What a moving and inspiring day the first event with Anna Conomos, Jean Russell Storyteller, proved to be! The myth of Jason and the Argonauts capturing the Golden Fleece has never been so dramatically performed as it was by Anna and the 14 children and young people from Uplands School in Swindon and from the Children’s Unit at the Great Western Hospital.
Armed with hats, feathers, Greek costume, a thunder stick, bows, arrows and cannon balls, Anna involved all the children in her performance storytelling. Theseus the Clever sported bright goggles and baubles, Achilles the Swift shot his arrow from his hospital bed and Hercules the Powerful rowed the Argo to Colchis with all his friends.
Anna has the gift of making everyone become part of the story, from becoming the rocks that part for the boat, to choosing and miming eating the food, to waving the musical instruments and singing the lullaby at the end. Her many-headed monster, draped in 5 coloured fabrics, was brilliantly re-enacted by the children, who roared with their fiercest faces to frighten Jason as he stole the fleece for Pelleas.
And after a well-deserved break, Anna worked with older young people in the hospital’s Education Other Than At School department, helping them to create their own stories, looking at the ending of an African tale of the Tiger’s Whisker. The young people shared their endings and openly shared the message of the story for them: the need for patience, the need to keep trying and how fear can sometimes get in the way. They also explored with Anna how to physicalize the story, creating tableaux to build the scenes together before ending with a song.
Andrea Honey, organiser and Education Head, was delighted with the day, calling it an ‘invaluable experience’, saying ‘it was perfect’ and noting how the children were captivated by Anna and her performance. The children said it was ‘wonderful’, enjoying the full sensory experience, ‘great for taking your mind off things and doing something different’ and they enjoyed listening and taking part.
 Uplands is a school for students with severe or profound learning difficulties and/or on the Autistic Spectrum Condition, all with statements of Special Educational Needs.