Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Posts Tagged ‘Drill Hall Storytelling Workshops’

Storytelling Starters ~ Powerful stuff

Saturday, October 3rd, 2020

Mr Laurie Machel was a very elderly man who lived in an old-fashioned block of flats on the South Lambeth Road. The flats are still there and when I go past them in the car nowadays, he often pops into my mind. As I recall, I’d been put in touch with him by Age Concern and I visited him numerous times. He was a practical man. Indeed, one reason he’s often come back to my mind of late – for it’s years ago that I knew him – has been as a result of my recent hip operation. The operation has meant that I’m using crutches to get about. So I’ve had to be thinking about handy ways to transport objects  I need from one place to another in the house. Mr Laurie Machel used to do it by tying the things he needed directly onto his zimmer frame or putting them into cloth bags which he’d hang on the bars. Alas, a pair of crutches is not nearly so viable as an object transporter.

One extraordinary thing about Mr Laurie Machel was that as a very young man before the First World War, he’d had to travel to Japan.  This journey had come about because, having left school at the earliest possible moment to work in a garage in Stockwell, he’d one day had the experience of meeting a Japanese prince who turned up at his garage to try and find someone to come to Japan to look after his racing car collection. Mr Machel got the job. The prince’s cars never got to go anywhere: there was nowhere for them to go. But nonetheless the prince wanted them kept in tip-top condition.

Mr Machel told me that being in Japan at that time long ago was like being in a kindergarten. Japan had not yet joined the modern world. Everything was tiny, small and neat. And as things turned out, Mr Machel was not able to spend much time there. The world was on the verge of World War One and as war came closer, he had to travel back to England. How he’d got to Japan in the first place had involved travelling on the Trans-Siberian Railway, which was quite an experience in itself.  Now, if I remember rightly, his return to England was on board a tanker.

Other than because of his clever way of transporting items around his flat, I have no idea why Mr Machel came back to my mind this week. Nor do I know why, also this week, my memory has been frequented by a young black man who was one of the people in a storytelling workshop I was asked to give in Cape Town during a storytelling trip I once made to South Africa. The trip had been organised by Alan Kenyon, a marvellous teacher-trainer in the sciences field who had a passion for stories and storytelling. Sadly, Alan has now passed away. I’d first got to know him when, on a long sabbatical visit to London, he’d attended a number of the storytelling workshops I used to run at the Drill Hall with storyteller friend Karen Tovell.  (And, oddly, just this week I had another cause to remember those workshops when I received an out-of-the-blue email from another person who used to attend them many years ago.)

The events that Alan Kenyon organised for me to run in Cape Town were fantastic affairs, wonderfully multi-racial at a time when, with Nelson Mandela newly at the country’s helm, such things had become both possible and valued. The young black man I’ve mentioned above happened to become the other person in a pair with me during one of the storytelling exercises in one of the workshops that Alan organised. The exercise was to do with stories of change. I’d asked people to recall to each other in pairs any story of notable change that had occurred in their lives. The change recalled by the young man who found himself working with me was the very first occasion when he’d gone away from the village where he’d grown up. His story was very moving. As he finished it, , he looked directly at me and said, ‘This is the first time I have looked a white woman in the eyes.’

Powerful stuff. But then storytelling can be just that. Powerful stuff.

PS: Sunflowers have nothing at all to do with the subjects in my blog this week. But sunflowers are marvellous things and the ones in my photos are particularly marvellous to me because they grew in our garden.

Storytelling Starters ~ Retirement?

Saturday, July 4th, 2020

Retiring and retirement are interesting. Sometimes they turn out to be boring, sometimes full of good new things. This week, a good storytelling friend, Jean Edmiston, has announced her retirement from working as a professional storyteller. This has brought lots of thoughts to mind.

First, it has made me remember how Jean and I  first met.  It was in the Ladies Room of the Drill Hall Arts Centre in Chenies Street in Central London. It was nearly time for the start of one of what had become known as the Drill Hall Storytelling Workshops and Jean and I were both washing our hands. The Drill Hall workshops were the four-hour long sessions I used to put on in the late 1980s and early 1990s with friend and colleague Karen Tovell. Monthly things that used to happen on Saturdays, they attracted fascinating people (including on one occasion a Town Crier) and in terms of story, they proved powerful events, full of all kinds of story and different ways of exploring them. (more…)