Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Sky, clouds, tears and water

July 6th, 2019

Yesterday morning after a restorative week away, Paul and I drove back to London from Pembrokeshire. The clouds in the sky were so incredibly beautiful, they could not have held my attention more had they been painted by the greatest of artists.  We could see staircases and streams, maps of whole continents and the pathways of gentle breezes. Goodness knows why the two stories that follow came back to my mind while watching these clouds. I hadn’t specifically thought about either for a very long time. One is specifically about a boy who loved clouds. The other is about the kind of power I associate with consummate artistry.

Story No. 1:

There was once a boy who loved the clouds. He loved looking up and seeing the extraordinary patterns the clouds sometimes make. He loved to observe the way the clouds move, sometimes drifting very slowly, sometimes scudding across the sky. Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ The Colours of Colour

June 29th, 2019

Ten days of summer down in Pembrokeshire make a very welcome break before the next horrid chemo. I’ve been admiring colour – the orange-red of the poppy that has cropped itself up in the gravel at the back of the house, the purple of the foxgloves like sentinels in the hedges.

Colour is appetising. It makes you look and it makes you savour. Thinking about it has reminded me of a little story I once made up which has also been one I’ve told many times.

The Yellow Blob

The Yellow Blob lived in a world where everything was yellow. Yellow house, yellow grass, yellow fields, yellow sea. One day, the Yellow Blob went for a walk. He closed his yellow door, walked along the yellow brick  road and climbed up the yellow hill. At the top of the hill, he looked down. The Yellow Blob was very surprised. At the bottom of the hill was a huge blue lake. Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ From nature and awareness

June 22nd, 2019

What a beautiful singer! Watching the Cardiff Singer of the World competition on TV on Thursday evening this week, Mingjie Lei was obviously going to be the clear winner of the Song Prize. He sang in such an unforced way, giving time and space and feeling to the words and emotions of his songs. His performances put me in mind of the kind of storytelling I like best.

The storytelling I like best can’t be described as entirely natural. And yet natural it is. For wherever it has reached, it has resulted from a combination of awareness and study but also continues to derive from a natural love of the medium.

A Natural Art:

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Storytelling Starters ~ The Gardener and the Cake-Maker

June 15th, 2019

Last week it was Farizad of the Rose’s Smile. This week it has to be the old riddling story that must have come back to my mind in the wake of Farizad because it’s also got roses in it. In the last few days, I’ve been trying to update it a bit to make it more suitable for our modern times.

That’s why the gardener’s wife in the story (she’s crucial) is now an entrepreneurial Cake-maker who sells her excellent cakes not only to Lord Top Noddy, her husband’s employer, but to everyone else on his vast estate. Indeed, it is probably the fact that she is doing so well that has aroused the ire of the Jealous Evil Spirit of Capitalism whose mean-mindedness is the motivating force of the story as it is now.

The story: The first bit

One evening, our gardener came home from a hard day’s work to find that although the smell of newly baked cakes pervaded his kitchen, his wife was not there.  What could have happened? Where could she possibly be? (Such questions are especially helpful when telling this story to older children. The zanier the answers, the better.) Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ The human touch

June 8th, 2019

Remembering stories can be a comfort when you’re poorly. And, dear readers, have I felt poorly since the third of my third chemo treatments. Still, I’m halfway through bar the shouting and that’s something worth holding onto.

A story that came to my mind when I couldn’t get back to sleep very early one morning this week is one that needs the best part of an hour for the telling and it’s one that I love. It comes from the Arabian Nights. Here it is in brief.

A story with a human touch:

The third of the three children of a king is a girl. With her brothers she has grown up in the home of the king’s gardener not knowing who she is by birth. The children’s mother was imprisoned long ago because of lies that were told against her, the gardener is poor but loving and the three children he took on as his own are leading a sheltered life not knowing who they really are. An important feature of that life is the gardener’s beautiful garden. It is a place of peace and refuge. Why should anything change? Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ Chemo dreams

June 1st, 2019

One effect of the chemotherapy treatment I’m currently receiving (one treatment every three weeks, six in all and, hooray I’m now half way through) is that, in the early hours of morning, I find myself strangely half-awake, mind wandering wildly through strange images and practical thoughts.

The House of the Wind:

In one of my chemo dreams this week, I was born in The House of the Wind. Throughout the first years of my life, a gentle wind echoed in my inner ear, sussurating like the sound of new leaves unfolding in the trees of spring. Sometimes, a stronger wind became the waves of summer storms riding onto the nearby beaches, the long white hair of their manes endlessly billowing out to sea behind them. Every now and again, the winds became winter gales crashing into my thoughts, demanding expression and action, utterly refusing to be quelled.

So then, so now. But The House of the Wind is not only a place in one of this week’s chemo dreams.  It’s also a place I’ve passed many times, a big old Woollen Mill  not far away from my small Welsh house in the village of Mathri in Pembrokeshire. The mill is called Tregwynt which, translated from Welsh to English, literally means The House of the Wind. It has a long wide area of wooded garden in front which, the last time I passed, was filled with spring flowers.

