Friday, December 05, 2008

Brisbane Ideas Festival

Just loved the animation on the Brisbane Ideas Festival. It's flash so it not be viewable for everyone. Anyone want to do a storytelling one with me?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Harbin to South Brisbane

Sat in one of our neighbours loungeroom today and shot an interview. What a life story unfolded as 91 year old Nadia told us her life story of growing up in the Russian enclave Chinese city of Harbin, surviving floods and wars, epidemics and poverty and eventually emigrating to Australia. I'm really looking forward to recording more of her stories and putting them together as oral history recordings and digital stories.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Curlews and neighbours

Karen and I went for a walk this afternoon to see if we could spot a curlew or two. Not that I was very confident, we hadn't heard their spooky night calls for a few weeks at least.

We had a look at the excavation site. It looked like any big hole in the ground and then walked around into Graham Street to see what had happened to the houses there. We'd been told they were being resumed.

Well Karen knocked on the door of one - she's good at that - and this time there was someone home - a really interesting someone with lots of stories to tell. Well I hope so anyway, Nadia is 91 years old and has lived there in Graham Street for many years.

She has many stories to tell - from China, from her Russian community, of being involved in the local 'Gabba community and of not wanting to leave her house.

With a bit of luck we'll be able to record some of her stories for her and maybe create a digital story or two.

Oh yes, she's upset about not hearing the Bush Curlews for sometime either.

Stories at Parties

Really enjoyed one of those end of year catch up parties yesterday at Getano and Rae's house. It had everything you could ask for really - old friends, new acquaintances, barbque, bocce in the backyard, music, singing and drumming. A good time was had by all, well, almost.

There was a three and a half year old boy there, the only boy and the only one of his age. You could tell that being with adults really wasn't as good as it could be.

I was impressed by the way he joined in with various percussion instruments as we jammed and sang but he really came alive when Getano suggested I tell a story. I told my 'Little Blue Train and the Ghost Story' and the transformation in Rohan was immediate and joyful. Now the shakers could be used for train noises - yes! Now he join in with the story and the smile on his face was so infectious.

Whereas previously I had been a friendly stranger, now I was the provider of a story just for him.

It was a good reminder of how important it is to be really inclusive. So thank you Getano and Rae for the party and thank you Rohan for the reminder.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Storytelling Chair

story telling chair

Came across this on Flickr and couldn't resist. Mind you I'm not so sure how much I'd like to tell there but I'd sure like to try some time. It's in St Ives in West Yorkshire and was taken by 'Janet 59'. Anyone been there?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A Story for Slippery Financial Times

There have been a number of times lately when I've realised that I, and many other people around the world, have not kept their eye on the ball. Watching the value of superannuation investment falling rather precipitously has been quite unsettling for quite a lot of us. So as I was reading my bedtime story from 'Classic Folk.Tales from around the World', I came across a rather nice Irish story that seems to sum up a quite a bit of the current situation. It's called - 'The Basket of Eggs' and goes something like this.

There was once a fine woman and she was on her way to market counting the price of her basket of eggs as she walked.

"If eggs are up," says she, "I'll be getting a handful of silver, and even if prices be down I'll not do too badly at all for I have a weighty supply."

With that she noticed a wee little boy sitting down by the hedge, he stitching away at a brogue.

Now everyone knows that if you manage to grab hold of one of the little people and keep your eye on him at all times he will lead you to a pot of buried gold.

She juked up behind him like a cat after a bird and she caught him a strong grip of his kneck. Well he let out an odious screech for he was horrid surprised.

"Will you show me your treasure?", says she.

"You're a terrible fine woman, mistress dear," says the leprachaun, "I've travelled a power of the earth and I never came in with your equal."

"Go on with your old fashioned chat," she replies and pops him up in her basket on top of the eggs, all the time keeping her eye on him and a good hold of his ear to make sure he didn't escape.

Well as they walked on, him giving directions and keeping up his flattering banter, what did he do but reach down into the basket with both hands and begin to bail out eggs onto the ground behind them.

She fetched him a terrible clout, but the harder she beat him the faster he threw out the eggs.

"Stop! You unmannerly coley,' cries she.

"Sure it's doing you a favour I am. Every time an egg dashes to the ground a well grown chicken springs up."

"Quit raving," says she.

"If you doubt my word," says he, "Just look at the fine flock of chickens that is following us."

She could resist the temptation no longer and turned to look and, with a twist and a spring, the leprachaun slipped from her grasp and disappeared under a hedge.

"The wee lad has fooled me entirely and my eggs are ruined but it's a good thing to know that I'm the finest woman he's seen across the wide world, that it is."

So there you go - 'don't count your chickens', 'keep your eye on the ball', 'don't be beguiled by smooth talking lads' and 'keep a good grasp on ... on... on?'

p.s. 'Classic Folk-Tales from around the World' by Robert Nye does have some classics and some quite good stories as well. One of the disappointing things however, is there is no record of where the stories were collected or copied from. If anyone knows, I'd appreciated hearing.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Entertaining Storytelling Guild Lounge Telling

Mmmm - another Storytelling Guild Lounge Telling. They really are a very sane and entertaining way to spend an afternoon and evening. We lots of shared lots of 'bring a plates', shared conversation, shared stories and shared laughs. The world would be in a much better way if it spent more of its time in Lounge Tellings.

One of the highlights was a visiting storyteller from Sweden - Kerstin Thuresson. She regaled us with Swedish Folktales mostly - some we knew and some we didn't but it was all great fun.

She said:

"I mostly do performances in different culture houses, stages and festivals all over Sweden. I love folktales from all around the world and I'm extra fond of those who have a bit of humor in the end. I do also love the stories from India. I sometimes tell what we call Life Stories: screamingly funny things that has happened to me in my own life, a bit extra salted/spiced. I also do a special performance with stories about strong women on the International Women Day every year.

I’m the secretary of the non-profit association of Storytelling on the West Coast of Sweden. Comparable to your Guild, I think.

The Swedish storytellers are organized in approximately 8 geographic non-profit associations. An these associations are organized in one national association: Storytelling Net Sweden, an approximate translation. We have two big festivals every year, the biggest a week long in June every year is also the oldest and they celebrates 20th anniversary 2009, the second one has ran for four years and lasts over a weekend."

It's good to know that storytellers are so well organised in Sweden. If you are interested in Guild events the best way is to visit the blog and join the Guild and the email list.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Story Props

I use props a lot in my stories, not all stories mind you, but I do think that they add to the story and storytelling. Three questions come to mind - why? what? and how?

Here's a why list:
• props can enrich and add layers to stories
• props suggest - characters, places, actions, cultures
• props can make storytelling easier and more enjoyable for teller and audience
• props are often light and fun
• they usually add variety and can add surprise

From my point of view, a prop is only worth using if it enhances the story or the telling. They are a bit like the pictures in the picture book, only partly mind you, because it is really the storytellers voice, language, expression etc that really creates pictures for audiences.

Well, first of all, my props have to fit into my prop box - my old tin trunk, which often functions as a prop itself. It becomes a pirates treasure chest very often, even if I don't tell a pirate story.

Next I prefer multi-functional props. One of my favourites is my whirly, a length of corrugated plastic pipe, which is usually the wind but there are so many stories, traditional and improvised, where the wind is useful. It's the wind blowing around the rigging in my pirate stories or the wind blowing around the mountain in 'Dragon Girl' or the wind blowing around Thomas Rhuag's cottage in 'The Seal Catcher'. It can be other things however. It becomes the sky god in 'Osebo the Leopard'. This is a really good example of the usefulness of a prop. I think it provides a better and more impressive description of a sky god than any words I might try.

One of the interesting thing about props is that, if they are any good, then they soon become multi-functional. My tambourine is a good example. It's perfect for Christmas stories especially any story where some one sings 'Jingle Bells'. It didn't take me long to find other uses for the tambourine. It makes a pretty good crash of waves or a splash.

