Monday, April 07, 2008
Wisdom in the Words: Society for Storytelling Gathering
I attended the Society for Storytelling Gathering this weekend in Exeter Devon and can easily say that the long journey from Brighton was definitely worth it. As a new member of the SfS, this was my first gathering, and one which gave me plenty of inspiration and ideas. I just made it in time to grab a couple of sandwiches for lunch and quickly made my way to the first workshop on 'Bringing Personal Storytelling Alive' facilitated by David Heathfield.
The session was aimed at those who work with groups of people (adults, teenagers, children/people from diverse backgrounds and with diverse needs) where some members find it hard to tell their own personal stories and anecdotes. Yet those individuals bring so much rich experience with them into the group.
It was an interactive and dynamic workshop which taught us new techniques about getting people to tell their personal stories and the use of storytelling for bridging cultures. We tried out some simple and fun pairwork and group activities and techniques for bringing other people's personal stories alive. People's lives are their richest resources, and they need to be told and listened to in a supportive and protective environment to enable healing, creativity and provide richness.
Techniques to think about when running a personal storytelling workshop or using personal storytelling techniques include: Provide a model - tell a story first; use mental imagery (multi-sensory); set peer listening tasks; People put themselves in each other's shoes to make predictions about each other; and re-enacting real life conversations. One technique which I would use again was to invite people to enter their partner's real-life experiences. This is done by choosing a positive relationship in your life. Leave the room and come back in as that person (friend or partner), and present yourself as that person. Then invite the audience or participants in the group work to ask you (aka you as your friend or partner) any questions to find out about your (aka your friend's or partner's) relationship with you and about yourself (through the eyes of your friend or partner). I personally found this exercise really interesting, i.e. use of psychodrama - how you think you are perceived in the eyes of your friends and partners. Some very positive comments came out about myself, that I may not have been able to say directly (being too modest or shy or even lacking confidence and not wanting to open up personally).
Another activity played out was that of imagining a pet and telling a story about the pet to another. If you don't have a pet, then you imagine one. People's relationships with animals in the western world is one which is safe and tends to open up avenues for emotions, feelings, and stories to flourish. However, in a multi-cultural group, talking about animals may not always be such a good thing. Other ideas include using or imagining personal objects of value, talking about food, or talking about your name and the emotional connection with names.
David had many years experience of teaching English as a foreign language, and has incorporated techniques for personal storytelling in his classes. He made regular reference to have developed these techniques based on Mario Rinvolucri's language learning methodology. And in fact, Mario was himself one of the participants of this workshop.