Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.
You will only recognise those words if you are a) Old Like Me or b) young and into cultural irony like my son: I continue to be amazed at how much stuff from my youth he recognises because it’s referenced in things he watches. Anyway, are you sitting comfortably?
Then I’ll begin: because today’s post is about the lost art of storytelling – by which I mean the old oral tradition of face-to-face narration (I realise plenty of stories are being told in print or on film. Incidentally, remind me to post a review of La La Land. I saw it on Friday and it is beyond description, but I’ll try.)
What started me off on this was – well, first of all it was because the title came to me and secondly because there is in Loughborough library a storytelling chair. It’s large enough for one adult and one child, and it’s decorated with ladybirds. Lovely, I thought, just right for a parent to read to a child. And then I discovered that it’s actually an electronic chair: you sit in it and it tells you stories – and that seemed sad to me. It seemed alienating and distancing – and moreover, a waste of money, especially as the funds had been raised by Friends of the Library and could have been spent on an ordinary comfy chair destined for face-to-face storytelling.
One of the first TV programmes I ever watched after we got our first black-and-white set was ‘Jackanory.’ This was a storytelling programme and as with all TV programmes, sitting comfortably was a prerequisite. Jackanory went on for years and featured famous actors and actresses reading from a book, interspersed with pictures. It was a simple but effective format. Nowadays we have to turn to the radio for storytelling, but once every two months I go with Ruth to a group called Telling Tales. The Leicestershire Guild of Storytellers puts on this event in Leicester and it features a mix of traditional and modern tales from a huge variety of cultures. Last week we had stories from India, Norway, Germany and Iran, as well as my own largely descriptive account of the garden of the vicarage where I grew up. I love telling stories and hearing them, and it is my firm belief that we need a return to our oral traditions; to go back to face-to-face storytelling.
And poetry, of course.