Props are even more useful if they suggest things other then the obvious. An African drum suggests Africa and is Osebo the Leopards drum which the other animals try to get. Chinese bells or cymbals suggest China and make a really good start to a Chinese story. I stretch this to a Vietnamese story or a Tibetan (sorry I would if I told one) or an Indian story. I further stretch their use to suggest - 'some thing magical', 'the Fairy Queen' etc.

As loathe as I am to suggest a recipe, I going to suggest 'use sparingly' is an appropriate direction. I don't want to become any more of a 'props roadie' than I already am.

A second direction might be - 'the younger the audience the more useful they become'. This is particularly so because really young children might not follow all of your words but can find a prop like a train whistle and shaker accompanying a train story a lot of fun. They will also enjoy glove puppets especially with good sounds and songs.

A third direction might be - 'use them cleanly and efficiently'. Mucking around with props is really distracting. Put them down when you're not actually using them and pick them up cleanly when you do.

My Favourite Five
1) my tin trunk
2) my kookaburra (painted ply wood - thank you Suzanne Holman) so far only one story
3) blue shaker and wooden huon pine train whistle from Salamanca Markets
4) bag of hats and caps - 'Caps for Sale' and plenty more
5) my Djembe - so African, so much energy and fun - lots of stories

What's your Favourite Five list of props?

Daryll Bellingham

Monday, October 13, 2008

Storytelling Workshop - November

Story Skills and Telling Tales
a summer workshop at the Sussex Street Hall, West End

Just imagine if every single person told stories in interesting, entertaining ways - how much more fascinating our worlds would be.

Would you like to feel more relaxed, confident and alive telling stories?

Come along to 'Story Skills and Telling Tales' and improve your storytelling and story creating skills.

Daryll Bellingham has been earning a living through storytelling for over twenty years. Daryll's performed in kindergartens and schools, birthday parties for young and old, Corporate board rooms and Government House, storytelling festivals and early childhood conferences. He's lectured and run workshops and projects in universities and remote communities, churches and neighbourhood centres.

Over the last few years Daryll has been exploring how to adapt traditional oral storytelling skills to the new possibilities of Digital Stories, podcasting, blogging and story mapping.

This day long workshop will entertain and entrance you. You'll hear stories and participate in storytelling exercises designed to build on your existing skills. You'll learn how to learn a story and put the book down before you tell and how to create a brand new story that no one has ever heard before but most importantly you'll learn how to bring a story alive for any audience.

Do you need to bring anything? Well no, but if you do bring along an interesting personal photograph or an important object you will get even more out of the workshop. Please bring lunch to share, morning and afternoon tea will be provided.

Date Saturday, 15th November, 2008

Time 9:15 am for a 9:30 am start till 4:30 pm

Venue Sussex Street Hall, Sussex Street, West End (near corner of Vulture Street and Sussex Street)

Cost $100
Early Bird Discount $90 (booked & paid by 31st October)
Storytelling Guild Qld membership $75
Pensioners & Unemployed $75

Contact for Bookings or more Information - 07 3846 3135

Monday, October 06, 2008

Living Library

Well we got back from Deniliquin in time to work on the latest Brisbane City Council Living Library project that Karen has been helping to organise. This time it was at Garden City Branch Library in their community meeting room.

I find the Living Library concept quite brilliant. The whole idea is to create a safe place where you can listen to stories that you don't normally hear from people you don't normally meet.

This Living Library was relatively small to fit the size of the community meeting room. We had 10 living books on quite a range of topics available. There was someone speaking about her mental illness, another about being a heart recipient, somebody else about his conversion to Islam .......

The Living Library concept began in Denmark with the first event at the Roskilde Festival in 2000. Since then it has been spreading around the world. You can find their web site at . The first in Australia was initiated in Lismore and now both Brisbane City Council and Redlands Library Services have run them as well.

What can you do with your living book? Well you can't take them home or damage them. What you do is basically get comfortable and listen respectfully to your 'Books' story and ask questions. At the end of your borrowing period you say goodbye and thank you and maybe 'borrow another book' and listen to another fascinating story.

It's a quite unique opportunity to sit and listen to an Aboriginal Elder talking about growing up in Cherbourg or a young Muslim woman talking about head scarves or a transsexual person giving a really good run down on how she advocates for the community - all in the one safe place. Yes, I know, you see some of these sorts of stories on TV but these are real live people telling real live stories.

Next time hear about a Living Library stop and sit down for 40 minutes or so. Your life won't be the same ever again.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Sweet Stories in the Pop

Greetings from Deniliquin. Karen and I are having a break from the big smoke and visiting family in country New South Wales.

Not that I've been idle mind you, I've been taking some time to update my website.

In the process, I came across the 'Sweet Stories in the Pop' project I did with Alex McCallum and Karen Tunny and one of the Radio Lollipop Mater Children's Hospital support teams in Brisbane.

It was such a sweet project - telling stories over Radio Lollipop and visiting the wards telling and creating stories with children in the wards.

I just enjoyed reading one of those stories 'Jimmy Makes a Wish'. Hope you'll enjoy its fresh, young innocence as well.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Co-Conspiratorial Audience

I have a confession to make. I am truly, truly sorry but I still have a friend who communicates not by email (sob). He still communicates by letter! I hesitate to reveal his name but I suspect no real harm will come to him so I will, it's, it's - Dennis Murphy.

The other retro habit Dennis has is he stays with people on his puppeteering tours. One of the discussion we had last time he stayed was about his researching into humour and audiences and he promised to send me some of his results. Turns out that was what the letter was. He got the address wrong however and, first of all it went off to 84 Stephens Road, which if it exists at all is the boys' school up the road. Well they returned it to Dennis and Dennis reposted it and we finally got our letter.

One of Dennis's collection of quotes about audiences reminded me of some performer/audience magic that happened this week. The quote is one from Dario Fo, the Italian Nobel Prize winning storyteller, actor, director and exponent of the traditional Italian theatre Commedia Dell'arte. He once said, according to Murphy,

'The public is my co-conspirator. My texts have been shaped and changed by their reactions.'

I have to totally agree with both Dennis and Dario and the little story adventure that I and my audience at the Inala Community Kindy embarked on the other day is a wonderful example. You see, a couple of years back I decided I absolutely had to have a story that celebrated Aussie men in all of their generosity and thoughtfulness so I created a story about 'Grandpa Chris who catches fish to share with all his friends.' I achieved the bit about how retired men make wonderful little contributions to social capital and generally speaking my older audiences really like the idea. My younger audiences get into it and more or less enjoy it but I've always been aware that if most of them had their way they would 'juice it up a bit' with either some adventure or some silliness.

So everytime I dust off Granpa Chris and bring him out for my audiences, I am aware of this tension. Now back to the kindy, this time as Grandpa Chris is out in his tinny singing his song and reeling in another fish, I sense that the audiences need for something crazy has almost reached cicada shrillness - they want Granpa Chris to catch a huge shark. So he does. He gets it back to shore and now what does he do. He puts it on his bicycle and, one of the girls, who obviously had been following this development with interest and in detail, said, "Granpa Chris sat on top of the shark on the bicycle!" Well that's exactly what he had to do and off he went to Grandpa Ted's place riding along on top of the shark.

This upset my 'nice' story quite a bit and gave me quite a bit of improvising work to do to get to a reasonable resolution and still leave the 'warm glow Granpas are all right' feeling. We managed it of course, audiences are very helpful like that. One of the girls, might have been the same one, helped tie up a loose end. She asked, "and what about the sharks head?" I had Grandpa Chris give it to the cat but, really I suppose, she would have been happier if the shark ate the cat.

So telling 'Grandpa Chris' will never be the same. I've conspired with my audience and the text has been reshaped.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

West End Digital Story Spaces Project

Readers of my austories blog might be excused for thinking that I only tell stories to, or with, children - far from it.

Our current project with the West End Community Storytelling Group - West End Digital Story Spaces - is now well underway. We've got the blog 'West End Stories' working well now with both text, maps and podcast entries complimenting each other.

