Why sto­ry­telling isn’t just for chil­dren

The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire) - - YOUR LIFE - For more in­for­ma­tion about GAS, visit grampianst­o­ry­tellers.word­

From the mo­ment we can talk, we tell our­selves sto­ries. The ram­bled imag­in­ings of child­hood, fu­elled by magic and cu­rios­ity for the world. Tales of who we are and where we have been, sto­ry­telling cares not for bor­ders or dif­fer­ence in tongues. It cra­dles cul­ture and shapes gen­er­a­tions, with tales handed down from wise grand­par­ents to wide-eyed young­sters.

Ev­ery­one has a story. It is in­grained in who we are.

But whether the words flow freely, leav­ing pic­tures in their wake, or come to a stag­nant stop, well, that de­pends on the teller.

Pauline Cordiner can bring char­ac­ters to life in sec­onds – her face an ever-chang­ing mask of colour­ful ex­pres­sions.

The 44-year-old, who lives in Garthdee, joined The Grampian As­so­ci­a­tion of Story Tell­ers (GAS) in 2003 af­ter see­ing an ad­vert in the pa­per.

She is now chair of the group, which pro­vides work­shops for sto­ry­tellers, bal­lad classes and men­tor­ing.

Pauline also trav­els across the north-east and be­yond for events such as Spec­tra, and goes into schools and care homes.

She be­lieves there is un­tapped po­ten­tial for sto­ry­telling across the north-east, and says tales can be told in all man­ner of ways.

Here, Pauline ex­plains why “once upon a time” is just the be­gin­ning.

“I used to be an en­vi­ron­men­tal chemist, I worked for Shell.

“Sto­ry­telling was my hobby un­til it was re­dun­dancy time.

“I re­mem­ber think­ing to my­self that it wouldn’t be the worst thing if I was made re­dun­dant. It would give me the op­por­tu­nity to carve out a career as a sto­ry­teller.

“I also be­lieve that those two dif­fer­ent ar­eas of my life, sto­ry­telling and sci­ence, can ex­ist quite nicely to­gether.

“There doesn’t seem to be that much con­nec­tion be­tween sci­ence and art, but there ab­so­lutely should be.

“I find it quite easy to bal­ance the log­i­cal part of my brain and the art side.

“I of­ten break a story down into five bul­let points. Then I pic­ture it like a film play­ing out in front of me.

“When I am learn­ing a story, I of­ten go to sleep on it.

“That’s my way of se­quenc­ing it.

“By the time I ac­tu­ally tell the story, I be­come some­one else.

“Not ev­ery sto­ry­teller does.

“You can tell a story as if you are read­ing Enid Bly­ton, and it is no less won­der­ful.

“I’ve al­ways cre­ated char­ac­ters and done stupid voices, even when I was a child.

“My mum never dis­cour­aged me, and I al­ways tell sto­ries to my own daugh­ter.

“I don’t read from a book when I have an au­di­ence, be­cause that means your face is on

the page. You lose the eye con­tact and the fa­cial ex­pres­sions.

“There’s this quote that says: ‘Read­ing a story from a book is like look­ing at a mu­si­cal in­stru­ment in a glass case in a mu­seum. That in­stru­ment doesn’t ex­ist to be looked at. It ex­ists to be played and en­joyed.’

“There is this pre­con­cep­tion that sto­ries are for chil­dren.

“Sto­ries are ac­tu­ally for ev­ery­body. “There have been mo­ments in care homes. There was this el­derly gen­tle­man who was wheeled in. At the end of the story, he looked up and said: ‘In my house it was but­ter­ies, not rowies.’

“Ev­ery­one turned around and looked at him in shock.

“He hadn’t spo­ken in months, and he started telling peo­ple about fly­ing a bomber.

“My dad worked in the ship­yard af­ter the war, and there had been this aw­ful in­ci­dent.

“He only told me the story just be­fore he died, as if he needed to rid him­self of it.

“Look at peo­ple around the world who did not say a word about their ex­pe­ri­ence of con­cen­tra­tion camps, then they started telling their sto­ries and those sto­ries had such an im­por­tant part to play.

“I can­not imag­ine a world with­out sto­ries. “No mat­ter how many times a story is told, it is given new life and mean­ing.

“There was a big re­vival of sto­ry­telling in the Six­ties, but peo­ple have al­ways told sto­ries.

“I think the term in it­self is mis­used in so many ways – it isn’t read­ing out of a book.

“If you go into a pub, there’ll be a bunch of old men sit­ting around, and they’ll half tell you a story.

“Then they’ll say: ‘Oh, you see Dave over there... well he can tell you.’

“I al­ways tell chil­dren that they are al­ready sto­ry­tellers, it is in­grained in them.

“Peo­ple seem sur­prised that sto­ry­telling groups ex­ist, but it is such an ob­vi­ous thing in my eyes.

“It is an amaz­ing world to be im­mersed in. “I like folk tales – they are the peo­ple’s sto­ries. And I love a witty story.

“Stan­ley Robert­son, who was hon­orary pres­i­dent of GAS, had this way of de­scrib­ing sto­ry­telling.

“He called it the maisie, which is an­other way of say­ing the muse.

“It’s a way of de­scrib­ing that mo­ment when your au­di­ence is hang­ing on your ev­ery word.

“Stan­ley would say: ‘You have breathed in the maisie and you are bring­ing it out bon­nie.’

“I don’t re­ally see what I do as a job, be­cause you get to see peo­ple light up.

“That’s an in­cred­i­ble thing.”


A TALE TO TELL: Pauline Cordiner and her pup­pet pals bring sto­ries to life for au­di­ences of all ages

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