Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Posts Tagged ‘St Ethelburga’s’

Storytelling Starters ~ Contrast and Connection

Saturday, March 23rd, 2013

Contrast and connection are this week’s themes. On Wednesday when my husband Paul returned from his trip to Australia to go to his godson’s wedding, the huge contrast in temperature – 29 degrees down to 2 – was just one aspect of what we talked about. Looking at his photos – sunny beaches, a kangaroo with baby in pouch, the vegetation – I felt highly aware of the massive contrasts he’d experienced in culture, landscape and general style of life.

One detail that particularly struck me was his description of the feel on his hand of the delicate claws of a kangaroo mother.

The power of touch

Then, Wednesday evening, I had my own extraordinary experience of touch. In a workshop at the Interfaith Centre in Queens Park, the participants were asked to spend ten minutes talking in pairs (five minutes each) about how we are involved in narrative work. A crucial factor about the results for us all was that, as requested, we’d each spoken to each other with eyes closed, hands touching. It made us all highly aware of the essence of the other.

Connection! That Wednesday evening experience was part of the second Forum event arranged by St Ethelburga’s Centre for Peace and Reconciliation. Since conflict resolution is the very specialised field of work of a number of those who were present, I sometimes felt conscious of the comparative ordinariness of my 30-years of work as a professional storyteller working in schools and with groups of adults. Yet the very next day, back at Kensington Palace for Session 4 of my parents course in how to tell stories, I felt once again conscious of the extraordinariness of it – how, because of the people, it is full of meaning and value. And also, always, a sense of potential.

Points of connection

Here are some of the things I experienced on Thursday.

1. During a synchronised retelling of one of the stories I’ve taught to the group (Mrs Wiggle and Mrs Waggle), I became extremely aware of the big, beautiful eyes of a tiny toddler who had been brought along by his mother. My voice, my face, the story, the atmosphere? Whatever it was that engaged him so much, the little toddler was gripped. He sat looking up at me with such attention, it felt entirely obvious that he knew what was going on, and that in some way it was entirely for him. Connection!

2. With another bigger boy – a four-year old also there with his mother – I saw at once from the way he joined in, though often looking at her not at me, that the story was already familiar to him. So I knew his mother must have told it to him. I was delighted. It’s one of the aims of the course – to get parents telling stories to their own and other children. Connection!

3. During a break in the session, one of the Arabic-speaking mothers showed me a lovely jewellery box she’d brought in from home. She also showed me part of the story her 8-year old daughter had created and written about it. I got the sense that this story was something very new for the girl: her teacher in school had evidently been very impressed by what she’d done. For my part, I was impressed by the mother. Last week, we’d used the magic of objects as an inspiration for making new stories. She’d clearly passed on the magic and in so doing had engendered another example of the potency for change that can arise through story. Connection! (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Bear

Saturday, January 26th, 2013

I’ve got two different topics this week. Bears are first. My thoughts on this subject were inspired by a snow bear which I came across leaning up against a wall in the street next to ours. It must have been there for a couple of days before I saw it, admired it and went back home to fetch my camera. By the time I’d returned barely ten minutes later, part of its face had crumbled off. So I picked the missing bit up from the ground, pressed it back on and took my photos.

Bear Stories

The snow bear reminded me of stories of bears. For instance it brought to mind that North American story of the Boy who went to live with the bears. He was badly in need of care and attention after being cruelly treated in his human world.

Then there’s that old French romance, Valentine and Orson, in which twin babies are born in a forest to the exiled wife of Alexander, Emperor of Constantinople. Minutes after their birth  one, Orson, is carried off by a bear mother into the forest where he grows up wild and rough and strong. When he’s finally caught and brought back into human society, he also proves to have sterling values. He is loyal and honest and true.

Orson became one of the best known of all the wild men of story. In so many ways, he embodies the values that humans have linked with the bears of the natural world. Bears are strong and canny. They are also family-orientated and we see them as cuddly, which probably accounts for the popularity in the Western world of the teddy bear. (more…)