fine account of his life was given by one of his sons. It included a vivid account of a glorious goal his father had scored in a football game in his young days. His other son picked up on that love of sport. Matching the story of the glorious goal, he told about how, on the whim of a moment while on a holiday on the Isle of Man, his father not only entered an 800 metre race that was about to be run but, shoeless and with rolled up trousers, actually won it to the roaring acclaim of the crowd. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Leafing

Saturday, April 28th, 2018

I’ve just been leafing through the battered little notebook where I keep note of riddles and sayings, also some little poems and verses I love. At the back there’s also a list (very incomplete) of stories that have struck me at one time or another. There, the title I’ve given to one particular story has put me in mind of something that was said a couple of weeks ago in a pub I sometimes go to down in Wales. At the table reserved for local people (and I’m glad to be seen as one of them), we were talking about the dreadful weather (as you do!) and how late Spring has seemed to be in arriving. And as we communally made moan on this subject, one of the locals who has a wonderful way with words summed it all up by observing how the trees were ‘reluctant to leaf’.

All change:

(more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Being Special

Saturday, April 21st, 2018

Last week it was a Symposium focusing on refugees. This week it was a dinner event in honour of five Disability Activists from Uganda, Tanzania and Bangladesh. Each occasion has given me much cause for thought, widening my sense of the special importance of a person’s own life story – and how much more that may be so when that person has been up against it in their life.

Thursday’s event was organised by ADD International, a charity I’ve supported for a number of years. ADD links with disability organisations in Africa and Asia to identify and give support to people who can become leaders in their own communities. To the organisation’s great delight, five of the Disability Activists they work with had been able to travel to the UK this week to attend meetings and publicise their work. What had helped make this possible was the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting which has been happening this week in London and the fact that one theme of this year’s gathering has been disability issues. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ What’s the answer?

Saturday, April 7th, 2018

For some unknown reason, a half-remembered phrase is haunting my mind. The part I think I’m remembering consists of the following words: a promise to the future. But are those words part of a riddle? And, if so, what is the answer? What is the promise to the future?  A letter is the possible answer that is drifting into my mind.

But can a letter be a promise to the future? In many circumstances, I suppose it can. A letter to a friend or a relative may be a vouchsafe of future contact. And I suppose that, even if the letter ends a relationship, it can be a promise to the future as in: I’m never going to talk to you again, that’s it for ever.

Well, maybe one of you much-valued blog-readers will enlighten me as to the riddle, if riddle it is. Meantime, let me confess the reason the bothersome question came into my mind in the first place. The answer lies in the unusual fact that I’m writing this blog three whole days before it gets published on Saturday. So it really does feel like a promise to the future. For who knows what may have happened between now and then? (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ On the journey

Saturday, March 31st, 2018

Here we’ve been going flat out all week, me in what feels like constant contact with the very fine Marketing Manager at Jessica Kingsley (everyone there has been exceptional) and with husband Paul helping throughout by casting an editorial eye over stuff I’m writing in pursuance of sales for Storytelling and Story-Reading in Early Years. An article with an edited extract from the book for such-and-such-magazine… A blog for an Early Years organisation… Emails to editors of Early Years journals… Messages to anyone and everyone I can think of who might be able to help spread the word… One step at a time, I have to tell myself.

Meantime: School Librarian

Meantime I’ve also been doing the necessary reading to be able to write my seasonal batch of reviews for School Librarian. 1987 is when I started reviewing for School Librarian. It’s a labour of love in every sense of the term. But I enjoy it and it means I get to read some very interesting books I might not otherwise come across. Hence the next item in this week’s journey.

Plus: a good book for storytellers

Georgiana Keable: I’d forgotten the name until her book arrived for review. Then I vaguely remembered hearing about her long ago. In the early days of the Storytelling Revival, she was a member of the West London Storytelling Unit along with Ben Haggarty. Subsequently she was  one of the tellers in The Company of Storytellers. I never met her and never heard her. What I do recall hearing at some point was that she’d gone off to live somewhere abroad. As I now learn from her book, Norway is where she went. In Norway, she became a kind of storytelling queen of the forest, an ambassador for trees and wildlife introducing children to nature’s riches.

