Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Posts Tagged ‘Dylan Thomas’

Storytelling Starters ~ Important moments

Saturday, July 24th, 2021

Looking forward to the Lions v Springboks match in Cape Town today made me think of an important moment for me. It happened in a storytelling workshop I was running in South Africa. The occasion was organised by a wonderful man called Alan Kenyon, alas  now no longer alive.

In one part of the workshop, I asked people to get into twos and share their experience of first leaving home. I was with a young black man who gave me a moving account of leaving his village to go away for the very first time. He described walking along the path that left the village, then stopping and looking back.

Another thing I remember of that same young man is that he also looked up at me and said: ‘This is the first time I have ever looked a white woman in the eyes.’ (more…)

A fond childhood memory revisited

Saturday, December 26th, 2020

As the needle hovered above the disc on the record player, I felt almost fearful with expectation. When the needle was lowered and out came the first words of A Child’s Christmas in Wales, I felt as if what I was hearing had been created especially for me. It felt as if every word had been written with intention and love to convey what it is to be Welsh and to be in Wales at Christmas time.

The ritual listening to A Child’s Christmas in Wales took place each and every Christmas when I was a child of an appropriate age to listen to it.  The lead-up was always the same. Upon leaving the house where my family lived at No. 16 Vergam Terrace in Fishguard, I’d turn left and cross the road to the first house on the other side, No 1. At the front door, I’d reach up, lift the heavy brass knocker, knock three times and wait for the sounds of Aunty Mali coming to the door, pushing the draft excluder out of the way with her foot, opening the door and greeting me with her resonant ‘Hello!’

Inside the house, the fire would be roaring in the living-room grate. Already set out on the table would be cups, saucers and plates and, in a prominent position, the big, square gramophone with, beside it, a small pile of LPs in their brown paper sleeves. I knew what I was going to hear. I was going to hear the resonant voice of the famous Welsh actor Emlyn Williams, reading Dylan Thomas’s wonderful evocation of being a child in Wales at Christmas time. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Breaking the rules

Saturday, December 9th, 2017

This week, I’m owning up to breaking what has always seemed to be a rule among storytellers. When first I fell into storytelling, it was the early days of the storytelling revival. At that time, as I wrote in this blog a while ago, even such a thing as including a poem in a storytelling session was regarded as not allowed. Ever since, I’ve also felt aware that, as a storyteller, I should never expect or be expected to read something in public. No. My role, I felt, was to maintain the distinction between reading and telling and to bring to the fore the art of telling without a script.

Doing readings:

So let me admit to breaking that rule on two London occasions (and also, I’ll now admit, a year ago down in Pembrokeshire too).  The second London occasion happened last Sunday evening; the first had taken place in December a year ago. On both these London occasions, my husband Paul was giving a concert at Clapham Omnibus Theatre in aid of Crisis, the homelessness charity. Paul does the singing with his friend Steve playing the piano and this year, I’d say, they outshone what they did last year and in their first Crisis concert the previous year too. It was during this year’s event, as during last year’s, that I did readings. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Taking a risk

Saturday, December 10th, 2016

apple-star[1]I took a bit of a risk on Thursday evening. We were giving the second in our Enchantment series of Songs and Stories concerts at Pepper’s in Fishguard. This was Winter Enchantment. During the second half, I was going to do two readings – one from A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas, the second the hilarious Twelve Thank-You Notes of Christmas, originally written by I’ve no idea who.

But in the first half, I’d decided to tell three short stories. The third was Baboushka, the poignant story of Russia’s Mother Christmas. (Put Baboushka into the Search box on the left of this blog; you’ll come up with my posting for December 17, 2011).  The second story was The Pointing Finger which I recounted here a few weeks ago on November 5, 2016.  The first was the story I call Star Apple.

Star Apple was a risk because I think of it as a story for children. But this was an audience of adults. Granted, I’ve told it at this time of the year to any number of teachers’ or parents’ workshops. ‘It’s a great story to tell to children,’ I say. ‘It’s easy to remember. It has the great advantage that it needs a prop (always a help because it gives you something to focus on). Besides it is about a star – and that is very seasonal as we think about Christmas.’

Why I decided to take a risk on it at Winter Enchantment is that the story is simple and magical and I thought some of my audience might be inspired to retell it at family gatherings over Christmas. Why not be ready with a story to entertain whoever is present? (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Light and dark

Saturday, November 29th, 2014

It’s strange how stories come to mind – sometimes after a very long gap. Yesterday morning, I was wondering what I could write about this week. Suddenly I remembered a story I haven’t thought about for ages. It feels like it fits with the extremely troubled times we’re all living through at present.  

The story:

Christmas Lights 1In this story, which I’ll say more about below,  there was a country that was riven by war. One frightened family – a young girl and her parents – had finally found refuge in a ruined tower in a rocky part of the land.

One day, an old man approached the tower. He asked the parents and their daughter if they would give him shelter for the night. They thought he seemed a kindly man. So they gave him some tea and some of the little food they had and showed him a tiny room with a bed where they said he could spend the night. That evening as they were sitting together, the stranger opened his leather satchel and brought out a glass ball. The glass ball shone in the gloom. Then, as he got up to go up to his room, he handed the glass ball to the little girl. ‘Keep hold of this,’ he said to her, ‘and it will keep you safe.’

