Thursday, April 23, 2015

Susan Pepper: Catching stories before they slip out of reach. 2015

When I started exploring the world of storytelling many years ago, I was surprised by the many and various guises it took. Like a trickster, the storyteller wears disguises, and changes from one to another depending on the stories demanding to be told, and who is doing the telling. 

Early on in my storytelling journey I became interested in what is known as "therapeutic storytelling", and undertook some formal study to develop my understanding of the context within which I could do this work. I soon discovered that sometimes I was the teller, but more importantly in this type of work, I was the listener, or in my most recent excursion into this area, the storycatcher.

As part of the My Story project at 5 Uniting AgeWell aged care facilities, over 130 older storytellers told their life stories to storycatchers who 'caught' them, and published them in some way. The My Story project aimed to give clients  the opportunity "to share their past history, knowledge and stories and gain a sense of accomplishment and self-worth, while family members [would] have a tangible record to keep." The final products included digital photo frames, videos, photobooks, books, and posters. Around 30 volunteers were involved, as well as two staff members who managed and coordinated the project. 

At the celebration afternoon tea held at the conclusion of the project, the excitement was tangible, as storytellers were able to share the record of their stories with families and each other - it was a celebration of engagement, relationship, belonging and support.

At this event, I had the privilege of speaking on behalf of the storycatchers, and I took the opportunity to reflect on the significance of the telling, and catching, of life stories.  This is what I said:

"I have recently been reading Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively. The protagonist and main narrator, a historian, decided to write 'a history of the world...and the bit of the twentieth century to which I have been shackled, willy nilly, like it or not. Let me contemplate myself within my own context: everything and nothing.'

As I have been working with residents of Strathdon around the telling of their stories, I have been struck by the fact that everyone is also telling the history of the world, in particular the twentieth century, and their observations of it, and the role they played. 

I firmly believe there is no such thing as a small story. Short maybe, but not small, and even the shortest stories I and the other storycatchers have worked with touch on major themes - how we live our lives, and the historical and social context in which we live out our values. Yet, it's normal that as our life unfolds we usually do not realise the significance of what is happening, or what we are witnessing. 

Take Jim* for example.  His broad and detailed account of life in the British army in Egypt in the 1940s touches on major events, including significant World War Two battles.  He drove the then Secretary of State for War, Anthony Eden, later Sir Anthony, the Prime Minister involved in the Suez Crisis. He was just one of many significant people who crossed paths with Jim. Also during the Second World War, Bob's squadron wrote airforce history as they flew their fighter planes through the valleys and across the ranges of New Guinea.

Stories of post war migration such as that told by Ria and Alec touches on the social conditions in post war Europe and the impact of those conditions on their families. They both give testimony to the desire to provide one's family with a better life, a factor that underlies all migration stories.

John B's story touches on the early years of Australian television - he regularly played his tuba on Graeme Kennedy's In Melbourne Tonight, but he also played at the opening of that magnificent Melbourne institution, the Myer Music Bowl. 

 Eddie won an event at the Stawell Gift meeting a few years, or maybe that was a few decades, ago.

All of these stories are written against the background of the twentieth century, globally, nationally and locally, and each documents a unique part of that turbulent time.

Closer to home, I was surprised by how many stories I heard touched my own experience, or that of my family. Like Carol, my mother moved as a young child to live in Red Cliffs, albeit a couple of decades earlier. 

These stories are important. Not only for the people telling them, but for the people who will be reading them or listening to or viewing them. They are historical documents, whether they are captured in words, images, movement, as an interview.

They mainly sit as social history, but they also tell part of the broader narratives of economic, cultural, political, sporting and military history. 

As a Storycatcher, it has been my privilege to raise my butterfly net, or my gloved hands, and catch some of these inspiring and powerful narratives. 

Thank you for the opportunity."

Susan Pepper. 

* I have not included surnames for reasons of privacy. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Kate Lawrence: WORKSHOPS: STORYTELLING FOR ADULTS in the Macedon Ranges May 2015

Story of your Life

A new opportunity is being offered in the Macedon Ranges for adults to learn the art and craft of true storytelling. 

Local Macedon resident and SAV member Kate Lawrence, is offering workshops at both Riddells Creek and Woodend Neighbourhood Houses, where she will guide people to uncover memories and turn them into stories.

‘Creating and telling well-crafted stories from our lives can help us explain why we believe something, why we have our values and passions.  Stories are very persuasive and moving’ said Kate.  ‘They are also great for passing our stories onto our children.’

While Kate has told many traditional tales and taught storytelling to children at Macedon and New Gisborne Primary Schools, she has a particular interest in personal storytelling for adults.

“The workshops are not only lots of fun, where you get to hear and tell lots of stories, almost inevitably, in the process of working with our stories, we come to better understand our lives and who we are.’ said Kate, who has a background as a community lawyer.

Kate has a big picture in mind, ‘These workshops are the start of a campaign to build a storytelling community, in the Macedon Ranges.  Participants will be offered the opportunity to perform their story to a local audience later in the year.

