The International
School of Storytelling

Newsletter No 2: April 2011

Dear Storytelling Friends,

Since our last newsletter in January nature has brought a glorious spring to Forest Row where Roi has been teaching together with Marianna deCroes from America – their students gave weekly performances to children at the local school and at Emerson college whilst Sue and Ashley were teaching in New Zealand meeting Rameses (!) and 14 enthusiastic tellers of stories; and last but not least Jim Pirrie and I have spent long hours building a new website which will allow you soon to book onto our courses online.

We have tried to incorporate some of your very valuable feedback in the newsletter and this will continue.

With warm wishes for your own adventures,

Yvette Dellsperger


Storytelling and Community - inspired by New Zealand

by Sue Hollingsworth

Ashley and Sue at the Woolshed with Rameses the Storytelling Sheep!
(photo by Pamela Meekings-Stewart)

I love bees and the bee has long been my totem creature. I love their purposefulness, the way they all live together in a small community so harmoniously, the contented sound of a beehive on a sunny day and the sweetness they produce. Now, the most popular matches in New Zealand are called Beehive matches. They’re in a red box with a stylized beehive on the front. Whilst I was there I heard the following story: when the competition to design a new Parliament building was announced in New Zealand, an architect was sitting in a café in Wellington. He idly picked up a box of Beehive matches that was lying on the table and wondered aloud whether it would be possible to construct a building in the shape of a beehive. Fast forward and that building, affectionately known as “The Beehive”, houses the government of a country that was the first to give women the vote and has famously championed awareness of the environment for decades. From such small moments do wonderful ideas emerge!

One such moment happened between Judy Frost-Evans and me in 2009. She was on her way back to her native New Zealand after a long sojourn in the UK and as we were walking up the steps to the Emerson car park she said, “My only regret is that I haven’t been able to do one of the longer storytelling courses with you and Ashley.” “That’s alright,” I heard myself say, “we’ll come to you!”

And that’s how Ashley and I found ourselves in North Island, New Zealand running a 5 week course called “The Storyteller in the Community” as well as evening classes and performances in February and March this year! Of course, it didn’t happen just like that – Judy took on to organize everything and she was as busy as a bee attracting 14 participants for the full time course and over 35 people who came to our evening classes.

The Class in New Zealand
(photo by Judy Frost-Evans)

The 5-week course itself took place in a converted wool shed (of course) in the hills above the little town of Pukerua Bay just north of Wellington where Ashley and I were joined by 11 fantastic Kiwis, as well as a participant from each of Australia, America and Holland. The Woolshed itself has a resident sheep called Rameses (“Ram - eses” – get it!) who had been brought up by owner Pamela Meekings-Stewart and so believed himself to be human. He was always available to listen to stories being practised and was a benign presence on the amazing landscape that surrounded The Wool Shed.

Te Ra Waldorf School hosted us for our Wednesday night evening classes where Ashley ran sessions for beginners and I led a women’s group who worked with the Grimm’s fairy tale, Cinderella (the original, not the Disney version!)

During the time we were there, the earthquake in Christchurch in South Island happened. One of our participants, Evelyn, who lives in Christchurch, had her house damaged and the whole course was affected: although New Zealand is a large country, there are only 4 million people living there and everyone knew someone in Christchurch. That’s when we found out how aptly the new Parliament building was named. Like bees, the whole community of New Zealand began to work together to save lives and provide care in the form of shelter, water and food to those affected.

Ashley and Sue teaching in New Zealand
(photo by Pamela Frost-Evans)

Air New Zealand immediately laid on extra flights to and from Christchurch at a flat rate of $50 (about £25) and within hours, emergency workers from all the country were on hand to restore power, sewerage and other essential services. Judy Frost-Evans was desperately trying to contact her son, Jason, who is a helicopter pilot in South Island and after many, many calls and texts, eventually received the classic, understated message,“IN CHRISTCHURCH, BIT BUSY.” She later discovered he was part of the team ferrying premature babies by air to hospitals all over the country where they could receive the care they desperately needed. The Principal of Te Ra School, Doris, (aka the woman who always says yes), made the school hall available for a benefit performance of Rumi and Hafiz that Ashley hosted, together with contributions from the full time participants and in this small way, we were able to do our bit too.

