The Magical Blue Feather

The Magical Blue Feather

Friday, 13 January 2017

Another Beginning

Children's Hospice

Several times over the past year or so I have tried to contact the local Children's Hospices to see if they would like me to come and tell stories - for free, of course.
Last month one of them contacted me - and yesterday I made my first visit.

It was one of the most difficult storytelling sessions I have ever experienced.

This week is a special one for the hospice - they only have 4 unaccompanied  teenage patients, who have multiple sensory problems and are there for a week of sensory experiences. Having seen my videos, the staff thought my style of telling would be just right for them. That was all I knew. I had never visited a children's hospice before.

One of the 4 had a fit in the night and was still asleep - so there were only 3 children plus various staff members.

All 3 were in wheelchairs and obviously had very limited movement. Their hands were curled and unmoving. They had no speech and were either completely or partially unsighted. I am not sure what they could hear.

For over an hour and a half I told various stories - the staff loved them - but there was no response at all from the children even when I let the soft toys touch their hands and faces.

As you can imagine, I felt pretty useless - but the staff then assured me that the children's stillness was, in itself, a sign of their approval. If they had been bored or upset they would have made their feelings felt.

So, apparently, it was a success.

Normally, of course, the hospice has a wide range of children and families in residence and storytelling would be much easier.

Now I am about to apply for a grant so that I can become the resident storyteller for our 3 local children's hospices for a year. Wish me luck! 

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

The Magical Blue Feather

The Magical Blue Feather

Here is my version of Papa Joe Gaudet's lovely story about a little girl struggling to survive all alone...

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

More Videos

More Videos

Having learnt how to create and upload simple videos, I am embarking on a project to record several of my stories.

Here are two of them...

Father Mouse - the complete story

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Milk and Sugar

Another Beginning - Milk and Sugar

After the festivals, things have been very quiet - and in this quiet time I was introduced to a legend from Gujarat in India. Having read it, I couldn't stop telling it! It is unlike any story I have told before and it was haunting me. I was telling it to everyone I met.

Their responses were so positive that I began to wonder if there was any way to get this story to a wider audience. Then I remembered - I have a small digital camera that records to tape.

Having found the camera, tripod and assorted cables, I sought out a suitable corner for filming. The first attempts were hopeless: the sun was too bright from the window; my chair was too low; the camera was too low; I kept stumbling over the story; I'd forgotten to put batteries in the microphone and then forgot to switch it on!

By the time everything was sorted out and rehearsed, it was dark outside and I just had to switch on all my domestic lighting and hope it would be enough.

The result pleased me... it reminded me of storytelling by firelight - definitely not high definition, but useable.

After a little editing to tidy up the start and finish (another quick learning curve!) I managed to upload it to YouTube... and here it is... 

And if you enjoy it, please go to YouTube and Like and Share it, so that others may enjoy it too.

Now that I have discovered how to make videos, I plan to record more stories and I shall, of course, post them up here.

A story extract

A Sample of my Storytelling Style

I've just discovered how to add videos here... so here is a brief extract from Father Mouse.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Festivals - Day 7

Festivals - Day 7

Back again to that lovely venue, sitting in the shade of a great tree, by a high garden wall, at the top of a gentle hill overlooking the marquees and knot garden below.

The atmosphere was different this time - instead of crafts and food this was a design fair and there were very few children around.  There was still a children's craft tent, now sitting close to me at the top of the hill, so parents and children did wander my way, but it was much quieter than the previous occasions.

The stall-holders, too, were different - as I walked with Archy, the great horned owl puppet, he caused quite a sensation as the quality of his design was appreciated just as much as the animation.

Several of the stall-holders had brought their children with them - and this was the third day of the design fair, so the children were already bored and eager for something new. They formed my core audience for the day, returning frequently to demand another story.

Mostly these were pre-teen girls who seemed more sophisticated in their approach than I am used to meeting. At one point, instead of choosing a story from the basket, they asked me to select a story that was funny but not silly... I can't remember what story I chose, but they seemed satisfied. Then they asked if I had a sad story - so I told Papa Joe's 'The Magical Blue Feather' which really held them gripped. 

That group of girls then ran off to be replaced a few minutes later by another group demanding to hear about the Blue Feather as their friends had told them it was such a good story.

The day progressed in a steady flow of listeners - sometimes just a couple of adults - sometimes a mixed group of parents and children - sometimes a group of those pre-teen girls. I did manage to get a half-hour lunch break, but that was all.

Having started at 11am, I was scheduled to end at 3.30pm but at that point I had a group of slightly younger girls clamouring for 'just one more story!' - and so the session ran on for another half-hour. They still wanted more, but I pleaded exhaustion - justifiably I think.

And that is the end of my summer season of festivals. Unless some late bookings come in, I have nothing now until the beginning of October, when there is another two-day festival.

It has been a good season. I have learnt a great deal, built up my stamina and my confidence.

Now I must start to learn how to get more bookings to fill up my new, empty diary.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Festivals - Day 6

Festivals - Day 6

After an evening spent drying all my clothes, costumes, papers and props it was a relief to wake up to some sunshine and I set off feeling quite optimistic.

This time I found a sensible parking space - though still at the wrong end of the field.

In the sunshine it was mayhem - there seemed to be at least a thousand children playing, dancing, watching - trying all sorts of new skills and generally having great fun! It was quite tricky manoeuvering basket and dogs through all the crowds, performers and stalls.

Once at the tipi, I worked out how to increase the size of the entrance to make it easier to get inside - and I had had the sense to bring a large plastic sheet to cover the wet grass and bits of carpet that had had no chance to dry out overnight. Then I discovered how to open the tipi flaps to let some air inside as the day was getting pretty hot.

Before I could set up, the audience was already arriving - all ages from babes-in-arms to the occasional grandparent - and throughout the afternoon, as soon as some people left others came in to take their place. It was non-stop stories for 4 hours! Though I did manage to sneak out with the dogs for 5 minutes - just long enough to find a cup of tea.

Now my efforts with the pre-schoolers really paid off - so many times it was those simple stories that got chosen from the basket - and there were always some toddlers in the audience. As I am becoming more confident at handling the stories so I am finding they really do work for everybody. Pocamondas, The Old Woman and the Piggy, and Turtle of Koka were much in demand and had everybody laughing - even the teenagers. And then I found that, after a simple story or two, many of the toddlers were able to sit and listen to the more difficult ones. Quite clearly they didn't understand everything, but they were prepared to listen.

I am finding a different kind of confidence too... when noisy newcomers interrupted a story, I would simple pause and wait for them to settle down. When some pre-teen girls were dragged away from their friends, they kept on returning to say their goodbyes again and again, with lots of hugs and kisses - and I stopped telling and asked them to leave. When the amplified music suddenly reached intolerable levels, I went out to the music stage to ask the volume to be reduced - and it was.

And... a real confidence booster... there was a teenage boy who had heard me telling last year and now had come specifically to hear me again - he stayed all afternoon. Several other people came because they had heard of me - and many of them came back several times during the afternoon to hear yet another story, despite all the other exciting attractions going on.

So, by home time, I was tired and my throat was sore from competing with all the ambient noise - but I was happy!