Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Posts Tagged ‘Eileen Colwell’

Storytelling Starters ~ Memory, remembering and memorizing

Saturday, November 11th, 2017

Thought-provoking thoughts about memory and memorizing came from a blog reader, Peter, this week in a comment he sent on a blog I’d written back in July, 2013 (for of course you can go back to previous posts in the archive).  Replying, I made the point that memorizing the words of a story is not something I do as a storyteller. Yes, there was once a Russian story about an egg that came in the form of a poem. I remember learning that by heart. And of course some stories include a phrase or a rhyme that needs to be remembered word for word. Otherwise, memorizing is no longer much part of my life.

Memorizing: the weekly task

Yet Peter’s comment made me think about the huge amount of exact memorizing I used to do as a child. In Fishguard Primary school, we all had to learn two poems each week, one Welsh, one English. Each week, our teacher would test us on them. Then every now and again, our horrible headmaster would arrive in our classroom, call someone out front with their exercise book in which were written the poems we’d learned, select one poem from the many and then ask the poor child to speak it. What a bullying thing to do! (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Pure pleasure

Saturday, September 13th, 2014

‘Pleasure is a really profound form of attention.’ This thought-provoking remark was made this last Thursday in a lecture by Frank Cottrell Boyce. Award-winning children’s book author, co-creator of the Opening Ceremony of the London Olympics, Professor of Reading at Liverpool Hope University, he was delivering this year’s Philippa Pearce Memorial Lecture.

Magic door croppedWide-ranging and enormously funny, Frank’s lecture –  Homerton College, Cambridge was the venue – focussed on what can happen when we listen to something being read to us. How it draws us in. How it makes us expectant. How a reason it can affect us so much is that it doesn’t oblige us to do anything else. It doesn’t require us to speak or answer or write – nothing at all except take it in. As Frank said, it’s a profound form of attention, and that can be a most profound pleasure.

And what can ruin it? Make us freeze up or only partly respond? As the audience to the lecture was offered a list of what can only be described as enemies to real attention, we all sighed in recognition. Being told in advance that we’d be asked questions about what we’ve heard? Dreading that we’d be expected to write something creative in immediate response? Or even not being given enough of the reading in the first place?

One great effect of Frank’s lecture for me – and it was full of told stories, his own personal stories about his grandmother and her room full of ticking clocks, his grandfather who was born with a caul round his head, the children and the youths that he’s met – was that it made me feel the deep kinship between what he described as the effects of reading and what I know as the effects of storytelling. They are so much the same: it’s the enormous power of story (good story) to move, awaken and deeply educate.

Enough said. Except it does have to be said again and again, more clearly and in ever more places where, especially in education today, there is so little recognition of its truth. How many times have teachers said to me, ‘We don’t have time for stories in our school’? How many times have parents said, ‘I’d forgotten about all this kind of thing’? (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…)