"Miles from anywhere at Sinjarheim in the Aurland Valley, Norway" (photo by Jorun Barane)
This summer I've been working in nature a lot: a week taking a group along the Ridgeway, another week with another group round the Pembrokeshire coastal path, a week in Denmark with the Scandinavian Storytelling Seminar where the weather was so spectacular that we worked outside for much of the time and also a walking trip to the fjords in Norway to visit the storyteller Jorun Barane and explore storytelling possibilities in her beautiful town of Aurland. By the time you read this I will be in South Africa and looking forward to leading another story walk in the Cederberg Mountains in November. There are many reasons why I enjoy being outside but the incredible feeling of health and well being must surely be top of the list. Surrounded as I normally am by brick walls, central heating, time schedules and wi-fi and mobile phone emanations, being in nature is quite literally a breath of fresh air and many participants reflect back just how well they feel at the end of the week. More and more I am coming to understand that just being outside and walking on the earth or simply being exposed to the elements can cure many of our modern ills.
Here is a story which happened on the Ridgeway:
On the last day of walking along the Ridgeway, as we neared our final destination of Avebury stone circle, we came around a bend in the path to find a man standing on a small stone bridge, gazing intently into the water below. He was about 50 years old wearing a crisp white shirt and tie and highly polished brown brogues, obviously a business man. He looked completely out of place in the middle of the countryside. I fell into conversation with him as we waited for everyone to catch up. He had come to check the level of the water in the stream as he was a local fisherman. I said we were walking the Ridgeway and then he stopped for a moment and said, “Have you seen those beech clumps up on the Ridge?” I nodded: not only had we seen these beautifully circular clumps of trees but also, under the guidance of Richard Heys, we had drawn them and remarked on what a feature of the landscape they were. “Would you like to hear a silly story about them?” he then asked. “Yes!” we said, gathering around, not telling him we were a storytelling group.
“Well, my son has Tourette's Syndrome. When he was younger he would have uncontrollable fits and rages, nothing we could do would calm him, it was very difficult for the whole family. One windy autumn evening when he was again uncontrollable, to give my wife a break, I drove him up onto the Ridgeway. I parked by one of those beech clumps. The trees were thrashing around, making a terrible noise, just like he was too. I got him out of the car and led him over to the trees, I don't know why. Suddenly, he wrenched his hand free of mine and ran and stood with his back against one of those creaking trunks, gazing upward into the night sky to where the branches were being tossed about. Almost immediately I noticed that he began to calm down. We stayed up there together, backs against the trees for about 20 minutes until he was completely still and then I drove home. After that, whenever he was disturbed I drove him up to those trees and they always helped.”
There was a short silence and then he said, “Told you it was a silly story didn't I?”
Wherever you are as autumn turns toward winter here in the northern hemisphere, don't forget as the nights draw in, you turn your heating on and through the window nature looks to be particularly inhospitable, that a short time outside (with or without a good story!) may be just what you need too.
UK Visa situation
At the end of July, the British government changed their policy for coming into the UK to study. Students coming from the European Economic Area and Switzerland, have been unaffected but anyone coming from outside this group, for no matter how long, cannot now come into the country to take a course. This decision has meant that students from Australia and Canada who were hoping to take the 3 month Heart and Craft course this autumn have not been able to take up their places. On a wider scale, all over the UK, Universities and Colleges have been affected with terrible stories of students in the 3rd year of a degree course for which they have paid up to £50,000 not being able to finish their studies here. This particular legislation is being challenged in the courts at the moment as it seems absurd. We have taken legal advice which has advised us to wait and see if the legal challenges are successful and we are also exploring whether calling our courses conferences or festivals might be a way forward. In the meantime, please check the up to date visa situation on the internet when you make a reservation with us, speak with Yvette about specific rules - and watch this space ….
Friends of the School of Storytelling
It's been a year since the International School of Storytelling regained its Charitable status after having to become independent from Emerson College. In this last year we have given over £30,000 of bursary help to 55 students to study storytelling with us which is wonderful news!
Now we need to fill up our coffers again so that we can continue helping people from all over the world to discover and explore the world of storytelling that we offer. We are aiming to raise a minimum of £30,000 per year to continue our work and we really need your help.
To launch our bursary fund appeal, we will be giving 2 performances in the Storytelling Hut at Emerson College in Forest Row on Thursday, January 10th and Saturday, April 27th at 7.30pm to which you are warmly invited. Ashley, Sue and Roi will be joined by storyteller June Peters who is also one of our Trustees to tell stories on the theme of The Gift. Entrance will be by donation and you can be as generous as you like! For those of you who are UK tax payers, Yvette will have Gift Aid registration forms available so that we can claim back an additional 25% of what you donate from the Government. From then on our performances will be by donation so that we can raise as much tax free money as possible to help future students.
But that's not all! If you've had the experience of being helped and are now in a position to help someone else, or if you would just like to help support and develop our work in the world, you can become a Friend of the School of Storytelling by making a monthly donation (minimum £5 a month) by standing order (details below). This is the very best way you can help us, as a regular and secure monthly income helps us plan courses and other activities into the future. As a Friend of the School, in addition to the newsletter you will also receive:
a 10% discount on the published prices of our courses (unless otherwise stated)
an annual invitation to a special Friends storytelling performance and bash
£5 off the cost of Ashley and Sue's new book “The Storyteller's Way; Sourcebook for Inspired Storytelling” RRP £25 (to be published in December 2012)
special offers as they become available
If you feel inspired to start helping us RIGHT NOW, please either print off the form below, fill it in and take it into your Bank or go to our website to make a one -off donation – you can find the link under here