Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

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Storytelling Starters ~ In Passing

Saturday, August 18th, 2018

It could happen anywhere. Somebody is in need of directions. Yesterday it happened when Paul and I were on the top of the 159 bus on our way to the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy. In our seats at the front, we had good views of the vast crowds on Westminster Bridge, the gaggle of people at the end of Downing Street and, as we approached, the large number of people in Trafalgar Square.

I’d just finished retelling myself a mind-boggling little fact I learned while doing a research job for the Observer Magazine back in my early working life. It’s that before the statue of the man himself was raised to the top of Nelson’s Column, a dinner party was held on the plinth at the top. I’m not sure who the dinner was for,  presumably the architects and other top-noddies. But evidently there were proper chairs and a dining table properly laid with tablecloth, silver cutlery and no doubt crystal glasses. (more…)

“What a cracking little book!!!”

Monday, March 19th, 2018

My new book, Storytelling and Story-Reading in Early Years, published by Jessica Kingsley, is now out.

Review in Child in Our Midst Newsletter by Mary Hawes:

“This readable, practical book not only provides tools for getting the best out of storytelling and reading sessions, but encourages parents to tell the stories of their family to their children. There’s even tools to help you deal with the horror of forgetting the story you’re telling! Well worth having on your bookshelf (but don’t leave it there – read and reread it!).

“What a cracking little book!!!!”

 

To buy your copy in UK/Europe,  simply click the first button below and follow the instructions


If you’re outside Europe (bit more expensive postage), please click the second button.


 

Storytelling Starters ~ Open the door

Saturday, January 13th, 2018

It’s a new year. I’ve got a new chair. So I started thinking about chairs and how much time we spend sitting in them, the books we read while sitting in them, the talks we share with other people. Then I started to wonder about chairs in stories, thrones and little elfin chairs, and also about the chairs that craftsmen make for storytellers to sit in. But I’ve never liked sitting in a big chair when I’m telling stories. I’d rather a low stool if it’s with children or, if it’s lots of children or adults, I’d rather stand up.

Chairs took me on to doors. I started looking for a story where a chair might figure. Maybe there’d be a figure of a person sitting in the chair. Who would it be? What I came across instead was the poem, The Door,  by the Czech poet, Miroslav Holub. In the version I have in my file-box for poems, his poem is in a translation  by Ian Milner and George Theiner. It seems to me like a jolly good poem for a new year.

The Door

Go and open the door.
Maybe outside there’s
a tree, or a wood,
a garden,
or a magic city. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ What next?

Saturday, December 23rd, 2017

Sprouts, turnips, carrots, potatoes – the cooking is all getting mixed up with the cards and the delivering of our last local cards is suffering from a profound desire on my part to go to sleep. Meantime, the merriment of Christmas is mixed with a profound sense of sorrow for all the people in our world who have no home and no food. It almost feels wrong to be sending greetings at all – except that remembering friends and all the joy (and sometimes problems) they bring is also essential. So too is preparing and publishing this Saturday’s blog. It comes with my very best wishes to all readers and with great thanks for being my friends in storytelling.

So here below is the Christmas card Paul and I have been sending out on email under the title, Onwards and Upwards. It’s, a photo of ‘Walls & trumpets’, the sculpture by Ofra Zimbalista near Guy’s Hospital.

And if you’d also like to have a laugh by looking at one of the two little presentations I gave at Paul’s recent fundraiser for CRISIS just click 12 Thank you notes of Christmas

Storytelling Starters ~ Fruit jelly for tea

Saturday, September 30th, 2017

Last week in Wales, I made my usual visit to my friend Ella, now in her 101st year. After tea (which included jelly with fruit in it because she knows I love it), our reminiscences turned to the subject of evacuees, children who’d arrived in the area when evacuated out of London for safety during the Second World War.

What stories came out! Ella remembers so much I sometimes catch myself thinking there’s nothing she’s forgotten. Her mind is like a deep map of the area – and it’s a map that not only has historical depth. It includes what’s going on now.

Evacuees now:

Thinking back over tales Ella remembered, it occurs to me that the theme of evacuation is just as important today. Families of Rohingya Muslims flooding out of Myanmar, people fleeing for their lives from war in Syria, children and adults risking their lives in flimsy boats sailing from African shores to the hoped-for better life in Europe: in so many parts of the world, people are daily being displaced from their homes, sometimes to try and save their lives, sometimes because they choose to go when they feel they have no other choice. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ What’s a story No. 2

Saturday, August 26th, 2017

What’s a story? I asked this question a few weeks ago. Now I’ve returned to it to ask what you might make of the following two items:

Item 1:

There was a bear that he standed on his head.

Item 2:

Mr Hatfull was a taxi driver. One day in Redbridge, he was called to a house to pick up some trays of cream cakes to take them to a party which was due to take place later that day. On his way, Mr Hatfull had just drawn to a halt at some traffic lights that were on red when a very smart-looking man, obviously in a great hurry, ran across to his cab, opened the passenger door, jumped in and sat down Plop! – right on top of the cream cakes.

What’s a story? I guess you might decide that Item 2 is a story while Item 1 is not. But perhaps we have to think again.

About Item 1:

(more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Towards Eternity

Saturday, April 1st, 2017

Here is a poem by Emily Dickinson. It’s one of her poems I’ve been reading a lot of late, and it’s especially in my mind right now. On Wednesday this week, my nephew, Tom Pelham, died of a rare form of cancer. He was just 36 years old, a young Baptist Minister, and he leaves behind his wife and three lovely young children, grieving parents and family and countless friends. I can think of no consolation except that he is no longer in pain. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ A helping hand

Saturday, March 18th, 2017

The day was bright and the school, inside, looked fresh and clean with several new classrooms and corridors added from last year. Four little scenes remain in my mind from the day.

