Wild Words for a Better World

Last Friday (11th April) saw the culmination of a major storytelling project co-ordinated by Alida Gersie, Buck Schiefflin and my dear old friend (& fellow Fire Spring) Anthony Nanson. The trio are the key editors of Storytelling for a Greener World, published by Stroud-based press, Hawthorn, was launched at the Subscription Rooms – the town’s main venue – to a full house. After weeks of publicity – expertly looked after by Meredith Debonnaire – rehearsing and liasing it all finally came together in a fantastic tour-de-force of top bardism.

Some of us met up beforehand in Kitsch for pizza and a cuppa – it was nice to finally meet the rest of the team, and there was a warm-hearted camaraderie. My amazing collapsing chair routine seemed to do the trick at breaking the ice!

Loins girded, we wended our way to the hallowed halls of glory on a glorious evening.

Stroud-based community choir, Circle of Song, warmed up the space with their beautiful songs; and then publisher Martin Large kicked off the evening with a brief introduction – and then it was over to the storytellers! Australian wordsmith Eric Maddern, all the way from his eco-retreat Cae Mabon in North Wales, got things going with a clever little tale called ‘The Phantasm’, which offered a metaphor for the project, a kind of meta-narrative. Next up, we had local master teller, Anthony Nanson, who performed an immaculate version of his heart-rending ‘The Passenger Pigeon’ story. Then it was Alida’s turn, who led us through some stimulating techniques, aided by Jon Cree – a fellow key contributor to the book. At one point the whole audience were linked by sticks held between fingertips and communicated in ‘stick-talk’. The first half was rounded off in a spacious, present way by Nailsworth-based storyteller, psychotherapist and horseman, Kelvin Hall, who shared profound anecdotes about human-animal communication as related to him by people he knows.

Then there was a break – a chance to recharge glasses, buy books, chat – and in my case, warm up as I was straight on afterwards. I did my original story, ‘The Gate’ – first devised for performance in the Sub Rooms 5 years ago (for Heaven’s Gate – an epic showcase co-ordinated by Jay Ramsay and Rick Vick). This time round it felt even more resonant. The performers for the second half were expected to stay on stage, and I found myself sitting next to Jonathon Porritt – who was there to promote his eco-book, The World We Made. He came across as a really nice (and intelligent) bloke. Once I sat down I was able to relax and enjoy my pint of Budding, while I listened to the rest of the show – Kirsty Hartsiotis performed a fine version of ‘The Lake that Flew’. Buck related an amazing real-life experience, ‘Reframing the Apocalypse to Reclaim a Rain Forest’. This all was a hard act to follow, by Jonathon Porritt more than rose to the occasion with his impressive performance as ‘future historian’ Alex McKay, relating ‘The World We Made’ 36 years hence. He cleverly customised the story, as I had done, to fit its context – relating it as though to an audience in Stroud in 2050. Alida rounded things off, and Jonathon fielded one question that an audience member was bold enough to ask – did he think he was possible to make his vision a reality? He was unequivocal in his reply – yes! He had done the research and was convinced it was still possible to turn things around. We have the technology. We just need the political will (including people voting for green candidates and taking positive action on their doorstep). Martin thanked everyone – and then Eric led us in a final singalong with his eco-anthem, ‘It’s Been a Long Time Coming.’

What a night! It was an excellent example of what can be achieved by creative fellowship. Well done to all those who made it possible and all those who came along. It was a resounding success! We well and truly wetted the baby’s head and it bodes well for future Storytelling for a Greener World events. May it inspire many wild words (and a better world).

Storytelling for a Greener World cover

Storytelling for a Greener World

Environment, community and story-based learning

Edited by Alida Gersie, Anthony Nanson and Edward Schieffelin with Charlene Collison and Jon Cree

Foreword by Jonathon Porritt

A treasury of 43 stories, creative activities, techniques, tips and descriptions of inspiring practice to both empower newcomers and seasoned practitioners.

A handy, unique and authoritative resource for developing innovative story-work, and a key sourcebook of lasting usefulness.

This handbook offers time-tested stories, creative activities and methods that environmental educators and storytellers can use to affect people’s pro-environmental behaviour.  Whether it is a brief mention of seeing a skein of geese flying in an evening sky, or children from a tough area getting inspired by kittiwakes, both adults and children can engage profoundly with nature through the imaginative power of story, with lasting personal and environmental changes.

It explores the links between storytelling and emotional literacy, place, environmental justice, connecting with alienated youngsters, how to encourage children and adults’ curiosity about nature, building community, sustainability and indigenous peoples, local legends, human-animal communication and how to co-create a sustainable future together.

This book brings together the wisdom of cutting-edge storytellers who offer a range of distinctive but complementary approaches to the art of telling stories for environmental education in 21 chapters.  Alida Gersie, an editor and contributor, is a world authority on story-work, therapeutic storytelling and popular education.  The contributors will be speaking, performing, running workshops on the book’s theme, starting with The Society of Storytellers April 2014 Conference, and the Forest School Conference in Autumn 2014.



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