This week we have a post from Hands Up Project volunteer and professional storyteller, Michael Loader. Over to you Michael…..
I’ve been volunteering with the Hands Up Project since 2018 after meeting Nick in Bristol where he was giving a talk at the Palestine Museum. This coincided with my ‘recent interest’ and ‘lengthy ignorance’ of the situation in Palestine and the Middle East.
I had been asked by a Bristol friend to get involved with a new music, song and word project in 2017 that was going to mark the 100th year since the Balfour Declaration, organised by a Quaker who has a knack of exposing the darker sides of British history that lie concealed under the veneer of decades.
With his expertise and persistence he managed to get an Arts Council grant that brought our group together to create, rehearse and tour the show called ‘Longing and Belonging: Balfour’ around the UK. The following year we were granted funding by the British Council to take the show to Palestine and Israel, which was to become my first visit.
You can find more about the trip at…
As for everyone, these last few months have been difficult for lots of reasons and for many of us work has disappeared for the foreseeable future – how long for no one knows. So when I was contacted about offering a 1:1 storytelling session with a teacher in Italy last week I was delighted to accept the offer.
She chose to work on reading and telling the story of the Gruffalo, which she uses with young children learning English as a second language. She first told it using voice, actions, characterisation, sound effects, physicality and the book, all skills that she has a good command of.
I then asked her to re-read/ retell it without physicality and the book, concentrating on the words, letting them be her guide… “How do you feel about that?” She said “Er okay” showing signs of uncertainty. After she had retold it we discussed the differences… Post session I ruminated… rumi rumi rumi…
It reminded me of the essential component of storytelling – that is the storyteller creates WORDS and the listener creates PICTURES… taking away the book created stronger images in my mind as the listener/ watcher, and focussed my attention on the pictures she was creating with her facial expression and voice.
Her vocal skills were also sharpened ‘painting’ more vibrant tones without having to concentrate on the skills of physicality and the book, thereby bringing the telling down to the essentials.
In essence the exchange is between the teller and the listener and as both parties draw from their imaginations, an alchemical magic occurs when a single imagination appears. If we are not careful the introduction of a book or something outside of this ‘private and personal’ communication can sever this bond and break the spell that has been already established. Seeing the pictures on a page, however beautiful they are does not have the same effect as the listener creating the pictures in their own imagination. When the listener starts translating words into ‘seeing pictures’, this is when the true magic happens.
I was glad to be taught and reminded of this invaluable lesson… teacher becomes learner