Thursday, 13 June 2013

Telling stories

We had a story-teller in school yesterday, and I have to say I was really disappointed. I'd been looking forward to his visit since the Boss Lady first told me about it last term, but when he left the room, I felt a bit cheated. He didn't tell stories, he read them, which I think is totally different. Now, I know it takes a certain skill to read a story and make it interesting, and not everyone can do that, but telling a story is something special. And the stories he read were modern. I wanted traditional things: cultural creation stories or mischief-making from Anansi and Co. 

I saw the most amazing and mesmerising story-teller when I helped out at a Fairy Fayre, held to raise funds for the Woodland Trust. Son Number One would have said that the place was teeming with hippies (always my favourite people), and the story-teller was the best example of hippyness himself. He wore a velvet patchwork cloak, and held court under a huge oak tree. He Crick-Cracked the story open, as all the best story-tellers do, and he kept an audience of over a hundred, of all ages, totally enthralled for over an hour. In fact, I was so absorbed in the stories, I was late back from lunch. He introduced me to Anansi, and told me how Eel saved Australia from drought. He sent me on a year-long hunt for a particular Native American story about Rabbit and Fox, and he got me so interested in traditional, cultural stories, that I now have a collection of a couple of hundred and counting. When I returned to his story-telling session the following day, he told the same stories, but they had subtly changed - he didn't read them, he just knew them, and he tailored his approach to his audience. 

Our story-reader yesterday didn't have the right voice either - he was harsh and spoke too quickly. I think you need a certain voice for story-telling - something calm and slow to draw you into the story. Maybe someone from the Welsh valleys. My ideal story-teller would be Michael Holding - the ex-cricketer and Sky Sports cricket commentator from the West Indies. He has a voice I can listen to all day, even if (as is the case with cricket) I have no idea what he's talking about. 

We'll have to suggest it to the Boss Lady. Okay, so he'll be more expensive than the guy we had in yesterday, but he could always take some PE lessons while he's here. 

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