I am sat on a rather beaten up train, each person sat near me staring into phones, tablets and laptops, plugged into the digital world. I’m on my way home from a Digital Skills for Storytellers Sharing Day put on by Beyond the Border in Cardiff. Digital skills and digital storytelling is a fiery topic in the storytelling world. Some storytellers dig their heels in and have as little to do with technology as possible, eschewing mobile phones and televisions; resisting the threat of any dilution of the intimate connection of live storytelling. Most have ventured as far as maintaining a website and FaceBook page. Some intrepid few are launching themselves into the world of live streaming, Facebook events and Skype storytelling clubs. Personally, I think it is almost impossible to put on any event without interacting online… and as I try to reduce the plastic in my life, replacing the process of laminating posters and driving to various remote notice boards with facebook events seems like the ethical way to go (even though I know there are moral issues with Facebook!). But that barely brushes the edge of using digital tools. The possibilities opened by technology are huge! While I find the prospect daunting – the time eaten by technology and the array of constant new skills demanded, I’m determined that if I’m going to enter this brave new world, there’s no point unless I embrace it wholeheartedly, play with it and make use of the myriad opportunities rather than dabbling in the shallow (on every level) waters.
Today was an inspiring day. A room full of open-minded artists sharing examples of how they have used digital platforms to support and share their work and how they have used technology within their work. As is my usual experience of any attempt to use tech, there were glitches – the wifi dropped out, the mouse vanished from the screen, but it was a room full of positivity and possibility. Highlights included:
Daniel Morden’s trailers through the ages – interesting and helpful to see how he has developed his style and approach to making trailers over several years and his attempts at encapsulating the feel, atmosphere and ‘what storytelling is’ into a short few moments on screen https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PhWxsWGIzgA, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=REQY5WaV-1g
Tim Ralphs’ and Jenny Babenko’s very practical and honest experience of working with Beyond the Border to create an online interactive storytelling performance:
Not all the speakers are what I would define as storytellers – at least not oral traditional storytellers – there were speakers from the theatre and the BBC, demonstrating virtual reality, bespoke guided headset tours, dystopian hoax advertising campaigns and narrative street games.
What was very obvious is that while many digital opportunities maybe aren’t quite where I’m headed, there is a world of possibilities open to supporting and expanding storytelling that I don’t think storytellers are not currently engaging with – and I am definitely not making the most of. The theme that kept repeating during the day was experiment and don’t be afraid to fail, because you will fail – failing is a good thing – fail often – you learn by failure, not success. A very freeing message and one I intend to put into practice!
The official title of my Arts Council England funded project is ‘From Fireside to Facebook’. There are two parts to my bid. The side that I have talked about most so far is saving Duncan’s tapes, transferring them into a digital format. But that is not enough, there is no point digitising the tapes if they are not listened to. So, the tapes have gone into the School of Scottish Studies Archive, where anyone can go to listen to them and at least some of the material will end up on the marvellous online archive, Tobar an Dulchis. I am listening to them, making notes of the contents which I will share with the archive. However, stories aren’t meant to just sit in my head. I have only listened to a fraction of the material and already stories are fizzing around and trying to get out!
The second part of my project is sharing Duncan’s material. I am a storyteller. The most obvious way for me to share stories is to tell them again – and I will –in fact I am! I will celebrate Duncan, telling my memories of him and his stories in my own way. However, there is a joy in listening to Duncan’s stories in his own words. His descriptions of his life and the Traveller world he grew up in should be heard in the glorious detail he uses to colour his stories. The focus of the second part of my project is learning new digital skills to share Duncan’s material in lots of ways – and to share my journey of discovery, re-evaluation of my apprenticeship and memories of Duncan.
My vision is using this digital window to the world to create conversations. Sometimes as storytellers we forget to share our own journey – yet when I am inspired by other artists it is always the story of their passion that makes me look twice at their work and inspires me to look at it on a deeper level.
So here I am, taking baby steps into the big wide digital world. This blog is one of my first digital adventures, but I’m planning plenty more! I am hugely excited by my journey with Duncan’s tapes and, if you’re reading this, I hope you’re enjoying hearing about it so far and will bear with me in my erratic postings!
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