Whenever I feel like I’m bogging down, creatively speaking, I sign up for a workshop at the Scottish Storytelling Centre and I always come away inspired. This past Saturday was no exception.
The topic of the day was how to use story with artifacts, archives and museums. Steve Byrne introduced us to the amazing resource Kist o Riches, where anyone on the internet can access 1,000s of recordings of Scottish traditional songs and stories in Gaelic, Scots and English. Helen East, who has always been a bit of a hero of mine, confirmed her status as nature and place teller extraordinaire by talking us around the story map of Offa’s Dyke, which she co-created with her local community. Her strategy for collecting local stories is to hold what I, as a North American, would call “show and tell” sessions at which people bring in an object and tell its story.
In the afternoon, Donald Smith took participants on a storied tour of John Knox House, a museum the SSC looks after, while John and Noreen Hamilton (two of my favourite Environmental storytellers) told tales about the joys of working for a museum that has no building: Causeway Museum Service (see also the Northern Ireland Archive’s Telling Our Stories).
The phrase buzzing through the hallways of the SSC was “place education”, a concept I first encountered while doing my PhD in human geography. In the context of storytelling, I would pose the question thus: “how can stories help ground people in their local communities so that they can withstand the tides of change accelerating across the globe?” Each of the leaders of Saturday’s workshop provided their own innovative answer to this question. I came away convinced once again, that stories can matter.
I’ve mentioned Helen East already. Well, meeting her was one of the highlights of the day for me. The Birch Maiden story I often tell at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh originally came from a version Helen wrote up in the collection “Spirit of the Forest: Tree Tales from around the World“, which I’ve taken out of the library numerous times. Happily Helen had a copy of the book with her on Saturday, so I managed get my own, signed copy, which I shall treasure (and make use of!)