Storytelling brings words to life
Storytelling is not often thought of as a way to express science, a possible career choice, or way to connect with nature.
Most people probably do not think beyond ‘‘ Once upon a time . . .’’, but for some storytelling goes beyond the pages.
The art of storytelling has been around since the beginning of time, with generations passing on tales of their ancestors and sharing their experiences through spoken word.
At The Belly of the Whale school of story telling, based in the Wellington-Kapiti area, courses range from remembering your ancestors to felting and telling a nativity story.
Co-founder Judy Frost-Evans, from Pukerua Bay, said storytelling is more than entertainment, it can be used for counselling, mediation, education, and therapy.
Storytelling is also a social activity, she said, encouraging people to share their own personal stories. ‘‘ I find that inspiring when I hear someone talk about their lives and how they’ve met challenges and how they overcame them. They’ve invited me into their world and they’re sharing something with me.’’
Successful storytelling is achieved through speaking in pictures, and using the voice, body, pace and structure.
Ms Frost- Evans came across storytelling late in life when she attended a parent teacher meeting at her son’s Rudolf Steiner school, where they often use storytelling as a teaching tool.
‘‘There’s no props, no screens, no sound effects, no power point, nothing, just words, but I went on this whole journey and created all these pictures. I remember sort of thinking at the time, ‘ aww, you can just do that with words?’.’’
Afterwards she attended a storytelling festival at the National Library which inspired her to learn more about the art.
A few years later Ms FrostEvans moved to England for work. While there she decided to check out Emerson University, where her son’s teacher had learnt storytelling years earlier.
‘‘There were people there who were very accomplished storytellers and there were people there like me who had never done anything like it before and weren’t quite sure,’’ she said.
But she became addicted, and over the next 10 years enrolled in 20 part-time courses at the school, learning how to find stories, different types of storytelling and counselling through storytelling.
Before moving back to New Zealand, she expressed her regret at never trying a fulltime story telling course, to tutor Sue Hollingsworth. The tutor told her that she would bring the course to New Zealand, and she did.
This course was so successful it is being run again over the next three months, and this time Ms Frost-Evans is helping to run it.
The five-week course will cover Storytelling: an essential skill for every subject. There will also be a one- week course and smaller workshops held.
The courses will be run by Hollingsworth and Ashley Ramsden, directors of the International School of Storytelling in England, the longest established centre of its kind in Europe.
Ramsden has toured the world with his storytelling programmes, and his methods of teaching voice and the skills of the storyteller have received international acclaim.
Hollingsworth teaches, performs one woman biographical storytelling shows and takes story into the world of business. Working mostly in Europe, Africa and New Zealand, she also leads story walks, runs women’s storytelling retreats and is particularly interested in working with storytelling in the environment.
Meanwhile, Ms Frost- Evans says storytelling is relevant to all topics. She saw Victoria Univer- sity science students present their theses through storytelling earlier this year, which is a great idea, she said.
‘‘When someone gives a lecture that’s a bit dry and it doesn’t have a structure and it’s just facts then, well OK, there’s a certain amount that you’re going to remember, but when it’s in story form, because it takes you into this imaginative place, then I think you engage with it more and you remember it. It has an impact.’’
She said the best thing about storytelling is the journey she describes as being ‘‘in the belly of the whale’’.
‘‘Stories often take you into a dark place. You get a bit lost, you don’t know where you’re going. And then you come out and life is a bit changed.
‘‘I think for a while it was seen in our culture as for children, but now I think people are realising that it’s for everybody.’’
To find out more about the 2013 storytelling courses, go to www.schoolofstorytelling.com or phone 04 239 8346.
Personal journey: Pukerua Bay’s Judy Frost-Evans says storytelling encourages people to share their personal stories.
Storyteller: Ashley Ramsden returns to Kapiti and the Wellington region this year to teach storytelling.