"Hodjah Nasruddin! What do they do with the old full moons?"
"They cut them up into small pieces and make the stars!"
Any human life and biographical journey on this earth may feel at times like riding a giant roller-coaster swinging between opposite experiences in a funfair of events and possibilities.
Listening to autobiographical stories of people I meet in my work I never stop marvelling at the vastness of the creative source from which come to life countless individual stories. This infinite source of narratives, possibilities and variations expresses itself in 'real life' with even more imaginative story plots than those we find in traditional 'fictional' wonder tales.
Do you have a name for this 'virtual' source?
Can you observe its work inside/outside yourself?
Could it live in between things?
How active or passive are you in relationship to it?
Some old stories told from the beginning of time contain the secret that the latest scientific view of the world reveals: that everything in this world is in the process of continued movement, development and transformation.
But there is something in the depths of the human soul that hungers for wholeness, stability and solid ground to hold on to. Out of this need, some of us construct and hold on to the security of an Identity - based on a profession, religion, social conventions and norms, family roles, financial status etc… while others go on a spiritual journey to 'search for and find themselves'…
Hodjah Nasruddin was often seen pouring some yoghurt out of a cup into a certain lake.
"Nasruddin, what are you doing?" a man asked.
"I am turning the lake into yoghurt", Mullah Nasruddin replied.
"Can a little bit of yeast ferment the great lake?" the man asked while others laughed at Nasruddin.
"You never know - perhaps it might," Hodjah Nasruddin replied, "Just imagine WHAT IF it should!"
WHAT IF we ourselves are made of the same elements of possibility, movement and change the universe is made of? Could it be that we build and hold on to the story of an identity simply because we fear who we truly are? That is: beings of endless transformation, growth and change. Beings of BECOMING.
Working with Becoming is essential to many of the new storytelling courses I currently teach. By shifting my awareness to the place of 'Becoming', I notice the chance I am given at any moment to participate in co-creating and shaping the happenings around me. Connecting with the quality of change in me and with my capacity to change help me find gates to inspiration, creativity, spontaneity and intuition that guide me.
"And so long as you haven't experienced this: to die and so to become.
You’ll be but a troubled guest on the dark earth."
As a storyteller, when I tell traditional tales I engage in the worthy task of protecting and preserving ancient wisdom. But I also face the great dangers of getting stuck in the past, the familiar, tradition, old habits and old patterns of thinking. Working with 'Becoming' I can create fresh stories and consciously examine the stories of the past against the emerging story of the moment. This can give a whole new meaning to any event or story from the past and can offer new insights for actions into the future. For storytellers, working consciously with becoming can open a way to welcome change and flexibility and to search for, find, create, let go of and constantly recreate a new language to express and meet the emerging new stories of this time. A language of resurrection.
One day some people decided to play a trick on Hodjah Nasruddin. They came to his door holding a little bird cupped in their hands planning to ask Nassrudin whether it was alive or dead. If he said it was alive they would crush it to show him he was wrong. If he said it was dead they would let it fly away and still fool him. When they found the wise old man they said, "Oh wise Hodjah Nasruddin, the bird which we are holding, is it alive or dead?" Nasruddin thought for a moment and then looked into their eyes and replied, "The answer, my dear friends… is in your hands!"
The Festival we are planning for August is roaring ahead on all fronts. Everyone invited has responded with an enthusiastic YES! As you may have heard, the gathering will open with a keynote address on Friday 23rd from Ben Okri, the award winning poet and novelist whose words about story have often inspired us. Other luminaries, who have promised performances are: Jan Blake, Hugh Lupton, Helen Chadwick, Nick Hennessey, Wendy and Michael Dacre, David Campbell, Malcolm Green, June Peters, Chris Salisbury and many more for you to check out online. There will be events for families, teenagers, story walks and ceilidhs, taster workshops, dragons and clowns!
Everything is taking shape as we write and the programme will be up on our website after Easter. You can sign up for Festival tweets and bookings can be taken from April 15th.
The Alumni Gathering is from 6pm on Weds August 21st to 5.30pm on Thursday 22nd (ie right before the Festival itself). To attend you need to have completed at least one 5 week training course with us over the years (The Craft of the Storyteller, the Now of Storytelling, The Heart and Craft of Storytelling, The Right Story at the Right Time, The Storyteller in the Community, Your Journey Your Voice, Storytelling as a Performing Art). If you book a Festival package and Alumni Gathering at the same time, the Alumni Gathering is totally free! There will be limited accommodation at the College so if you need this, please book early.
Ashley and Sue
Earth Speaks: A Tale for these times
It seems that nature has been, for a long time, trying to get our attention, for she has a story to tell. It is a tale of wonder, a tale of woe, a tale of glory, of beauty and adventure beyond the imagination. But to hear this tale is a journey in itself.
The first part of the Earth Speaks course took 14 experienced and new storytellers on this journey. Deeper and deeper into the heart of the earth, into the heart of ourselves, so that we can listen, hear this tale and deliver it back. In these changing times we find ourselves in, there has never been a greater need for this story to be told and for this story to be heard.
