Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Posts Tagged ‘National Oracy Project’

Storytelling Starters ~ An Inspirer

Saturday, March 25th, 2017

Harold RosenMonday evening saw a celebration of  Harold Rosen, the inspiring educationist who passed away in 2008. Harold Rosen was unique. His wit was dry, his language succinct. He spoke the truth as he saw it. He did not appease. At an important debate in the Society for Storytelling in its earlier days , the question at issue was whether the Society should exclusively support the traditional tale or whether it should also represent other forms of story such as the personal tale or the written story. Speeches were impassioned – I made one myself. Then Harold stood up. Both as an eminent educationist and as a respected Patron of the SfS, what he was about to say felt extremely important. What he did say was brief. At its centre was the pungent point that the desire to establish boundaries usually arises ‘from those that wish to patrol them’.

End of story. The truth in Harold’s remark was clear as daylight. Thinking about it anew this week, the question it addresses feels extremely apt for our world right now. As Donald Trump plans physical boundaries against Mexican immigration and paper walls against Muslims, the question is going to remain critically important. In this day and age, does America really want to be patrolled? Does it want to be patrolled by Trump and his chaotic team? But Harold Rosen’s thinking forms an equally pertinent and powerful challenge to much current educational and social strategy here in the UK. The value now given to league tables and targets, the stifling emphasis on exam success, the narrowing effect of these viewpoints on what and how children are taught: all these would have been anathema to Harold Rosen. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Risky Business

Saturday, March 22nd, 2014

Taking risks is not easy. You push yourself out of your normal groove. Then you see where you’ve got to. Sometimes you like it, sometimes you don’t. But whichever the outcome, hopefully there can be a morsel of learning.

A step on the road

For instance, I’ve never much liked photographing people, certainly not strangers in the street or the park. I feel a bit superstitious about it, like the Masai tribespeople I once encountered on a remote journey in Kenya. They didn’t want their pictures taken: they felt it was robbing them of their spirit. I feel a bit the same, as if taking something from people unawares. Last Sunday, however, I discovered I’d found a way to try it out.

We were sitting in Battersea Park by the river. A constant stream of people went walking by and I became fascinated. I liked the variety of clothes and ways of moving. I liked the rhythms of walking and the regularity of the steps. Suddenly I found myself with my camera raised, pointing at trees the other side of the path. Then I clicked whenever people crossed my camera screen. I liked the fact that it felt anonymous and that, on the whole, I was photographing people from the back. I include a few of the results today: evidence of me taking a risk. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Principles and Practice

Saturday, October 13th, 2012

It’s been a good week for thinking. There have been some lovely Autumn colours and I’ve been diverted from the new series I’d planned.

When I made the suggestion last Saturday that future BASE awards should include some that relate to storytelling in education, I started a hare in my own train of thought. Three comments that arrived in the course of the week have made me pursue it.

The proposed new English curriculum:

The comment from Mary – see below – notes that a stated intention of the proposed new English curriculum is that young people should learn to be confident speakers. I thoroughly agree with Mary’s feeling that we should all be celebrating this and finding out more about it. I also think she’s right to suspect that it probably means being able to give a speech and talk well at job interviews rather than storytelling – storytelling  no longer being on the agenda:

Storytelling in schools in decline:

The second comment from Jean notes how, in her own recent experience as a storyteller, longer and more substantial storytelling projects in schools have become so thin on the ground as to be just about non-existent. Even one-off day visits to schools have declined. The third comment from Liz says she is thinking of approaching local schools to see if she can go in to do stories with the children. Her inspiration is based on the belief that children need stories.  

So where are we headed?

Back in the 1980s the National Oracy Project pushed forward a huge new awareness of the value of the oral in education. I know from my own involvement how much exciting pioneering work was done at the time. The positive results were  just beginning to be disseminated when they were swamped by the sudden introduction of the National Curriculum. Gradually over succeeding years storytelling began making a comeback in schools. By the first decade of this century, there was a great deal going on. My own work gave me abundant evidence of how much , including in Early Years work, work with ESL children and the training of teachers.

But what is happening now? Over the last ten or fifteen years, a big expansion has taken place in what is now usually described as ‘performance storytelling’. Storytelling clubs for adults, festivals of storytelling, storytelling evenings – all these have mushroomed. And that’s great for everyone. After all, many storytellers who work in schools and community situations also do performance work. However, I do feel it’s time to think hard and aloud about the implications of this development, especially now that ‘celebrity’ has become so phenomenally important in the world around us. Is storytelling going to become largely a celebrity art? Does the performance side mean that less attention (and less support) will be given to the less visible kinds of storytelling work that take place in schools?

Some responses from me:

Here are a few of the ideas I’ve had while pursuing that hare in my own train of thought. Please do add to these or comment upon them as you see fit. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ The Magic of Objects: 5

Saturday, October 29th, 2011

The Flexible Fan

Fabulous, fan-u-lous, fascinating …

a piece of material that can make a flexible fan inspires imaginations, sparks imagery and fires story-potential.

How I discovered the magic of the flexible fan

My most flexible fan – the  brown-beige one pictured here – was given to me on one of the storytelling courses that I ran in Redbridge at the end of the 1980s. The courses were mainly for parents and I was asked to run them as a contribution to the borough’s National Oracy Project programme. Consisting of a half-day session per week, each of the courses ran for ten weeks. Almost apologetically at the end of one session, one participant on one of the courses (she also worked as a school dinner-lady) handed me this odd piece of pleated fabric. ‘You never know,’ she said, ‘it might come in useful.’ I asked her where she’d got it. ‘It’s a piece of cut-off old blind,’ she reported.

Around the same time, my storyteller colleague, Karen Tovell, (we ran ten years of monthly workshops together) showed me how to use a much larger flexible fan made from two sheets of fibre-paper in order to tell the lovely Chinese story of the Willow Pattern plate. I remember being entranced as Karen showed me how many different shapes could be created – tree, bridge, door, sun, moon, boat , bird, stars- and how magical they could be in a story.

How to provide yourself with your own flexible fan (more…)