We'll be adding lots more stories of course but, if you could visit the blog and make some supportive comments, our participants, many of whom have a mental illness or an intellectual disability, would appreciate it.

We've been making use of the free services of podomatic for our podcasting recordings and our next step will be to set up both YouTube and MySpace sites to get some video up and running.
If you could visit our westendstories podcast site and 'become a fan' 'join the mailing list' or 'record a comment' that would be great. You can tell your friends we'll be adding lots more podcasts and vodcasts as the project continues.

In the mean time, I thought you might like to have a listen to a story about one of our West End Story Spaces - the old Tristrams Factory that became the West End Markets building.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Special Persons Day and Clean Hands

Two shows today and both were at C&KA Kindergartens with pre-preps. One was back to a centre I hadn't been to for a few years so it was nice to get back there and find most of the same warm, friendly staff were there with a new director. Dinosaurs were big so my 'Baby T-Rex Story' had a good outing. It was good to see the wonderful dinorama that had been created in one of the rooms. One of the sign of the times however was the reqirement to carefully wash my hands with a full on detergent wash outside the kinder to avoid bringing in any peanut residues into the centre.

The other centre was having a 'special persons day' and it was great to be immersed in the really positive family and community feeling of the day again. One grandmother had seen me perform at one of these four other times. We seemed like old friends. 'Grandpa Chris went catching fish', 'Dragon Girl' and a fun filled improvisation set at the beach made up the bill.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Guardian Angels by the Seaside

Spent the morning in the company of Angels today - Prep and Year One students at Guardian Angels Primary in Bay Terrace at Wynnum. They had opted for this week as their Book Week and the library was full of Book Fair so I got to perform in their class rooms.

There was a good energy at the school so we had some fun with stories. Generally I told two and improvised one and usually tried to keep these to stories about the bay and the area and to make sure they were lots of fun. This is when knowing a local area comes in handy. You can easily add specific detail to a setting or, perhaps even better, ask a question that allows your audience to add good detail.

An example of this is the story about year 1 students going on excursion down to the bay. As they walked down the hill they saw a pelican come skidding in across the water to land. Twice the pelican plunged its beak into the water, caught a fish and swallowed it. The third time though it caught a sand shoe full of old bones and a map, a treasure map. Of course the children had to follow the map and when they did the pelican followed them. They went along the foreshore to the old wading pool a favorite spot for all local children. It was nice to be able to ask, "Is there a slippery slide in the middle of the pool now?" and have them show off their local knowledge, "Yes, they built a new one."

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(Here's the wading pool in the middle of its refurbishment.)

They found the treasure at the bottom of the wading pool but when they opened up the treasure chest, it was the pelican that filled its beak and flew off with it.

Another of the local interest points is the mangrove board walk so that had to be in a story as well. Because we were talking about pets (I'd told one of my pet stories 'Socks the Kitten'), the leash free dog exercise area was offered by the children as an important detail.

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I did wonder momentarily whether or not the idea of a T-rex's eyeball hanging in a spider web was a good idea or not, after all, I'd never seen either a Trex or one of its eyes anywhere near the board walk, but who am I to get in the way of a good story idea? Needless to say, Jack was saved from the T-rex and his favourite dog Rover helped. The children did think it was a good idea to tell the story at other schools so I think I might just do that.

From angels by the seaside come very salty stories. So thank you Guardian Angels for asking me to perform as part of your book week celebrations.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Ali-Curung Catch Up

Spent some pleasant time yesterday with four women artists from Ali-Curung in the Northern Territory on Saturday. We had met them all in Ali-Curung when we were up there doing digital stories earlier this year. They were in Brisbane because the Footsteps Gallery in Anne Street in the city was hosting an exhibition of Ali-Curung Art.

One of the DVD's of digital stories we created in Ali-Curung was projected at the exhibition opening as was the video of the opening of their own art gallery this year.

We took them down to the West End markets, ate Spring Rolls and Curry Puffs under the fig trees and took photos by the river. We heard stories of course about what's been happening in Ali-Curung since we were there and what stories they would like recorded.

So if you would like to see some visual art with soul and story drop along to the Footsteps Gallery in the old School of Arts Building in Anne Street in the city.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Little Drummer Boy

Perhaps today I discovered why I enjoy telling African stories. Actually I suspect I discovered yet again one reason why I enjoy telling to young children.

I was performing at a Child Care Centre telling stories to an audience from below 2 years old up to 5 years old. Sometimes I start a show quietly and sometimes I start with a lot of jokes but less often I decide I have to start with lots of energy and audience participation. This was one of those so I got out my Djembe and as soon as I started playing, I immediately noticed a very young 2 year old boy who had just the biggest smile and was clapping with so much enthusiasm.

It was such a pleasure to see how much he was enjoying it and how uninhibited he was. I found out after the show that his family had come to Australia from West Africa - the home of the Djembe - so I guess it wasn't so surprising.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

St. Joseph's Book Week

Ahh! - very pleasant morning at St. Joseph's on Gregory Tce with year five students. A good time was had by all..

Head of Library, Helen Stower, put it well in her request for the sessions - 'The purpose of the sessions is purely to build a love of story. For the students to be involved in a dynamic story telling session which is fun and builds their appreciation for story.' By the reaction of students and teachers, I think we managed that.

Each of the first three sessions started with a folktale such as 'Kassa the Brave', 'Thomas Rhuag the Seal Catcher', 'The Bell of Four Metals' and the 4 th session with a group of 'Exceptional Learners Writers Group' a good old Australian Tall Story 'The Big Red Roo'. I then usually followed up with a story created by similar aged students in other places including one from last weeks trip to Emerald - 'The Hand'.

Then we started them along the way to creating their own stories. One was about a student's funny experience when he went to a school fete. Another was about two students who saw a strange old boat steaming up Oxley Creek behind Terrace's playing fields at Tennyson. A third was about ghosts and blood and the tunnel between the school and Victoria Park and the fourth was about a school social studies history tour around Spring Hill and the Old Wind Mill on Wickham Terrace and the ghost of someone unfortunate enough to be hung from one of the sails.

I'm looking forward to publishing some of these stories on this blog.

Thank you St. Joseph's for a good mornings creative work and a wonderful venue in the hall lined with student class and sports photos.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Book Week 2008

Had a great first day of Book Week performing at Kurwongbah State Primary with lower school students today. The library was really buzzing with classes all day so I was performing in the 'hall'. It was huge but pretty good acoustics so it was a reasonable venue. It really reminded me that the ideal venue for a storytelling session is one that gives the audience a snug fit.

Because of the Olympics teachers were keen for me tell stories from a range of different countries and just tell to encourage a love of stories and storytelling which, for a storyteller, seems just perfect. Ended up telling quite a few stories that had gold in them - not surprising I suppose with all that questing for gold happening in Bejing.

The Fuel Your Mind theme seems to be taken up with enthusiasm by teachers and librarians. So far my prize goes to one of the classes at St Patricks in Emerald. They had constructed a 'petrol pump' full of books that lit up with party lights when you inserted the nozzle into the tank of a 'brain shaped car'. As students pushed the nozzle into the tank, the car lit up, the wheels whizzed around and the movement activated eyes flashed on and off and looked from side to side. Thought that was cool.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A world of stories

I'm back to Brisbane and I feel both immersed and bereft of stories. I've just spent the week in Emerald telling stories to and creating stories with students in five different schools. It was both fun and hard work.

During the week I was both immersed in storytelling and its wonderful energy but also banging hard up against situations that, on reflection, demonstrated that so many people in our work and domestic cultures have no appreciation of the value of stories or even, I suspect, take a subconcious stand against either what stories represent or against any other stories apart from those that guide their own lives.

Now, on the weekend, recovering from the hard voice work of the week, I've looked for refuge in stories. Last night I watched TV but the stories were pretty unsatisfactory. Friday night on the ABC is 'crime night' and, yes, I could escape into a story, a different world, but it was a pretty ugly crime world in urban UK. I gave up on that. There was a bit of drama in the olympic weightlifting with one of the Chinese competitors achieving a world record lift and then being told it didn't count and he would have to do it again. Did he? Yes, the Chinese Atlas, did the lift again even better than the first time. I would have liked to hear his story.

