Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ The Listening Room

Hall Place is a Tudor house in Bexley. It was built in 1537, it has beautiful stonework and large gardens, including some very lovely trees, and yesterday a friend took me there to visit.

An aspect of our visit that interested me greatly was the large room upstairs which, for three years during the Second World War, had been The Listening Room. It’s where twenty GIs spent their days, eight hours a day for seven days in a row before they were allowed a day off. Headphones on, their task during each of those seven days was to listen via their headphones to German military talk and to transcribe it before sending it on to Bletchley to be decoded.

It was not uncommon during the war for great houses such as Hall Place to be put to some use in the war effort, including providing treatment for wounded soldiers. At Hall Place, the work was hard. According to one contemporary description of the GIs who were based there, they’d end each day red-eyed and bleary. No wonder that on their days off, they’d be eager to get out into the local area and particularly keen, evidently, to meet up with any pretty girls. It is known that several pregnancies and wartime marriages resulted.

An integral part of storytelling:

Since yesterday, I’ve thought a lot about The Listening Room. For the GIs, the experience was full of hard-to-interpret noise. For me, the idea of listening is deeply part of storytelling. I remember a young friend of mine, now in his 30s, saying to me once when he was in his teens: ‘When you tell me a story, it’s as if the room goes quiet.’

I also think of roomfuls of children, heads upturned, eyes still and concentrating, though not so much on me as on what’s going on in the story. Deep listening is profoundly necessary for our mental health. It requires some stilling of the mind for it to happen – something that often requires being in some quiet place. I hope your summer (or winter in the case of friends the other side of the world!) brings you plenty of chances for it to you. I’m grateful to Hall Place for making me think about it.

PS: There’s something about ponds that does it for me. Peace, quiet, reflections etc. The pond in my photo is definitely not at Hall Place. In fact, I have no recollection of where it was. But I do remember the peace of listening it brought.

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2 Responses to “Storytelling Starters ~ The Listening Room”

  1. Pam Says:

    Thank for your post Mary. It reminded me of Dadirri, deep listening, in Aboriginal life. here’s a link for you.

  2. Mary Medlicott Says:

    Thanks, Pam, for that link. I think that ‘deep listening’ is something all storytellers need to experience and practise – but also good for everyone else in this over-busy, over-noisy world.By the way, I’d love to know how you came up with your intriguing idea of Frog on a Rock. All the best, Mary

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