And as for the 14 graduating students of the Storyteller in the Community course? Well, after stunning final pres- entations and a public performance in St Peter’s Hall in Paekakaeriki where they received thunderous applause, they are out working in the community already.

Music meets story
(Photo by Pamela Frost-Evans))

Like worker bees, they have already been buzzing about spreading the sweetness of stories. I know about the newsletter they have started, the initiation camp for girls that stories have been told at, the sold out performance at Wellington Storytelling Club, the gathering they have organized for June and the discussions they are having about reviving the “Glistening Waters” Storytelling Festival and that’s only what I know: there will be more that I don’t know about.

And in the end, that’s surely what our work is all about – purposefully getting out there to tell our stories, creating a buzz, helping people to live together more harmoniously and of course, producing something sweet that can help nourish our everyday lives. Here’s to the beehive!








Chartres Cathedral - A Story in Glass and Stone

We’re running a trip to Chartres Cathedral in France in August. Here are some “did you knows” about the Cathedral compiled by Clara Passchier, who first went to Chartres in the womb and has been going back regularly ever since! She is one of course leaders in August.

Did you know:

that it has been a holy site since Celtic times, that since the 4th cent AD there was a chapel there and that it has housed since the 9th century the tunic that was said to have belonged to the Virgin Mary?

  • that the Cathedral was almost completely destroyed by fire in 1194AD and yet took only 30 years to rebuild, unheard of for a building of this size?
  • that the building contains images from the beginning of creation to the end of days?

  • that there are at least 3 zodiacs represented and part of a fourth?

  • that the famous labyrinth in the nave was designed and installed by master mason Scarlet in 1200 and used to have an image of Theseus killing the Minotaur at its centre?

  • that the story of the goddess Natura lamenting the loss of care of humans is at the heart of the monastery school of Chartres?

  • that the objective of the monastery school was the creation of a new soul for a new human being to care for Natura?

and finally, do you know what nearly happened to Ashley and Clara when they visited Chartres for the first time together in 1995? (you have to come on the trip to get that story!)

No previous storytelling experience is necessary, for more information on this 2 week course contact Yvette


Sarah Vaughan writes about


our new specialist course in working with children

Twelve storytellers gathered to be guided by two radiant teachers, Roi and Marianne. They beamed enthusiasm, and passion that stories must be told to children. Soon we too were fired from within - and tell stories we did!!

The five week course blazed past in a tremendous wave of industrious learning and telling. Alongside all of this, we were given an insightful picture into children’s devel- opment and discovered which stories mirror the changes which take place during the various stages of inner and outer growth. So, equipped with the gift of what story to tell and when, we were also carefully guided as to how to craft and deliver stories for different age groups. The icing on the cake was beautiful live enthusiastic children to tell to; audiences both at the local state primary school and at home in our storytelling hut. It was pure magic to observe them listening with wide eyed wonder to our stories.

A conversation arose at the heart of the course which I have taken in deeply. Put quite simply, children are in great need for stories: wholesome stories to nurture their imaginations. This is something which is not necessary a given these days as it may have been in the not too distant past. Imagination is more than ever in great danger of being dulled by over stimulation from television, computer games and advertising as well as a lack of nour- ishment. We contemplated the idea that imagination which is cultivated through story is not just a bonus extra or for amusement in childhood; indeed it is a crucial stage towards rightful thinking; the seed, if you like, of proper thinking in adulthood. Nowadays these delicate seeds of childhood imagination are on the whole abandoned in barren scrub lands. There is another choice, which is to plant and nurture the seeds in wholesome conditions. To sow story seeds in the right way at the right time supports youthful imagination transforming into healthy thinking. These essential messages give one a tremendous inner fire to get out there and tell to children.

Already, at the time of writing, which is only several weeks after the course, the majority of our group are telling stories to children around the globe. In addition I am delighted to reportt hat there are more plans afoot to nurture children’s imaginations with stories!

This wonderful course, ‘The Right Story at the Right Time’ encouraged and enlightened us to be not just planters of story seeds, but excellent, planters and gardeners who are tuned in with the changing seasons and the wonders of growth and transformation.

A huge thank you from us all to you both, Roi and Marianne, for your inspiring and enlightening leadership.

Sarah Vaughan

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