The soccer match between Brazil and The Cameroons was a reasonably interesting story - not quite David and Goliath but a bit like that - but it got a bit repetitive. Finally Brazil got its act together and scored a goal and then a second. I'd turned it off before the second goal however, I'd lost interest in that story.

I retreated into a book. What did I read? - one of the Brother Cadfael medieval 'who-done-its'. A number of times as I read it I was reminded of one of the things I was trying to convey to students up at Emerald. Stories are made more interesting and more accessible if you put some detail into them. Detail the setting enough so that listeners or readers can take themselves there. Detail the characters enough so that listeners can either identify with the character or at least know how to behave around them.

Ellis Peters does this well. I find it easy to relax into that medieval world of friaries, villages, castles and cathedrals that she creates. The balance isn't quite right for me. I would like a little more action in amongst the world creation.

My other refuge is our back garden. I feel so blessed by the quality of the light in it at the moment. It's a little world of light and leaves, trees and birds and the occasional blue tongued lizard. I like the balance of wildness and order, dirt and concrete path, grass and pavers. I wonder what story or stories it suggests for me? I suspect its a strange mixture of wild beginnings of the human species, my playing in Queensland rainforest and bush as a child and more.

Friday, August 15, 2008

'The Hand'- a gruesome story.

Once in Emerald, two girls were walking through a tunnel. The tunnel was well known to locals, as it was a quick and easy short-cut that connected the main road to the area behind Mitre-10. However, the tunnel was sinister and parents always told children not to go through it.

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The girls were returning after buying a take-away dinner for their family, McDonalds and KFC for themselves and a Red Rooster for their younger brother. The night was cold and it looked like rain, so the girls were desperate to get home into their warm house.

"Come on, lets go through the tunnel, " said one of the girls.
"What? The tunnel! It's way too dark to go through there!" exclaimed the other.
"No way, there are lights all the way along. It'll be fun!" urged the first girl.

The second girl, just wanting to get home reluctantly agreed and into the tunnel they went.

As they walked through the tunnel, the girls were starting to regret their decision. Nevertheless, they continued along the seemingly endless tunnel. They were nearing the end when they heard mumbling.

"What was that?!" whispered on of the girls. The first girl hushed were and nudged a crumpled heap with her toe. Just then for the first ime, the girls noticed a smell - a vile odour filled the tunnel. It seemed to be coming from ................... the lump.

The lump began to move. The mumbling became louder and the odd word became recognisable. The man, they were fairly sure now that the lump was a man, rose to his feet.

The dumbstruck girls said the first thing that came into their heads.

"What is that smell?" The drunk man grinned, and from behind his back he produced a .................... a hand - a dead, rotting, maggot-infested hand. The girls screamed. The man slowly shook the hand, back and forth, back and forth. Two greenish-yellow fingernails dropped off the hand and onto the floor of the tunnel. The girls screamed again, louder this time.

"Whose hand is that?!" asked one of the terrified girls

The man broke into tears, "This hand belongs to the one of the greatest men who ever lived, my, my, my ............ brother!" The man staggered around as the girls tried to push past him and he fell back to the ground and into oblivion and the hand disappeared.

The girls ran home as fast as they could

"Where have you two been?" shouted their mother as they entered the house, puffing and panting.

"Did you get my Red Rooster?" demanded their brother. One of the girls shot him a dirty look while the other threw him the bag.

"Mum, mum, you'll never believe what we saw!" said one of the girls excitedly.
"A man, an old homeless man, just lying around in the tunnel. And guess what he had. A hand! A real live hand!"

"Are you sure? Absolutely positive?"

"Yes mum! Call the police or something! Please!"

"OK, Ok, Ok. I'll call them now. What's that smell by the way?" said their mother as she walked towards the phone.

Meanwhile, their little brother was opening his Red Rooster bag, "Oh, ha, ha, ha!"

"Ha, ha what?" said one of the girls.

"You think it's really funny don't you, putting rubber hand on top of my Red Rooster don't you. Well here's what I think of it." He grabbed the hand a took a bite out of it.

"Oh yuck! You are so gross! That was THE HAND!" screamed one of the girls. The brothers face turned pale, pale as a ghost. He ran to the bathroom and the family could hear the retching from the other end of the house.

"Right! That's it. I'm calling the police," said the mother. Then she took what was left of the hand, put it in a plastic hand and left it on the front porch.

It wasn't long before they heard a car pull up out front and Constable Pratt was at the door.

"Did you ring the police?" The constable asked the mother.
"Well, yes ....., yes, I did," the mother said, slightly uncomfortable and not knowing how to address such a figure of authority. "But it's the girls who know the story."

"Well then, what's this about a hand?" he said, looking at the girls.

After they told him the story, he went out to look at the hand.

"So where is it? inquired the constable.

"Well, it's right over here .................," the mothers voice faltered. "Well it was,"

As the family stood silently contemplating the spot where the hand had been, they heard, "Grrrr, woof, woof, woof, woof." And with that their family dog came trotting around the corner, with the old, rotting, smelly hand in his mouth.

If that wasn't bad enough, out of the darkness lurched the drunk, roaring incoherently at the dog. The dog dropped the hand and took off for the back yard. The drunk fell onto the ground clasping the hand to his chest and fell asleep.

"Is this the man," constable Pratt asked.

"That's him, that's him!" said the girls.

The old drunk was dragged into the back of the police car and the hand was put carefully into a specimen bag and placed in a grey box in the boot of the car.

"Thank's," said the constable. "Enjoy your tea!"

They didn't see the old man again or the hand and it took the children a while to start using the tunnel short cut again. Now they rush through it and jump at the slightest strange sound. It's strange, there used to be cans and rubbish strewn around but now it's always mysteriously cleaned every night, especially the area around a little white cross.

(Story created by Daryll Bellingham, Storyteller and the year 6/7 students at Denison State School. Written by Jessamy Routley.)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Sam and the Shipping Container

Sam lives in Emerald, a growing town in the middle of Queensland. One of his favourite places is the top of the old reddish-brown shipping or cargo container which sits in his backyard.

View Larger Map

Sam likes climbing up there, sitting quietly and watching the clouds float across the sky or hearing the cockatoos fly screeching home to their nearby roosting tree.

One afternoon after school, Sam had climbed up on top of the cargo container again and was listening to two girls talking in one of his neighbouring yards.

"Hey yah, what're ya doing on the weekend?"

"Dad said we can take the jet skis out to Fairburn Dam. Want to come?"

"Oh cool, I'll come," said Sam.

"Go away Sam. Stop listening to us. Anyway you can't come because you haven't got a jet ski - ha!"

"I don't care," said Sam but he did. He jumped off the shipping container and kicked his football as hard as he could. It slammed into the rubbish bin near the fence and knocked it over.

Sam stomped into the house slamming the screen door as he went. He sprawled onto the lounge chair and turned on the TV.

"What's wrong Sam?" said his Mum.


Sam's Mum came into the lounge room and gave him a hug.

"You know Sam, sometimes you have to wait a little bit to get what you want."

"What do you mean Mum?"

"Well inside that shipping container you like to climb on is ...."

"What Mum?"

"... a jet ski."

"Ohh. Sick! Can we go out to Fairburn Dam on the weekend?"

"Nope. Sorry. You'll have to wait a bit longer because we're still saving up for the trailer."

"Ohhh, Mum."

"Don't worry Sam, we'll soon have enough money to buy the trailer and we'll be able to go jet skiing out at the dam."

But Sam couldn't wait and as he watched TV he hatched a plan. That night when everyone was asleep, he snuck down the hall, carefully lifted the keys off the hook in the hall and silently walked outside to the shipping container. He tried the keys in the padlock until one turned and the hasp clicked open. Sam carefully swung the container door open, hoping it wouldn't squeak too much.

He flashed his torch inside and there amongst the cardboard removalist boxes was a large wooden crate and on the side was the stencilled outline of a jet ski - "Yes!"

