After several years of teaching in secondary schools in London, I had been keen to pursue a more flexible and creative line of work. Then, with the birth of our first child, my husband and I decided one of us would be the stay-at-home parent and I was happy to take on that role.
I soon realised the songs and rhymes I was singing quite innately to my baby had come to me from the far recesses of my childhood, connecting me to my family on the other side of the world! Like so many local parents without extended family, I wanted to contribute to building a supportive community. I also didn’t want to be driving around town to attend baby and toddler activities. I saw that there was an opportunity to share with new parents the joy that comes from interacting with their little ones through story, rhyme and song, so I established Chinwag Music and Storytelling. It was a great way for me to step into running my own business as well as connect with local like-minded parents who were at home with their little ones. As I repeatedly said to parents, it doesn’t matter if you’re not the world’s greatest singer, your child is too young to be critical and will simply enjoy the sound of your voice. Young children absolutely love the connection that comes with sharing familiar sounds and rhythms.
One of the parents attending my Chinwag classes was the director of the Saturday School at which I was teaching Drama classes. She had the idea that I could also run Chinwag classes for the younger siblings of those taking drama and music classes at the Saturday school. It was a great success and a lot of fun, but sadly had to come to an end when my little family made the move to Australia.
In 2009, when we eventually settled in Newcastle, I was extremely fortunate that the Newcastle Library advertised a position for a performer/storyteller to deliver the ‘Wacky Wombat Show’. Never before had a job description fitted me so perfectly! This program eventually evolved into ‘Stories Come Alive’ but with funding cuts, it all ended in 2017.
I could see there was still a demand for storytelling and so Story Spot was born. I deliver unique interactive storytelling programs to preschools within the Newcastle and Hunter region and I also offer Story Spot Storytelling Club as an extra curricular school program for primary schools. Watching children take up the mantle of storyteller is an absolute delight. In these classes we workshop ways to use gesture and voice effectively for characterisation and to convey mood and emotion. We explore a whole range of stories from family legends to Greek myths and fairytales.
It’s not just children who enjoy hearing stories. Whenever I have attended storytelling evenings, I’ve been captivated by the teller’s delivery as well as the tales themselves. Stories ignite in us a little magic and wonder as our imaginations are unleashed. So it’s not surprising that a Story Spot Night for adults is in my sights!
I also have an interest in the way in which storytelling can help shape and strengthen our identity as well as assist us to process our experiences. I’ve been working on a program for upper primary and secondary school students to help them shape their own stories. They are at an age when their story is so heavily influenced by their peers, society and advertising. Storytelling is a wonderful tool for nurturing a greater sense of self through the realisation that we have power over the telling of our story.
I was inspired by questions raised in a workshop facilitated by American Story Activist, Mary Alice Arthur:
What stories should we stop telling?
What stories should we keep telling?
What stories should we start telling?
These are powerful questions to ask ourselves on a regular basis. What are the stories we are sharing about ourselves and others? Are they life-affirming or destructive? Are the stories we tell about ourselves and others serving to build better families and communities?
When a story is told with authenticity there is a magical connection between teller and listener: eye to eye, mind to mind, heart to heart. In our world of gadgetry and social media it’s challenging to find opportunities to connect in this way. It strikes me that now, more than ever, we need to take the time to be present, sit down and listen to each other’s stories so as to develop greater understanding of each other’s culture and experiences and in doing so foster empathy and compassion.
Please visit www.storyspot.com.au.