Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Archive for the ‘Creating’ Category

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 ~ 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 ~ A Traveller’s Tale

Saturday, November 15th, 2014

This week I’m taking up the challenge I gave myself last week. What follows is my first try-out of the story I said I’d like to prepare and tell. Please let me know if you think it works. And if it does, please tell me how you would end it.

The story:

WowThe story I want to tell you is about a traveller. The amazing thing about this traveller is that he goes on his travels every single year without fail. Every year, he goes an extremely long way and he always ends up in pretty much the same place. You’d think he might try somewhere else or vary the journey sometimes, visit other countries, see other places. But no, every single year he does the same thing.

So this is what he does. He leaves Britain at about the same time – in early summer in June or July. First, he travels down to the Mediterranean – and that’s not surprising because it’s warmer there than here. Then he crosses the Mediterranean sea and arrives in North Africa, which of course is a very popular place for people going on holiday.

After a short while in North Africa, maybe a week or two, having a bit of relaxation and making sure he’s ready for the next part of his journey, he sets out to cross the Sahara desert. Why he feels obliged to do this is a bit of a mystery. It’s not somewhere you’d want to stop. It’s extremely hot, it’s extremely dry and it’s extremely dusty. But it’s his most direct route and it usually takes him only about three or four days.  (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Cuckoos and Crosswords

Saturday, November 8th, 2014

Fox 2 11.14Wildlife is always interesting. Most mornings these days when I draw the curtains, I see a big, handsome fox on the roof of the shed the other side of our back garden wall. Usually he’s still asleep. When he wakes, he stretches and yawns. Sometimes he then moves onto the tree-platform or storage-shed next door. I suppose he feels safe on these vantage points.

As for cuckoos, I learned a lot more about them last Saturday when I went to a fascinating talk on bird migration by a scientist from BTO (British Trust for Ornithology). Since then, thinking about what I learned has made me conceive a new storytelling idea namely, to devise something I could call The Cuckoo’s StoryAs with the Mabinogion story I told in North Wales a couple of weeks ago, there’s a bit of a back story.

The back story:

Cuckoos were part of my childhood. In our living room, we had an elaborately carved cuckoo clock: the cuckoo would pop out each hour on the hour, much to my delight. Besides, all round my grandparents’ smallholding deep in the countryside near Cilgerran, I’d hear that crazy repetition of the cuckoos’ call throughout the  cuckoo season.

Then a couple of years ago, I was re-introduced to cuckoos by a friend (Hilary, a million thanks!), who told me about a cuckoo-tracking project being run by BTO. I signed up to sponsor a cuckoo. Welsh cuckoos were being included among the birds being fitted with tracking devices. There was even an invitation to suggest names by which the tracked birds could be known. I remember suggesting Taliesin, the name of one of the earliest Welsh poets.

So that’s how I started getting some cuckoo knowledge. In this Blog previously, I’ve mentioned the astonishingly long and (to me) heroic journey that our cuckoos make each year. Not that they’re really OUR cuckoos at all. Each year, they spend only about 6 weeks in the UK. Then they’re off –  across Europe, the Mediterranean and the Sahara and, after a sojourn in West Africa, down through Africa to the Congo. Then after their time in the tropical forests, they’re on their way back to the UK to breed.

New knowledge: (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Taste and tell

Saturday, August 30th, 2014

P1060818Blackberry tart and storymaking: what’s the link? Probably none at all except that both figured strongly in my past week. The blackberry tarts followed a blackberry-picking expedition down near one of my favourite Pembrokeshire beaches. One of three tarts that resulted was delivered to a favourite person of mine, now 98, who has lived alone since her brother and sister died and whose attitude to life is strikingly positive. The second went to John Knapp-Fisher, another great friend, now over 80, who is both well-known and widely-loved for his paintings of the Pembrokeshire landscape. The third tart we ate at home for supper, breakfast and lunch. It was delicious.

Storymaking came into my mind when, thinking back to my moon-poems in last week’s blog, I remembered two children in a Llanelli school who, quite a few years ago now, created a wonderful story that involved the moon. The children in the class were working in pairs in our workshop. The boy in one pair was quiet and thoughtful and, in the storymaking exercise, he was working with a girl who talked non-stop, not always rationally. One of the many admirable aspects of their resulting story was how the boy made use of her contributions.

The children’s story (as remembered by me):

Once upon a time, there was an old man who came to a long winding path up a hill. When he climbed up the path, he came to a cave and in the cave he saw an oil lamp. When he picked up the lamp and rubbed it, out of the lamp came a genie. The genie said he could wish for three things.

First the old man wished for a pair of boots that could jump as high as the moon. Then the old man wished for a rake. (And if you think that was an odd thing to wish for, it was the contribution the girl in the storymaking pair offered most clearly.) (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Gibberish

Saturday, July 19th, 2014

Summer holidays coming up has reminded me of several alphabet games we used to play as kids – in the car coming back from the beach, in the caravan before going to sleep. It feels like a good idea to share them. You may be able to use them too.

Going Away:  (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Good things

Saturday, March 29th, 2014

Hooray!!! Now you can subscribe to my Blog. See below for what to do. What a pleasure this facility has now been sorted – all thanks to the ever-helpful Tim Howe. Comment, Warwick, Poems, Subscription – it’s been a week of good things.

Comment

Little Bear crop 2A comment from a reader always feels good to get. Jo had been enjoying my recent series on Getting Participation. She loves creating stories with children. She describes sitting with a piece of material and allowing the children to choose any object around the room. ‘We decide where we are, the material for example could be blue and shiny, maybe we are at the bottom of the deep dark blue sea. Each child takes a turn describing what their object may be: a cotton reel becomes a pirate ship, the pencil is the mast, the ship has sunk, the button becomes the treasure …’ And so, as Jo points out, they end up with their own story.

Warwick

On Wednesday evening, a hearteningly warm and engaged response came from the students on Hilary Minns’ excellent Storytelling Module at Warwick University. I’ve been going as guest storyteller to Hilary’s course for about ten years now. The students are all studying child development for a Foundation Degree. One of the stories I did with them was Little Bear on the Long Road. (The prop I always use for this story is on the right in a painting I made of him when I was in hospital four years ago.) On this visit, it was brilliant to meet the person responsible for setting up a similar course at Telford who had come along for the session.  I believe, and have always said so, that such courses should be available nation-wide. (more…)