Sam stayed up the whole night dismantling the crate. The jet ski looked wonderful but Sam had a problem. How was he going to get it to the dam? It took Sam quite a while to think of a solution. He had to climb up on the roof of the cargo container and jump off three times before he remembered that his friend Joel liked go-carting. He ran as fast as he could over to Joel's place and knocked on his window, "Joel. Joel. I want to borrow your go-kart."

"Huhhhhh, what?" yawned Joel?

"Wake up Joel. I want to borrow your go-kart."

"What will you give me to play with. Have you got an x-box?"

"What about my new laptop. It's got some great games and I've got three DVDs you can watch."

"Cool. Here's my helmet. Be careful."

"Don't worry. I will. Thanks."

Sam pushed Joel's go-kart at least two blocks away before he started it. 'Raaaa, raaaa, raaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.' Off he went driving down the back streets towards his house. He turned the ignition off before he got near the house and coasted in silence down the driveway and stopped near the shipping container.

"Sick. All I need now is a trailer. What can I use?"

Sam used the side of the wooden crate and to the bottom he screwed his skateboard on one end and two of his sister's roller blades on the other end. Then he tied the jet ski to his trailer with five ockey straps and tied the trailer to the go-kart. He put on the helmet, started up the go-kart and roared down the driveway and out of the street before his parents woke up.

"Yahoooooo! We're off to ski at Fairburn. Yes!"

Soon Sam ran out of back streets and had to drive on the main road towards the Dam, going as fast as he could. He felt great as the farms sped by and he got closer and closer. Well he felt great until he heard the sound of a police siren behind him. Sure enough there was a police car driving along beside him. The red and blue lights were flashing and an angry looking police man was telling him to stop and pull over.

Sam knew he had to pull over. The police man hopped out of his car and "Right young Sam. You're in trouble."

"Trouble? Why? I was just going jet skiing out to Fairburn Dam. Everyone goes out there."

"Yes Sam but not everyone tries to do it with an unregistered go-kart and an illegal trailer. You'll have to leave it here and come back to your parents with me."


"Don't Ohhhh me Sam. Get into the police car you little squirt!"

Before Sam could unbuckle his seat belt he heard, "Base to highway patrol one, Base to highway patrol one, there's an emergency at Fairburn Dam. Two jet skis have collided in the middle of dam. Attend immediately to help in rescue!"

"Rescue!" said the policeman, "I can't swim!"

"I can," said Sam, "I got my bronze certificate in lifesaving last year. I'll help."

He started up the go-kart, "Ra, ra, raaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!" and went speeding as fast as he could along the road to Fairburn Dam.

Fairburn Dam

When he got there, sure enough, he could see the two jet skis out in the middle of the dam and holding on for dear life were the two girls.

Sam went speeding through the car park and down the boat ramp. He hit the brakes and spun the steering wheel as fast as he could. The trailer spun around and the jet ski slipped off from under the ockie straps and into the water with a splash. Sam jumped off the go-kart and onto the seat of the jet ski. "Reeeeeeee, reeeeee, reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeh!" He was off speeding across the dam towards the crash scene.

"This is fun. Yehhhh!"

Sam steered the jet ski around the two girls and helped them both onto the back of the ski. Slowly this time, he headed towards the shore.

As he got back, people were cheering, "Yey Sam. Good one!"

Waiting for him beside the police car were his parents. "Good one Sam. We're proud of you. Your our hero but .........

............ you're grounded for 3 months."

Sam spent a lot of time on top of that shipping container for the next 3 months but at least the girls he rescued spoke to him sometimes.

('Sam and the Shipping Container' was created by Daryll Bellingham and the Year 4 and 5 students at Emerald State School on 13th August, 2008 ©)(Photos with thanks from and flickr download photographer - QbiT)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Sleeping Dragline - a story from Anakie

Had a great time out at Anakie School today. It's a small bush school servicing the small towns of the Gem Fields area. The atmosphere is really positive and the students are friendly and creative. They were getting ready to participate in the Gemfest happening there this week. The year 6/7's had made a Chinese Dragon for a dragon dance and I was able to help them a bit with their drumming.

Dragons and gems and mining were really popular topics for the stories we improvised including this one below created with the Prep, Yr 1 and 2 students.

The Sleeping Dragline.

Now every knows that around the town of Emerald in Central Queensland there are lots of coal mines. Underneath the earth there is so much black coal that the miners dig it up with huge machines called draglines and load the coal onto trains to take to the ships waiting to take it to China and Japan.

One morning three children were sitting at home eating their breakfast and watching their Dad pack some lunch to take to work at the coal mine.

"Are you going to dig up lots of coal today Dad?" asked one.

"No. I don't think so. We've got to repair the dragline. It's not working. I think it's gone to sleep."

"Maybe if you say the right magic words it'll wake up," said the girl.

"Maybe it's like Sleeping Beauty and you have to give it a kiss on it's mouth and then it'll wake up," said one of the boys.

"Well maybe I'll have to do one of those if we can't get it started," said their father, "Now don't forget to clean your teeth before you go to school. I'll see you after work."

"Bye Dad."

Their father jumped into his four wheel drive ute and drove off to work at the mine as the children got ready for school. He drove out of town, through the bush and into the coal mine. He parked his ute in the carpark, put on his safety helmet, picked up his tool kit and joined the work crew in front of the huge dragline down in the open cut mine.

"Look at it," said one of the miners, "You great, ugly, expensive bit of machinery get to work, you lazy machine!"

He turned the key in the switch to start up the dragline but it just lay there like it was sleeping.

"My boy said I should try giving it a kiss and then it might wake up like sleeping beauty."

"Oh yuck, I'd rather try magic words. Abracadbra, Abracadabra, Abracadabra. Wake up, Wake up, Wake up - aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh!"

No knew whether it was the magic words or the scream but the dragline woke up and began to move. The huge scoop opened and closed and began to swoop down towards the men.

"Watch out. That scoop is coming for us!"

The men started to run but they weren't quick enough, the scoop had turned into a giant claw and had grabbed them. The big treads had turned into legs and out of the body of the drag line had sprouted wings. The drag line had turned into a dragon.

It leapt out of the coal mine and flew off with the men, roaring as it went.

Back in Anakie, the children were lined up at the school parade listening to the Principal telling them all about the GemFest that was happening that week. They heard a roar and looked up into the sky and saw the dragon flying towards the school.

Bigger and bigger it got as it flew closer. "Look at that!" Every student and every teacher looked up into the sky. They saw the huge wings beating the sky with sound of drums, the long tail swishing from side to side, the enormous mouth with its cruel curved teeth and its sharp claws holding ....... holding ............ five struggling coal miners. "Help! Help!"

"Hey! That's Dad! That dragons got our Dad!"

"What are we going to do?"

"It's probably flying towards the old volcano. If it gets up there we'll never find them."

"We'll have to lassoo it as it goes past. Anyone got a rope."

"What about the tug-of-war rope? It's with the phys-ed gear."

Five students ran and got the rope. One climbed up the gum tree with the rope and dropped the end down by the tuck shop. They tied a big knot and then stood in the front yard of the school near the gate.

They started to sing out - "Ha, ha Dragon. Ha, ha Dragon.You can't catch us. You can't catch us!"

The dragon looked down and saw the children. He roared a roar so loud the children's teeth shook and their hats blew off in the blast of the dragons foul breath.

"He's coming! Get ready to duck!"

The dragon flew down towards them with his spare claws stretched out to grab them, his eyes glowing red like burning rubies. His head and neck flew through the loop of the rope but his wings and body were too big.

The rope snapped tight around the dragon's wings and he crashed to the ground. The coal miners rolled out of the dragon's huge bucket claw and ran under the school with the children.

The dragon opened his mouth and the flames burnt the rope. He beat his wings and leapt into the sky again. The children watched him flying towards the old volcano.

"Hey Dad. You woke up the Dragon .... I mean the Drag-line."

'Yeh, kids. Thanks for that. We owe you one."