The course is a beautiful combination of geomancy (earth divination) with Karmit and storytelling with Roi. It is not like any other storytelling course on offer, it is something quite other. Allowing us participants an opportunity to deliciously slow right down, and allow our intuitive self to step forward and simply listen, on a deeper level than ever before.
Outside, opening up all our senses and working very much from the place of the heart, we approached spaces in nature, and I have to say it was quite incredible what comes through, when you balance the logical, rational thinking self, with completely opening, sensing and using your intuition. It was liberating. Using movement, sound and words, we embodied nature, allowing her to speak to us and through us. We wove beautiful poetry and stories, that took us on journeys, much like the Wonder Tales themselves.
Inside, guided by Karmit, we journeyed deep into the earth, to meet with Gaia, collecting and entwining our journeys into stories to provide a collective essence of what we had experienced.
The course was very much a course of the 'heart', for this is the place we would spend most of our time working from, because it is the energy of the heart that allows the channels to open and connect us to nature, allowing the story to simply unfold.
I remember the first time I spoke those words – it was at a family wedding and it was four years after I had told my first story at the School of Storytelling. It was at that moment that my path through life changed. Although I had told stories in the cosy warmth of the storytelling hut, it was this “I am” moment where I challenged myself to walk the talk – I was going to be a storyteller.
My first love was the human voice – the immediate impact of tone, volume and the taste of words as they come to life in the mouth. I spent the first part of my life as a drama geek; my hand would shoot up involuntarily anytime a teacher asked someone to read the textbook aloud to the class and I performed in every school play. This led me to study acting and directing at Goldsmiths University where I discovered my passion for teaching and education.
By the summer of 2008, I was a fully trained secondary school teacher and had attended my first storytelling workshop at the School of Storytelling. I remember watching Ashley and Roi on stage in Ruskin Hall and thinking “I want to do that”, but I never thought I would. Mortgages, tax, student debt and the challenges of a Career in Education were calling. Working with teenagers and young people, sharing my love of the spoken word and with dreams of inspiring the next generation, I spent five years working in various high schools and special education institutions. Running through that time, like a flow of energy and vitality that kept me hopeful in the face of statistics, data and exam reports, was the School of Storytelling. Education is an incredible profession, but the politics and ever changing government-moulded methods of teaching wore down my spirit. Throughout it all stories and the ways of communication and community that storytelling creates kept me going.
Storytelling is not reading aloud, or reading from a book. It is not a polished performance, rehearsed and directed to an audience whose faces are lost in the darkened theatre. Storytelling brought a joy, experience of the now and a kind of connection with an audience - whether in the classroom, a museum or in the storytelling hut - that I had not experienced before. It is such a simple art form that brings great joy to those who hear and tell. Since first speaking the words “I am a storyteller”, I have experienced for myself the power of storytelling in schools, for teenagers, for sceptics and cynics, for community and for the individual.
It is hard to fully express how excited I am for the coming months as I begin my work as a new member of the team at the School of Storytelling. I have a particular interest in storytelling in education, in developing the imagination and a love of Scandinavian mythology. I look forward working with the team and (if I’m very lucky) to meeting you one day soon!
The Storyteller's Way: Sourcebook for Inspired Storytelling
At last, here it is, dedicated to all of you who have attended our courses over the years.
Inside you'll find fifteen fabulous chapters, exercises we did together, ( and new ones we've developed over the years) stories to practise and pass on to others, inspiration for you to use in your own workshops and adventures in storytelling.
Without you this book would not have been possible. Please pass on the news.
With love and gratitude
Sue and Ashley
The Storyteller's Way
A sourcebook for inspired storytelling
Sue Hollingsworth and Ashley Ramsden
Here is the long awaited storytelling masterwork from storytellers Sue Hollingsworth and Ashley Ramsden. The Storyteller’s Way is the fruit of over 25 years of educating storytellers. The authors share the trials and triumphs of their personal journeys and explore what it means to be a storyteller today. The Storytellers Way is designed to help people become confident and inspiring storytellers. This easy-to-follow guide is complete with story exercises, activities, inspiring quotes, humour and tips.
The Storyteller’s Way is for storytellers, coaches, teachers, leaders, parents, librarians and anyone needing a helpful storytelling resource. It contains a wealth of successful tried-and-tested methods for improving storytelling, with helpful exercises to practise skills and build confidence. The concise and engaging instructions make it a pleasure to use, with clear diagrams to ease understanding.
Contents: Starting Out and First Steps- Nuts and Bolts; the Basics and Beyond; the Senses; Rhythm and Repetition; Polarities; Temperaments; Thresholds; Dynamics; Gestures; Gazes; Relating; Silence; Levels of Language; Voice; The Deeper Current-Self Development and Storytelling; Quotes; Stories; Tips; Exercises; Examples; Resources
Book details: ISBN:978-1-907359-19-4; 228 x 186mm Portrait; 256pp approx Paperback; £20.00; Storytelling Series; published by Hawthorn Press