Her book is called The Natural Storyteller. It contains 48 stories. Some are stories from real life experience. Most are folktales from a wide variety of countries and one of these is her retelling of The King with Dirty Feet, the lovely Indian story that Sally Pomme Clayton sent me for my collection of stories, Time for Telling. The Natural Storyteller (subtitle Wildlife Tales for Telling) is aimed at older children and throughout it treats them as Apprentice Storytellers, giving helpful ideas on how to absorb stories and maybe make new ones from them.

The Natural Storyteller comes from Hawthorne Press. I recommend it. Here, briefly retold in my own words, is one of the stories in it that struck me most strongly and that I will surely tell.

An inspiring story: The Blind Little Sister

In a village in West Africa, there were two sisters. One was blind. The other was married to a hunter and whenever this hunter went out hunting, the blind sister said she’d love to go with him. The hunter always refused. ‘What use is a hunter with no eyes? Besides you’re a girl.’ But the married sister always said that her blind sister was the wisest person: ‘She sees with her ears.’

So it turned out. One day, the hunter relented. In the jungle, the blind girl suddenly stopped. ‘Shhhh, there is a lion! But the lion will not bother us, it’s eaten its fill and it’s fast asleep.’ The blind sister proved to be right. The hunter couldn’t see it at first but soon they came across a mighty lion fast asleep beneath a tree.

Further on, the same kind of thing happened. The girl said, ‘Shhhhh! An elephant. It’s washing itself. It won’t bother us.’ As with the lion, the hunter asked, ‘How did you know about it?’ As before, she said the same thing: ‘It’s simple. I see with my ears.’

Before leaving the jungle that day, the hunter suggested that he and the blind sister should both set a trap. Next day they could return and see what they’d caught.

Next day on their return, the hunter saw his trap had caught a little grey bird. The blind sister’s trap had caught a bird whose feathers shone with scarlet and gold. Thinking she’d never know the difference, the hunter took the scarlet and gold bird as his own and handed the grey bird to the girl.

But on the way home, the hunter posed a question to the girl. ‘If it’s true as my wife says that you are so wise, tell me why there is so much war and violence in this world.’

The blind girl replied: ‘Because the world is full of people like you who take things that are not theirs.’

The hunter felt very ashamed. At once, he took the little grey bird from his blind sister-in-law’s hands and gave her the bird with red and gold feathers that had been caught in her trap. He said, ‘I’m sorry.’

Then as they walked home in silence, the hunter asked another question. ‘If you are so wise, and people are selfish, how is it there is still so much love and kindness in the world?’

The girl smiled and replied: ‘Because the world is full of people like you who learn by their mistakes.’

One way a story can make its mark:

Sometimes a story comes at the right time – like a keyhole to put your key into. As I was reading Georgiana Keable’s book, I received an invitation to an event soon to take place at the offices of ADD, a charity which I support. ADD represents ‘Action Aid for Disability’. The organisation works by identifying and supporting people, themselves disabled in one way or another, who can become Disability Activists in the countries where ADD operates. Last year I wrote a story for them based on the life of one such activist, an Ugandan man with albinism who, from all I have learned about him, is a powerful advocate for people with disability and an extraordinary man of great wisdom and kindness. His albinism has meant that he is almost blind. He’s going to be at the gathering. I can’t wait to meet him.

A riddle to end:

Like a good story, a good riddle is cheering and makes you think. A friend put this one to me one evening this week.

Question: Why do anarchists prefer herbal tea?

Answer: Because proper tea (property) is theft.

PS: Tracks across the sand, a path through a forest, a beautiful keyhole in a door: I hope my choice of photos makes some sense. Anyway, the choosing of them is always fun.