Tregwynt Woollen Mill:

 Close to the manorhouse of Tregwynt, Melin Tregwynt  is a supreme example of how old tradition – in this case the patterns and making-styles of woollen cloth – can be kept alive and, with work and initiative, transformed into a very successful modern business. Tregwynt Woollen Mill’s cloth can by now be purchased in various forms in all kinds of high-class outlets as well, of course, as online. Cot blankets, cushions, throws, double-bed covers, single-bed covers, coats, dresses, wraps, purses, bags, sandals, slippers: you name it, you’ll find it in the Tregwynt shop only a few miles off the main road from Fishguard where I was born and St David’s where I mainly grew up.

The Art of Storytelling:

What can be done with cloth can also be done – and is being done and must continue to be done – with stories. With hard work and initiative, storytellers keep them going and give them new life. In some of my waking hours this week, I’ve been sorting through old storytelling papers dating back to the early 1980s when I first came to know about storytelling in its more modern forms. Those days turned out to be the early days of the Storytelling Revival. What a lot has happened since then!

PS: The top picture is Tregwynt Woollen Mill. The bottom one is their cloth pattern called Knot Garden. Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ Tiger!

May 25th, 2019

Tyger! Tyger! Burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

This verse is just the first in the wonderful poem by William Blake which was one of my father’s favourites. He used to recite it to all his secondary school English classes.

It’s a poem that surely makes anyone who hears or reads it feel incredibly aware of the power and beauty of the tiger. And tigers have been in my mind over the last few days following the death of Judith Kerr, author of the hugely-loved children’s picture-book, The Tiger Who Came to Tea. I first got to know that book during the first four years of what would become my storytelling life. A leaflet on the notice board of Brixton Library had led to my applying for a job on the Lambeth Libraries Storytelling Scheme. How different my life would have been if I hadn’t got that job. Very part-time and very badly paid, it involved doing picture-books with young children in various Lambeth centres during the mornings and telling stories to older children in the afternoons. Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ Frog talk

May 18th, 2019

Human minds! You see something, it reminds you of more. Since yesterday, it’s been frogs for me.

The frog in the park:

 

Going for a walk in Brockwell Park, all part of my recovery programme (and thanks to everyone for good wishes) we were greeted near the entrance by a very large wooden frog, arms endearingly outstretched towards us. Of course, this frog  brought back to my mind all kinds of stories (well, it would, wouldn’t it?).

One was of Lil who used to live down the road with her sister Sarah. Lil would call out to you on the street, ‘Ere, Missis Whatsisname?’ Then she’d follow up with something like, ‘Yer got no idea what ’er upstairs as gorn an done now.’ On one occasion she came to my door and quietly murmured, ‘Sarah says as can you come down and get the frog (frog as in frawg) outa the kitchen.’ Of course I went armed with rubber gloves and a bucket. I remember it well.

Then there’s the little frog folk-tale I used to tell.

 

Frog talk:

Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ Recycling Revisited

May 11th, 2019

This week, my hair began falling out in bundles. An early consequence of the chemo. Not nice! Seeing the devastation, turbans was the thought that promptly came to my mind. First, I got out what I thought was a suitable scarf, twisted it around my balding bonk, saw that it looked a terrible mess that might fall apart any minute. What to do?

How to do it?

Google provided the answer. Up came numerous videos of lovely young women taking barely a minute to create stylish turbans out of beautiful scarves. I tried again and now it became quick and easy for me too.

No more hairdresser visits:

So if and when we meet from now on, you’ll surely see me in a turban. Perhaps it will have to be my style for whatever is left of my life. Granted it’s a little bit time-consuming and cuts out the role of the hairdresser in my life. And since I’ve been going to the same hairdresser for almost half a century, that’s not nothing. But at least it deals with the hair-loss problem. Besides, turbans are different from hats. In my still small experience, they come out interestingly different each time. Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ Recycling

May 4th, 2019

It’s my second chemotherapy session on Tuesday. I do not look forward to it or its aftermath. But some nice things keep the spirits raised: kindnesses from friends, the freshly blooming Mary Rose in the garden, the pleasure of the Great Tit at finding our bird feeder tubs have been refilled and, of course, stories.

Where’s the creativity?

Whenever I read about the state of schools across the country – how some teachers are voluntarily buying food or books for children with money from their own pockets or, just as bad or worse,  how so many teachers feel that all emphasis on creativity has been lost as a result of focus on exams – I find myself wanting the children to have more stories. Young people are disillusioned, turned off, self-harming, depressed. I want them to hear stories, do self-motivated work that is based on stories, talk about stories, tell their own stories. Who is a storyteller to say this should happen? Well, all of us storytellers who’ve seen what powerful effects it can have. Particularly this last week, I’ve been recalling the attention and engagement that  hundreds of children have shown to the daftly innovative stories of Shemi Wâd.

The story that follows is one I found in the handwritten book of Shemi stories I was recently lent. The stories in it were written down by Bili John who had himself known Shemi since boyhood. He wrote down the stoies in Welsh.  The one that follows is in my English version.

The big clock and the tricycle:

One day Shemi dug out from his garden a wooden box that contained what looked like the wheels of a clock. Shemi had never seen anything quite like these wheels before. They were very big – as large as saucers – and without more ado, he got ready to use them to make a clock. Read the rest of this entry »