Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Archive for the ‘Repertoire’ Category

Storytelling Starters ~ A new note

Saturday, November 10th, 2018

My new venture is singing lessons. It’s going well. My singing teacher, Bianca, is tall, Australian, young, good-looking and full of spirit. At least half of every lesson so far has concentrated on the production of voice, diaphragm and larynx, position of head and tongue, the focusing of sound and other such matters.

How strange, I’ve been thinking, that as someone who has worked as a storyteller for three decades – or is it four? – I have never had voice lessons before. A number of voice workshops, perhaps, but not anything continued and concentrated. In my work, I suppose I felt confident that my voice could reach the back of pretty much any audience. I remember being asked to tell a story to 800 pupils in a black school in South Africa. The 800 pupils were seated outside (always more difficult and certainly not very personal) but it went off OK. Big halls at such events as Festival at the Edge also seem to have gone alright. Awful acoustics, surrounding noise: all kinds of obstacles have occurred and there’s been the occasional failure. For instance, I remember one person coming to me after a story I’d told to a crowd of other storytellers standing around me at some festival or other. She was bothered. She hadn’t heard the last word of the story. That felt unforgiveably awful! (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ From acorn to oak tree

Saturday, November 3rd, 2018

Yesterday morning, I did a story session for 12 children and their teachers from two North Lambeth schools. The event was organised by ADD (Action Aid for Disability) which is a charity I support. The children had been chosen for their artistic ability. What they did in the session yesterday was designed to  contribute to a book.

How things grow! It reminds me of a favourite riddle of mine. The question asks: What’s the definition of an acorn? And the answer? An oak tree in a nutshell.

The story begins:

I remember that the first personal contribution I made to the work of ADD came after a visit I made to their offices when I was shown an inspirational video in which a man called Peter Ogik (I’ve mentioned him before in this blog) talked about his life. Peter was born with albinism. Growing up in Uganda, his life had been very hard. In Uganda, people with albinism are harassed, cursed and sometimes killed. But Peter’s father had always inspired him to be brave. He’d always told him  he was ‘special’. (more…)

New encounters

Saturday, October 27th, 2018

After the ceaseless activity of our week in Toronto, we are now coming to the end of my birthday week in the quieter surroundings of Lakefield. The Autumn colours have been gorgeous, a beautifully patterned snake soaked up the last of the sunshine on one of the trails we walked. But these last days have been greatly shadowed by news from New Zealand of the massive stroke that has been suffered by one of our dearest friends. We await more news. The distance from here to there feels immense. 

Storytelling has figured during this last week in an unexpected new way. Wherever I’ve come into contact with First Nation people – in their communities, centres, shops or books – I’ve been struck by the indications of the importance to them of storytelling. Their stories are a central part of their current efforts to gain proper respect for their rights and their culture. (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 ~ Voices

Saturday, September 22nd, 2018

What follows are three incidents, each in its own way quite small, yet each in its own way quite magical, which have been part of my experience this last week.

A brilliant childminder:

Lilian, the childminder who lives in the next street from us, is always brightly engaged and active with the children she looks after. On Thursday, we passed each other on the street as I walked to one of our local shops. With her were two small children barely past toddler age. Each had a bag in his or her hand and both were looking carefully at the ground.

‘We’re going on a leaf hunt,’ says Lilian. Both children raised their bags for me to see what was in them.

It’s not the hugest deal in the world. But considering that ‘Going on a Bear Hunt’ is something most young children get to know, calling it a leaf hunt has a particular ring to it. And what a good way of enabling children to become aware of the nature that is around them even in a city. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Lucky/Unlucky

Saturday, September 1st, 2018

A  Jewish American friend of mine has often told me that his father was the only undertaker in Chicago who never made any money. He lived on the West side (the poor bit) and was always too kind to his clients.

This same friend has also told me: ‘Life consists of three stages. You’re born, you suffer and you die.’ Then he adds with a shrug of his shoulders:  ‘I’m in the second stage myself.’

I thought about this very good friend this morning as I was lying in bed putting off getting up. He emerged in my memory – oh,  the way mind makes links! – just after a little story came into my mind. It was created by a young boy in a class I once worked with. This is the story more or less as he wrote it: (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Connections

Saturday, August 25th, 2018

And the foot bone’s connected to the leg bone…. And the leg bone’s connected to the hip bone…. And the hip bone’s connected to the back bone….

And so on. We used to chant that song of connection as kids on the school bus coming back from events away. Another similar one comes to mind: the one about the old woman who lived on her own who would sit a-spinning of a night bemoaning about how lonely she felt….

Then in came a pair of great big feet – And set themselves down in front of the fire…. And still she sat and still she span, And still she wished for company…. Then in came a pair of thin, thin legs … etc etc etc.

Also what comes to mind is that wonderful story from Aboriginal Australia about the hand that goes for a walk and when she gets to a hill longs for a leg up. So one leg comes and then another etc etc etc (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Sussurations

Saturday, August 4th, 2018

Funny how one does – and doesn’t! – do things. Yesterday I took the step of entering Peach Blossom Story in my Google search box. Up came numerous links to a restaurant called Peach Blossom. But there were also listings that led to one of my most treasured stories. I know it as Peach Blossom Forest. I’ve long been aware that it’s a very ancient  Chinese story and in my almost as ancient and extremely scruffy storytelling notebook are five or six lines of translated-into-English Chinese poetry that are associated with it.

Peach Blossom Forest is one of the two main stories I told at our Summer Enchantment performance at Peppers in Fishguard this last Wednesday evening. (The other was last week’s story, The Stolen Child.) But – and this is perhaps the odd bit – I’d never until yesterday felt I needed to know anything more about this story than the story itself. Indeed, I’ve long treasured it almost as my own tale, so personal and private that I’m not sure I’ve ever told it before. But yesterday, reflecting on the tale as if from afar after reading about it on Google, I realised how strongly my private feelings about the story – more generally known, I see now, as Peach Blossom Spring – reflect the story itself. (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 ~ 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…)