Being Inspired by Contemporary Oral Storytelling at Newbattle Abbey College

Two weeks after I moved to Edinburgh last September, I found myself down at Newbattle Abbey College, attending the first weekend of their Contemporary Oral Storytelling professional development programme.  I signed up because I wanted to hone my storytelling skills and because I thought it would be a great way to find out how storytelling is being used here in Scotland.  I was not disapointed.  However, I discovered–pretty much immediately–that we would not be allowed to just sit back and learn.  We were being groomed to go out into our communities and our places of work and be ambassadors for the love and value of storytelling.

In order to complete the programme, each of us had to implement a storytelling project.  This past weekend we reconvened at the College to share our projects: what we had set out to do, what had worked well, what obstacles we’d encountered, and what we had accomplished.  With no exagerration I can say that the presentations were truly inspiring.

Quite a few projects involved bringing storytelling to schools, either by teachers or librarians.  The phrase “Curriculum for Excellence” was mentioned more times than I care to count, but a good case was made for the contribution that storytelling can make to implementing this Scottish education policy.  The schools projects involved all ages from nursery children through to secondary students.

There was a truly inspiring presentation of the impact of bringing storytelling to a special needs school on the West Coast.  We all had tears in our eyes after we heard about the unforeseen improvements in behaviour, socialization and communication brought about through storytelling.  A similar impact was seen in another project with adults with special needs.  Two other projects that stood out, were the establishment of a storytelling course for fathers in a prison for young male offenders, and the integration of storytelling into work done with homeless people in Glasgow.

As you might have guessed, my project set out to bring storytelling into environmental work.  The meat of my project was the workshop I gave to people from Transition Edinburgh (see the blog post below).  However, this web-site has also become an important way of communicating the value of storytelling in environmental work and so I included it in my report.

I would strongly recommend the course to anyone interested in integrating storytelling into their paid or voluntary work.  And if you’ve never been to the College, it’s worth a visit.  The grounds are gorgeous–I fell in love with a very old beech tree while I was there–and the building itself has a fascinating history, most of which is visible in its architecture if you know where to look.


The course can be found on Newbattle Abbey College’s website, as well as in the Training and Development Programme for the Scottish Storytelling Centre. (BTW, the bus directions on the College website are wrong, you actually need to take the 95X First Bus and ask the driver to let you off at the College).

If you’re interested in the sights and stories of the College, there will be a storytelling festival held there the last weekend of August.

Guided tours of the College are available every Sunday from 31st of May until 23rd of August at either 1:30 or 3:30pm, but you must book in advance by contacting Rae at raem(at)  On Sunday June 20th a heritage walk (scroll down) will be held starting at the College at 10am.  The walk will be 10 miles long and will finish at approximately 3pm.  Again contact Rae if you are interested.

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I'm a writer, a researcher and a storyteller.

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