Monday, November 03, 2008

Entertaining Storytelling Guild Lounge Telling

Kerstin Thuresson, visiting Swedish storyteller, joined us for an afternoon of stories.

Read Daryll's report at his blog.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Digital Storytelling in West End (2008)

The latest of our Digital Storytelling projects - the West End Digital Story Space - is up and running with a project blog at and a MySpace site at

Part of this project is to link members of the West End Community Storytelling Group, many of whom have a mental illness or a disability, with the wider online community. It is also exploring different ways of developing and publishing cultural mapping that can be duplicated in other communities around Brisbane and Queensland.

We would love it if you could become a 'follower' of our blog (there's a link down the bottom of the green column), post some comments on some of the stories and become a 'friend' of our myspace site. We're not going for a Guiness Record but we would like heaps of friends, making comments and sharing stories about West End and helping to show how diverse communities can support each other's quality of life.

There will be plenty more content appearing on both sites as the project goes on and as we experiment more.

Tomorrow, the 8th of October at 2:00pm for example, members of the group will be conducting interviews in Boundary Street by the 4AAA kiosk. You're welcome to drop in and say 'hello'.

Any suggestions or feedback about the project are more than welcome.

This West End Community Storytelling Group project was made possible by a Brisbane City Council Communities Project Grant, the support of Cr Helen Abrahams of the Gabba Ward and West End Community House.

Daryll Bellingham, Storyteller
Karen Tunny, Community Cultural Projects Consultant

Monday, September 15, 2008

StoryTree to Tasmania (2008)

from Jenni Cargill-Strong

In 2006, after hosting a workshop by therapeutic storyteller and author Nancy Mellon in Byron Bay, Nancy asked me what my big dream was. I replied “A storytelling foundation in Byron Bay.” Thus the idea for a storytelling workshop business called the Story Tree Company was born. Full of optimism and determination, I invested money on a new website, a logo, flash flyers and planned six workshops for 2007. By the end 2007 and I wanted to take over as primary breadwinner, so it had to work.
I did most of my work after the kids went to bed. I spent two months on publicity and administration for each workshop. It was crazy and exciting and rewarding and exhausting, but financially it made me no money at all- not even a wage. By the end of the year my naturopath warned I was so exhausted- next stop could be chronic illness.
When the NSW Guild decided to postpone the 2007 Conference, I was very disappointed, but I completely understood! A few people rang to suggest I could host it in Byron. I did dream of doing more to help expand storytelling, but knew it would have to wait until my kids were bigger, my energy was stronger and until I had attracted an energetic band of storylovers to help.
Some months later came the call from a very enthusiastic and vibrant voice: Ivano Delpio in Hobart asking if I’d be interested in performing at a Tasmanian Storytelling Festival. Ivano had been to the Edge Storytelling Festival in the UK and came back totally inspired. He wanted to run something along the same model and so he invited eight friends and acquaintances with complimentary and appropriate skills to help put the Festival on. Then Donna Jacobs Sife happened to be in Hobart on tour. She met with the committee and told them some stories. They were hooked and went on to put countless unpaid hours into applying for funding, canvassing support and putting together a programme that might attract the public.
It was very, very brave of them. Two of the committee members were both professional puppeteers as well mothers with small children. I was stunned by their generosity! It never would have occurred to me to put on a Puppetry Festival for a bunch of puppeteers I had never seen. If the storytellers had been terrible, it would have reflected badly on their own future arts grant applications.
The result in my opinion was a totally new paradigm in Australian Storytelling Festivals. So far in our national gatherings, we have concentrated far more on professional development and networking, but not so much on audience development. I have been very grateful for the Conferences that others have worked so hard to put on. But I have felt for years that we also need Festivals that are predominantly about audience development.
The Tasmanian Storytelling Festival organised thirty school shows before the Festival which were shared between three professional tellers. They attracted government funding for one paid administrator (Pip Dennis), delivered a modern and professional logo, artwork and programme. They staged 25 events incorporating 25 storytellers, held in 14 varied venues around Hobart. Each venue seemed to tap into a distinct audience and the major events had packed houses. They collected feedback from the punters at each concert and the results will be collated we have yet to hear what was said.

