Monday, December 04, 2006

Enchanted Forest 'Handover'

There are moments in a storytellers life that are even more satisfying than others. At two o'clock this afternoon - Monday 4th December, 2006 - I got to enjoy one of those.

Brisbane City Council Councillor Geraldine Knapp (The Gap) was handing over CD's of the Enchanted Forest recordings, artwork and project photograps to the students of year 3H at Ashgrove Primary. The Enchanted Forest Playground project had been funded by her Council Ward Community Grant program.

I had the pleasure of telling them how much other children from all over South Queensland had been enjoying our stories and of telling them one of the new stories that had since been created at another school.

'Well it didn't take long at all. The Enchanted Forest is a bit like that. The boy found the Fairy Queen. He borrowed a silver axe. He found the disappearing tree beside the smelly bat cave and, as quick as you can say 'grotty green goblin', he'd cut a hole in the tree and rescued his sister, two butterflies, a golden beetle and a muddled up wombat.'

(One of the panels created by Gavan Fenlon illustrating one of the stories and using details from children's artwork at the Enchanted Forest Playground in Dorrington Park, Ashgrove.)

It was great to see them enjoying hearing their own voices telling our stories. They were so excited. They were telling me about visiting the playground and about how some children had damaged the story playback equipment.

When I was leaving I said, "Well of course you could go on and write some more Enchanted Forest stories."

There was a silence as the possibility sank in and then one girl said, "With the same characters?"

I think she might.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Bringing Stories Alive at the Maroochy Libraries Workshops Day

(Jenny, Toni, Amanda and other Maroochy Library staff retelling a story)

What a pleasure it was to run a storytelling workshop for the Maroochy Library staff at the Alexandra Park Conference Centre on Sunday. It would have been hard to find a more alive, active participating group of workshop attendees.

We told stories, explored good storytime strategies,
played games and enjoyed a couple of digital stories from library sponsored community workshops.

A well appointed conference room in a shady, bushland setting and the excellent organisation of the day all helped make it a good learning experience for one and all. Well done Maroochy Libraries and a special thanks to Nadia Bowtell.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Wonderful Digital Story from Wales.

You know by now I'm quite passionate about digital stories - best thing since ... since ... since 'Skippy' so here's a beauty for you to have a quick look at.

It's on Capture Wales and I think it is just so elegantly simple but beautifully storingtellish.

'Flashback' by Ieuan Sheen. Have a listen and let me know what you think.

Ah! What a day!

What a day. What an amazing storytelling day it has been.

First of all out along the Gateway Motorway to Boondal Kindie. They're old favourites and this group of kinders were just wonderful. They were so easy to perform with. Did a couple of old favourites of mine -'Little Blue Train Takes the Children to the Beach' (what a classic), the Very Hungry Caterpillar (Eric Carle - I love it the way children say - 'Hey. I've got that book!) and a great little improvisation about a great big dinosaur and a tiny little mouse who lived in a house in the dinosaurs ear. It was good to see a father on parents roster joining in being a butterfly flying around. He loved it. He was saying how positive the community feel is at the Boondal and I believe it.

Back home and off to Dutton Park Primary School. The Teacher Librarian, Walter Vechio booked me for Children's Book Week performances in the library.

The kids were great and the older they got the better they were - just wonderful kids to perform with. Hats off to parents and teachers. It's good when this happens. It means I can put all of my energy into performing well and creating interesting stories for them.

Once again a mixture of old favourites and improvisations. Created a couple of quite good 'Enchanted Forest Stories' to add to the list. I'm pleased the way the older students still appreciate the fairytale theme. Mind you the adventures get a bit more adventurous and their sense of humour is definitely different. In one story the girl slipped and fell into a pool of dragon's blood and was, of course, turned into a dragon and the boy had to help get her back. It was good fun.

So after my fifth show for the day it was back home and finish off the Arts Queensland Grant Application. I'm hoping for some assistance in business development to cope with the multiple streams of storytelling I'm taking on these days. Would be good. We called the project - 'Creating a New World of Storytelling'. The idea is partly inspired by the 'Planet Creature' web site which creates this imaginary world out past that now mini-planet Pluto somewhere. It partly commemorates the life and creativity of Maeve (a young girl who was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident) and provides resources for families and communities to cope with similar events. It's quite beautiful.

Well that's it. We got the grant application into the post. Thank you to the people who provided support - Rob Whyte from ToadShow, Andrea O'Brian - Young People's Librarian at Ipswich, Browny Jewell from QCAN, Sheryl Anderson from Brisbane City Council and most of all Karen Tunny for helping so much with application.

