Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Making Connections 1

Storytelling Starters moves on this week to its second theme, Making Connections. The magic of objects will still be here, but now in the new context of finding and making links – links between different types of stories, links between storyteller and audience, links between real objects, inner feelings and imagination.

Keys – and a personal story

Keys are mundane, commonplace objects, and are also amazingly symbolic.

Say ‘key’ to me and my mind starts buzzing – with memories of my Aunty Mali’s house where keys were a major presence (all labelled and hanging in bunches), with my frequent anxiety as to whether I’ve got the house-keys on me when I go out of the house, with story-stories of the traditional type in which ‘keys’ are present in many guises from answers to a riddling question to what’s needed to resolve a quest.

All kinds of differing manifestations of ‘key’ can be brought into your mind, each creating a link with the others to extend and deepen your awareness and give you new options in your storytelling. This week, Making Connections looks at ‘the key’ in personal-experience stories. Below is a tale of something that happened to me. Have you got anything similar – or something else related to keys? If so, why not write it up (short will do fine!) so other people can hear it  – just put it in Leave a Reply at the end of the Blog.

My sad key story:

It was one of those situations where you know what you’ve done before you’ve confirmed it.  I was at the front door of my house. As I opened my bag, I knew I’d forgotten to put the front-door keys inside. Realisations  hit me one after the other. My husband was on his way to Wales and would not be back till the following afternoon. My next-door neighbours, who kept a key to our house, were in France for a fortnight. Our friends up the road who also had a key were in Cornwall on a camping trip. Short of breaking a window or getting a new key cut (and it was probably too late for that), there’d be no way of getting in.

When I squinted through the letter-box, I could see my keys quite clearly – on the corner of the mantelshelf in the kitchen. They seemed to be laughing at me. Fed-up, frustrated and cross with myself, I went round to friends in the next street. They fed me and put me up for the night.

Next day, feeling grubby and grumpy, I spent the day in the library. Later (we didn’t have mobile phones at that time) I rang my husband’s office from a call-box. We arranged to meet at 6 p.m. How pleased I was to get back in our house. I took off my coat, put the kettle on, told my husband the full story, then switched on the answering-machine, which was one of those old-fashioned types like a tape-recorder. The messages boomed out.

The first was from the previous day. What a surprise! – it was Leah, a Kenyan friend I’d made years before when doing VSO. For a few years lately, we’d  fallen out of touch until recently, managing to get hold of a contact for her,we’d renewed our correspondence. ‘Hello Mary,’ said the familiar voice. ‘It’s Leah here. I’m in London. I’m here for two days, leaving for the airport tomorrow at 6 p.m. Give me a phone call at my hotel and let’s see if we can get together or at least have a chat.’ I looked at my watch. It was 6.15.

So that’s my story, though not quite the end of what I want to say about it. Fortunately, I was able to get together with Leah on many subsequent occasions but at the time I felt as if some mischievously malevolent fate had enjoyed creating this unlucky scenario.

I know many people have felt just as unlucky when experiencing the consequences of forgetting a key. I’ve heard their stories in storytelling workshops. What about you? Have you got a story? Do send it to me.

Using your personal key story

So that’s one thing you can do with your story – tell it! Provided it’s suitable in length and content (and personal stories can often be adjusted without essential falsification to make them right for telling to your particular audience), tell your story to the group you’re working with – it might be a school group, it might be adults – and ask them if they’ve got any similar or related stories. But don’t forget the magic of objects! Have a real key at the ready to show at the start of the exercise and be ready to hand it round. And, of course, if you’ve thought of a personal story involving a key, don’t forget the opportunity to share it by replying to this Blog. Or what about using your personal-experience story as a theme-setter for another bigger story that you want to tell or read in the same session?  It’s a traditional Chinese storytelling technique for preparing the audience for what is to come.

Next week: Keys (part two) – with a  ‘key’ story to tell to children 



You can also read occasional blogs by me on the Early Learning HQ website: Early Learning HQ offers hundreds of free downloadable foundation stage and key stage one teaching resources. It also has an extensive blog section with contributions from a wide range of early years professionals, consultants and storytellers.

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One Response to “Storytelling Starters ~ Making Connections 1”

  1. Claire Orme Says:

    Mary – how clever you are to make your subject so fascinating, so delightful and so amazingly useful to anybody involved with communication. I feel so sad that I did not have your blog to hand when I was teaching but I feel sure that my daughter and her colleagues will benefit hugely and of course, enjoy it enormously. I am certainly enjoying it for its own sake. It is a brilliant idea.

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