13 November 2013

Out with a bang

The Lord Mayor's fireworks, seen from the classroom at City Lit, marked - quite serendipitously - the end of the storytelling course I've been attending for the past four weeks. These sessions followed on from two Saturday afternoons in the summer ... and the reason I was there goes back to my first winter in London, a traumatic time, during which I attended quite a different storytelling course that happened to be running in the community centre near my new home.

In that long-ago course we did ... not very much, not a lot of story telling; but we sat in a circle and I was unforgetably self-conscious about my feet sticking out in blue and yellow shoes, adidas trainers, back in the day when trainers were still a relatively new thing.

Fortunately the shoes - and the agony - are things of the past, but for some reason I was still interested in story telling. In the final session of the current course I finally got a glimmer of why.

The two courses, run by John Eastman, included warm-up exercises and "easy" tasks - like mingling with other students to figure what the order of the single sentences we had been given should be, so that they made a coherent story. John worked with fairy tales, so anything could happen - for instance, we each told of how we got to class - with as many fantastic events (dragons, donkeys, helicopters) as possible in the time allotted. Working with partners and pictures we made up stories on the spot. The class atmosphere was supportive and comfortable - and fun.

For the final session, we brought along a bedtime story to tell. I'd been looking at Grimm's fairy tales that morning, and found my story that way - and also my interest in learning how to tell a good story.

Trying to choose between my favourite (Mother Hulda (Frau Holle); rather long) and one of the short tales I'd found, I vividly remembered my grandmother reading from her "magic" black book, a book I couldn't myself read, not only because I was only just learning to read in English (it was in German) but also because it was printed in blackletter, not roman type.

So my story, pretty much made up at the last minute (ie, as I went along - but I knew the beginning and the end before starting), was about a little girl whose grandmother read stories to her at bedtime, and how magical the stories were. That I could provide the details as I went along, rather than having memorised and rehearsed, shows just how far this course has taken me, not just in use of voice and gesture and eye contact, but also in trusting that "it will be ok".
Two-thirds of the participants did not have English as their first language, and seeing them rise to the occasion is making me consider trying to use German (which we spoke at home during my childhood) to tell the tales I heard from my Oma. First efforts reveal that I need to improve my vocabulary - and to read, and listen to, the tales in German. At the same time, the idea of using autobiographical memory, and the way objects contain stories, are also floating around, waiting to be grabbed and brought down to earth. Perhaps this will feed into a project for the museums course?

1 comment:

Olga said...

Interesting. Museums of course are full of stories - one for each article.