Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Posts Tagged ‘British Trust for Ornithology’

Storytelling Starters – Is it yet Spring?

Saturday, February 2nd, 2013

The other day I heard that David the cuckoo is on his way home. David is one of several cuckoos the British Trust for Ornithology are tracking in the cause of helping with dangerously declining cuckoo numbers. David has been wintering in the middle of Africa. He’s started his long flight back from the Congo about a week earlier than the first of last year’s cuckoos. To the BTO, it’s the first sign of Spring. 

Signs of Spring?

I await any signs of Spring in Storytelling in Education. Like numerous other storytellers I’ve spoken to, I fear the country is stuck in a very long drear Winter as far as storytelling in schools is concerned. Storyteller visits to schools have suffered. So has storytelling training for teachers. OK, there are still the big events. National Storytelling Week has just been taking place and lots of exciting events have happened inside and outside of schools. Next there’ll be World Book Day which this year is on March 7th. On that day I’ll be working in Kensington Palace with a group of parents who want to learn to tell stories to children.

But as previous readers of this blog will know, my concern is that storytelling be not only for special occasions but embedded in children’s lives. In Primary schools and Nursery schools, it is of particular importance because it gives children such improved confidence with language and also the knowledge that they all have an imagination, which is such an essential skill for life as well as for education.

Back-up for these thoughts came last week in a letter from Jean Edmiston, one of Scotland’s leading storytellers and a long-term colleague and friend of mine.  Jean has worked widely and over a long period of years in schools, with community groups and in performance. Her letter gives her thoughts on why storytelling in education is of such value. It includes insightful references to adults and children she’s worked with.

Jean Edmiston writes:

Dear Mary

At the end of last year I visited the local village primary school to tell stories.

As there are only 26 children in the whole school, ages 5-11, I suggested they should all join in with the first story, with the older children lending their voices to the sound effects necessary to rid the villagers in the story of a scary mud monster. The story ends with the people celebrating their victory by making fires that sparkle like all the stars in the sky.

The younger children then chose to stay on for the longer stories – and 45 minutes became over an hour with everyone enjoying the stories. And I so enjoyed telling the stories and being reminded how much delight children take from hearing stories told.

A few days after this I met a parent in the village shop – and the talk was not the usual talk about the weather but about the stars and stories of how they came to be. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Nature Stories

Saturday, June 30th, 2012

Well, the photos this week are of birds – three of a pigeon in Venice plus a picture out of my photo archives of seagulls over the Thames.

But the theme of the words is not just birds but cuckoos.

Why cuckoos?

A while ago, a good friend of mine who is also a storyteller got me interested in sponsoring a cuckoo. To do what, you might very well ask? The answer is that the British Trust for Ornithology is keen to find out why cuckoo numbers in Britain have been on the decline and why cuckoos from Scotland and Wales have been doing rather better than cuckoos from England. So they’ve been tagging cuckoos and, by tracking them on the fantastic journeys they annually make from the UK, down across Europe into Africa and back again to where they set out, they are hoping to discover what problems the different cuckoos face.

Last season, I sponsored an English cuckoo who’d been awarded the name of Kaspar. Alas, he didn’t return from the 16,000-miles or more that  these cuckoos normally travel. This season I’ve sponsored a cuckoo from Ceredigion  in Wales who is yet to be awarded a name. I’ve written in, along with many others, to suggest what name might be chosen for him.

My suggestion is Taliesin. Taliesin was one of the earliest Welsh poets. He lived in the second half of the 6th century and I’ve often told audiences the magical legend about him that appears in the Mabinogion.

Taliesin still sings, I said in my email, and hopefully the soon-to-be-named cuckoo will sing for a long time too.

I recommend the BTO website. Like the tree-sign in my last week’s blog, the material on cuckoos (and other birds too) is a story in itself.

A cuckoo legend:
By tradition, it’s on April 7th that the first cuckoo’s song of the year is heard each year in Pembrokeshire which is my native part of Wales. The 7th April is St Brynach’s Day and, in the village of Nevern where St Brynach eventually settled after making a pilgrimage to Rome and spending some years in Brittany, people would wait for the cuckoo to come and fly down to the old Celtic Cross that is St Brynach’s Cross. And it’s there, they say, that the cuckoo would sing.

One year, the bird was late arriving. Waiting eagerly for it to come, the priest was reluctant to start the service until he’d heard the cuckoo’s song.

Eventually the gathered congregation saw the cuckoo fly down through the trees in the churchyard and settle on St Brynach’s Cross. But the bird looked terribly battered and tired and, after singing for one brief, glorious moment, it fell from the cross and died. (more…)