Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Posts Tagged ‘sea-tray’

Storytelling Starters ~ Remembering

Saturday, July 27th, 2019

 ‘Tennyson is crossing the desert!’ A few days ago, that was the strapline on one of the emails in my Inbox. It was followed a day or so later by ‘Tennyson has crossed the desert!’

Such a headline does make you think. For me, it brought to mind a grand-looking poetic figure, bearded and with hair reaching down to his collar: what could he be doing walking the desert? And on his own? Perhaps dreaming up new poems along the lines of The Lady of Shalott or Enoch Arden?

Tennyson, the cuckoo

Well, no! The Tennyson that had succeeded in crossing the desert was not the Victorian poet-laureate but a cuckoo, one of this year’s tranche of cuckoos named and sponsored under the auspices of the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology), its movements tracked as it flies alone across the vast distances that bring it into Central Africa and then back again to the UK where, of course, we think of it as ‘our cuckoo’ even though it’s in the UK for only a few weeks. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Where Corals Lie

Saturday, September 29th, 2018

Years ago in a project at the Commonwealth Institute as then was, the wonderful Kathie Prince was the musician, I was the storyteller. It was a brilliant time and, for me, one of its most enriching aspects was how much I learned from Kathie. For instance, I learned the involvement with audiences of varying age that can be brought about through little songs where the audience can help create new verses by offering fresh ideas t0 fit in the pattern. Or where involvement is deepened through the use of differently fascinating instruments. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Hail Mighty Sea

Saturday, November 2nd, 2013

What objects can be used to introduce and accompany storytelling? The question arrived in my Inbox this week in an email from a woman from Brazil who has newly come across storytelling and fallen in love with it. She already uses her guitar. But what else might she  employ? She’d found my website on the net and wanted to know of any books that could help.

The Magic of Objects was the theme of a series in this Blog on each Saturday of October 2011. Look them up, it’s a theme that’s close to my heart. My sea-tray … fans … colour cloths … magic music … such objects have given me enormous use in such wide-ranging circumstances. They have also observeably brought enormous pleasure to audiences of adults and children. In this week of wind and storms I have thought in particular about my sea-tray.

Hail Mighty Sea

I was first reminded of my sea-tray at the start of the week. Down on the sea-wall at Abereiddi beach, one of our Pembrokeshire favourites, words written out in pebbles declaimed the stirring message: Hail Mighty Sea.

On Abermawr beach the following day, a young boy on the pebbles was looking out to sea, arm raised in a great gesture of greeting as the incoming waves swirled over his Wellington boots. When I passed him soon after as he left the beach with his sister who’d done the same after him, they and their father looked completely delighted. The children were sopping wet but they’d had a unique experience(quite safely I might add). They’d hailed the sea in all its grandeur.

Both incidents in turn put me in mind of the Birmingham children who came on an exchange visit to the Cardiganshire coast in the art and storytelling project, On The Train, that was organised a few years ago now by artist Catrin Webster. The visiting children had whooped with delight when they caught their first sight of the sea (most of them had never seen it before) and had run pell-mell towards it and, in the case of some of them, right into it.

The sea is a fundamental experience. We should all be able to have that experience if we possibly can. If only! In the Guardian recently, George Monbiot, whose book Feral came out earlier this year, strongly urged the point that a week in the country is worth three months in the classroom. In his Guardian article he recommended that every class in every urban school should regularly be taken to spend time in the country. If only! The idea, alas, feels as unachievable in our present world as my profound wish that every class should hear (and be able to talk about) a told story once a week at the very least in every week of their school year.

Impossible? At least through stories we could give all children, older and younger, an experience of discovery and a sense of magic and awe.

The sea-tray

That’s where my sea-tray comes in. It produces the best sea-sound I’ve ever heard away from the sea itself. It can either introduce a storytelling session or a particular story. Or it can be employed in the course of a story. Use it and you take people on a real journey of the senses and the imagination.

Practical reminder:

My own sea-tray comes from a junk shop in New Zealand. It possibly originated in the South Sea Islands as a device for carrying fruit. I know similar trays are found across Asia and Africa where they are generally used for sifting rice or lentils.

To provide yourself with your own sea-tray, seek out a smooth or rough round wooden tray or perhaps a bodhran which is a type of wide Irish drum. Empty onto it a bagful of very small stones you’ve specially collected for the purpose or alternatively a bagful of beans. Swish these round in a rhythmic way, imitating the rhythms and pauses in the sound of the waves and – hey presto! – you could at once feel you were standing on the shore. Just like that delighted boy this week! (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Macaronic

Saturday, October 27th, 2012

Last Saturday evening, I told the myth of Taliesin at an event at the London Welsh Centre, part of this year’s Bloomsbury Festival. I chose the Taliesin story in honour of Menna Elfyn, the renowned Welsh poet who’d had the slot before me.


Taliesin was one of the founders of the huge poetic tradition which remains one of the central features of Welsh culture. By the 13th century (he lived in the 6th) a fascinating legend had arisen about his birth and the way he gained the mystical powers he displayed as a poet. In the legend, they are specifically magic powers and I chose the story as the central part of my programme because, to me, they are the special attributes of all good poetry. My sea-tray (pictured right) helped summon up a sense of the ocean on which the baby Taliesin is said to have floated for one hundred years.

Macaronic (more…)