Ah! What a day!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Southbank Story Magic

A little bit of story magic happened at Southbank this weekend. Well actually more than one bit.

First of all I was having great fun at the Brisbane International Film Festival Family Fun Day Story Creation workshops as part of the SpeakOut Team. I was working with the participants - children - helping them to create their stories and write them on a piece of butchers paper for them. These sheets of butchers paper became their 'auto cues' as they recorded their voice over and created a short movie with some help from the team on Sony Vegas.

The theme was 'Princes and Princesses' and wonderful stories about brave and courageous princes and beautiful and strong princesses and witches and castles and dragons and all sorts of wonderful creatures were being created and burnt as movies to CDs.

Now, a father and son were interested in doing the Story Creation. The son was keen but the father was clearly distracted. 'Oh my wife is over there. Our younger son has developed a curious phobia. He doesn't want to step on any pebbles.'

Sure enough, standing on the pavers just past the last of the pebblecrete was a mother hugging her worried looking son as he stood on the last of the pavers and refused to step on the pebbles.

Well something went 'Bing!' in my mind and I thought, 'A story. That might work.'

I walked over to the pair and, kneeling down, said to the boy, 'Would you like a story?' He looked a little reluctant but I began telling him a story about a pebble that was crying because he didn't like people standing on him. A good fairy came flying down and said, 'What's wrong little pebble?'

When the fairy found out she pulled out her magic wand and gave the pebble a hard head so that it didn't hurt when people stepped on him. The pebble was so happy that everytime someone walked on the pebbles he sang a little song - "I'm so happy when people step on my hard, hard head. I'm so happy when they step. I'm so happy when people step on my hard, hard head. I'm so happy when they step on me!"

Did the boy take that step off the pavers and onto the pebbles? Yes! He did!

Ahhhhhhhh! Magic Happens!

I'm glad that once upon a time, a long time ago, I read 'Annie Stories' by Doris Brett.

Digital Storytelling for Families & Children

I just got back from a great Sunday bike ride with my friend Bill around some of Brisbane's wonderful bikepaths and I don't know whether it was having coffee at the Venice Cafe or the wonderfully human conversation with the Dutton Park ferry driver about the new green bridge construction or even if it was just ironing my new 'I do digital stories' T-shirt in preparation for the BIFF Story Creation workshop down at Southbank but I thought, 'I really should put up a link or two about where people can find some more digital stories to look at.'

After all, If families do enjoy the workshop and go home with their own digital story on a CD they might be inspired to look for more.

Here are a couple of links.

For Queensland digital stories you really can't go past 'Queensland Stories'. It's a site created by the Qld State Library Service and contains digital stories created all over Queensland. If you want to see some young people's stories do a search for Chermside and there you will find some stories created by teenagers living in the Chermside/Wavell Heights area that I had the privlidge of helping.

Another fascinating site is the Shoebox Stories at the BBC Wales site. This is the school age stories link but there are adults stories there as well. I like Michael's story about his best friend.

Well there you go. I'll have to tell you how the workshop goes and maybe have some photos from it as well. Today the theme is 'Princes and Princesses' and next week it is 'Environment'. Should be lots of fun.

Let me know what you think about the Chermside stories and what your fav. Shoebox story is please. I love them but I love to know what other people think.

Daryll Bellingham

Friday, May 19, 2006

My Story Island Home

I've had a wonderful week of telling stories to young children this week. I love seeing the way children respond to stories. At one kindergarten, I had spent about 10 minutes telling a story with full on sound effects and action and kids joining in and laughing and coming up with suggestions and, at the end, a young girl right down the front put her hand up and said, "Could you tell that story again please?" Isn't that perfect.

Today there was a moment that made all of the driving worth it. A young boy had to be helped to walk into the room by the Director because of a physical disability that required him to wear some supportive legware. She also helped him sit up and helped him dance in the 'Old Man and the Drum' story. He was having a great time and at the end of the show all of the kids came over to shake my hand. He did as well and said, "That was a great story about the sheep."

It was the version of 'Baa, Baa, Black Sheep' that I have been improvising and polishing over the last month or so. He said, "I'm going to tell it to my Dad." I thought 'Yes!' this is what this storytelling business is about.

It made the drive back to Brisbane along the freeway worthwhile.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Storytelling and the Law

Yesterday I arrived home from my morning performances to find some pieces of paper sticking out from under my door. I had a fair idea what they might be and I was right. Annie had dropped in with some photocopies of articles about Storytelling and the Law. I had run into her the day before in Vulture Street in West End on my way to Phil the Barber for a haircut so I stopped for a coffee and a chat and she told me about the articles.

