Thursday, November 17, 2011

Emerson International School of Storytelling. Julie Perrin

julie perrin tellingwords

During the English summer I spent a couple of weeks at Emerson International School of Storytelling in East Sussex, about an hour south east of London. The school is nestled into the side of a hill in Forest Row, just a village away from the Ashdowne Forest, made famous by A.A. Milne.

I had heard about the school of storytelling. The most potent reports came in the stories of the people who’d been to Emerson. Two of the women, Monica Tesselaar and Christina Rowntree decided to offer ongoing workshops, which culminated in delightful happenings known as Located Stories. These events were held in private homes, the storytellers would choose the location in the house or garden; whichever most suited their themes. Stories were told from bathrooms, bedrooms laundries, backyards, sheds and firesides. There was a cross over between ‘professional’ and beginning storytellers. The delight and integrity made me curious about Emerson.

I wasn’t planning to go. The disappointing thing about having been around in any scene for some time is that you become suspicious of whether you really will learn anything new. All this was in my mind before Ashley Ramsden came to Melbourne last Easter. After I had attended a couple of days of his workshops I was hooked. I enrolled in a weeklong course called The storyteller at play.

Come the end of June I was in the storytelling hut, with 20 other souls from all parts of the globe. With impish wiliness, Roi Gai-or and Ashley Ramsden invited us at the very beginning of the workshop, to report back, as if it were the very end of the week.

“Oh, do you remember when we played that game?....” There was a lot of thigh slapping laughter.

Later they had us investigating the symptoms of happiness. Michael Leunig’s cartoon, ‘the seven varieties of ordinary happiness’ segued us into describing moments of our own ordinary happiness (grinding spices, smelling fresh cotton sheets, shaking the dirt from the roots of tiny weeds in the garden). Once we had basked in these exchanges we did an exercise prescribing homeopathic doses for one another. Small acts like sitting in the sun, reduced doses of screen time, more face to face human contact, naps, picnics, reading aloud…. Ah.

Just as I was about to leave I discovered there was a two-week course in Wonder Tales and Biographical stories. There is nothing closer to my heart than the resonance between traditional story and personal lived experience. The trick was that my return ticket to Australia left in the middle of it…

I presented Roi Gai-or with my dilemma. I would love to come back to do the course, this was my territory, and I was increasingly feeling that here was my Tribe. The problem was my return ticket, my obligations etc etc. As if Roi had known me all of my life, a little smile played around the corners of his mouth. “Well Julie,” he said, “I guess you are going to go away and then the day will come to make the decision and you will sit down and decide which mistake you are going to make!

As it turned out, I made the mistake of going back for more. But that, as they say, is another story…

Ashley Ramsden will be in Australia in June/July 2012 and Sue Hollingsworth in October 2012. For details of their visits email Clare Coburn

1 comment:

  1. Any plans for opening up a school in Sydney? This sounds amazing!