Trips, Tricks and no Ticks

Its was a very early start Saturday morning to get up and ready to so the radio show interview in St Johns, I talked about my research project with the Winston Churchill Fellowship, and plugged the show I was doing that weekend, got to ramble about general story-ness and told the Storytellers parable, and when they asked me if I knew any Newfie music which I would liked played I turned into a total girlie fan and blethered about Great Big Sea and Alan Doyle’s new album, so they played me one of his new songs – I was silly happy!!!!

 

I then went for a lovely brunch with Dale & Kelly after which I headed out to sea for a few hours whale watching.

Humpback whale tail

A Humpback Whale

Whilst out at sea I also got ‘Screeched’ a special ceremony to become an hounary Newfloundlander, which involved drinking dark rum, speaking special phrases and kissing a puffin’s bum! Now there’s a story!!!!

In the evening I went to see Dale Jarvis’ ‘Ghosts of Signal Hill’ show, which was an absolute treat, and I highly recommend to anyone who finda themselves in St Johns. After we headed out to Bay Roberts ready for my story show the next day, Which went amazingly well, more people turned up than expected and everyone seemed to really enjoy the stories and my energetic style. I also learnt that St Johns has no posionious plants no snakes, frogs or ticks.

Monday morning I left St Johns to return to Toronto so that Tuesday I could retunr to the Stop and tell some more stories at the women’s group, and because the summer camp was on I ended up telling to the kids camp and the women’s group. again it went really well and because the kids thought I looked like the Princess from Brave, I told some Scottish stories. I then headed to the Academy of the Impossible to meet Emily Pohl-Weary a writer who works with creative youths in Toronto. I interviewed a few of the attendees and Emily and got a really good prespective on how youths in Toronto (and I suspect elsewhere) find out about activities that they are interested in, and their views on storytelling, and all of them from hip-hop artists to playwright, games designers and poet all told me they were heavily drawing on storytelling to support their work.

Wednesday I back up to Ottawa for an evening interviewing the Ottawa storytellers about youth storytelling, in the gathering were a collaction of tellers who work with youth tellers, are youth tellers, and those just interested in the discussion. from that I have serveral hours of audio recording to sit through and write up… a good evening with good food and lots to think about.

Then back to Toronto for the last few days before heading to San Fran, and while out shopping earlier I bumped into Trick form the series ‘Lost Girl’ I was very excited (lucky it wasn’t Dyson, Vex or Kensi!). And as a parting shot t to the hostel I have been staying in and the many new friends I have made there, I am telling tonight as part of the wine and cheese evening.

Black board in hostel advertising my show tonight

The sight that greeted me at breakfast this morning! Good Stuff!!!

 

 

Toronto to St John’s

I was meant to leave Toronto on the 11th to head to St John’s, but after having a wonderful lunch with Donna Dudinsky after the Storytent last Saturday and finding out that the Racontuers (a storyslam in Toronto) meeting was also on the 11th I changed my flight and attended.

It was a very interesting evening, as only a couple of days before I had been sat in Dan Yashinsky’s garden talking about youth storytelling and how he percieved that a lot more talented young people were interested in storytelling in the UK than in Canada. But when I entered the wonderfully named ‘No One Writes To The Colonel’ 460 College St, what a feast beheld my eyes.

Racontuers Story Slam

Racontuers Story Slam @ No One Writes To The Colonel

The bar was packed, every available seat was taken, people gathered huddle in any space they could get, it was amazing to see just how many people had turned out on a hot summer evening to cram themselves into the wonderfully record bespotted performance space. And even more amazing was that the vast majority were 20-40yr olds, with the occassional older folk peppered amoungst the crowd.

As the evening began and the stories started it proved to be such a range, and dynamic of tellers. The theme this month was ‘Music’ and before each teller told the MC announced their name and their favourite song, which already gave an idea of the person we were about to see. Coming from the UK my ear is not atuned so much to the personal stories which seem to heavily fill repetoires in Canada and the US, and it should be noted that Racontuers only accepts personal stories, so I did not enter as a teller, for I have had no experince with playing with personal tales. Some tellers told of seeing their favourite band live, some told of how they developed their first crush on the favourite popstar, some told of their own personal connection to music through playing, and just like everything to do with music there was also a touch or sex, drugs and rock and roll!

Tellers told in blocks of three with a break inbetween each block, where tellers were greeted by eager audience members to congratulate them on their telling. All tellers told through a mic and even the quiet ones could be heard by all. Some tellers were newbies and other were old hats, but all were welcomed by a very story hungry audience.