No one really knows what the dragon did at the old volcano although there have been reports about it terrorising students and tourists who visit there. Just ask ask the Year 6/7 students at Anakie about their excursion. Some people say though that the dragon flies back to the mine every morning to dig in the coal. We found this photo of a dragline blowing smoke at Ensham mine

(This story was created by Daryll Bellingham, Storyteller and the Prep, Year 1 and Year 2 students at Anakie State School - 12th August 2008. Photo courtesy of Ensham mines and

Monday, August 11, 2008

Stories from Emerald North - 1

Doing a nice project this week in schools around Emerald. First up was Emerald North State School with P - 4 students. It's been a good day telling and creating stories in the phys ed room. One of the pleasures was creating a new story based on one of the folk tales from China I told - 'Ming Li and the Tortoise'. In the story the tortoise had a special mark on its head so I thought a story about an animal that one would normally find in Emerald but had a special mark on it would be a good start for a story.

The students decided that a Bearded Dragon subject for the story and we began. Here's the story:-

The Emerald Dragons

Emerald is a nice place to live. There's plenty of work for parents and the children can play lots of sport. One day some children were kicking a football around at Emerald North School and one of the boys said, "Hey! Want to play a game that my Dad used to play when he went to school?"

"What's it called?"

"Force-em-back. You see there are two teams. One team kicks the ball to the other and if they catch it on the full they can advance 5 steps and kick it back but if they don't they have to kick it from where they stop it. Eventually one of the teams is forced right back to the fence and they lose."

Well that's what they did. The game was going fine until one of the kicks went so high it went right over the school fence. No one knows whether there was a sudden gust of wind or what but that ball flew over the neighbouring houses towards the river with the team in hot pursuit.

They saw it flying over the trees and thought, "Oh no someone is going to have to swim for it."

When they got to the river bank however, the ball wasn't floating on the water or anything. They could see it anywhere. All there was in sight was a bearded dragon sitting on a log.

One of the girls said, "That bearded dragon looks a bit strange. It's got marks on its back."

"Maybe the ball landed on it's back and left those marks. They look like the marks of a football."

"No," said the girl, "The marks are on the inside. Hey I think the football has turned into a bearded dragon."

"Ha, ha! Don't be silly. How can a football be turned into a bearded dragon?"

"Yeh. I know but let's pretend. We'll take it back and pretend it's the football. Should be a laugh."

Well that's what they did. They picked up the bearded dragon and took it back to the school fence and said, "Sorry it took so long but the ball turned into a bearded dragon and we'll have to kick it instead."

They held it up and pretended to kick it but the bearded dragon flew from their grasp went sailing up into the air and down towards the other team.

'Catch it! Catch it!"

As the bearded dragon bounced the whole team dived on it and grabbed hold but they could not stop the dragon it flew up into the air with the students holding on. Higher and higher it went and they all went flying up and over towards the river.

"Aaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Call the Principal! Call the teachers! Help!"

The other students ran into the office and called out "Emergency! Emergency! The kids have disappeared! "

Admin dialed 000 and it wasn't long before there was police, ambulance and fire brigade in attendance. Every headed down towards the river and started searching for the missing students. They couldn't find them any where. Once the police and fire brigade had gone home however, the students saw 10 little bearded dragons sitting on a log. They took them back to the school and fed them all their favourite foods - pies, sausage rolls, chocolate and ice cream - and eventually they started to grow slowly back into children again. Do you know what though, every single one of them had long skinny finger nails and marks on their backs like football laces.

It's not surprising, I suppose, that no one plays 'Force-em-back' at Emerald North School these days. They do take special care of bearded dragons though.

Here's where it all happened -
View Larger Map

(Story created by Daryll Bellingham, Storyteller and students from year 1b/2a at Emerald North School, following a Chinese folktale about a magic tortoise with a special mark on its head.)

Friday, August 08, 2008

Good Luck

Had the pleasure of friend and fellow performer Dennis Murphy staying at our place last night. Dennis is the puppeteer of Murphy's Puppets and a wonderful performer. He's been up in Brisbane and Toowoomba on a short tour performing in schools and we asked him if he would mind showing our young neighbours, Abbey and Liam, a couple of his puppets. They laughed and giggled so delightfully and their father commented on how quickly he forgot that it was Dennis that was supplying the voice for his puppets.

It was a pleasure to see but it was the something that Dennis said as I was setting out to perform this morning that I thought was worth commenting on. He said, "Good luck." as I walked out the door and I said something like 'Oh I'll be fine.' He said, 'Yes of course. Sometimes if people say that to me I'll say, "Well the first year or two I was performing it felt like I needed luck but not any more. Now I don't need it. Now I use my skill."

It's true of course. As you build your performance skills they provide a really solid base to perform and experiment from. It's a good feeling.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

A 'Young and Active' Challenge

Two show day and both of them were at two of my regular kindergartens with younger pre-preps. At the second of the centres, the staff were clearly a bit concerned that I would not be able to entertain the children well enough so that they would sit for 45 minutes. They were proposing two stories inside and a third outside as a roving story.

Now, although I was interested in the possibility, I wasn't too keen for a number of reasons. One is that outside shows have a completely different sound projection challenge and I am so used to telling inside. A second reason is that an inside show means that it is reasonably straight forward setting up and maintaining a structure useful for storytelling. Once you go outside or are moving around, you become more a people movement manager than a storyteller. A third reason is that my public liability insurance is quite vague about my coverage when performing outside and I don't really like to stretch it that much.

Really though, I was slightly miffed that they thought I couldn't entertain young children for 45 minutes at a stretch. After all, I've been doing just that for years.

I did think to ask if they had any special needs children and it turned out they did. Their needs were undiagnosed but did relate to short attention span and wanting to be physical. Well forewarned I took up the challenge and I'm glad I did. The 'special needs' children were pretty easy to spot and between my storytelling and the care and support of the staff. Every single child stayed for the whole 45 minutes and enjoyed the show.

I told 'The Little Blue Train Goes to the Beach' one of my settling down stories, 'The Old Man and the Drum' with lots of clapping and animal noises and 'The Wheels On the Bus' which starts off with the familiar song and improvises an ending with the audience that usually involves a grandpa that snores on the bus but catches the bank robber. I told with one eye and ear on the 'special needs' children and one on the general energy level of the whole group. My aim was to make sure that they had fun, got to be physical with out going over the top or changing the story and had a good variety of quite calm times and noisy expressive ones.

When I left the staff were happy with the result and so were the kids - mission accomplished.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Performance Areas

Had the pleasure of performing at a good child care centre or early childhood centre at Fig Tree Pocket this morning. It's one of my regulars - I've been performing there almost every year since 1994.

One of the things that stands out about the centre, apart from its consistently high standard of care is the built in stepped audience seating in the pre-prep room. The children like sitting there, I think, and they were already there when I arrived. I don't though, even though it gives the children a really good view of my performing, because it also gives them a really good view of everything else that is happening in the room.

Late arrivals, teachers moving around, parents popping lunches etc in lockers - it's all visible. So, after trying it once or twice, I always want to move them off the stepped seats and onto the carpet on the floor. I can then perform with my back to the steps and distractions are kept to a minimum.

So if there are any architects out there who are thinking of putting in special seating or a 'story pit' or something similar, please have a good word with an early childhood performer first.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wednesday 30th July - old stories - new stories

Had a great session today out at Samford State School with one of the year 5 classes. It was a workshop in how to create new stories for telling.

Of course I started by telling a story. One of the things I found interesting was that they chose 'a Scottish story' when I offered them a choice of Australian, African or Scottish story to start with. I told them a version of one of the traditional selkie stories 'Thomas Rhuag the Seal Catcher'. (Thank you to Moses Aaron for first sharing the story with me. I loved telling the story as 3-up with you and Nicole at the SA National Storytelling Festival.)

After that I told an Australian story - one created at a Literary Festival in Springsure some years back - 'The Gingie Silos'. The good thing about telling this one is that students realise that they might be able to create a dramatic tell-able story themselves.

