Encouraging children to listen to, share and nurture their imaginations through storytelling is the cornerstone of the Federation of Children’s Book Group’s Jean Russell Storytelling Project and the 2 day StoryFest involving 5 primary schools in Weston-super-Mare certainly achieved its aim to inspire children to learn storytelling skills.
The children rose to the occasion magnificently. They were asked to perform stories from India, from Ancient Greece and from Olde England – not only did they clearly understand the narrative arcs of the stories, but they intuitively recognised how the stories were developing. Engrossed in Anna’s and their peers’ performances, they followed the changing relationships of the protagonists, identifying the key events that shaped and moved the stories and their own evolving emotions. The volunteer actors ad-libbed brilliantly and in character, bouncing ideas off each other, the audience and Anna as part of the stories’ co-creation.
Each story had its own moral heart – whether it was the power of true love in the story of Shiva and Sati, the need to forgive to maintain friendship in the story of Apollo and Daphne or the importance of confronting and naming our fears, in the tale of the Fearsome Giant. And the children intuitively understood this underpinning morality and could apply it to their own lives. They were encouraged by Anna to develop the stories further – to extend the characters, consider what might happen next, or what could happen next. It will be fascinating to read their stories.
I was most moved by the silence of the whole audience after Year 5 listened to the Fearsome Giant as the young boy-king faced his worst innermost fears and successfully challenged them, and I will never forget young Shiva – a Year 2 girl, head bound by a golden-sequinned scarf – running round the world and dancing to keep the Earth turning with the broadest and most joyful grin you could hope to see.
Swindon next! And then working with Year 5 children in a school in Reading to perform a BRAND NEW story from Reading at the Whitley Arts Festival on Saturday 18th June. Come and see us all there.