Guest Blog: Kirsty Cassels
This Autumn, I’m very much looking forward to working with Shona Cowie from The Village Storytelling Centre, to run a series of architectural model making workshops for Women’s Aid surrounding the topic of SHELTER.
We’ll be working with a select group of around 10 women from a local Women’s Aid collective which
provides information, support and refuge, if needed, for women, children & young people who are
experiencing or have experienced domestic abuse.
We’ll be exploring themes of Scale & Massing; Light & Shadow; Spatial Awareness; and Sound to discover the stories of SHELTER resulting in a series of architectural models that deliver a range of alternative spaces from which we can incorporate the powerful stories of our participants and promote awareness of the Domestic Abuse within the local community.
Kirsty Cassels, Architectural Designer and Director of the Scottish Ecological Design Association
What Happens When You Share Stories With A Young Child?
Something clicked for me when I heard it explained like this;
We used to think that the brain developed to a certain place at which point we could start to use
language. Now we understand that is through language that the brain develops.
Each time a very young child is engaged with through word or gesture, signals are fired and neural
pathways are created and strengthened which over time literally constructs the physical brain. This
isn’t metaphor, stories build young brains!
And we know now that this language development starts as soon as hearing starts, at about 22
weeks inside the womb. It’s never too early to start sharing stories, cool eh?
So that’s the science and what about all the other good stuff? Like the role that stories play in
opening up new worlds and landscapes as well as offering different perspectives on familiar ones.
Stories offer us safe places to rehearse life and try out multiple ways of navigating our complex
society. When we share stories with children it builds their ability to empathise, as BBC’s Alex
Winter says, children who regularly hear stories…
“…find it easier to understand other people – they show more empathy and have better
developed theory of mind (the ability to understand that other people have different
thoughts and feelings to us, which is essential for understanding and predicting other
people’s thoughts and behaviour).”
And they don’t have to be fairy tales or charmingly goofy toothed monster rambles, they don’t even
have to be good. Sharing your mornings commute is sharing a part of you. The stories of our
heritage and culture, our friends and family yarns, these are the golden nuggets we can pass on and
all work to build a strong and colourful imagination. As we say at The Village, everyone has stories to
tell and we are all worthy of being heard.
Most importantly when I ask the parents of young children that I work with what they hope to get
out of story sessions they say, “quality time with my child.” Stories bring us together.
Following the success of the 2016 Village Storytelling Festival, we have been funded for a second year, by Creative Scotland, to produce another festival in July 2017. The culmination of last year’s festival was marked by the performance of a specially commissioned piece called, ‘A Circumnavigation’ by Storyteller Ian Stephen. We are delighted to be able to offer another opportunity for a storyteller/performance artist based in Scotland to create a performance that responds to the brief detailed below. The Village Storytelling Centre is dedicated to the art of storytelling and the power that stories can have in changing lives. We wish to commission a performance that reflects these aims and celebrates the thriving storytelling scene in Scotland.
We are looking for a performance piece lasting from 45 minutes to an hour that actively positions storytelling as its main art form. We will welcome collaborations with other art forms as part of the performance but we expect storytelling to be the predominant focus. A key focus of the festival is the tradition of storytelling on the contemporary stage, so your proposal should reflect this by exploring new creative territory in storytelling. Within this parameter you can explore any genre, from folklore to post-modern, from myth to autobiography and anything in between. However, we are passionate about narrative and expect to see this in your work. We will be looking for you to demonstrate both your understanding of storytelling and articulate your experience in the field. The theme for this year’s festival is ‘Roots and New Shoots’, we will expect the storyteller/performer to be able to articulate clearly how their piece reflects this theme.
The performance will take place on Saturday July 8th at 7:30pm at the Centre for Contemporary Art, Glasgow.
We can offer a fee of £750 to include all preparation and performance and we will also cover additional expenses associated with attending the festival.
Please send a proposal on one side of A4 paper with an accompanying CV by 5pm on Friday 24th February 2017 to Daniel Serridge by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
The successful artist will be notified by Friday 3rd March 2017.
For any informal enquiries please contact Daniel Serridge on 0141 882 3025.
Festivals, Festivals, Festivals!
Often, only when you start planning for something do you see the sheer range of work that is already out there. Organising next weeks Village Storytelling Festival has led us to explore so many of the wonderful storytelling festivals around the UK and further afield. Many of them have caught our eye but it was the festival that appears on the horizon just as ours winds down that piqued our interest. Settle Stories starts the Friday after our festival finishes and we could think of no better opportunity to link up with this beautifully situated festival perched high in the Yorkshire Dales. We decided to have a chat with their Artistic Director, Sita Brand.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, what’s your story?
