Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Through the Post

The post this week brought unexpected things. First arrived a large envelope from Sweden. This contained four smart-looking booklets – the published list of all nominees for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award 2014. There are 238 of us from 68 countries. Out of the total – I’ve checked! – only 12 are listed as oral storytellers. Some of the 12 are also described as authors and, in a couple of instances, as reading promoters too. We come from countries as diverse as the British Virgin Islands, Malta, Malaysia and the UK.

The nominees

It’s as exhilarating as it is daunting. The UK nominees for the Astrid Lindgren Award could hardly be a more prestigious bunch. Allan Ahlberg, Quentin Blake, Kevin Crossley-Holland, Michael Foreman, Shirley Hughes, Michael Morpurgo, Jill Paton-Walsh, Terry Pratchett, Michael Rosen, Meg Rosoff. Yet how wonderful it is that it’s possible for oral storytellers to get included alongside such extremely distinguished authors and illustrators. There are two of us in the UK list – Liz Weir who comes from Northern Ireland and myself who comes from Wales. Interestingly, both of us have worked across divides. Liz in Northern Ireland is especially well-known for her work across religious divides. In Wales the divides are perhaps less obvious. Yet, linguistic and cultural, they are both present and very pertinent.

Working in Wales

When working in Wales, I’ve always felt moved by a deep need to help create a conscious awareness of the specialness of the place and its culture in all that divides and that binds us there. Perhaps I should say cultures not culture. New and old, Welsh and English, rural and urban: as in so many parts of the world today, there’s an enormous mixture of backgrounds and perspectives in the everyday life of the place. There can be no better way of coming to terms with this mixture than through storytelling.

The second unexpected thing in my post this week (unexpected only because I didn’t know when it might come) was the report that storyteller Pat Ryan has written on oral storytelling in museums and libraries in Wales. The report delves into current practice and future possibilities. These, of course, are enormous. The ancient heritage, the natural environment, the culture and language – all afford rich territory for stories, storytellers and listeners.

A total surprise

Third and totally out of left field came a fat jiffy bag from the University of Wales Press. What it contained was as delightful to me as it was astonishing. I sat there looking at them: two beautiful-looking paperbacks with a lovely cover design and attractive typography, they were, I could see but hardly believe, two copies of a book called St David’s and Dewisland by David W. James.

David W. James was my father. Known to his parents as Dafi-Willie and to most of his friends as simply D.W., he’d written and published St David’s and Dewisland shortly after he retired from being headmaster of Ysgol Dewi Sant in St David’s. He was the first and best source of my storytelling. I miss him and celebrate him all of the time. But I’d had no idea that this first book of his – he also published another called Twice to St David’s – was about to be reissued. Originally published in 1981, it had eventually gone out of print and last time I enquired of the publishers, there was absolutely no intention of doing anything with it again.

So isn’t that fantastic? How things come round. How things connect up. Where they come from and where they are going. For me this week, it’s been a very personal story about my storytelling career and its roots. My photos illustrate the journey – me as a child and as a young storyteller and, of course, my storytelling father.

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2 Responses to “Storytelling Starters ~ Through the Post”

  1. Jean Says:

    Thank you for your blog Mary – as good as a fabulous unexpected post.

  2. admin Says:

    Jean, I’ve had problems with my computer this week as well as a horrible cough. So this reply is very belated. Thanks,anyway. It’s so good to receive a comment on a blog. Like a nice bit of food, it gives me energy for the next one.

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