A storytelling day: four memories

P1070779Most striking was the boy that came out front to describe his visualisation from the story I’d just told his class. It was the story (recounted here last week) where Kaa the Thunderbird expresses his jealous anger for Earth Mother Nokomis whom he believes is more loved than him. What I won’t forget is this boy’s conviction as he painted his word pictures of Kaa and Nokomis at the beginning of the story. I could see he really had seen them, especially when he described Kaa with his strong claws gripping the edge of the mountains and his ‘electric wings’ outspread (and then as he quietly added, turning to me, ‘you know, the electricity that comes from them’).

Funniest was the response of the oldest class when I wondered if any of them remembered my visit last year. All over the room there was nodding assent as one girl spoke out, ‘Is it you who told us that story of the glass eye?’ Ah yes, I thought, I’m not surprised they’ve remembered that one. (It’s the gruesome story included in my posting for February 13, 2016). 

Most thought-provoking was the boy who, as his class was coming into the hall, was described to me by a member of staff as someone who is always causing trouble and who simply cannot concentrate. This boy made at least four sensible contributions to questions I asked and he listened throughout.

Most dramatic was the moment when, on the first of the two sessions in which I told The Great Rain,  all the pots of daffodils ranged on the window ledges behind me landed with a whoosh and a clatter on the wooden floor, pots and flowers and water and all. ‘Whoo!’ was the response from all in the room and not just because of what had happened but because of its timing. To introduce the story, I’d led the children in making rain with clicking fingers and tapping hands, and by now I was describing the storm that was brewing as Kaa’s rage mounted to the point of exploding. The strong gust of wind that blew those daffodils over must have been fully aware of where the story had got to!

Of course, after such a day in a school, the storyteller thinks back. Did I choose the right stories? Can I judge their effect on the children? Will anything have been remembered by the children or their teachers?  And what kind of difference would I like to have made?

As it happens, thinking those thoughts from Monday, I feel conscious of what is perhaps a new aspiration that comes from the totally different kind of day I experienced this Wednesday when I had my second cataract operation.

A hospital day: a lasting effect

Stones - stepping stonesThe eye surgeon on Wednesday was hugely impressive in a very quiet and straightforward way. He introduced himself clearly and with no sense of self-importance. When I was lying down ready, he told me quite clearly what he wanted me to do but also said that, if there was anything different that was needed as he proceeded, he would tell me and also that if I needed anything, such as to move, I could say so to him.

During the operation, he told me from time to time, quietly, simply and very briefly, what he was going to be doing next. At some point, he said we were now about half way through. And on several occasions, he said, ‘You are a wonderful patient’. I’m sure he says the same thing to all his patients but I found it wonderfully reassuring.

But the thing that affected me most is that, as I sat up when the operation was over, he put out his hand to help me up onto my feet and then, instead of handing me over to a nurse, himself led me out of the operating room and all the way to the waiting room. It was only a short walk. But the experience of him doing that affected me greatly both at the time and since. What a humility of approach, what a kindness.

And what a difference it has made. Following the quiet simplicity of that surgeon’s approach, the particular kindness of that hand is something I will never forget. It helped me back into the day and it has helped me see quite clearly the kind of path I’d like my storytelling to follow.

 PS: My camera takes snapshots and I hope can represent the sort of snapshots you get from a storytelling day. Stepping stones making a path into a wood can, I hope, represent my idea of a storytelling path that I’d like to follow. 

Storytelling Starters ~ Word walk

Saturday, February 18th, 2017

Words are key in storytelling. They create pictures, they make you think, they open doors. So I’ve been thinking about their importance. What follows is something of a miscellany – words I noticed during the week and how and where I noticed them.

In my own thinking:Key 5 compress

I was making some notes about using props with young children and trying to work out why it’s so useful to do this. For some reason, my mind immediately focused on keys as an example. Why keys? Well, they’re everyday things, they come in different shapes and sizes, I’ve got some very nice ones in my Story Bag and keys appear in several stories I tell.

So what happens when I’m storytelling? Well, get out a key, show it to an audience of young children and ask what it could be for and almost immediately answers start coming.  It could be the key to a treasure box … a secret room … a giant’s castle …the door to your house.

Immediately such ideas come out of individual children’s mouths, the shared world of the audience’s imagination is starting to expand.

On a board outside a local café: (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Voices Beyond Division

Saturday, January 21st, 2017

cofThe concert I went to on Thursday evening opened with a story – one of those timeless types of stories with an underlying meaning. The concert was  in St James’ Church, Piccadilly and filled with parents and supporters of all the young people taking part. It was appropriately named Voices Beyond Division. The aim was to proclaim the need and desire for peace in the Middle East.

I can’t retell the story fully because it contained four words I don’t know from four of the languages of the Middle East. Essentially, though, this is it: 

A bunch of grapes

Four people who’d found themselves travelling together came to a market in a busy town. Between them they had a little money but no shared language and, faced with the market, each said what he’d most like from the market to eat, naming what he wanted in his own language. But what if their money did not stretch to four different things? Soon they started to squabble, each determined to have what he wanted.

Then another man came along. Hearing what each of the travellers wanted, he stopped their squabbling by saying he’d go and buy it for them. There’d be enough money, he assured them. So he went into the market and when he returned he had with him a huge bunch of grapes. For that is exactly what each man had wanted. They’d used four different words to name it but what they’d all asked for was grapes. 

Same thing: four different languages. And as the storyteller put it, the message of this story can be applied more deeply. Often what we want is the same thing though we may say it differently depending on our language. Bringing together people of different languages and faiths, this particular concert was all about a shared desire for peace.

Voices Beyond Division (more…)