Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Posts Tagged ‘Debbie Guneratne’

Storytelling Starters ~ What’s in a story?

Saturday, July 15th, 2017

What’s in a story? Things that are normally hidden? Things of remarkable beauty? Keys to the future? One of my main occupations at present is writing a book about doing stories  with Early Years children. It’s a subject I’ve thought about a lot about over the years because I’ve done so much of it, not only with children themselves but with their teachers and parents too.  Writing the book has been bringing back to my mind all kinds of little tales. Here are three.

Story One:

This story was reported to me by my storyteller friend, Debbie Guneratne. It’s about an incident that occurred to her some time ago during a period when she was in Australia, working in a hospital for children.

One day, she started telling a little boy in the hospital the story of The Yellow Blob. Debbie had heard this particular tale (it’s one I created) on a storytelling course I’d been running. The little boy was a child who didn’t speak and his attention span was very poor. So Debbie was delighted to see that he kept listening intently as he heard how the Yellow Blob lived in an entirely yellow world until one day when he climbed to the top of a yellow hill and saw a blue lake below.

Suddenly at this point of the story, and much to Debbie’s regret, a nurse turned up to take the little boy for some treatment he was due to receive. Debbie was naturally very sorry he hadn’t been able to stay to hear the end of the story. Come the end of the day, however, Debbie was on her way out of the hospital when she heard a voice calling her name. Turning round, she saw the nurse hand in hand with that same little boy standing at the top of the hospital steps.

‘Debbie, stop,’ the nurse called out. ‘He wants to hear the end of the story.’ (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Haunted!

Saturday, November 5th, 2016

A story has been haunting me, going round and round in my mind. It’s kept returning over the last few weeks and, each time I find myself thinking it over, I wonder why it is there. OK, I love the story. And I love who I heard it from, storyteller friend Debbie Guneratne. But why is this story from her in my mind now? So many questions. But first let me tell you the story.

The Pointing Finger:

P1070076It was hot. So hot that even the air felt hot and, beneath his bare feet, the hard ground of the village square felt as if it was scorching his skin. The young man felt thirsty. He also felt worried. What was he ever going to do? His studies in the town were going well, his teachers said he was clever. But how was he going to complete his studies on so little money and with so little hope?

All these questions were turning over in the student’s mind as he sat on the bench in the village square that hot morning. Suddenly, there came the stir of voices and movement on one of the roads that came into the square. It looked like someone important arriving, surrounded by attendants and awed onlookers.

It was some kind of prince, that was obvious. His robes were richly embroidered, his hair was glossy, his beard well-tended and round his neck was a garland of flowers. The prince, if that’s what he was, swept into the square and looked around. There was very little to see – a tree that looked like it needed water, a fountain from which rose too little water to enable it to look like a fountain should.

As he walked grandly round the square, the prince suddenly stopped. His eyes, evidently, had fallen on the student who by now was walking along to the side of the prince, staring avidly at him‘What do you want?’ the prince suddenly said, stopping in his tracks as if he’d only now become aware of the student. For a moment, the student was silent, as if had no idea what to say. Then he quietly replied, ‘Anything … something … whatever you can give.’ (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ A Sense of Occasion

Saturday, September 19th, 2015

Yesterday evening, my old friend, storyteller Debbie Guneratne, was performing with dancers and singers at a Malaysian Night in Trafalgar Square. A few days before, on the phone, she was apprehensive – entirely understably you might say. Trafalgar Square? On a Friday night? But her apprehensions also made me chuckle.

Malaysian dancersA personal tale:

‘Don’t worry too much,’ I responded. ‘Trafalgar Square can be surprisingly kind. Once long ago, when we had our first car, I broke down in Trafalgar Square in the middle of a Saturday morning. I was on my own. What a nightmare!’

Except it turned out to be almost a pleasure, not a nightmare at all. Two young policemen turned up as if out of nowhere, pushed the car onto a safe, quiet spot at the south of the central island of the square and helped me call the AA. (It was long before mobile phones.)

Phew! Often when I’ve gone through Trafalgar Square since then, I think of the way in which a horrid situation that turns out OK can transform into a happy memory. Another Trafalgar Square event which also often returns to mind seems somehow related. (more…)

Storytelling Starters~ Summer Holiday Games

Saturday, July 27th, 2013

It’s the summer holidays – just the right time for some storytelling games. On your own, you can deliberately set out to develop all kinds of alternative scenarios to situations in traditional stories or that are happening in your own lifstorytelling games are fun in pairs or in groups.

Storytelling games develop imagination, relish quirky ideas, treasure inventiveness of language. They’re most fun in pairs or in groups.

This week I came across an excellently ridiculous story that came out of a session I ran way back in 2001. The session was with one of my friend Debbie Guneratne’s Small Tales Storytelling Clubs. I found my note of what happened while sorting through my shelves of old diaries, storytelling journals and books of stories I’ve written. The aim of my sorting was to be throwing stuff away. I can’t say I did much chucking. But I loved the reading and reflecting, particularly in regard to my journals.

The date was Saturday, 17th March 2001. First we played my Empty World game in which, as the game goes on (there’s lots of rhythm and repetition), each participant chooses an item whose name begins with the same first letter as their own first name. Afterwards, I had the idea of suggesting that we try to make links between the items that had been put into our Empty World. On this occasion, these were as follows: (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ C for Campaign

Saturday, November 10th, 2012

It’s not been a brilliant week. A good friend and colleague with whom I was chatting has just learned that the funding streams for some of her very well-established work with Early Years children and staff have been cut for next year. Then at the end of the week, I got the news that storytelling workshops I was due to do at a conference in London next Thursday were being cancelled due to insufficient take-up. Two swallows do not make a summer and two pieces of disappointing news do not denote a bad winter. But they do give pause for thought.

C for Campaign

Time for a Campaign about the importance of Storytelling in Education? I think so. Even the seaweed on a beach where I walked this week seemed to be in agreement. In another sense, so was an email I received from the Headteacher of Brady School in Rainham. I’d written to let him know about the Blog where I talked about those wonderful letters that had come from children at his school following the Local Legends project I’d done there back in 1997. His email said he remembered the project and its impact. ‘The quality of work from the children showed just how much they became integrated into the project.’

It’s exactly this kind of point that Arts people are currently making in the press and elsewhere about why the arts in schools are important and why their place should not be diminished. Like visits from authors, artists and theatre companies, storytellers coming in to schools can make a huge impact on children. It gives them something to remember, something that awakens their imagination, something that can work in their memory-banks long after the particular occasion where the seeds of new thought and ideas are planted.

C for Coincidence

Pondering the many ways in which storytelling has been able to thrive in education, I thought about Storytelling Clubs in schools and the dedicated work my storytelling friend, Debbie Guneratne, has been doing in that area. I wrote about it in Mirror, Mirror, one of the personal tales I’ve recently been working on. Mirror, Mirror is a story about stories and storytelling. As well as an extraordinary coincidence, it figures an African folktale I very much love. I hope you enjoy my piece of writing and tell the tale to someone else.

Mirror, mirror

Debbie, has been one of the country’s pioneers in setting up storytelling clubs in schools. On several occasions I’ve gone along to give talks when children in her clubs have been participating in celebratory events where, typically, they tell their stories to invited listeners – teachers, parents and other school children. On each occasion when I’ve done such a talk, I have of course told a story.

Once, the story I chose was an African story that I’d heard some years before from another storytelling colleague, Karen Tovell. Although it’s never become a regular part of my repertoire, it’s a story that often comes to my mind because of the way it draws attention to the beauty of the natural world and the way artists can help bring that beauty to other people’s awareness. (more…)