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.schoolof­s­to­ry­ 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.

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