Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Archive for the ‘Story-making’ Category

Storytelling Starters ~ Feeling blessed

Saturday, September 19th, 2020

I don’t recommend it as a course to pursue – unless you need it. But being given a new hip offers much for which to be grateful. First is the new ease of movement that begins to arrive even as the hip beds in. Even before that and afterwards too is the support and affection expressed by friends.

I got back home from the Princess Grace Hospital at lunchtime yesterday feeling well and truly blessed. A remarkable surgeon, kindly nurses, a most supportive young physiotherapist whose advice and instructions continue to ring in my ears, friends who have sent flowers, cards and emails and an incalculably kind and lovely husband who even now has brought me a gorgeous cup of coffee: I feel most blessed.

And, of course, my stay in hospital has stirred the possibilities of story or two in my mind. One will have to be a story of the middle-aged man who each morning before mid-day arrived in the grassy area outside the church that I could see from my hospital window and sat down on one of the wooden benches.

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Storytelling Starters ~ Impact

Saturday, August 29th, 2020

Stories create bonds. Children and grandparents, children and parents, adults and their parents: you name the relationship, it probably always benefits from stories.

This week, I’ve been thinking a lot about a good friend here in Pembrokeshire (where I still am). Her husband, Eddie, is a hilarious storyteller with whoever is his audience. I’ve written about him before in this blog. But Eddie’s wife, Liz, is a great storyteller too, particularly with her grandchildren. I’ve never actually seen her with them. I just know from the way she talks about them and what she reports of how they respond. They ask her for a story and, hey presto, she’s telling one to them. The stories forge themselves in her mind and come out of her mouth and she delights in the process. It’s evident that those grandchildren of hers love the experience too for, very often when I see her, she talks about it – and not only because she knows that I’ve worked as a storyteller and love stories too. I think she talks about it because it’s such a satisfying process for her and she gains from the doing of it as much as do they. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ The Tiger-Mouse Tales etc.

Saturday, May 2nd, 2020

Quite a lot of years ago, I wrote a set of children’s stories. I called them The Tiger-Mouse Tales. Each of three main characters had its own story. The tiger-mouse was an enchanting creature that could turn itself into a tiger when it wanted or needed to do so or, equally, turn back to a mouse. The blue flamingo was a beautiful bird, tall, quiet and very serene. The sea-ling was an academic busy-body of a bird, very talkative and with plenty to say. He looked like he wore a black gown as my headmaster father used to do in school.

These three creatures, the tiger-mouse, the blue flamingo and the sea-ling, had literally appeared to me in a dream. It was because I was so fascinated by them that I wrote that set of stories about them, printed them out and gave copies to various children I knew. But I never did anything else with them.

This week, the stories have returned to my mind. They did so because, the other day, my cousin on my mother’s side of the family asked me about the grandfather we have in common. Neither of us had consciously ever met him. But I was delighted to tell her what I knew of him from my mother for he always sounded to me like a delightful man. He was Scottish, he grew up in Oban on the West coast of Scotland and, like his father before him, he became a journalist renowned for the speed and clarity of his shorthand. The long latter part of his working life was spent working on the Pembrokeshire newspaper, the Western Telegraph. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Tough stuff

Saturday, February 22nd, 2020

Today’s blog is about two books, each of which tells its tale of life in a down-to-earth way. No avoiding, no hiding.

Book One: The Street

What’s the book for our next Book Group? The Street by Ann Petry  was the answer when I asked because, alas, I’d missed our Book Group’s last meeting.  So I checked the online catalogue of the London Library, to which I belong Not there. I went to Waterstones and looked on the shelves. Not there. Then I asked a member of staff who consulted their online catalogue and shook her head. ‘Not there.’ So I turned away from the counter and there it was, in a little pile on a table.

I’ve begun the book and already I know it’s going to be worth reading. It begins with a young black woman in America looking for an apartment to rent so she can get herself and her little boy Bub away from her husband Jim. She finds a place she can just about afford. It’s not clean. It will be stiflingly hot in summer and, right from the start, she will have to learn to guard herself from the leering eyes of the landlord.

That’s as far as I’ve got but I’m very much looking forward to the rest. Written by a black American woman, it was first published way back in 1946 and is now, but only very recently, available again, republished by Virago. Tough stuff but worth it! (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Wales and Whales

Saturday, September 14th, 2019

It was a storytelling project in Outer London. The theme was local legends. A girl in one of the groups put up her hand and asked if we knew about the elephants under the line of local hills.

Suggestive shapes:

Often it’s the shape of hills that gives rise to legends about them. Above a small place called Wolfscastle in the middle of Pembrokeshire are two high rocks that, as children, we knew as The Lion and the Lamb. By today, these rocks have eroded so that I wouldn’t be able to say which looks more like a wolf, which more like a lamb. Even as a child I wasn’t sure. But I could imagine very clearly that one was attacking the other. (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 ~ 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…)

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 ~ 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…)