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  • Writer's picturekatrice horsley

A storyteller? What do you actually do?

Updated: Aug 24, 2022

I am often asked this question and I thought the best way to answer is to tell you about the work I have done in the past couple of months. I will share just two pieces of work that I was recently employed to do.

The first was for Tussenland Festival in Netherlands. I worked there for 4 days and this is what I did:

Day 1 - I gave 2 workshops to teachers on ´Building Learning Identities´ with their students, through using narrative based methods. (A positive learning identity is essentially a story that a student believes about themselves being a talented learner.)

Day 2 - I was asked by the Festival to create a story performance that echoed the experience of Covid, as this was the first festival to be held after the pandemic. I created a 60 minute show called The 7 Shadow Gates. In it I used the ancient story of Inanna and her descent into the underworld as a metaphor for our descent into the darkness of the pandemic. Inanna recovers and is able to come back to life because she is remembered. The show was all about remembrance as a tool for recovery. I also performed a short story at an evening ceilidh.

Day 3 - I designed and delivered a workshop for members of the public on 'Who Owns Our Story.' I worked alongside an amazing illustrator, Melanie Kranenburg and the public made visual representations of the stories they wanted to create in the future, both for themselves and for their community. In the evening I performed a 60 minute show called, 'Travels of my Great Aunt Kate'. It is based on true life tales and traditional stories from the British Isles.

Day 4 - I delivered the 'Who Owns our Story' workshop again and performed 'The 7 Shadow Gates for the second time. Audience members cried and people came up after and said they were very moved by the show. For me this meant it was worth the 3 months of work I had put into creating it.

After returning home I received emails from teachers who had attended the workshop and sent them support material. You can see from the work at the festival that a whole range of skills come into play when working as a storyteller/narrative consultant. It is one of the reasons I truly love my work and the people it brings me into contact with. The woman who (along with her husband), organised the festival was truly inspiring. Without the 'organisers' of all these events I could not do my work.

The second piece of work I want to share with you, was a wonderful life-affirming experience. My colleague, the great storyteller and trainer and all-round wonder-woman, Clare Murphy put me in touch with the Women's Sports Leaders Academy who were running a week-long residential in the UK for women sports leaders from all across the globe. They needed a storyteller to support the women in developing confidence around public speaking, presentation skills and in being able to tell their stories. I was to work with the group for just half a day and this would lead to some 'performances´ that would be shared with the stakeholder on the evening. Needless to say the pressure was on.

I worked very closely with Leading Edge, who were brought in to organise the training and knew that I wanted every woman who participated, (there were 24) to have her voice heard. I decided that the best way to do this was to have some kind of 'greek chorus' or 'call and response' element to highlight sections of the stories that we would create. I also wanted the stories that the women created to contain elements of all of their experiences as female leaders within sports. I know how hard it is as a woman to have my voice heard and valued; in the sports world this is even more pronounced. We only have to think of the horror inflicted on the USA Women's Gymnastics Team to know the truth of that.

In view of all of this I created a narrative based process whereby the women told their personal stories and used the shared themes that came up to create two main narratives that reflected those shared experiences. This formed the first section of the training. We then used these stories as 'rehearsal material' to build up skills around performance/presentation skills. The stories were divided into sections for each woman to tell. For those women who did not want to tell a section of the story 'alone,' there was the option of being part of the 'chorus' and having their voice heard in unison with others - some of this included movements and dance too which was great!

These women were all inspiring and had achieved so much and I was humbled by being with them. Truly a really powerful experience.

One of the added bonuses of doing any of this work, is the fact that you get to meet other people along the way. During the WSLA work I was privileged to see and hear the dynamic dynamo who is Magali (Dolo) Higgins-Casey at work. If you have the chance to work with her - do it! I was also incredibly impressed with the work that had been done over the whole week by the deft and supportive Sarah Wright - another woman to work alongside if you have the chance.

So, that is it - a brief uncovering of just two of the stones of possibility that lie beneath the roots of the great tree that is story and storytelling. My future works involves delivering a 'future visioning' day in Lithuania, helping a multinational organisation train employees in developing their 'elevator pitch,' coaching individuals, finding a new publisher for the book on my work - ( the previous publisher was a casualty of Covid unfortunately) and ......... developing an online training course - Watch this space!

Please feel free to reach out if you are interested in working with me or if you are just curious about what I do. Thanks for reading this! Katrice

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