Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Posts Tagged ‘By Word Of Mouth’

Storytelling Starters ~ Return to sender

Saturday, August 29th, 2015

You give a person a present. The person later  dies and in the process of sorting that follows, the present you gave is offered back to you because it had come from you in the first place. This has happened to me more than once. It happened again this week. What came back on this occasion brought enormous delight for several different reasons, primarily that some of the books involved can now become presents all over again. Among the bounty were the following:

Time for Telling1 copy of Time for Telling (the book of children’s stories from around the world that I compiled and edited back in 1990)

1 copy of The River That Went To The Sky (the book of African stories I compiled and edited in 1995) 

I copy of By Word of Mouth, the 43-page booklet on storytelling which accompanied the four-part TV series of the same name I devised for Channel 4 in 1990

There were other things too in the pile. But these three meant a great deal to me.

Time for Telling:

Time for Telling had proved hugely popular when it was published and is evidently still being much used today both here and in other countries. (I know this from the twice-yearly records I receive from ALCS of photocopies people have made from it.) I myself ran out of copies of it quite a while ago for it’s not been in print for some time either in its original hard-back form or in the two paperback versions it afterwards became, The King With Dirty Feet and The Big-Wide-Mouthed Toad-Frog. Now I’ll be able to give the hardback copy that’s been so thoughtfully returned to me as a gift to one of the precious young children who have since come into my life.

The wonderful thing about Time for Telling is that the stories it contains came from working storytellers and were specially written down for the collection by them. Telling these stories, they had made them their own. Pomme Clayton, Duncan Williamson, Patrick Ryan, Amoafi Kwapong, James Riordan, Eric Maddern, Jane Grell, Helen East … what a roll-call of persons who have proved important and influential in the storytelling world. In my own work as a storyteller, I then saw the effect their stories as they had written them down for me were having. Many teachers  I came across were using Time for Telling with their pupils. Indeed, one school I visited had turned their entire October Book Week into a Storytelling Week in which children explored how to tell stories and then practised performing them to each other, to whole classes and in assemblies. Time for Telling was their starting point.

The River that Went to the Sky: (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Still Skipping

Saturday, May 4th, 2013

Memorable tellings are never forgotten. Next week on Wednesday will be the 14th anniversary of such a telling of a story by Eleanor Farjeon, Elsie Piddock Skips In Her Sleep. The telling was by Eileen Colwell.

Among other things, Eileen Colwell was:

  • founder of the first children’s library in the UK
  • first patron of the Society for Storytelling
  • an oral storyteller par excellence

Eileen was also a storytelling inspiration to me and huge numbers of others. I was thinking about her this week on two separate occasions, once in connection with the TV series on storytelling, By Word of Mouth, which I originated and devised back in 1989. The series was shown on Channel 4 in 1990 and I’ve just had some DVD transfers of it made from the videos of it that I possess. Eileen Colwell figures prominently in the third programme in the series. She comes across as vividly as she did in real life, sparkly-eyed, lively and wise as she was. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Body stories

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

Only a week to go. The Olympics are about to begin, London is getting ever more crowded and already it’s becoming quite a bodily skill to manoeuvre a way through the crowds. Meantime, newspapers and TV are full of the physical skills of the athletes. There’s also lots about the psychology of competing and the determination and persistence involved in increasing bodily prowess, let alone the mental skills required to stay focused and cool. It’s absorbing.

I won’t be going to the games myself. I’ll be watching on TV at home while devoting my mind to thinking about physical skills and bodily parts. For that’s my theme for the next few weeks.

I’m starting today with one of my favourite stories. I call it Five Chinese Brothers. It’s a marvellous story for adults to tell and children to hear. Like the extendable legs in the story, it somehow seems able to stretch up the age-range from children of about five years old to children of eleven or twelve. And as you’ll see when you read the story, extendable legs are just one of the story’s magical powers. But first, here’s a bit of background about how I first came to hear this tale.

Five Chinese Brothers – some background

I first heard the story from Beulah Candappa, the inspirational storyteller from Burma who was one of the first full-time storytellers I got to know in London during the 1980s when storytelling as an art was reviving.

Beulah was the daughter of a headteacher and chieftain. She’d turned from teaching to full-time storytelling because she so strongly believed in the necessity for people to have stories. Stories had been part of her own life since childhood. She was generous in the way she shared them. Always calm and serene in her manner, she would carry with her baskets of fascinating folk objects and set these out in the course of her tellings, creating a wonderful theatre of the imagination.

Beulah has influenced me a lot. Once in a conversation on the phone, she memorably described storytelling to me as ‘the art of time and silence’. And when she wrote a piece for the booklet that accompanied By Word of Mouth, my Channel 4 TV series on storytelling that was shown in 1990, it was enticingly entitled, A Crackle of Excitement.

That’s Beulah – a wonderful combination of quiet serenity and an electric buzz of excitement. I think of her whenever I think of this tale, which I’ve probably adapted in various ways in the course of dozens of tellings over the years.

Five Chinese Brothers – the story (more…)