Once our year 5's realised that, we were away creating a brand new story about something they knew a reasonable amount about - their local area.

One thing that I enjoyed was drawing on my own childhood experiences having picnics in the Samford Valley. It really made describing the local setting both easy and a way of sharing the experience of creating the story with the class. We became a creative team because we shared knowledge of that setting.

I'm looking forward to hearing what adventures the four different teams came up with.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Sourcing Tall Stories and Yarns

As a storyteller with a website called 'Storytelling In Australia' it's not surprising that I get an email from time to time asking me about 'tall stories' and 'yarns' and where to find them. Here's one from Van below.

G'day Daryll
I found your name and email address on the 'net. I hope you do not mind this contact.
I am 63, live in semi-retired fashion on the Central Coast of NSW, and I have just finished several "swag" tours attached to a round-Oz motor bike trip. Great!!

On the swag tours I had to mix it with, typically, a smallish bunch of Australian old-timers such as myself, and a bunch of young'uns from overseas. Again typically, the oldies know the first line of half a dozen songs and bugger all tall-stories, and I'm not much better so I make up stories. The young'uns absolutely LOVE it. But because I am fairly limited in imagination, my stories are less exotic and enthralling than ones I know I have heard [but not remembered well enuff to tell].
So - this email is to see if you can help stear me in the right direction. Can you suggest an author, or even a book or two, which runs short st0ries - both fair dinkum bullshit and fair dinkum stories?

Also - there was a fascination with the Aborigines, and to my never-ending shame, I was unable to tell these people anything, in story form, of the Aboriginal legends and stuff.
Can you help any?
All the best....Van [Davy]

Van, it sounds like you're having a great time and I applaud you for your effort in telling stories around the campfire and making them up as you go as well. It's such an important part of the Aussie storytelling tradition.

However there are plenty of good tall stories out there that are worth finding. When I'm travelling I'll often stop in second hand bookshops and go through the Australian Folklore section looking for books like Bill Wannan's 'Great Australiana - Folklore, Legends, Humour, Yarns'. Bill published quite a few great books. There's an obituary for him on Warren Fahey's site at that gives some more of his titles. A couple of good ones are:

- 'Come in Spinner :A Treasury of Popular Australian Humour' and
- 'Bullockies Beauts and Bandicoots: Australia's Greatest Yarns'.

Look for other people like Bill Scott and Patsy Adam-Smith eg,'The Shearers'. Also don't forget about some of our bush ballads. A lot of those old songs are stories in their own right. An old collection but a nice one if you find it is 'Favourite Australian Bush Songs' compiled by Lionel Long and Graham Jenkin and 'The Bushwakers Australian Song Book' is a good collection.

Yarns are good value as well. They're not tall stories as such but laid back stories about events and people and day to day life. Some of Bill Scott's collections are great, for example, 'The Australian Yarn'.

Now just to show that yarns are stilll being created and collected there's an interesting little collection on line at where you can download a pdf of collected yarns from around Australia.

Another tip is to look for local collections of stories or histories about particular towns or regions. They will often have good yarns in them and sometimes tall stories.

You probably should have a couple of 'Crooked Mick' from the Speewah stories in your repertoire as well. You can find a couple here thanks to the Macinnis family.

Indigenous stories are another question. Especially because we are in Australia, I believe we need to respect Aboriginal stories and especially the Dreamtime stories. There have been quite a lot published by Indigenous authors and what I would suggest that if you read one and think - 'that's a great story, I really want to tell it' then get in touch with that author through the publisher. You see that particular Aboriginal author would only have published if the story was his or her's to publish. Really though, the best people to tell Dream Time stories are the traditional owners of those stories. When you try to tell them away from the country and culture they are about, they lose their power.

Well there you go. There's some suggestions for you. Keep having fun on the swag tours. Any suggestions of other titles from anyone else is welcome.



Friday, May 23, 2008

Stories & Songs from the Inala Yarning Place

Met with Aunty Vi McDermott, Aunty Edna Bond and Barry Malezer today to show them the draft of the DVD booklet insert. So far everyone likes the booklet. Colleen from 3E has done a really good job on the layout.

When we showed it to Getano later on he liked it but went over it pretty carefully. We've got a couple of corrections to make.

Getano uploaded the roughcut version of one of the new songs to YouTube. It sounds good but the video will be heaps better on the DVD. We should be launching it in NAIDOC week all going well.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Back from Ali-Curung

For the last few weeks Karen and I have been in the Northern Territory working and having a short holiday. The work was the Picture This digital storytelling project in Ali-Curung, a remote Aboriginal community in Central Northern Territory. Although it is only 40 kms off the Stuart Highway it is about 5 hours from Alice Springs and 4 hours from Tennant Creek.

We were working out of the Arlpwe Art Centre collecting digital stories for publication and heard some wonderful and sometimes quite amazing personal stories. The first storyteller was Mr Bird, an 80 something year old hard working boomerang maker. He sat in the men's area at the Art Centre and told his stories about working to help set up the township when it was called the Warrabri Welfare Settlement.

One of the Art Centre's workers, Valerie Nelson, told us stories of about her grandmother passing on stories to her. We recorded the story of the painting of Aaki (Blackberry Juice), a dreamtime story, passed on from her grandmother. Her father, Mr Nelson, told us the story about how he survived, as a child, the Conniston Massacre of 1928.

The Ali-Curung Country Gospel band asked us to record their songs on the 'verandah' of Lenny's house. They were so pleased to get a a DVD of their songs that they take out to remote settlements and outstations.

Maureen O'Keefe told us funny stories about the old ladies she grew up with and took us out looking for bush tucker and medicine.

We learnt so much
in two short weeks about life
in Ali-Curung, it seems strange
now to be back in a city
with traffic and broadband and
water restrictions.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

2 What specific storytelling strategy do you use and why?

Well I'm back to answering Jill's set of questions (see The short answer is that, like most storytellers, I use lots of strategies.

Probably one of the most important is to think well about the audience and guess what sort of stories and what sort of storytelling style they would like. I then attempt to provide stories and style while watching to see if it is working and changing delivery if necessary.

Young children, generally speaking, want to have fun and want to have their energy validated and matched so my storytelling style for young children is quite energetic right from the start.

Older children can find this a bit embarassing so I generally start in a more subdued style with them and gradually slide into more expression and energy. Generally speaking, I believe that all people, young and old, want their real selves (energetic, creative, intelligent, fun loving etc) to be validated. The majority of young children just don't have any 'distress' laid in that gets in the way of enjoying it yet.

So with young children, I will often start a storytelling show with some humour so they have a good laugh and so I can let them know that they can have fun during my show.

The other important part is picking stories appropriate for the age group. This usually means stories that mean something for them. This can be stories about where they live, either locally or nationally, or stories about important issues to them, for example, overcoming dangers (Three Billy Goats Gruff) or exploring boundaries (Three Little Pigs) or even stories about children their own age. Two examples of this last category which also fill some other needs are stories about my own childhood in Maroochydore and in Brisbane. One is about going fishing with my Dad and the other is an adventure with my first pet - a kitten called Socks.

It is interesting to note that although I can tell both of these stories to adults as examples of stories I tell to young children, older children really squirm if I attempt to tell them.

So there you go Irish Jill the answer is 'lots of strategies'.

Photos from the Inala Concert & Recording Session

Some images from the Stories & Songs from the Inala Yarning Place Project

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Drought on Akimba and Bamba's farms?

Here's the image that came with the retelling of the 'Akimba and the
Magic Cow' story from Rochedale State School. There is a merciless sun
up there in that blue, blue sky and it's killed the crops on the farm.

Thank you again Year 3's. It's great to be reminded of a telling.


Feedback from some Year 3 Students

One of the pleasures of storytelling is when you get feedback from
students and teachers who've enjoyed one of your performances. Here's
one that I particularly enjoyed receiving particularly because it is
accompanied by a retelling of one of the stories I told - 'Akimba and
the Magic Cow', a digital illustration for the story and a thank you
page signed by 49 students.