At this point I must admit I was more fasinated by the dynamic in the room than the stories, not that they weren’t good, but like I say I’m not use to personal tales and at times for me it felt a bit like watching stand-up comedy without the punch lines. I didn’t not enjoy it, and I don’t mean to sound like a story snob, because believe me anything that can generate the amount of people in a room for storytelling I’m all for, its just I found it hard to recognise it as storytelling that I am familiar with for it is such a different style. But I have been told that is also how it feels in reverse, many people who have only had personal tales find it hard to listen to what they determine over here as ‘folk tales’ (which back home refers to a certain genre of stories, rather than a generic term for any fictional tale). This in itself is an interesting insight into the trip, does this mean to be more appealing to more people, we as a storytelling community in the UK have to look to this, or is it just a cultural difference. Having spoken a lot to Csenge Zalka at the NSN conference about this (Csenge is from Hungary, which also has a long history of ‘folk’ tales) we both, having worked with youth in our own countries have seen how ‘folk’ tales are still popular, and so at this stage my belief is that it is more of a cultural thing, but that we must be aware that personal tales are a great way of giving a voice to young people who can often feel like no one is listening.

But net result is that far from being devoid of youth talent, Toronto has a wealth of youth talent bubbling away, but it might need a to be sort out in a new fashion.

And then before I knew it, and far too soon I was on a flight to St John’s, and flying into the airport I saw hilltops and coast line which could have been mistaken for Scotland, and colourful houses which would look at home in Balormory. The place is awash with Irish accents, and I have finally found out why East Killbride in Scotland doesn’t have just a Killbride, cos its here in Canada, so East Killbride is VERY east!

I arrived at the hostel at 6pm dropped my bags headed into town (finding within mins a chocolate shop… my true chocoholic nature is far from the surface) grabbed some food and found Hava Java, the venue for tonight’s Storytelling circle, and finally met at long last Dale Jarvis, which was a strange first meeting as I many an email has gone back and forth, and so many people have talked to me about him it really didn’t feel like a first meeting. What an evening of diverse stories, and international tellers, besides myself there were tellers from Spain, Wales, Ireland and then plenty of local talent. After which Dale and his partner took me up to Signal hill to look down over St John’s at night, a beautiful sight… a good way to end the day.

Friday the 13th was – and that is all that can be said, roll on the radio interview at 9am local time Saturday 14th, but I shall leave with that view…

Over looking St John's at night

Over looking St John's at night

 

Bravo Toronto

The CN tower in Toronto

Bravo Toronto

So much to catch up on, because it has been a crazy busy week.

So after the course not running I went up to Ottawa to visit the story circle there I travelled by Greyhound (a 5hr journey where I read ‘A Monster Calls’ which Shonaleigh Cumbers recommended, and whilst it was an amazing book it resulted in me crying for the last hour of the journey… I got a few funny looks) and was met off the bus by Caitlyn Paxson of the Ottawa Storytellers. We went for dinner and met up with Ruthanne Edward, both of whom were a mind of information about what was happening in youth storytelling in Ottawa and I was most impressed with the different activities, such as the story slams which Ruthanne set up. We then went to the Story Circle where such wonderful tales were told and shared. Ottawa was such a warm bunch of people and Gail Anglin was a delightful hostess with story conversation into the night and first thing in the morning. Definitely worth a repeat visit.

The next day I found myself back on the bus back to Toronto to arrive in time to attend the 1001 nights in Toronto, which was a diverse blend ofstories, ages and cultures and the stories reflected that. I met a number of people who use storytelling in schools. Saturday was an early start to the StoryTent in St Clare West, and its was a lovely day where I told a number of stories and met more storytellers we even had time to have a huge conversation about youth projects around the world, my pen had a hard time keeping up. Since then I have been invited back to that site everyday for different projects, which included a group for differently abled folks and a womens group where I got feed and given a lovely massage after I finished telling. They were really keen for me to come back again, but it is time for me to start thinking about the next town and the next adventure. Although it is with a heavy heart and much resistance I will leave Toronto, I would quite happily stay for good!

Thanks again for reading and many thanks to Storytelling Toronto and Ottawa Storytellers for being so generous and welcoming.

Toronto is great, but their driving is nuts!

 

 

Internet Killed the Backpacker!!!

So I went from the thronging conference held in the swanky Marriott Hotel in Cincinnati to the back street backpackers hostel in Toronto, it was always goign to be a change, but having been a keen and well travelled backpacker in the past I was prepared, or at least I thought I was.