She certainly had me interested. The drift was that if legal people had a better idea of the narrative and the personal stories of their clients and defendants they they would be better able to make informed, compassionate and appropriate judgements. Sounded good to me and I was looking forward to a read.

Well I've got to admit Annie that, when I got to read them - 'Storytelling, Postmodernism and the Law', Hon Justice Peter Heerey, The Australian Law Journal, 74:681-691 and 'Literature and the judicial role - Why judges should read novels and mandatory sentencing should be rejected', Rodney Allen - I was a little disappointed. The articles beat around the legal and academic bushes quite a bit and didn't really seem to come to the point of exploring an increased role for, or relevance of, personal narratives to any meaningful extent. Even though they were worth reading I was left with the feeling that both authors were reluctant to go out on any legal limbs in case they raised the ire of colleagues or similar.

Now here is my request does anyone know of any more specific articles about the role of storytelling and narrative structure in law?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Injecting Power into Corporate Communication

I've just been completing a web page update to add the details of the corporate storytelling workshop being hosted by the Institute of Continuing and TESOL Education (ICTE - UQ). I must admit that the title of the workshop embarasses me a little. It sounds almost like a military workshop. I couldn't help thinking about the power of storytelling.

Over Easter I heard many stories as my father-in-law, John Tunny, revisited the scenes of his upbringing and early married life in a number of small country towns in north west New South Wales. These were healing stories - good to hear - pleasing to the ear. They had such a positive energy.

As I was thinking about this the ABC news was playing on the radio. It came to me that the 'news' is impossible without stories. They speak of characters in settings of place and time. They detail problems and solutions. Mind you they are pretty brief and matter of fact stories, stripped of niceties and personal details. Still they have power. It's a power to communicate seriously and effeciently.

It's a different type of power to those of community stories mind you. When I think about the Charleville Generational Learning digital stories. These stories build social capital and personal power.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

What's So Special About Digital Storytelling

I remember hearing about Digital Storytelling some years back at a storytelling festival, probably in Sydney. I remember thinking at the time that I would get into it some time.

Well now I have and now I'm sold on it. It wasn't just going to the First Person Conference and meeting a swag of Digital Storytellers from around the world. It hasn't just been the wonderfully challenging and rewarding process of running some Digital Storytelling projects for a range of different people.

I think that there is something quite wonderfully empowering about Digital Storytelling. I'd like to identify all of the elements and get them down.

If anyone has any thoughts let me know please.


Friday, April 07, 2006

Enchanted Forest Stories

Wow. Just spent the better part of a day in a recording studio. No, I tell a lie, it was the music room at Ashgrove State Primary school with students from year 3H recording them telling the Enchanted Forest Stories for the new BCC playground in Dorrington Park.

It's brilliant project really. The brain child of CAO Mark Crocker, I got to work with the students to create a set of Enchanted Forest Stories - the ones we recorded today. Gavin Fenlon worked with them on playground design ideas and now the Brisbane City Council is hard at work building the playground but I won't tell how the recordings are going to be installed in the playground. You'll have to wait. Sorry.

I'm looking forward to sitting down in that playground and listening to them when it's all comppleted though.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Return from the Charleville Generational Learning Project

Well I've returned from Charleville with a swag of digital stories almost ready for burning to DVD and some cherished memories of some very special culturally significant places in Bidjara country. The Charleville Generational Learning project was a joint program of Indigenous and Community Health agencies in Charleville.

Liam Galton at Mt Tabor Station recording arrival.

My part in it was to facilitate the creation of series of Digital Stories by the young people taking part with the support of their community Elders. The whole team drove out to Mt Tabor station two hours drive north east of Charleville on the western side of the Carnavon National Park. Mount Tabor Station is owned by the Bidjara Council and is managed as a working cattle station and to preserve the important cultural heritage sites on it and surrounding properties.

Reeghan interviewing Aunty Carol at Boonoroo Spring

Shaun recording vision Carnavon Rock Shelter

It was a real buzz to be with the young and old as they explored sites like Lost City, Goats Rock, Bulla Cliffs, Boonaroo Springs and the Carnavon Ochre Pots. One of my challenges however was to facilitate the creation of stories about these sites and this country with a group of country town youth whose principle interest was football. Still we managed. As everyone started to absorb some of the specialness of the sites they were given much to think about. Digital stories with their emphasis on oral storytelling and visual creativity seemed a perfect match.

