Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ To inspire

The essential point of any storytelling workshop or course is to inspire and impart – not to disempower. Participants can be enthused in different ways and with diverse outcomes. They may become tellers of stories in their family lives. They may start telling, making and hearing stories with people they work with. They may even conceive the ambition to develop themselves as professional or semi-professional storytellers.

Palpable excitement

On Wednesday and Thursday this week, I felt particularly conscious of this multi-faceted effect. On Wednesday, I was at Warwick University doing one of my annual sessions with students on Hilary Minns’ storytelling module for people working with children. Thursday was the final session of my Kensington Palace course for parents. Both times, I felt the palpable excitement of people who have already started to experience the effects of their storytelling on children. And not only children. One Kensington Palace mother read us a story she’d written during the week. Beautifully written it was too. During the course, she told us, she felt she’d discovered a new facility for writing. She reported how affected her husband had been by this.

New skills, new confidence, new powers of invention: the KensingtonPalace crowd will, I feel sure, go on to great things. Already they are well into planning storytelling clubs for the children in the schools their children attend. I have offered my help in getting these going.

As for the Warwick University students, they’ll soon be planning and writing their end-of-course dissertations. In doing this, they will be using and recording their own new awareness of the effects of stories on children.

Leading workshops – a particular skill

But it’s an important point to make: leading workshops in such a way as to produce these effects is a particular skill of its own. I know I’m good at it (I should be by now!) and of course I know it’s not the only way of working as a storyteller. (I love the other ways, too.) But it does require a particular set of qualities – knowing how to put participants at their ease; activities that can involve all in the group, including the shyest; a storytelling style that does not show itself off but encourages people to feel they can do it too; a way of working that recognises and develops people’s individual interests, skills and styles. And last but not least, a love of employing and sharing the ‘secrets’ of the storytelling art.

The need today

It’s a tall order. And it represents one of my current concerns about what’s happening with storytelling in education today. Right now, we badly need more storytellers who want to foster this way of working so there can be more parents, more teachers and more childcare workers spreading the joys and wisdoms of storytelling. Is enough happening to fund this kind of development? Are enough people aware of the need? What happens if and when this kind of workshop-running dies out?

At the end of my Kensington Palace session on Thursday, I told the Star Apple story. I knew everyone there would love it. If you don’t know it already, it’s the most glorious and simple magic. But that’s not the main reason I picked it to end with. I chose it so I could say, with feeling, to all the people who were present: ‘I’ve told you this story because you’re all stars.’

So no apologies for retelling the story again in this Blog.

Story: Star Apple

Once there was a girl who was bored. “I’m bored,” she kept on saying. The little girl’s mother told her, “You could go and watch TV.”

“That’s boring,” the little girl said. “Then go and tidy up your room,” said her mother. “That’s boring,” the girl replied.

The girl’s mother finally said: “Well, here’s another idea. You could go and look for a little green house with a chimney on top and a star inside.”

“Huh?” the little girl answered. “You can’t have a star inside a house.”

Yet she did as her mother suggested. She looked in her toy cupboard and under the stairs. Nothing! Then, after telling her mother what she was planning, she went out on the street and looked at all the houses. But she couldn’t see a little green house with a chimney on top.

So she went to her granny who lived next door. “Granny,” said the little girl. “Mum’s gone mad. She told me to find a little green house with a chimney on top and a star inside. And I can’t! And it’s silly!”

Granny listened and then quietly said, “Why don’t you go out in the garden and look underneath my apple tree?”

So the girl went out in the garden but she still couldn’t find what her mother had said. She went back inside and told her granny, “Granny, there’s no little green house with a chimney on top and a star inside.”

Then her Granny went out with her and, from under the apple tree, she picked up an apple that had fallen onto the grass. She showed it to the little girl. “See?” said Granny. “A little green house with a chimney on top!”

“Uh!” said the girl. “But there’s no star inside.” “Let’s have a look,” said Granny.

So Granny went in the kitchen and cut open the apple and inside was a beautiful star.

P.S. Please remember. Very important. If you tell this story, please choose an apple with a good amount of stem for a chimney and please don’t cut the apple downwards. Cut it open across the middle. Besides, if you’re telling the story to young children in school, keep your knife well-wrapped and put away.
And if your apple is red and not green, change the story to suit.

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2 Responses to “Storytelling Starters ~ To inspire”

  1. Susanna Meese Says:

    Hi Mary, I wanted to let you know that I came across your site and the apple story yesterday and I told the story last night at Enoch’s Hammer Folk Club here in Slaithwaite in the Colne Valley. I adapted it a little to make it a personal tale, but I just love this story and think it will be told again and again. I will also encourage all those that I tell to make it there own and pass it on. Thank you so much for sharing it. It’s a gem! Susanna x

  2. admin Says:

    So delighted, Susanna, that you enjoyed that story. I agree, it’s one that is worth telling again and again. Thanks so much for letting me know that you liked it and told it.

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