My trip to the conference and the Beyond the Boarders storytelling festival inspired the following short piece which I dedicate to everyone present this year.
[Picture from Redbubble.com]
The trees watched the people as they approached; but the people weren’t aware that the trees were watching. For time unmeasured the trees of the grove danced with the wind beside the sea. One day some people came. The trees didn’t understand why. The figures looked like small saplings to the trees. Saplings that pounded their roots on the ground but not in the earth; that drank water but not with their roots; that sang but not with the liquefied earth that the trees felt effortlessly flow through their trunks and branches. These saplings pounded the earth and drank water until they couldn’t walk, and sang until they couldn’t talk. And when the sun had set and risen three times the saplings, being uprooted, left for another place. The trees saw what the people did not know. The trees remembered that one day people came and may return to share their grove beside the sea. Until then the trees of the grove danced with the wind beside the sea.
At St Donat’s Castle with a view of the sea through the large glass windows we pulled around our chairs and talked about stories, storytelling research, and what the possible future of storytelling research could be. This event was organised by Steven Killick (Cardiff) and Alette Willis (Edinburgh).
As there was a problem with PowerPoint on the day I reinvented my presentation on the spot, and it was probably a much better presentation for it. But as I failed to use my recorder here is a link to the talk I planned to give on the day: BTBPresentation.
Alette Willis summarised the morning session appropriately when she used the word ‘connect’: ‘storytelling enables connections’ against a global disconnection. Stories do this by connecting us ‘to meaning and metaphor’, to one another. By gathering together practitioners who use story in their work and storytelling researchers Steven and Alette opened up a dialogue which acknowledged the need to be able to answer the nonbeliever (of stories) when asked, ‘Why should I care about story? Why should I fund its research?’
To give you a brief idea of what was discussed (here goes): Prue Thimbleby talked about stories in care situations such as reading stories in nursing homes, and using life narrative so that people’s voices could be heard during breast reconstruction appointments; Elizabeth Vooght brought up playfulness therapy and the work of Kamberelis (2003) which seems to have ties to my own research through negotiating the self and narratives (so watch this space); storyteller Dafydd Davies-Hughes described how he uses storytelling with young people on probation in Welsh communities; Fiona Collins told us about her storytelling revival questionnaire and shared some of the wonderful responses; Laura Simms talked about her experience of stories repairing disconnections, that is how she was able to use transformative stories with ex-child soldiers and communities to enable people to talk and construct new narratives; Janet Dowling discussed stories and bereavement, including the use of stories in therapeutic practice; Suzie Doncaster, a language therapist, talked about confidence in communication; Nicola Grove who wrote the book Using Storytelling to Support Children andAdults with Special Needs discussed using story with people who have learning difficulties; Emily briefly touched on how women tell stories of their bodies across art forms; Jess Wilson talked about the use of storytelling by psychiatric nurses; Trish Chilton, a speech language therapist, considered social construction and meaning-making in relation to stories and how we need to think in creative ways to research stories (so lots of ties to my research); Rosa Durand outlined work that she had done with federal police in Mexico, training police officers to tell stories in the community to promote peace; Karen Lewis talked about work done at the George Ewart Evans Centre For Storytelling, and then Steve Killick and Alette Willis drew the morning session to a close.
Steve Killick summarised how ‘stories are a powerful way of working with people’ so that ‘it’s become incredibly important to start filling that in’ with research.