As they went to their bed that night, disturbed by the presence of someone they didn’t know, the parents looked in on their guest. Lying asleep in the small room they’d given him, he looked different from before. He looked young. Beside him, hanging from the bedstead, they saw what they now realised was a false beard.

The parents felt very worried. Who was this man who had come to disturb them? Their sleep that night was troubled. But when they woke in the morning, they found that the man had gone. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Making tracks

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

09P1020528Last weekend, we were trying to find our way round to Door 3 of the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff (we were there to sing on the pitch before the Wales/Fiji rugby game). When we got to Door 5 and the way wasn’t obvious, we asked an official standing in the road: ‘How do we get round to Door 3?’ His answer made us laugh (typical South Wales humour!): 

‘One foot in front of the other is usually recommended.’

I love people’s odd little ways of saying things. In recollection, they often turn into the kind of tiny tale I find so useful in my storytelling. They come direct from people’s perceptions. They’re true-life tales – fabulous for putting into the interstices of a storytelling session as connectors, sometimes because they’re odd or funny, sometimes because they can introduce the theme of a story I’m about to tell.

Maori style:


Storytelling Starters ~ Baa-aaa

Saturday, October 25th, 2014

P1060973A bit of patter is part of the art. It may be only to say where a story comes from, where and from whom you heard it. Or it may be something about the weather, the event or the audience you’re addressing. It may be some introductory narrative that includes something about being a storyteller (after all, lots of people still don’t know what to expect) or you may have a joke that puts people at their ease. Whatever it is, it’s all part of creating a receptive atmosphere.

Dylan Thomas in Fitzrovia:

This week, I participated in the Fitzrovia Festival, an annual week of events that take place in the area round London’s Fitzroy Square. This year’s festival has been dedicated to Dylan Thomas. I did two sessions of Dylan Thomas readings and, among other things, my patter for my second session included a delightful (and true) little story I once heard from one of the people involved. This was an English lecturer on a visit to South Wales to see her daughter and her daughter’s two little children. An excursion to Laugharne had been planned so as to visit The Boathouse where Dylan Thomas lived and the shed where he worked. The children had heard a lot about this proposed excursion and on the way in the car, one of them piped up from the back, ‘Mum, will we see see Dill and Thomas?’

For my first session, which I knew in advance would be for young children, one piece of patter that came in handy was what I’d discovered a few days previously when making decisions about what poems and prose-readings I’d offer. Two possible poem options – Poem in October and Poem On His Birthday sent me scurrying to look up when Dylan Thomas was born. A hundred years ago, yes. But when exactly? The answer was 22nd October – the very day of my readings.

Preparing for the 6-year olds:  (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Dog-poo and Dylan Thomas

Saturday, June 21st, 2014

dylan thomasHave you ever visited Laugharne? Is so, you’ve surely walked along the shore of the estuary at the foot of the high walls of Laugharne castle and looked along towards the Boathouse where Dylan Thomas used to live.

Dylan Thomas is a wonderful poet and, rightly, the subject of lots of talk this year, the hundredth since his birth. The other night, I was reminded of the children who attended The Boathouse Project a few years ago. It was a week of workshops for all the top Juniors and Year 7s in the area with me and artist Catrin Webster.

The children showed great interest in Dylan Thomas’s work and also in Laugharne. Good stories and good art resulted. The other evening, talking about Dylan Thomas with friends, I was reminded of one of the stories. It was inspired by indignation at the amount of litter and dog-mess – dog-poo in children’s lingo – the children had noticed along the foreshore when we were collect impressions on what I call a Memory Walk.

Here’s the story. I can’t remember what its creators called it. I’m entitling it A Warning to All Litter-Droppers. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Noticing the Dog-Poo

Saturday, September 28th, 2013

A Memory Walk is a fantastic thing to do with children. This week I was reminded of its potential while thinking about Dylan Thomas whose work is to be celebrated this coming Saturday, October 5th, in the evening entertainments at the London Welsh Literature Festival that follow my performance of my storytelling piece, Travels With My Welsh Aunt.

Dylan Thomas lived in Carmarthenshire in the village of Laugharne. Back in 2001, I was asked to join with Welsh artist Catrin Webster to run The Boathouse Project. This was to be a week-long project to explore Dylan Thomas, his work and the place where he lived, with Top Juniors and Year 7s from Carmarthenshire schools. Catrin would work with them through the medium of art. I would work with them through storytelling.

The Memory Walk I used with the groups of children attendeding was one of the best techniques I’ve ever invented to prime children’s language and their storytelling. With each new group at the beginning of each day session, I began by talking a bit about storytelling, telling a couple of stories and introducing some of Dylan Thomas’ characters and story ideas. A lot of people liked the thought of Captain Cat in Under Milk Wood, also the grandfather in A Visit to Grandpa’s who imagines every night that he’s driving a cart and horses when actually he’s sitting in bed. The idea of a boathouse proved inspiring too and so did the Voices of the Drowned that also figure in Under Milk Wood. Whose voices could they be today? And when might we hear them? (more…)