Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Posts Tagged ‘Kenya’

Storytelling Starters ~ Cloudscape

Saturday, July 31st, 2021


Yesterday morning, the weather here in North Pembrokeshire was utterly different from before. All week the sky had been blue, though often with those fulsome clouds that look like strange flying creatures. Now it was rain-filled and grey.  I’m not sure why, perhaps as a comfort, but as I came downstairs in the morning, I began thinking about old friends. One of the dearest who came into my mind was Leah.

Let me tell you how we met. I was 18 years old and in Kenya as a VSO (Volunteer for Service Overseas) at a time when VSOs could still be unqualified school-leavers. My job was teaching at a home called Edelvale which was run by mainly Irish Catholic nuns on the outskirts of Nairobi. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ A unique story

Saturday, May 23rd, 2015

P1070361In the Africa section of my boxes of stories, I have a file of stories from Benjamin Kipkorir, my Kenyan friend. They’re animal stories in the main, many about clever Rabbit, and they’re the stories Ben and his friends used to tell as children. In the evenings,  gathered round the fire with their elders, they’d rival each other to tell them and – as Ben put it – to tell them well. Ben gave them to me years ago after I’d got involved with storytelling. 

On Thursday morning this week, Paul and I got a message from one of Ben’s twin daughters telling us he’d died the day before, peacefully and surrounded by his family at his home in Nairobi. In the succeeding hours, in the midst of my sadness, I felt another story – the extraordinary story of Ben’s own life and how I’d come to know him – all coming together inside me like a massive part of me that has been there, persisting and enriching, for a very long time.

Short story of a very long friendship

Ben was a member of the Marakwet  people. He grew up a poor boy, walking a long distance to school. When he got into High School, he began to do extremely well. After Makerere University and later Cambridge, where he came to do his PhD, he became a University history teacher. Later, he was appointed Chairman of Kenya Commercial Bank and made a great difference to Kenya’s economy by extending the Bank’s presence to cover the whole country. Then he was made Kenya’s Ambassador to the United States.

I first met Ben when I was 18 and in Kenya doing Voluntary Service Overseas. I met him because one of the unmarried mothers at the convent where I worked arranged for me to meet her friend Lea, the wonderful woman Ben later married who sadly died some years ago. The friendship strengthened when Ben came to Cambridge (I was by then at Girton College) and when Lea came to join him for their wedding. It has survived and grown ever since. It’s very hard to know it has gone – except it hasn’t. Ben’s dear family is still there and my relationship with him and Lea will always live on inside me surrounded by all the awareness of Africa the friendship gave me. 

‘When an old person dies,’ says the African proverb, ‘ a whole library goes up in flames.’ Ben was only in his 70s. But what a huge library his story was. And here’s one of his childhood’s animal tales. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Elephant Luck

Saturday, March 8th, 2014


A girl pushes her fingers down the back of the rear seat of an abandoned Renault car in the scrapyard near her home. As she exlores the hole her fingers have found, she feels the hard-edged corner of what is surely a box. Determined to get it out, whatever it is, she returns to the scrapyard a day or two later. This time, she succeeds. She sees that the top of the box is covered with fabric which could be Indian or Chinese and inside, when she opens it, she finds a shining glass figurine of what looks like an elephant man. The elephant man will turn out to be a statuette of Ganesh, the Hindu god. But even before the girl finds that out, her questions have begun.

Questions on World Book Day:

At Ysgol Dafydd Llwyd in Newtown, Powys, on World Book Day this week, the children were brilliant at thinking what those questions might be. How had the box got down the back of the seat? Who put it there? Why? Who did it belong to? What might the figure be worth? How old could it be? Where was it made? Did it have any special significance? How much might you get if you put it on eBay? How long had it been in the Renault? Could you trace its rightful owner?

Ysgol Dafydd Llwyd: (more…)

Storytelling Starters – The Magic of Objects 2

Saturday, October 8th, 2011

Welcome again to Storytelling Starters.

Now we’re going to move on to the second lovely object that can set a good atmosphere and inspire many stories.

The Story Cloth

Fantastically flexible, fabulously focussing, restful and relaxing …if you open your Story Bag and bring out the Story Cloth you’ve put in there, you’ll quickly begin to discover just how useful it can be. It focuses attention. (‘What’s that for, Miss?’) It brings colour. (Colour is a building-block of imagination.) It gives energy and movement. (With just a swirl of the hand, it can suggest different things … a river, a snake, a bird, a garden.)

And that’s not all. Draped over unlovely or distracting objects before you begin your storytelling, your Story Cloth can provide your listeners’ eyes with a welcome point of rest. (Why should they have to look at you the whole time?)  Set beside you on the floor or a table, your Story Cloth can also help arouse expectations if you use it to set out special objects or instruments to be employed in your storytelling.

And then again … (more…)