Web Festival: Mind and Body Storytelling Workout
This bid was for a series of three ‘mind and body’ storytelling workouts, leading up to and including an event in the East Staffs Web Storytelling Festival 2008. The sessions were advertised as open to all staff in the library service as well as publicised more widely to school teachers and professionals who could use storytelling in their work. The sessions aimed to develop and strengthen the physical and mental skills required to confidently tell stories, either as part of people’s work or for their personal interest. The session aims were to build personal confidence and to explore use of gesture, body language, breathing and vocal techniques, as well as memory, language and imagination, to develop stories to tell, which were based on traditional tales from around the world.
The project was developed through the partnership working of the Library Service’s District manager and the Borough Council’s Storytelling Development worker.The events were advertised as part of the 2008 Web Storytelling Festival, a two week celebration of storytelling for all ages.
The project took place at Burton and Uttoxeter Libraries with storytellers Peter Chand (telling stories to young children), Christine McMahon (telling stories with teenagers), and Shonaleigh (walking through a story). The latter two had not previously worked with Libraries in the area.
Key aims and objectives
Through this project the following aims were met:
- Staffordshire Library Service and Arts East Staffs worked in partnership on a project developing professional skills and confidence using storytelling as a tool. Evaluation sheets documented a significant impact on people’s self confidence from taking part in the workshops.
- The library was promoted as a centre of excellence in professional development for teachers and other professionals. Professionals who attended the workshops included teachers at pre-school, junior and middle schools, together with members of the Ranger Service, a dance worker, youth workers, church leaders and community facilitators.
- The project widened awareness of the National Year of Reading with those who took part. Some of the individuals who attended workshops have since attended other events and there is potential for evolving new collaborations from these relationships
- Storytelling was promoted as an accessible and cross cultural art form by the storytellers leading the sessions. Stories from a wide range of cultures were shared, and the storytellers themselves draw on Punjabi, English, Yorkshire and Jewish culture in their work
- A local audience for storytelling was developed – several individuals who attended the workshops also attended other storytelling events in the Web Festival and take part in the local story circle
- Librarians, teachers and other professionals developed skills and confidence in using storytelling – the evaluation forms give a glowing account of the new skills people learned through the workshops. This is particularly true for library staff who formed the majority of the attendees at the first two workshops.
Arts East Staffs issued feedback forms to all participants. They were asked to rank their agreement/disagreement with key statements. The responses for the Peter Chand workshop were 100% positive. Responses for Christine McMahon and Shonaleigh were also highly positive, but a few people commented on particular aspects which they found less useful to their work. “Great Session” “Great inspiration! Lots of food for thought. Now have a few ideas and hopefully a bit more confidence to try storytelling.” “Congratulations – fab!” “Would like more courses to give further advice”. “Funny, entertaining and informative. The time flew by. It was excellent” “Absolutely fantastic session! Peter is so enthusiastic and makes you feel the same about storytelling. I felt comfortable during the session and encouraged to try new things – thank you”. “The pace was perfect. More of this please! Absolutely excellent – thank you!” “Thank you”. “Really enjoyed the session. Peter was excellent. Best story session I have ever attended”.
Links to the National Year of Reading
Mind and Body: The workshop sessions focussed on both imaginative (mind) and physical (body) skills required when telling stories – from use of descriptive language and painting pictures for the audience to gesture and breathing skills. Telling stories, adult to adult, adult to child or child to adult, and listening to stories promotes a sense of positive personal health and well being. The link between storytelling as an oral form and the act of reading, retrieving people’s stories which are similar or different to your own, were threaded through all of the sessions and reinforced for both the library staff and teachers involved.
Kevin Reynolds (District Manager) firstname.lastname@example.org