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.

One Friday evening  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 and if you lived on the south side of the railway line it was an easy way to get to the north side where most of the fast food and take away food outlets were in Emerald. However, the tunnel could be a bit isolated and parents always told children not to go through it. Most people drove cars around Emerald anyway.

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Now, the girls were returning after buying Friday night take-away dinner for their family, McDonalds and KFC for themselves and a Red Rooster for their younger brother. It looked a bit like rain and, anyway, the girls wanted to get back in time for TV.

"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's quick and anyway, it'll be fun! You're not scared are you?" 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 time, 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.

"Thanks," said the constable. "Enjoy your tea!"

They didn't see the old man or the hand again 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 though, there used to be cans and rubbish strewn around but now it's always mysteriously cleaned every night, especially the area around the photo of a coal train and a little white cross stuck on the wall. There's often a small flower sticking out from behind the photo. It's usually close to the railway worker in the photo.

(Story created by Daryll Bellingham, Storyteller and the year 6/7 students at Denison State School in Emerald South. 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.

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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 one knew whether it was the magic words or the scream but the drag line 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 hot blast of the dragons foul polluting 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 and the climate around the volcano seems to be getting hotter and hotter. Just 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.

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

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 -
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(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.