Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ King of the Castle

P1060225How many times must I have chanted these words as a child while jumping onto the rock in my picture, trying to arm-wrestle other children off while I did so?

I’m the King of the Castle!

Get down you dirty rascal!

The rock was a familiar part  of my world. I accepted it as it was. I never thought about the whole shape and size of it for, until this very time last year, I’d never seen or imagined the lower half of it – not until the incredible storms that hit these shores had scoured out Whitesands beach, taking at least four foot of sand out to sea and leaving the whole of the rock exposed.

Then, last summer, going down to Whitesands beach  and looking leftwards, I was amazed all over again. This time, I couldn’t see the rock at all until I actually walked across the beach to look for it. I remember thinking someone must have stolen it for now, since the tides had brought the sand back, even the very  top of it could hardly be seen.

Yesterday, when I looked through my year’s archive of photos to see which ones would most catch my attention, my photos of the rock became my choice..

Somehow or other, what happened to the rock last year went along with an idea that’s been occupying my thoughts over the last few days. 

P1060226Sorting through old work letters – for yes, I’ve continued the sorting – I’d come across one where the writer commented appreciatively on what she saw as my playful approach in storytelling sessions with children.

The words of the letter stayed in my mind. Yes, I thought, that’s it. That’s how it ought to be: playful. My father (great teacher, great storyteller) used to talk about the value of teasing children into thinking. Teasing, playing, it’s the same kind of thing. What it amounts to is drawing children in to the story, whatever it is, or adults too, for that matter, inviting them to see what happens from whatever point of view they choose – top or bottom, above or below, left side or right side, real or imagined. It’s the kind of thing storytellers can do and should do.

So to start the New Year, may I make that my New Year wish for you.

May I wish you the capacity to keep on being surprised and the ability to remain playful.

P.S. By the way, that Whitesands rock in my photos turned up on TV a couple of years ago in the version of Shakespeare’s Richard II in the BBC series, The Hollow Crown. Ben Whishaw as Richard II came ashore in a little boat and suddenly there he was – climbing up on my rock and delivering a fine and poignant monologue about the nature of kingship. I wonder if the producers sensed how many generations of children had been King of that particular castle.


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2 Responses to “Storytelling Starters ~ King of the Castle”

  1. Hilary Minns Says:

    Oh, I do like the idea of playfulness, of drawing children into the story. It reminds me of Bob Barton’s powerful phrase ‘communal wondering’, which he explains is about ‘encouraging children to discover that the heart of storytelling lies in the ability to project oneself imaginatively into the story and to determine what is important about the story for themselves.’ In order to do this, he encourages children to retell the story in different ways, to ask questions about the story and to explore possible answers together – quite the opposite of a curriculum based on regulation and control.

  2. Mary Medlicott Says:

    Dear Hilary, your wide experience of storytelling and of how children best respond to it shows through so valuably in your comment. Thanks for the reference to Bob Barton who writes so well on this. I hope other readers may now turn to his work – and, of course, to Betty Rosen whose books are so sadly no longer in print but surely available through libraries. May playfulness somehow survive the regulators.

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