Mary Medlicott, author of Storytelling and Story-Reading in Early Years, is a professional storyteller, storytelling trainer and storytelling workshop leader with over 30 years’ experience. Here she has written a topical piece for National Share-a-Story Month.
Here’s a story I once heard from a woman who’d been evacuated to somewhere in the country during the Second World War. Just a young girl at the time, she’d asked her evacuee-mother for a bed-time story. ‘A bed-time story?’ the woman mockingly replied. ‘I’ll tell you a bed-time story. It’s the story of The Three Wells. “Well, well, well!”’
What a horrible story! And very much NOT in the spirit of story-sharing. For as Grace Hallworth, a much-loved pioneer of the Storytelling Revival here in the UK has said, the telling of stories is ‘a shared activity, a communal act’. It can happen after a funeral or at a party or in your local pub. For what’s more fun than hearing all over again the tales about local people that by now have turned into legends? Just as enjoyably, it can be organised to happen in schools. For what’s more surprising than hearing twelve-year olds retelling stories about their area that none of their teachers previously knew because none of those teachers live in the area? Even those gruesome Mad Axeman stories so beloved by that age-group have their own kind of fascination.
Or stories can be shared more intimately, parent-to-child, child-to-parent, sitting on the sofa or in the family car. Towards the end of one parents’ storytelling course I was running, a young mother told me how grateful she was that she’d been attending. Till recently, evidently, her husband had never talked about his past either to her or the children. But now – and it felt so unexpected! – he’d begun telling them things. And his wife felt sure this welcome change had come about because, each week, she’d been going home and retelling the stories she’d heard on the course. Folktales, family stories, local legends, stories from other cultures: our course included them all. I believe in the power they all have.
But, alas, stories not shared can easily be lost. I once met a story-collector who Continue reading