At its most simple, Storytelling is gathering a group of people together to share stories. When I’m telling a story orally, I may use some pictures or props* but usually I aim to make a story come alive with my voice, words, and gestures.
I tell a mixture of historical stories and folk tales. Sometimes I’ve been told that it is hard to tell the difference, perhaps because some things that happened in history seem as unbelievable as some of the stories people told each other around the camp fire.
I tell stories this way because I love the simplicity and flexibility you get when you only need a space and an audience, but also because it means I have a relationship with people: I’m not somewhere else at the other end of a television network. I need people to give me permission to tell the stories, which means they can’t be passive ‘consumers’ of the story: they agree to use their imagination and this allows us to experience stories together.
And then, there are the stories themselves. Stories need to be told, and because they are so powerful we need to choose which stories we are told carefully. It is very easy to allow the media to decide this for us, but then we are simply hearing second-hand stories that someone outside of our community has decided will ‘work’: and this often means stories that will make a profit, or worse, stories that can be used to sell us things we don’t need, rather than stories that matter.
If we only let others tell our stories we also tell ourselves that our story, and the stories of our community don’t really matter, aren’t worth listening to, and that we can’t really do it properly anyway: best leave this to the ‘experts’ who can then tell us what we should do.
By telling stories I keep them alive, and I can pass on the positive messages and values they hold. When communities collect and tell the stories of their members, they hold on to what makes them different and unique, brings individuals closer together and make a small step against the pressure of the industrial machine to make us one large homogeneous group called ‘consumers’.
In short we give ourselves permission to be ourselves, to play, and to dream.