Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ From acorn to oak tree

Yesterday morning, I did a story session for 12 children and their teachers from two North Lambeth schools. The event was organised by ADD (Action Aid for Disability) which is a charity I support. The children had been chosen for their artistic ability. What they did in the session yesterday was designed to  contribute to a book.

How things grow! It reminds me of a favourite riddle of mine. The question asks: What’s the definition of an acorn? And the answer? An oak tree in a nutshell.

The story begins:

I remember that the first personal contribution I made to the work of ADD came after a visit I made to their offices when I was shown an inspirational video in which a man called Peter Ogik (I’ve mentioned him before in this blog) talked about his life. Peter was born with albinism. Growing up in Uganda, his life had been very hard. In Uganda, people with albinism are harassed, cursed and sometimes killed. But Peter’s father had always inspired him to be brave. He’d always told him  he was ‘special’.

A story emerges:

That video stayed in my mind and one day, based on what I’d heard in the video, I wrote a story about Peter. I entitled it Being Special. ADD subsequently showed it to Peter and when I finally met him myself during a trip he made to Britain, I started out feeling really nervous. Did he approve? Thankfully, he did. He was delighted.

Another story:

Then recently, ADD people asked me if I’d write another story. Their Autumn campaign was to be about helping people with disability in Bangladesh. Could I write a story set in that country? I have no personal knowledge of Bangladesh. But I was pleased to have been asked for a story.  Bringing Hope is the title I gave what I did. Its main character is a girl I named Anuja (the name means younger sister) and the disability I chose for her (strange thought!) was that she was born with one short leg. In the story, this means that she can’t learn to walk, she can’t go to school, she can’t make new friends – not until her father hears about, and goes to meet, a Disability Activist. This Disability Activist is able to provide Anuja with crutches and a wheelchair. Plus, she teaches her to walk and supports her to be able to go to school.

What next?

Bringing Hope felt like it went down well yesterday. After I’d done it, partly reading, partly telling, the children’s teachers (they were brilliant!) got them involved in a two-session workshop which will produce illustrations for the book that is to be made of the story. The first of these sessions was such good fun, it made me want to join an Art Class at once. Using different coloured inks and all kinds of tools (including toothbrushes!), we produced large textured paintworks which will be cut into shapes – trees, houses and so on – which will in turn be pasted into drawings of scenes from my story.

Wow! I felt so honoured that all this was happening to a story I’d written. I also felt very grateful for the experience the session was giving me. Next time – if such a thing ever happens again – I’ll be very mindful of all I’ve learned this time.

On my way home, the sun shone.

PS: Photos this week are of course of an acorn and an oak.

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