Like many others around the world I have been soul searching lately.  I am a person of white privilege.  I think of myself as an idealist.  I want to live in a world of equality and compassion.  However, I am realising more and more, how naïve and sheltered I have been.  I live, and was brought up in, rural Shropshire.  It is not ethnically diverse.  I don’t think I’m racist, but I have been passive.  I need to actively engage.  I am re-evaluating what part I play in maintaining the balance of power – what I can and should do to support change.

As a storyteller, my life is all about language.  I think about words and the layers of meaning they encapsulate.  Over the past weeks, I have been re-evaluating the stories I tell; what stereotypes and prejudices I am passing on without realising. Continue reading “The Legacy of Language”

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. Continue reading “Digitial Skills for Storytellers Sharing Day”

I’m delighted to have been commissionsed to compile a book of Shropshire Folktales for the History Press.  I’ve just submitted the manuscript and looking forward to seeing what the proofs look like.  The book includes thirty of the region’s stories, some old favourites and plenty that are new material for me.  Lynn Rust has created some fabulous illustrations and Katherine Soutar of Dancing Cat Designs at Maws Craft Centre in Coalbrookdale is working on the front cover as I type!  The book is due for publication in July 2011.

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This project was designed to enhance a sense of community in Craven Arms and to encourage participants to share their ideas for the future of their area. 

I teamed up with Fiona Collins to work with KS2 children interviewing local elders about their memories, hopes and fears for the community with the aid of ‘fantastic faces’: faces made from vegetables with paper features on which were scribed local sights, sounds, smells, tastes and memories.  The sessions were non-threatening, empowering and filled with laughter.  Through preparatory sessions with both the schools and groups of elderly people we were able to match children with interviewees so that all had a positive experience.  Leaving the traditional clipboard of questions behind led to more active conversations, while using writing in an unusual and interesting context led to the children gaining new understanding and increased confidence in using the medium, as well as some wonderful cross-generational communication.

This was a reminiscence residency lasting nine months, which celebrated the lives and memories of people living around the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.  We included local primary schools at all stages of the process, using our work to inspire the children and empower them to influence the rest of the project.  Throughout the project we built up a memory box, which slowly filled with more and more objects, each associated with at least one story.  We used the following activities with the children, with great success:

Story detectives: children listened to stories from the memory box and played conversational games.  We introduced them to methods of interview technique.  Children interviewed each other and members of their families.  They brought stories back into class and added new objects to the memory box.

Storyseeds: children chose stories from a selection told from the memory box and we used these as seeds to create a ‘play in a day’: performances of storytelling, dance, drama and music for children, parents, governors and community members at the end of the day.

Storywalks: we took various community groups including the Country Park Junior Rangers Club on walks around the area, telling stories gathered from the community in sites associated with the stories.

‘Pontcysyllte Memories’: the project concluded in a book of reminiscences published by Tempus Publishing.   We held a grand book launch next to the aqueduct with the mayor of Wrexham presenting each contributor with a copy of the book.  The youngest contributor to the book was nine years old.  As part of the celebration, children told stories with the aid of the memory box to audiences including the mayor.

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