Thank you students from year 3 at Rochedale. I enjoyed the visit to
your school and really enjoyed telling you my stories.

Daryll Bellingham, Storyteller

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Value of Stories - revisited

Tuesday afternoon, 3:30pm. Had one performance today once again with a Creche and Kindergarten Preprep group at one of my regular community kindergartens. They were around 4 years old and totaled around 40 children.

It was a good show. The children were enthusiastic, well warmed up to stories and storytelling. The staff were very supportive and had specific requests as to which of my stories they would like and which themes they would like me to explore - eg Easter.

I told three stories as per usual. 'The Tailor' or 'Something for Nothing' (this had been requested), 'The Little Blue Train takes the children to the farm (with an Easter theme) and 'Dragon Boy' ( a faux Chinese folktale I created with preschoolers last year).

As a performance artist I really enjoyed the way the audience joined in so enthusiastically and offered little gifts of possibilities for the stories.

Talking to one of the Directors afterward, I mentioned these interview questions and what she thought the value of stories and storytelling were to children. She includes daily reading and storytelling in her program and said, 'Stories and storytelling are so empowering for children. It gives them power over language and expression and communication.' (paraphrased)

I thought 'Yes! That puts it very clearly.'

Yes stories are fun and entertaining and thought provoking and provide a shared experience but, possibly most importantly, for children in particular, storytelling and stories are empowering.

That segues most opportunely into my answer for Q2 but more of that in the next post.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Value of Stories & the Irish Connection

What a day. Did a wonderful performance with some older prepreps at Chelmer-Graceville Community Kindergarten. The Director and the children were keen for me to do a story about space. One boy was Astronauting around the centre with a cardboard role 'laser gun' in one hand, a cardboard tube 'walkietalkie' in the other, and a cereal box 'Astronaut Backpack' stickytaped to his back.

This afternoon I was busy trying to sort out insurance bills, why do they all come at once, when I noticed an email from a student inviting me to take part in an 'interview via email' for her research project all about children and storytelling.

This was not the first time I have been asked to do so and I immediately recognised that really what I was being asked to do was to take part in a way that was convenient for the student but a 'bit of a type-a-thon' for me.

Well I suggested we meet and she could shout me a coffee and interview and tape my answers. Well and good but the reply I got back indicated my requester was in Ireland and I was in Australia and a cup of coffee would be a long way off so I though how can I get some good value out of this as well?

Here's my solution. I'll post Jill's questions here. Post my answers and invite comments.

Here's Jill's original email and questions for a start.

On 10/03/2008, at 3:33 AM, Jill Moore wrote:

• I am at present in my final year of study and carrying out my research project, I was wondering if you would be willing to answer some questions.
• I have outlined them below.
• I really love your work and would love to learn more.

1 What value do you think stories in general have for young children?
2 What specific storytelling strategy do you use and why?
3 How do you think the strategy works?
4 How do the specific children you work with react to this creative method of storytelling?
5 How does the strategy you use facilitate children undergoing new experiences?
6 Is there any other ways that new experiences can be mediated?
7 How does the strategy you use encourage children to talk about their feelings?
8 Would it be easy to use this strategy in any early year’s service?
9 What type of children/ age group would benefit from this strategy you use most?
10 Did you ever use any other storytelling methods?
11 What skills and qualities do you feel a storyteller or a person using this strategy needs to have?
12 Do you enjoy telling stories?
I would Really appreciate it if you got back to me on this.

Kind regards
Jill Moore

Answer 1
What value do you think stories in general have for young children?

Well, in general, it depends on the age of the children but, in one way, stories have the same value for children as they do for adults. Stories encode cultural, family and personal information in a form that is memorable, fun, creative, multilayered, entertaining, impactful and highly accessible. All that is as true for adults as it is for children. Stories help us to belong. 'I am one of the people that know's and enjoys the story called ...'

Another important thing about stories is that even though they encode information but they don't 'shorthand it ' or 'text it'. A story is a whole story whether it is short or long because it makes use of the narrative structure - the way of recognising and telling a story all around the world. We know when a story has ended or not.

Probably one of the things about stories and children is that generally speaking they haven't forgotten how to have fun and they expect their stories to be fun. That's not to say they can't appreciate a story that is serious - they can. They would just prefer their stories to be fun and playful.

(More answers in subsequent posts.)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

2008 a brand new year of storytelling

Well 2008 is off to a good start. The TownAce's engine has been rebuilt. It's got a new battery and my storytelling energy has been renewed by some time near waterfalls and rivers and forest.

I wonder what wonders 2008 will bring?

We have an exciting project happening with the Indigenous Elders of the Inala Yarning Place Singers. It will finish with a concert and DVD. It's great working with Aunty Vi and Aunty Edna with K.B. and Getano Bann.

In May we're looking forward to working with Elders in the Northern Territory community of Ali Curung.

I'd really like this year to get some of my own CD's and DVD's together as well. Any suggestions?

Friday, January 11, 2008

We're Off to See the Wizard

Well we didn't follow the Yellow Brick Road, it was the New England Highway and the Newell all the way to Deniliquin. The wizard is Karen's father and he's a wizard at growing tomatoes and book-keeping and he's not bad at telling a story or a yarn when he gets going as well.

The drive down, 2 days, was safe and relatively uneventful. We noticed our regular markers of progress - Cunninghams Gap rainforest, the church at Warwick, the turnoff to Giraween National Park, the location of the old state border gates at Wallangarra, the old emu and kangaroo farm gate posts south of Uralla etc.

They all tell little travelling stories. This time though we can add some different markers.

There was a TV cameraman vidoeing a bunch of flowers left near the site of a tragic truck/car smash that claimed the lives of four teenagers near Warwick. That reminded me of another dramatic smash scence we had driven past on the Newell Highway some years back. A truck driver had gone to sleep and driven his rig through a caravan, totally obliterating it and smashing finally into a substantial ironbark. He looked very dead.

On a brighter note, we finally stopped at Mother of Ducks Lagoon at Guyra, something I've been meaning to do for years. Wasn't much water in the lagoon (in fact it was pretty much dry) but it was good to read about how the local tribe had lived around it and used it for so long.

The Xanthorrheas in the burnt Goonoo State Forest south of Mendooran that had been so easy to see against the blackened and blasted landscape last trip were now casting seed and starting to merge into the regrowth of ironbarks and daisies and acacias.

As we walked around taking photos we disturbed a small stick exposing the white ants underneath to the marauding meat ants. They charged in, seized little golden termites in their pincers and galloped off towards their nest.

There is something very affirming about seeing this regrowth happening. The hard black Xanthorrea seeds will find their place in the soil ready for the next bush fire to create the right conditions for germination. These ecosystems worked out how to adapt to fire long ago. I wonder if we humans could be smart enough to take advantage of fire like this? Aboriginal communities all over Australia have been practicing 'fire stick grazing' for millenia. We should be able to come up with a whole range of possibilities.

Further south, at Alectown, between Peak Hill and Parkes, the garden full of whirlies and gnomes and fairytale characters was still stripped bare and the for sale sign was prominent by the front gate. Last trip Karen stopped and asked what had happened from a woman living in a converted church. Turns out the old man who had been entertaining travellers for years with his quirky garden had passed away and the house had been put on the market. I guess the estate agent said it wouldn't sell with the fantasy garden in place, so it was packed up and sent to the tip.

Karen won the 'who'll see the first emu' bet in a very dry paddock around the turnoff to Urana. I remembered the emus we came across down in the Gulpa Forest one year and the one I nearly collided with when it came charging out of the scrub on the side of the road up near Blackall in Queensland. Jerilderee's lagoon was still dry and waterless. The further south we drove the drier it got.

The Wizard of Oz is still growing tomatoes and doing the BAS for the motorbike shop however. He's keeping the birch tree and his vegie garden alive against the prevails of the drought. We got to Deniliquin just in time to go down to the rissolle with him for tea. I had the roast of the day and a light beer and we toasted the New Year and our journey down that long bitumen road.