Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Archive for the ‘Story-making’ Category

Storytelling Starters ~ The Happy Prince …

Saturday, June 16th, 2018

The Happy Prince is the new film by Rupert Everett. It took him ten years to get it off the ground and last night was its opening night. We went to see it at the Curzon cinema in Victoria (small and extremely comfortable). The film deals with the last wretched years of Oscar Wilde’s life after he was released from Reading Gaol where he had been imprisoned for ‘acts of gross indecency’. Since homosexuality was legalised, Oscar Wilde could not have been so cruelly punished.

Some of the most touching scenes in the film are where Oscar Wilde is telling stories to children. Early on, it’s to his own two little boys. Later, it’s to two French boys who spend time around him during his exile. The story he tells them is one of his own, The Happy Prince. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Smorgasbord

Saturday, May 5th, 2018

That word smorgasbord always suggests outside eating to me, a delicious-looking range of dishes set out on a summer-time table strewn with flowers. A couple of sunny days this week suggests that, despite all the indications, spring and summer might actually be on their way. Some smorgasbording might occur!

So here’s a kind of storytelling smorgasbord to go with the imagined food.

1. Sharing stories

Did you know it’s National Share-a-Story Month? Among all the other National Thises and National Thats, I hadn’t specifically registered it until alerted by the delightfully efficient Marketing Manager at Jessica Kingsley Publishers who has been handling my new book. Might I do a piece on story-sharing to go on their blog? Answer: Yes of course I will. Story-sharing is so right up my street, it’s in my house and in my study and in my heart. The irony is, of course, that National Share-a-Story Month is organised by the National Federation of Children’s Book Groups. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Regenerating

Saturday, December 30th, 2017

I’ve never been an assiduous follower of Doctor Who. But down in Wales with a guest who loves it, we did watch the Christmas episode. It contained a wonderful example of regeneration as Peter Capaldi who has been the twelfth doctor spiralled through turning circles of time and space to become the thirteenth, a woman played by Jodie Whittaker.

Regeneration

Regeneration is a good theme for this point of the year. At the end of this particular year, it feels especially apt when so many people I’ve talked with have confessed that, for them too, 2017 has felt like a year we want to see the back of.

So, much like Doctor Who spiralling into a new emanation, images of regeneration have been swishing round in my mind. Wasn’t there a girl sent out into the woods by a cruel stepmother who had demanded to be brought strawberries for supper? What ever was the girl to do? It was the depth of winter, the end of the year, and not the time for strawberries (except in supermarkets!).  Rescue came in the bitter night when she met a man in the woods who brought her to a blazing fire around which sat a ring of men of all ages from very old to very young. And didn’t those men stand and chant the year forwards, regenerating winter into summertime so that the poor girl was then able to gather the strawberries her cruel stepmother required? (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Looking up

Saturday, May 27th, 2017

P1070076Here’s a story I remember with laughter and delight every time I think about Laugharne, the place where the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas lived and wrote and also where the novelist and story-writer Richard Hughes had his writing-room high up in the castle walls. This story was created orally by a small group of 11-year old children.

The story:

Merlin was watching over the wall of his castle. Beside him was his favourite seagull. As he looked down, Merlin saw a family of parents and children, obviously tourists, walking along the foreshore of the estuary below. All were munching – crisps from crisp bags, chocolate from wrappers. Then as they passed, one by one they dropped their plastic wrappers onto the ground. Merlin was horrified. When the family had gone by, he sent his favourite seagull down onto the shore to bring him something else that was messing it up. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Ibanang Story 2

Sunday, July 24th, 2016

Last week’s story was The Swallowing Drum, the story of a girl called Ibanang. This week, I promised some ideas about telling and working with it. Before getting going, however, I must emphasise my belief that a simple, straightforward telling can also work very well. Often, however, participation is both appropriate and helpful for enriching the story and making it stick in its listeners’ minds. What follows are some well-tried ideas.

Steph's drumsJoining in with sound and action:

The drums Ibanang encounters on her way into the forest provide a brilliant opportunity. Pretend you are beating the drums with drum-sticks and repeat what the drums say a number of times and in different tones of voice – high for the little drum, medium-voice for the middle-size one, low for the big one. By the time you get to the middle-size drum – and I recommend leaving it to the children to join in when they want to – I can pretty much guarantee you’ll have your whole group doing the same as you.

If you know some kind of celebratory song, add it in at the end of the story when people are celebrating the end of the evil drum. And sing it several times over, with verve.

Getting children to volunteer their own ideas:

Some storytellers worry that the session will get out of control if you provide opportunities for children to say things in the course of the storytelling. Perhaps this is why some adults only ask very limited questions (eg do you know what colour of coat Red Riding Hood put on?) (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Read/tell/read/write

Saturday, January 23rd, 2016

P1040754Ever feel uninspired? Empty of ideas and spirit? I hope so – but only in the sense that I hope it’s something we can all admit to. Certainly, after a week of editing work, completely uninspired is how I felt about the prospect of writing this blog today. I was convinced I had no stories to tell and nothing to say. 

Then on Thursday evening, I happened to turn up a little piece I’d written a month or two ago in the aftermath of reading a number of books by novelist and short-story writer, Ali Smith. Re-reading my piece, it made me wonder. Could I put that piece of mine on my blog?