It wasn’t the best of starts, the plane was delayed in Cincinnati due to bad weather, and I mean BAD, don’t believe check the news about Ohio! It was beautiful arriving into Toronto on the tail end of Canada Day, as I flew over the city all the fireworks were going off – stunning and at the same time disconcerting have things fly up and explode as you are descending. Just for good measure the bus was late and when I arrived into the room expecting even at this late hour backpackers still to be up due to the celebrations, everyone was asleep!

So I slept missing all my new found friends from the conference, and Monday I got on with my day (which consisted of finding Godiva’s chocolate shop – a girl has her priorities! – and getting my Canadian phone up and running) I get back to the hostel thinking I should spend a little time catching up on blogging and emails, to find the hostel slient once more, people were awake, but all plugged into their laptops. I remember when hostels were bursting with stories, but sadly this is no longer the case, rather than going out and exploring the many wonders of Toronto they sit watching episodes of tv shows or films… I was at a lost as to what technology has cost us.

So OK, I am right here being one of them, I do get the irony about complaining about everyone plugged into the internet while being plugged into the internet – but I am after all on a working trip, and part of that is to report what I find.

However I will be spending sometime away from the computer over the next few days as plans have had to change somewhat. The course I came to Toronto to work on and review was cancelled due to lack of bookings, which is the first time in 30years it hasn’t run – typical! So rather than sit around I am heading up to Ottawa to visit the story circle there, and dash back to Toronto for their story circle Friday night and story tent on Saturday morning where I will be meeting Dan Yashinsky.

But I have not been bummping around waiting for the bus to leave, I met up with Marylyn Peringer who was going to be running the course to find out what would of happen. From what she told me it was going to start quite literturcey (bear in mind I’m dyslexic) based, and build over 4 days to develop a traditional tale for telling. Marylyn took for dinner and dancing bear foot in the ‘Winston Churchill Park – he is most definitely keeping tabs on how my trip is going, Cheers Sir Winston!

International Hide and Seek with Sir Winston… I see you!

No good looking the other way Sir C, the sign gave it away!

And just to prove story is in every fibre of my being, while I was out on the street a Greenpeace canvaser stopped me with the words ‘hey let me tell you a story’ so I stopped and he did, it was great, so being the kind of person who thinks a gift should be met with one in return especailly when it comes to stories, I told him an ancient Roman tell of enviromentalism and consumerism. So happy was he I have been invited to come tell at one of their meetings :)

Ooh and an opportunity has come my way which is mind blowing!!!! But right now its a secret, I might even give a prize if you can guess :)

Stories will travel, and be our passport to places we would usually get too.

And rememebr if you are out there reading this, let me know, it is never lonely or quiet on the road with stories in your heart, but it is nice to know there are others out there.

Much love y’all!

I went to Cincy and found Me!

The National Storytelling Network Conference is over, but my head and heart are full. I have met over the past week so many wonderful, beautiful, giving, brilliant, talented, inspired and inspiring people whom I hope I will meet again many times over as I wander the story path. It was a life changing experience (what with temperatures of 100, and tornado warnings) enhancing my concepts, career and calorie intake.
After the pre-conference on Wednesday the pace picked up and the storytellers arrived en-masse, around about 300 or so.

The Master-class on Thursday afternoon with Jane Stenson and Sherry Norfolk, was not only delightful but incredibly insightful, 5 hrs walking us through creating a storytelling classroom from pre-school to secondary school, (or Kindergarten to High school). I loved the new term I picked up in this class ‘Teaching Artist’ which is one it would be great to see used more in the UK because it recognises the artist who works heavily in school as an educator, and of value to the teaching system. The workshop looked at the differences between what the points of view of what the teacher wishes to achieve and what the artist wants and can provide because Jane Stenson was actually a teacher, and Sherry Norfolk comes much more from the performance side. What surprised me but should have been obvious was how similar the issues facing the ‘Teaching Artist’ is between both the UK and US, however due to recognition of the importance of the library system (some which is not so evident in the UK with so many libraries either already closed or under threat of closing) many of the folks I have met are either teachers or librarians or have served as such at one point which then brought them to storytelling. An amazing session which will sit with me for a long time.

After a delightful dinner with Csenge where we discovered we are actually just the same person cloned (watch out world, yes there are two of us, and we’re coming after you bringing our flaming red-haired story revolution!!!!) the opening ceremony began, and the main conference hall filled with storytellers some new some old, but all were recognised and welcomed, during this I met Rachel Hedman, who told me the ‘New Voices’ would be meeting for breakfast the next day, this was to be a gathering of young storytellers, so of course I pounced on the idea. I rounded the evening off with Mary Hamilton’s Fringe show ‘Around the world with Cinderella’ a delightful blending of 11 Cinderella stories and a Norwegian version with a cinderFella.