Monday, August 18, 2008

John Shields: Oz'n'Asia

A few months ago it was necessary for me to let my storytelling site go. Wonder if anyone noticed. Well actually, it was getting quite a few hits but I can't tell from whom.
I've decided to resurrect it in a different format for those who might find it useful. I had published a lot of stuff such as storytelling tips and book reviews that would be particularly useful to new tellers. Gradually I'm copying them and putting them onto this site. More will be added in due course. Feel free to take a look. And enjoy.


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Storytelling at Majestic Theatre, Pomona

From John Halpin.

Pomona is almost unrecognisable from the town I remember from 17 years ago. There's a nice little cafe on the corner where I had some scrumptious garlic mushrooms for lunch prior to doing the storytelling at 2pm. The Majestic people (Sian Williams was the contact person) had arranged a week of activities for school kids and had publicised them all around the town. The theatre specialises in old silent movies and the owner plays the organ during the films.

For my session, the kids were charged $4 a head with parents admitted free. The kids were encouraged to dress in pirate gear for the themed stories and they entered into it with gusto. The ages ranged from one little cutie who announced quite proudly to me that she was three, to nine. The mix was about even for boys and girls. The theatre put on a couple of DVDs for best costume which I had to pick at the end. I finished up picking a brother and sister! - thank goodness they gave one back so I escaped with a whole skin.

First up, I did a revamp of Emily Rodda's "Power and Glory" which I called "Pirate Treasure" (really original, I know). The kids - and parents - got to do all the actions over and over until the end of the story. I also got to teach them how to speak 'Piratese' which meant that by the end of the 55 minutes, I had just a croak left in me!

The second story was a rework of my own original cat story which I called "That Piratical Cat". A memorable moment was listening to the oohs of disgust when they caught on to the reference to the cook preparing 'rat-a-phooey'. Incidentally, when I asked them if they knew what "ratatouille" was, they all replied that they had seen the movie! I think I missed something along the line somewhere.

The kids and parents seemed to have a ball.

I would love to host a day up here. I am sure I could interest some of my fellow Tamborine Mtn Writers Group in participating. They have produced some good material; a few readings as well as tellings would make for an enjoyable day.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Tales and Travels: Joan Bailey

I have been very fortunate to have travelled to a number of countries as a result of my husband’s work. These have been, for the most part, quite lengthy stays which have given me the chance to get to know the countries and the people quite well. This travelling has also been a great boon to my storytelling.

I grew up in Lancashire in the north west of England and, even before I discovered storytelling, I had always been a talker. I liked to talk. My first report card from elementary school said “Excellent Orally” which my mother explained to me meant I had ‘the gift of the gab’. My mother also said the biggest mistake she had ever made was allowing the doctor to make that little snip to free my tongue when I was born tongue-tied! My math teacher in High School said on my report card “If Joan worked half as hard as she talked, she’d be top of this class!”

When Barry and I got married the first place we went to was north western Quebec, Canada. I spoke no French at all when we arrived in Quebec but, during the period we were there, I learned to make myself understood. My greatest progress was made when I joined the parent-teacher committee of the school my two daughters attended. At first I came out of every meeting with a raging headache from the effort it took to listen. The discussions went so fast I had no time to formulate my ideas in French – I hardly spoke a word. Even after I could speak a little I was frustrated by the desire to say what I wanted to say, not just what I could say. Little did I realise this was the best training I could possibly have had for my future career as a storyteller. I was forced for the first time to learn the art of listening.