We had Multimedia Lab support from the Qld State Library in the form of 5 Sony Vaio laptops and from West End Community House with 2 Mac laptops, scanner, cameras etc. The visits to the cultural sites gave participants wonderful material for both scripts and imagery. Each of the community elders was assigned a site and one or two young people for the project. At the sites the young people took photos and interviewed their elders. Once back to the Mt Tabor station house scripts were written and photos selected.

Creating scripts on the Qld State Library Vaios at Mt Tabor

One interesting Digital Story practice consideration was around two of the participants writing their scripts about a site, the Carnavon Ochre Pots, before they went there. Although initially a challenge, with a little support to imagine how they might experience the site from the perspective of their main passion in life - football, they did really well. In fact, the digital stories that present an experience through the metaphor of a personal interest or passion or often the best.

Our show and tell session on Friday evening at the CWAATICH (Charleville and Western Area Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporation for Health) centre was wonderful. Fed with marinated kangaroo kebabs and a great salad, my wonderful volunteer, Christabelle Baranay, and I wrestled with the vagaries of Microsoft MovieMaker, recalcitrant laptops, a different data projector and a hastily thrown together sound system to show the participants Digital Stories in an open air movie theatre under the western stars.
Perhaps the most dramatic moment for me was when one of the parents who had earlier been complaining about the possible content of one of the stories came up to give me a promised opinion. I held my breath and waited. "Well, I said I'd give you my opinion......... I think .......... they are wonderful. You've done a really good job."

Mind you the job is not finished yet. First get the finished movies approved and then publish the DVD's. Then get them up on the State Library Queensland Stories site if everyone agrees.

I'm really looking forward to getting back to Charleville again and doing another project with a focus on the Elders' stories. Hopefully we can get the funding because it would be good to extend the training component of the project. I believe Digital Storytelling has tremendous potential as a community cultural development tool.


Sunday, March 12, 2006

I've got those Sunday afternoon digital storytelling blues

Yes it is Sunday afternoon and I am working. I'm getting ready for my great expedition to Charleville for the Generational Learning Digital Storytelling project. What pieces of digital equipment should I take? Do I have a card reader for the camera in my new mobile phone? Is there any coverage in Charleville anyway?

If you are noticing a slight edge to my voice you are probably right. I've got nothing to worry about really however. I am sure we will complete the project with a spirit of adventureness, cooperation and flexibility that will amaze even me.

I'm also writing scripts for a Digital Storytelling 'How to Do It' DVD which I am beginning to 'shoot' with SpeakOut on Tuesday morning. It's a really good follow up to the First Person conference and Master Class. It's getting my thoughts about DS well and truly in order. I'll let you know, Dear Blog, when it is complete and ready for distribution.

One good thing is that I will be able to put excerpts from both the Chermside and Logan Digital Storytelling projects into this DVD. It should be great.

Am I getting too digital Dear Blog? I hope not. Let me reassure you.

This week I've really enjoyed some performing and improvising. I have a brand new story based on a nursery ryhme thanks to the children at Centenary Christian Kindergarten at Jamboree Heights. I had been planning to tell one of my regular stories which starts with the nursery ryhme 'Mary Had a Little Lamb' but before I could start the song one of the kinders said, "Is it Baa Baa Black Sheep?" Being someone who holds the principles of improvising close to his heart and well and truly displayed on his performer's sleeve I said, "Yes!" and we created a brand new story about what happened when the little boy who lived down the lane dropped his bundle of black sheep's wool in the mud puddle. Ah, the joy of living dangerously, creatively at least.

The Enchanted Forest project at Ashgrove State Primary is going swimmingly as well. I've completed the stories - well final drafts - and the Year 3's practice sessions are going well. I wish I could take you along to the opening of the playground when the toadstools and stories and play equipment are all installed Dear Blog. Well maybe I can.


Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Digital Storytelling Advances

So much to write about. So little time. The 'First Person' International Digital Storytelling Conference in Melbourne was such a buzz. Good speakers, great networking, excellent master class. I've written my notes from the conference and put them on the email list if you would like to read them. Many more members are welcome.

Thank you Arts Queensland for the Professional Development Grant to get the conference and be there. What a pleasure it is to live in such a civilised country that a State Government will support working artists in such a way. Congratulations.

Since I've got back to Brisbane my Digital Storytelling practice is buzzing.

We completely completed the 'Loving Logan - Adapting to a New City' project. Got together with most of the participants, projected all of the movies, thought about the differences between the beginning and the end and talked over food. It felt good.

We started the West End Community Digital Storytelling Project just last night. It's already brought new people into the storytelling group and should be a great project. Thank you Gambling Community Benefit Fund for the equipment.