Friday was a bleary eyed early start to meet the New Voices which incorporates young tellers right up to 35yrs old, but I am so glad I did because as well as meeting around 8 young storytellers, there in the middle of them all was Judy Sima who co-wrote the ‘Raising Voices’ book, a bible for anyone working in the field of youth storytelling. I was so excited to be sat there, just knowing that moments like these are what this trip is all about. Once the group had got their breakfast, very kindly paid for by Judy (many thanks Judy) we all started sharing our stories of what brought us to storytelling, what our hopes and dreams are for the future and our futures in storytelling and the challenges facing young storytellers – which as it turned out is a universal issue of; where do we find the platforms to tell, who do we balance storytelling with school work, getting through exams, going to college/uni, finding jobs, love life, starting families, how do we afford conferences and make time for them, how do we convince established older storytellers that we have voices of value to. It was also really interesting to hear about the way youth storytelling is in America through the eyes of the youth, this was an opportunity I hadn’t expected at the conference.
The rest of Friday was spent going to workshops and panels and a walk up the road to a Korean restaurant for lunch in 100 degree heat. I rounded the day off at a story swap and told my tale of the little tree that wished, which went down really well, and as I left that low and behold but who should have just arrived at the conference but Kevin Cordi, who greeted me with a huge hug (those barrage of emails prior to my trip had worked!!!) and even though by this time it was 11pm we talked for hours until we realised the rest of the lobby was empty and it was 2.30am, I already knew at this point a few days of caught moments during the conference was not going to be enough to capture even a brief snippet of the knowledge and experience Kevin was willing to share, and the support he was willing to give. Return trips and future conversations have already been planned.

The rest of the conference flew by in workshops and panels, one by Judy Sima going through the application of some of the exercises in the book ‘Raising Voices’ and a panel on Mentoring, I gave up Friday lunch period to interview Judy and Kevin, which gave fourth some really interesting material and two very different perspectives on youth storytelling, there are many others I wished I’d had time to interview and so I will be email and skyping to catch up with them either en-route or once I get back to the UK.

It became evident during the conference that 6 weeks is such a small amount of time to achieve all that I hope and it is merely the start of the dialogue rather the whole conversation.
It was interesting to compare the similarities between the NSN and the SFS (Society for Storytelling – UK), and the issues facing youth tellers, and those working in the field of youth storytelling. It was also interesting to note the differences, which for me was that sometimes the conversations, workshops and panels were not focused on stories, but on the relationship the tellers had with certain stories – however I was told by many that this is not the norm and was perhaps due the theme of this year’s conference being about remembrance. I also saw how much more organised things were with early starts (8.30 starts would be unheard in a UK story conference) and late nights, folders and handouts at nearly every workshops, PowerPoint presentations, it was much more lecture style than practical which is what I have grown use to in the UK where content can be flexible depending on the needs and wants of the group.

Kevin Cordi asked on the storytellers Facebook page for those who went to the conference to take some time to reflect and asked themselves; ‘Select one to three things that you learned, questioned, or taught and decide how to use it in your life.’
I learnt that as many better opportunities there are for youth tellers in the US there are also similar challenges to what we face in the UK. Trying to define what ‘youth’ means, where does it start and where does it end? How to approach it – do we ask what they think they need, to give them what we think they need? How do we make opportunities for all despite abilities, locations or skill level? How do we make opportunities to attend conference, what workshops would benefit young tellers?
I have learnt I have many more questions than what I started with!
I question the idea that folktales can be copyrighted as some have been with us for thousands of years, and although a version may have been written down in a modern book, research on the internet get other books and you will find many more versions, which you can blend into your own original work, for isn’t that what storytellers do? Traditional/folk tales have so much teaching in them, they have been crafted over millennia to give teachings and make us question, isn’t losing that denying those that come after us part of their heritage, not just of being from this place or that place, of this people or that people, but of being human and part of this world?
I will use the experience to keep my mind open and remember to (as much as possible) pass it forward, to make sure I leave something those who travel the path behind me.

And lastly I would like to make a role call for all those who made the weekend amazing: Csenge Zalka, Kevin Cordi, Kevin Gerzevitz, Karen Chace, Judy Sima, Jane Crouse, Sherry Norfolk, Jane Stenson, Lyn Ford, Lois, Katie, Rachel Hedman, Holly Robinson, Adam Booth, Beth Horner, Judith Heineman, Elise Krakower, Renee, Heather, Gail Froyen, Sara Armstrong, Noa Baum, Buck Creacy, Brother Wolf, Jim May, Kevin Kling, Rick Huddle, Yvonne Healy, Alton Chung, Michel, Bill Harley, and Marilyn McPhie to name just a few.