How can a storyteller draw in her listeners if she does not know how to listen to voices, watch faces, read emotions and know the value of silence? My enforced silence in those early days in Quebec taught me all of those things and also how to choose my words carefully and think hard before speaking. It also brought me close to a culture that was rich and vibrant and I learned that the British way of doing things was not after all the best or only way – what a surprise!

Our next move was to the United States. And this was where I discovered Storytelling. Quite by accident I attended a storytelling course at Rhode Island University. The scales fell from my eyes. I thought “I have been doing this all my life! Wow, I could make a living doing this!”

It was such a good place to begin storytelling. New England has a huge, well educated population which meant there were lots of other storytellers to learn from and lots of listeners to practice on. The melting pot of American culture meant I heard stories not only from Native Americans but from cultures all over the world told by people who belonged to those cultures. It was a precious gift to realise how being steeped in a culture informs the storytelling in so many intangible ways. I joined storytelling groups, volunteered at events, travelled to conferences and festivals, performed to audiences as small as 2 and as large as 300. In short, I served my apprenticeship, discovered that a community of storytellers was where I belonged, and on top of all that, I was able to put bread on the table. I loved the exuberance of Americans and revelled in the freedom to give anything a try.

My English accent was a great bonus because so many Americans are anglophiles – which is quite surprising given the effort they went to in order to separate themselves from England. Those crucial first few seconds in a performance when you have to grab the audience’s attention was easier for me than most people. Because of my accent, they would have been happy to listen to me reading a grocery list! Now I began for the first time to look at my own English heritage. I developed and told personal stories about my childhood as a way of keeping that part of me alive and as a way to pass it on to my daughters. I revelled in the folktales of the British Isles because they resonated so deeply within me. The audiences recognised this connection and responded to it – so I enjoyed it even more. I have always loved to sing and so I began to add Music Hall songs and folksongs to my programs and these were well received also. I now know that nowhere else could I have found a better support system to help get me started in storytelling as a profession.

Then we moved back to Canada. This time we lived near Toronto. This time I knew who I was. I was a storyteller. I also knew the importance of belonging to and working for a community. I immediately contacted the Storytellers School of Toronto, joined their Board and started volunteering and later I joined the executive of the Canadian Association of Storytellers for Children (CASC). These two groups were my life support as I learned to fit in. Wherever I have travelled since, I have always searched out the local storytelling community because I know I will find there kindred spirits to welcome and support me.

That is not to say that storytellers are the same everywhere in the world. In Toronto, a busy University city, I met a lot of storytellers who loved the academic approach to telling. They researched the story and the culture it came from, finding as many variants as possible, discussing it deeply with other storytellers before starting to make it their own. People knew so much about the history of storytelling in cultures from all over the world. I found I had a great deal to learn. Isn’t that always the way? The more you know, the more you realise you don’t know. What an exciting time.

Then we moved to South Africa. This time I knew I had to have a way to keep in close contact with these special friends of mine in the Toronto storytelling community. So I asked if I could be the editor of the quarterly publication that CASC produces as a benefit of membership. Who knew I could be so wise? They said yes. Thank goodness. And so, through the internet, they have continued to be a support and a very vital link with ‘home’.

And, of course, when I arrived in South Africa I got in touch with the local storytelling group, Zanendaba Storytellers, a dynamic group of black South Africans working out of Johannesburg. Jo’burg is a city plagued by violence and I was warned by many people that to go downtown was very dangerous but I decided I couldn’t limit my life by cutting myself off from the only storytellers I knew of. I found them to be an energetic group of strong women working hard and having fun in very difficult times. They are trying to keep the traditional stories alive before they are totally lost. Their society is rapidly changing from an agrarian, village culture to a modern western style of living. Families are living apart as parents go to the cities in search of work. No longer does the village gather together at night, rarely do the grandmothers tell the old stories round the fire. Zanendaba are trying to adapt storytelling to this new age. With them I learned a lot about the importance of stories in building and strengthening communities. For the first time I encountered audiences who perfectly understood that they were an integral part of the telling. What a joy it was to tell with audiences who assumed they would join in throughout the story, who would get up and dance and break into song at the least excuse.

