Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ On an ordinary Sunday evening

Yesterday a printed letter from Lambeth Council was pushed through our letterbox. Addressed to Dear Resident, it described itself as written ‘in the wake of the shocking incident in your neighbourhood early on Sunday evening’.

The letter rang a loud bell for Paul and me.  Last Sunday evening, we went for an early evening walk up to the Brixton Windmill. On the way back our walk took us in part through the nearby estate where we noticed a group of policemen standing outside one of the houses. We briefly wondered whether to ask them why they were there. We didn’t. But evidently, as we now realise, their presence was directly connected to ‘the shocking incident’ that had taken place.

From the letter, we now know that in that place early on Sunday evening, ‘a man in his 20s suffered fatal stab wounds.’ What I felt on learning this is sorrow for anyone who was closely connected with him; family or friends will have been deeply shocked and grieved. I also feel sad in a different way for whoever carried out the stabbing and the consequences of it. By now, whoever it was will almost certainly have been identified and apprehended.  In consequence, they will surely be realising the extent to which they’ve spoiled their own life. Or perhaps that realisation is  yet to dawn upon them.

The letter we got from Lambeth Council was about the Council’s services in giving emotional and mental support to the local community in the wake of the stabbing. It’s reassuring that such services exist and that, as in this case, the community was being directly informed about them.

But the stabbing itself raises such huge questions as to whether young people inside and outside London are being helped to realise, whether in school or later, the dire consequences of such an event both to the family and friends of the person who dies and, more widely, to the local community. Anger and fear are not good things for any community to have to experience. Older people, younger people, adolescents, children: all must be affected in one way or another. What to do about it?

Things will have changed since I was in school. Even in the peaceful rural area where I grew up, violent incidents occur that are comparable to those that occur in London. What I hope is that in all Primary and Secondary schools, teachers take the time to think through how to treat such violence. I can only think that trying to tell the full story of such a stabbing could be a good way to start. The enmities that result in killings, the results for whoever inflicts the wounds, the grieving by those who have lost a family member or friend: it occurs to me now that if you didn’t actually say that Romeo and Juliet is a play written by a long dead playwright called Shakespeare but simply told the story of it as if it had just happened, you would enable listeners to experience something of what dire consequences such a killing can bring about for everyone involved

PS: Flowers are things that follow deaths.  They’re also things that brighten the heart. And those I’ve  included as illustrations here are brightening our lives here in Brixton  right now. Pink geraniums on the kitchen table, fuchsias outside in the garden. Pure pleasure.

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