Sunday, 13 April 2008

The fine art of storytelling

During these last few days of pregnancy (due April 15) I have been occupying my mind with Frank Delaney's "Ireland - a novel." This is a hugely ambitious novel, set in the 1950s, with an itinerant Storyteller (the last of a fabled breed) used to narrate the story of Ireland - in all its drama, intrigue and heroism. So, by way of story after story, the reader sets out on a journey that allows them to meet a host of fabled characters through the centuries.

There is a great moment in the book when the narrator pauses and looks, through the eyes of the main protagonist, Ronan, and surveys the storyteller's audience: "...this had reached far beyond any expectation or hope; in the colour of the tale and the power of it's narrator, the boy knew he had met great, rare magic...[and] nobody reflected the magic of the hour as much as the children, whose faces glowed like lamps."

Which brings me to today's inspiration - mind pictures - the magic that made those children's faces glow. There was an interesting study done in 1997 in a New England mill town that looked at the effect of storytelling upon children's imagination:

A bit of research reveals...
After the storytelling sessions, students met with the researcher in interview groups. Over and over again, they tried to describe what it was like to be listeners. The act of listening to a story was a powerful and creative experience, one that was perceived as active and inclusive. The idea that the listener is somehow controlling the story is probably the most important finding to emerge from the data. Students described an act of co-participation with the storyteller, because listening to a story for them was an interactive experience. Findings suggest that storytelling is an empowering form of communication.

Art of Illustration...
I would go further and suggest that the power inherent in the listener can be tapped to produce fabulous visual art. Indeed, my husband Andy has a book titled "Exodus to Alford" by Stanley Robertson, master story-teller of the Traveller folk, and inside the most fantastic artwork by Simon Fraser (see illustration above). Of course, this is where illustration comes into its own, but Fraser's work easily stands alone as the most glorious art that really requires no context:

New Creative Interfaces...
Nowdays, as well as having the oral and literary storytelling tradition to inspire us we also have digital storytelling. If you care to explore this new media, there are some wonderful links on the Internet - one of the more inspiring introductions to this new interface is through the following link - just click on the haunting image below:

For more thought provoking sites, try these links:
BBC Wales - the art of storytelling through its people...
Tech Head Stories
The Art of Simon Fraser