Ali Smith has had a big effect on me. There’s daring in how she writes, a willingness to experiment and take risks. So why not, I’ve wondered since Thursday? Why not take the risk? As a storyteller, I’ve spent a great deal of time and energy going on about the powerful link between the oral and the written and how one can inspire the other. So why shouldn’t I confess to a passion for writing? Moreover, as I approach my dotage, I think I love doing it more and more. So here goes – a piece I wrote which is a bit of an experiment in visualisation, more of an idea than a story.

The uses of ‘a’

Come. Stand outside with me on a cold, clear night and I’ll show you how to experience one way to expand your sense of life. Preferably it’s cold because that makes you feel things more deeply. Preferably it’s in a part of the country, like on a small hill in Wales, like in my village of Mathri, where there’s little or no light pollution. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ In two worlds

Saturday, October 10th, 2015

Last weekend, a wonderful story was read to me over Skype by a seven-year-old girl in Australia. I felt lucky to be able to  hear it and see it – her drawings were brilliant.  The story was entitled  The Magic World and the Tragic World. It first talked of the dragons who inhabited each of these worlds. Then one day, it said, everything changed: the dragons of the Tragic World attacked those of the Magic Wall of creepersWorld. Happily, by using and testing their magic, for instance to grow themselves wings, the Magic World creatures became able to pacify their attackers. 

Some human problems are harder. I think in particular of all those people who become obliged to leave the world where they grow up to go and live in another. War exacerbates the problem.  Among all those millions of Syrian refugees now desperately seeking a new safe place where they can live in peace, so many are reported as saying that where they’d most like to be is back home. Is there any prospect at all that they will ever be able to return?

This problem speaks to me personally because, like so many people today, I feel conscious of living in two worlds. But I am fortunate. Coming from one place (north Pembs), settling in another (London), I’ve been able to move easily between the two and increasingly over the years, and massively helped by my storytelling, have been more and more able to integrate the two. But what if you cannot ever go back? Perhaps you have to learn to live with the idea of carrying your sense of home in your heart. It’s the idea expressed in a very beautiful Welsh song, Paradwys (Paradise) which my husband is currently learning.  Its final line expresses the theme with the thought that the key to your paradise lies in your own heart. A similar thought underlies a Chinese story I came across a long time ago which I refer to as The Peach Blossom Forest. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Jumping for joy

Saturday, August 1st, 2015

P1070062Summer-time and children are expressing their delight. The other day on my way to the shops, one tiny boy was jumping repeatedly up and down on the pavement with the widest smile on his face. That sheer sense of fun is something I adore to see. I’ve always wanted to encourage it in children I come across whether at work or at home. It’s something that storytelling extends and supports. 

Looking through an old notebook this week, I came across a record of the following exchange. I vaguely remember it happening in a storytelling session. It began with me asking my audience, ‘What could you do with a story?’ One child’s answer was: ‘You could put it in storage and tell it to your children.’

Oddly enough another notion of storage came up during a visit I made this week. It was to part of my extended family where, I’m delighted to say, the children all love stories. On this particular day, one of the girls was having her 9th birthday. She was also very much looking forward to going abroad on holiday next week. When talk turned to her mother’s enormous suitcase – too big even for her, she thought – a notion began to develop that the birthday girl’s 7-year old cousin, who was also present, might be able to get in the suitcase and go on holiday with them. The fantasy quickly began extending until the 7-year old was talking about the feeding tube there might be in the suitcase, the icecream his aunty might send down the tube and  how he was going to wash.  (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ What’s new? What’s true?

Saturday, July 4th, 2015

P1070490Last week I asked this question: What did Iron-Age people have? Karen’s response was: ‘They’d have had each other.’ The elements were what  had been in my mind – earth, air, fire, water. With characteristic insight, Karen thought about the people. Her response has been helping me think through one of the issues that arose from my training day at Castell Henllys on Monday. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Ground of our being

Saturday, June 13th, 2015

P1040896This Thursday night, I attended an event in a fine old house in Hackney. The house was Sutton House, a Tudor manor house that now belongs to the National Trust. The event consisted of two authors, Rob Cowen and Dominick Tyler, talking about their relationship with nature and landscape. Some of what Dominick said was personally recognisable to me: I’ve known him since his childhood in Cornwall. What both authors said about the impact of nature made me recall an important theme in story work I’ve done.

Rob Cowen’s book, Common Ground, is about the Yorkshire edgeland near where he grew up. One of those strangely absorbing places on the fringes of towns and cities where you can still find yourself immersed in the world of nature, he rediscovered his childhood edgeland as an adult. In Dominick’s book, Uncommon Ground, you see remarkable photos of landscape features and read about the terms for those features that have fallen almost completely out of knowledge. Finding the terms and the places which illustrate them was Dominick’s way of reconnecting with nature for behind his book, as with Rob Cowen’s, was his strong realisation of how much he’d lost in becoming urbanised as an adult.

And so to stories:

In story work I’ve done in schools, it’s always proved productive with pupils in the 10 – 13 age-range to ask them about places they value. I start with an invitation: ‘Think about somewhere you’ve enjoyed going to play, somewhere you like to lurk about.’ (more…)