As the vice president of Storytelling Australia Victoria, Kate is clearly making the most of this role, bringing storytelling to people who live outside of the Metropolitan area. ‘Spoken word, performance poetry and storytelling is well supported in the city, I want to help build the skills and create opportunities for people in the Ranges to share stories. We all have a story to tell.’

Storytelling for Adults Workshop Details:

Riddells Creek Neighbourhood House      Woodend Neighbourhood House
59 Main Road, Riddells Creek                       47 Forest Street, Woodend Vic 3442
Phone: 5428 7836                                          Phone: 5427 1845
2pm - 5pm                                                      2pm - 5pm
Sat 2 May and Sat 16 May                          Sat 9 May and Sun 17 May 
$50 ($30 concession) for both sessions         $50 ($30 concession) for both sessions

For further information and photos call Kate Lawrence 0402 080 445
or go to her website HERE 
Pics top and bottom: Kate in action on World Storytelling Day, a Kate and Leo selfie

Sunday, April 19, 2015

John Sheills, aka JJ – Retailer of Tales PAVE Festival 2015

 John Sheills, aka JJ – Retailer of Tales, can’t recall when his association with Storytelling Australia Vic was cemented; back in the 80s perhaps when the organization was young and known as The Storytelling Guild of Australia – Victorian Branch.

John’s attraction to stories and storytelling was seeded in primary school when he read an article in a magazine about Joan and Betty Rayner. Extraordinary women by any measure:

‘After studying in London and America for some years, they [the Rayner sisters] opened a Theatre, in Sydney, which they ran for two years. There they presented
their folk lore songs and storyettea without the aid of scenery or other
stage effects, relying solely on the ability of the actors to carry the show
through as in the days of the troubadours. They then closed the theatre
and rambled through the country districts of Victoria and. New South
Wales by caravan, playing at the various towns …’ Sunday Times: Perth WA 26 July 1931

Growing up in Orbost, a small town in East Gippsland on the Snowy River, John was fortunate to have a primary school teacher who responded to the passion that the Rayners had ignited in him for telling stories and making puppets. He created a little theatre from and old tea chest and was encouraged to ‘tour’ his show around the school.

John’s intrigue with folk tales, puppetry and theatre has never abated; ‘I like to explore the interface between puppet and puppeteer, the manipulated and manipulator – the liminal spaces’.

Over the years, he has worked with Polyglot, The Marionette Theatre of Australia and the Tasmanian Puppet Theatre. It was when he was working with Polyglot, he finally met the Rayner sisters who by this time were elderly and retired but none the less inspiring and generous. These days he can be found living quietly in Emerald. Technology averse, John has no mobile phone or Internet, and is surrounded by books, puppets and art materials. John’s knowledge of folklore is enviable; it is as broad as it is deep. I’ve heard John recite Australian bush verse, tell French Medieval Folk Tales, stories from A Thousand and One Nights, Germanic Fairy Tales, Celtic Legends. I’ve watched him tell using exquisite felts, a sand tray and overhead projector, origami, and all manner of handcrafted props.

With the advent of the PAVE Festival in Emerald a decade ago, John has accepted the annual challenge in offering a story-centered presentation every year. This has included solo shows and collaborations with other storytellers, poets, dancers and musicians.

For PAVE’s 10th anniversary season 2015, John again focused on a collaborative show – ‘a celebration in spoken word’ and fittingly advertised as a night of Literary Liaisons. This was a meld of storytelling, verse, music, dance and slide show staged in the Gem Community Theatre.

John’s cast of collaborators this year: storyteller Cora Zon (pictured), musicians John Piggott, Marg Gemell & Saskia Adams, student of classical voice Jessie Eastwood, and dance routine courtesy of Vivienne Rogis & Tashi Baiguerra.

Sadly JJ’s story Monsoon Donkey was neither filmed nor photographed. All I have are some photos from a rehearsal to share with you. However I think you can glean from these images that this mercurial artist is one of a kind and one to be valued.

Posted by Jackie Kerin 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Jan 'Yarn' Wositzky: ÇANAKKALE. GALLIPOLI. Lest We Forget. 2015


Some of you may have seen previous incarnations of my Turkish-Australian story music show about Gallipoli. Well, now it's going out as a solo version, with new material and my personal recollections of performing in Turkey.

 Details are below and in UPCOMING GIGS on my website

All the best, and hope to see you at a show.

Jan 'Yarn' Wositzky.

Sat 18 April 7.30 pm
Sutton Grange (on road from Castlemaine/Harcourt to Redesdale)
Tickets: $20
Bookings: Natalie McCarthy 0419 799 987 /

Sunday 26 April, 2.30pm 
Fountain Gate Overland Drive, Fountain Gate
Free show
Book: 87823300

Friday 1 May 
Aquatic Drive, Albert Park Lake (next to the Point Restaurant)
Parking: Out back of venue (metered)
Entry: Front of Venue (Lakeside)
$20 includes supper
Bookings:  / 03 96901233