Any one want to join in the West End project? Should be a buzz. Be quick though. Zip me an email or give me a ring before Tuesday 7th March, 2006.

Come the 16th, I'm off to Charleville to run a project there with the Generational Learning Project. Christabelle Barranay is volunteering. Thank you Christabelle.

Anyone got a spare Dataprojector they can lend out now and then in Brisbane? I managed one for last night but it was only a home projector.

Anyone know of some cheap insurance for work equipment?.


Sunday, January 15, 2006

Tough Trees

Tough Trees
Originally uploaded by Austories.
Sometimes I wonder why some trees need such tough skins?

Friday, January 13, 2006

Rail Trail imagination

Rail Trail imagination
Originally uploaded by Austories.
Well we did go for a couple of rides on the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail - what an inspired idea. Mind you I don't think mid summer is the best time to do it but still we did enjoy it. One day we rode down the old railway line from Bright past Porepunkah and were steaming along quite well on our rented bikes when we espied a vineyard with a cafe open sign strategically placed near the bike trail. Well it wasn't long before we turned around and headed back to said 'cafe' for some refreshment. It was a bit highly priced but we did enjoy a antipasta plate and a very nice cup of coffee and the view out across the grape vines and the valley and bike trail below.

Another day we drove to Everton Station and tackled the hill to Beechworth. They've done the old station up a treat. Notice the 'storybook train engine' bike preparation shed, the water tank just where a trains water tank should be and the conveniences following along in the 'goods carriage' behind. Nice architectural design.

And if you have to ride 16kms up a long hill to Beechworth in the middle of summer then the rail trail certainly provides steady grades the whole way, a fair amount of shade, the odd wallaby and bird life and the thought that here was a train line that Ned Kelly that great romantic rebel of the Australian bush once worked on.

The ride down the hill was pretty cool as well.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Bright Spots on Mt Buffalo

Bright Spots on Mt Buffalo
Originally uploaded by Austories.
Well I think human beings in general and me in particular are born optimists. We went for a drive and bush walk on Mt Buffalo thinking cool Alpine vegetation beside running creeks and lots of shady spots to rest and have a good meal in.

I forgot about the bush fires of a few years back and the drought that has followed. Mt Buffalo looks pretty forlorn I'm afraid. It was hot,not much water to be seen and flies, lots and lots of sticky flies.

One image I wish I had been forthright enough to snap was a smart couple sitting at a picnic table by the dam with food on plates,
glasses of wine, expensive camera on tripod beside them and having
their fly swatting hands constantly brushing away until they retreated to their 4WD. Spoilt a good dream those flys.

Still there were lots of bright spots to be found like these daisies
and a stripedly camouflaged grassshopper with vestigial wings crawling
around amongst the ground cover.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

A Riverina Regional Sport Training Session

Was lucky to be able to get this photo as participants in the Murray River Red Gum Tree Knocking Marathon are normally very secretive about their training sessions but this local Deniliquin expat had been up the tree so long she didn't notice me approach with the camera. Don't miss the marathon! By the way they are looking for sponsors so if anyone has a spare million dollars or so the local Tourist Bureau would be grateful - the Ute Muster is rumoured to be getting a little dusty.

Another strange paddock sight!

Another strange paddock sight!
Originally uploaded by Austories.
Large square Straw Bird eggs I think. Maybe there was a strong southerly wind blowing on the day the birds were laying. This paddock was some distance up the highway from the farm with the round Straw Bird eggs. I guess they are developing some regional variation. I suppose next there will be Slow Straw Birds or even a Straw Bird Cycling Trail.

Strange sight near the highway in northern Victoria.

A paddock full of round Straw Bird eggs. Note the flimsy barb wire fence. You'd think any half intelligent straw bird would step straight over it!


Originally uploaded by Austories.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Storyteller on holidays 2

We've carried the old orange kayak around down here on the roof of Karen's Falcon but the water, although beautiful, is too shallow for its sensitive fibreglass bottom. We've now bought some li-los for a cool splash in some creeks like the Buffaloo River below.

Storyteller on holidays
Originally uploaded by Austories.

What does a storyteller do on holidays?

I go bike riding (along the Murray to the Mountains Rail Trail - all hail the recently departed Rail Trails President - may his jovial soul rest in some suitable bicycle paradise), kayaking in our chuncky old 2 person fibreglass orange kayak ( it's time I bought a white water one), eating lots of stone fruit ( Karen really knows it's summer that way), go bushwalking, read books (The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas - disappointing ending but very nice writing) and fret about how to get my blog working through the mobile phone.