Performing stories is a powerful way of helping children to liberate their imagination, to experience joy in play and to gain confidence in expressing themselves through their own performances. The most recent Jean Russell Storytelling events at Swindon, with Aldbourne CBG, and at Reading, with Reading CBG, were powerful demonstrations of just that.
Performance storytelling is cathartic – it provides emotional release – not only of unhappiness or distress but also of joy – and at both events the children were brimming with pure, unadulterated happiness. “It was so exciting to see them performing on stage” said the Light Up Whitley WhitFest organiser.
Anna’s careful mentoring of her child performers at Swindon and at Reading made them feel safe and secure; she gave them permission to step into a mythical world of Minotaurs and golden threads through complex labyrinths and to step back in time to the era of their grandparents and great-grandparents. And, as their confidence grew, they visibly took ownership of the stories; by the end of the WhitFest performance the children were themselves moving the stories along and encouraging others’ performances.
“A great event: It was great to see the impact Anna had had on the children
and to see them enjoying the performances”
At New Christ Church School, Reading, Anna and her small team of helpers worked with small groups to perform seven local stories, taken from the pictorial and oral archives of the local Whitley Museum and of Aspire2 (and thank you to these charities for their support in this project). The small group format freed up the quieter children to step into the foreground and they blossomed as the day progressed.
This shows a deep truth – it is not always the most obviously extroverted child who immediately responds to performance storytelling. The archetypal myths often appeal to the quietly imaginative child. The Head of New Christ Church School was delighted to see that these quieter children stepped up to the microphone brimming with confidence and enjoyment.
Storytelling not only frees the imagination and grows self-confidence, it also allows time for the development of the understanding of self and others, and for reflection of deeper emotional messages. The story of Daedalus, Theseus and The Minotaur, performed to and with the pupils of Robert-le-Kyng School in Swindon, touched on not only the creative problem solving and imaginative engineering that resolved the story, but also on resilience, on the advantages of working together and on striving to do your best at all times.
“The feedback from the children was great” said the Head, who also commented on how the myth picked up on the themes of the school’s NED programme: ‘Never Give Up; Encourage Others; Do Your Best’. All the children enjoyed the performance, the story and the comedic touches.
The final Jean Russell Storytelling Project for the summer takes place with Birmingham CBG on 28th and 29th June before taking a break before the autumn term. I know the two days at Longbridge will prove to be as exhilarating and inspiring as the other events have been so far.