Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ a Marcus Rashford for storytelling?

My friend and fellow storyteller, Karen Tovell, sent me a story the other day. At first, the story worried me. I found it depressing. But after a while, I began to see its potential. Here’s the story.

Two young women are sharing a hospital room. One is confined to bed. She can’t get up. She’s not allowed to do so. The other young woman is able to move about. Quite often she goes to the window and, to the pleasure of the other, she describes what she can see outside. The old man inching his way down the street on his stick, the little child bounding along, the young teenage boy who is obviously practising funny steps: it’s all most entertaining and invigorating to the young woman who is confined to her bed.

Time moves on. The young woman who is able to move about gets better enough to leave hospital and go home. The other is left on her own and at first is lonely. But she’s quite a determined sort and soon gets herself to be able to go to the window. What a shock! There’s no busy little street out there, just an empty old alley. How come? She’s completely mystified until it dawns on her what her companion had done. Creating characters, describing scenes, she’d been bringing the world outside to life for her friend. What a gift!

At the point where this story of Karen’s came to mind this morning, I was reading in my newspaper about the young footballer Marcus Rashford and his campaign to provide food for hungry children. The campaign is really taking off. I felt both hugely admiring and glad to read about it and also a little bit sad. What could a mere storyteller do by comparison?

But doesn’t mind need food as much as mouth? Story feeds us. It gives us entertainment and offers reassurance. It creates images, gives a sense of structure and inspires ideas. Imagine if you’d never been told a story? Never had a book in which to read one? Never heard one from someone else? Maybe that sounds like an impossible scenario. Surely not here, not in our world, not in our time! But that’s where we need the Marcus Rashfords of storytelling. For my own long experience of going to schools to tell stories did suggest to me that there is a dearth of it, a lack of the inspiring sort that is not focused on getting children to read but about awakening their sense of the world around them and of what they might discover in it.

PS: Top photo this week is of the extraordinary South American storytelling doll, the whole world on her back, that was once so kindly given to me by Kevin Crossley-Holland, himself an inspiration to stories and storytelling. The bottom photo is of the wonderful scarf I bought in Mombasa many, many years ago. The young man in the shop exclaimed reprovingly as I fingered it, ‘Only old women wear that!’ Well, it was my birthday yesterday and I think it brought me to an age where I’m old enough to wear it now – except that I couldn’t bear to transfer it to my wardrobe from my bag of storytelling props.

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