My story? I was born and brought up in India and I came to live in the UK at 15. I loved stories ever since I was a little girl, in fact my mother used to be worried that I either wasn’t able to read or had difficulty reading because I would constantly say, even into my teens, ‘please tell me a story, tell me a story’ and I loved being read to and I loved listening to stories and then when I left University I saw a job advertised for a storyteller and I thought ‘oh perfect, I can do that!’. So I applied for the job and got it and that was about 25 years ago, no more than that actually, 30 years ago, oh bloody hell, I got old! I’ve done lots of different things in my career but have always used story and then when I moved up to Settle I did more straight storytelling and that’s how I got here.
Why Settle on Settle?
Well, I came up here to visit an old family friend, a women who used to visit us when we were in India. I just fell in love with Settle, I thought this place is magical, like a whole other world. I loved the hills, I loved the dales. My mother comes from East Yorkshire or rather her ancestry is in East Yorkshire, her mother’s side of the family and I felt like I was coming home so ended up here in this very beautiful, magical part of the world.
What are your favourite stories?
I love stories with strong female characters, I love Indian stories and I love ghost stories. More recently I’ve got into developing things that mix fact and fiction. So my new storytelling show, Memories of an Indian Childhood uses my own story growing up in India intertwined with folk tales. At the festival I’m doing a new piece called Down the Rabbit Hole, which is based on Lorina, who is Alice in Wonderland’s sister. She goes down the rabbit hole and we here of her adventures with the creatures she meets.
Do you ever feel like Alice in your real life?
No I probably feel a bit more like Lorina because she’s a bit more bolshie! Alice in Wonderland is a book I loved as a child and I do love the sense of magic and being in a different environment where the things are not what you expect and a bit odd. I think that’s my idea of happiness.
If you could be any classic story character who would you be and why?
That is a difficult question. I don’t know. I can tell you a story I adored as a child and the character I wanted to be then. I loved Rapunzel; I desperately wanted to have long golden hair and to be carried away by a prince. Now that I’m older I’m not sure that’s the story that I want for myself. I think probably I would rather be a character called, Tenali Raman. Tenali Raman is a South Indian trickster character a bit like Anansi but he was very clever and a courtier in the kings court and he would do clever things. I liked the idea of being clever so I’d probably choose a clever trickster character.
Who or what are you really excited about for this year’s Settle Stories?
I’m very excited about Martin Shaw, who is coming up and doesn’t come up North very often and he’s a fantastic mythteller. I’m very excited about Alfie Moore. Alfie is more a comedian, a different type of storytelling and he’s a Copper turned comedian. He’s very funny and makes me laugh a lot! I’m also excited about the political and more contemporary element of the festival, we’ve got a talk called Storytelling for Change with Alia Alzougbi from Lebanon and Githanda Githae
from Kenya. They’re talking about how storytelling makes change and how it can change the world. I think that it’s a subject that is very important to me and close to my heart. Those are my top three.
Since the festival began, can you identify one or two favourite performances over the years?
The first time Jan Blake came was very exciting. Settle is a very White area and I was very keen that we brought something from a cross cultural perspective and every year we make sure that the festival profiles artists from different cultures. This first time, when we had Jan, people would say, ‘we don’t usually have Black artists here’. It was a very good performance and you could hear a pin drop in the audience, it was really very special and brilliant. The second time was when, we first came up with our regular event Hunt the Storyteller. So we came up with this idea that the people would go looking for a storyteller and exchange some magic beans. So with your bean, you’ll hunt down a storyteller with a gold hat and you’ll exchange your beans for a little story. Having loads of families and kids, over excited and running around and telling stories to one another was a real delight, a wonderful experience. I find it magical when I think about the distances people travel to come to the festival and how they’ll queue in the rain to come to events. The first time we hosted an event in the library there were queues around the block and to experience people queuing for the library, they’d never had so many people in the library at one time before. That for me was very important because it was getting people close to books and stories in a myriad of forms and for that I feel proud that we can make a small contribution. We are always looking for different ways for audiences to encounter stories. We find this year that the animation workshop is drawing in people who have never been to the festival but they are very interested in animation.
We’ve covered the past and the present and now it’s time to look ahead, what’s the future of Settle Stories?
We are following on from our theme of different ways of doing things by being involved in a large interactive digital storytelling project. We’ve been exploring digital storytelling for the last few years, holding storytelling events on Google hangout, rented realities, QR codes to kick off bits of storytelling but we are now going to take this one stage further. We are working with some app makers, writers and artists to create a digital interactive storytelling experiences. So its not a film, not a book, not a storytelling performance as such but there’ll be a range of ways for people to engage with storytelling and the festival. We are also about to start a training programme called The Storytellers Art, for 5 lucky people to train and develop their storytelling skills. We’re hoping to expand on that in the coming years, looking at ways in which we can support storytellers in their own professional development and those who are newer to the profession to enter the profession. There’ll also be more eclectic events coming up in Settle and we want to start using mindfulness to help people develop their story. We are still trying to work with a broad section of the community across different media and ultimately trying to bring people from different walks of like to engage with storytelling and to make storytelling more popular for all of us!
Settle Stories takes place between April 1st and 3rd 2016, get your tickets here