The next move was back to Australia - this time to Brisbane. Back in the year 2000 we had briefly visited Wollongong and, through friends in the USA, I was able to connect with Sue Alvarez and the Sydney Guild. I was only there for a month but they invited me to perform with them at Centennial Park and I enjoyed a nice long lunch with Sue over looking the Sydney Harbour while we talked storytelling and ‘networked’.So when Barry and I returned to Australia, this time planning a longer stay, I was soon in touch with Sue and, through her, connected with the Queensland Guild, based in Brisbane. Once more, I found a like-minded group of people willing to share stories – not to mention good food and their hospitable homes. I have found the Australian storytelling community is very much like the Canadian one. Steeped in the old British Library Hour tradition but informed by a background of many cultures and again an academic love of the subject matter. Here, through the guild and through the brief contacts I have had with Aboriginal people, I have come to a better understanding of how the land and story are inextricably linked.

Once I left England I could never belong to a land again in the same way. Not even to England because I changed and it changed too in many different ways. But in Australia I became more deeply aware of how the landscape shapes the culture. This was something I think I had always known but now it was a conscious awareness. I will share stories from Australia with my listeners when I return to Canada. Just as I will share the stories of other places I have lived – they are now a part of me. But thanks to learning about the Aboriginal culture, I now understand as never before how that connection to my place of birth and my childhood, is a core part of my make-up that needs to find expression if I am to feel complete. For example it has been a delight to encounter a sense of humour here in Australia that is so similar to the British. I love the irreverence for authority and the fun in word play that is such a big part of Aussie life.

The parts of Canada, the USA, Africa and Australia that made me feel comfortable were the old remnants, the shadows, of British culture that still remained. The different and new aspects of those countries were what excited and challenged me - they were what helped me grow. All of these countries share a similar history of colonisation and exploration. They all have indigenous cultures with a different world view from the colonisers. Yet their stories all tell about the same basic human experience. Life is difficult, uncertain, and cyclic in nature. It takes courage and endurance but there is hope and joy and we can succeed.

Joan Bailey

Canadian Association of Storytellers for Children
Editor Barrel of Stories Quarterly magazine for CASC

Monday, February 11, 2008

Storytelling and Childhood Memories

Title link to ABC radio: science show interview with Professor Hayne

Recent article from Brisbane's 'Courier Mail' - February 2008: Tales stir earliest memories

Maori adults tend to have the earliest childhood memories of any culture studied to date, researchers say. And the rich storytelling tradition of Maori could explain why.

Otago University psychology researchers say that discussing past events in detail during early childhood is linked to children more effectively storing their early memories.

The University's Associate Professor Elaine Reese, colleague Professor Harlene Hayne and Queensland University of Technology researcher Shelley MacDonald have just published in the US journal, Child Development, the first evidence that Maori children experience a richer narrative environment than New Zealand's caucasian children.

Previous Otago research from 2000 found, on average, young Maori adults' earliest memories reached back to two years of age, while those of New Zealand caucasians went back to three years.

Maori mothers provided more references to time and emotions in their birth stories than European mothers, Professor Hayne said.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

2008 Calendar of Events

WELCOME TO 2008 from 'the land of drought and flooding rains'. This is Queensland.

Qld Storytelling Guild Inc. Gatherings: Please call the Guild for details.

November 2: Join the gather of tellers at West End. Special Guest: Kerstin Thuresson (Sweden)
October 18 (Saturday evening): Special Guest - Vivienne Ward (NSW Guild)
October 3: Paladar Fumior Salon (Cuban cigar and coffee cafe), South Brisbane
August 31-September 6: Tasmanian International Storytelling Festival (Hobart)
March 7-8: Join the gather of tellers at Bribie Island.
April 5: "Things of the Air": Tell for your Supper. (Bring, share a plate of food, and a feast of stories)