Thursday, December 15, 2011

Time to listen in 2012

This morning I put some suggestions into a project plan for a school Artist In Residence project happening in Riverview first term. It's all about encouraging students to listen to, tell, collect and share stories orally. Planning out the timing of valuable projects like this takes time. The session we had on Tuesday was a two coffee, 5 hour job. It will be worth it though when the stories start flowing.

As I sent my email reply off, I glanced at my incoming emails and it only took one response to a request to sign a petition about whaling and I was into Facebook. Facebook takes time but it is usually worth it. I found a link from shared by US storyteller Robert Bela Wilhelm to a New York Times article about taking time to listen to stories in Africa by Swedish author Henning Mankel called 'The Art of Listening'.

He's lived in Mozambique for twenty odd years and learned a thing or two about listening. I love his anecdote about overhearing two men talking about a friend who had died before he could tell the rest of an important story.  What I like about it is not the sadness that he didn't get to finish the story but that the friend had originally agreed to come back the next day to hear the rest of the story. True friend.

So my friends, what do I wish for you all in 2012?

Well time of course. Time enough to listen well to lots of stories.

I'm looking forward to my Riverview collaboration with Narelle Oliver, Lee FullARTon and all the teachers, students and parents at Riverview. It's called the Art of Story but maybe it should have been called The Art of Listen

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Grandpa Chris Catches Fish for Christmas

It's still November but, for kinder children, it's definitely Christmas.

I had fun today at Jamboree Community Kindergarten. I did some of my usual jokes to start off with and I slipped in one about Christmas already being over and that I was sorry that they had missed out.

It's strange doing the northern winter snow stories in subtropical Brisbane. They like it though. This time I did my version of the First Gift of Christmas.

After that was my 'The Possum and the Garbage Truck Driver." It's good. They get lots of laughs about the garbage truck driver being outwitted by a possum and then by the kookaburra. Of course it finishes in a spirit of cooperation and friendship so that's appropriate for Christmas.

I had planned to do 'Grandpa Chris' which starts with the song 'Grandpa Chris catches fish to give to all his friends' and goes on to say what the other grandpa's are doing for the community in their active retirement. It didn't quite feel right for this group though.

I wanted something that involved Christmas and the children more so we created a new Grandpa Chris story called 'Grandpa Chris saves Santa Clause'. Some children get to help as well of course. It worked well and it definitely much more local coastal Australian summer in feel. (Santa's sleigh crash landed in a mangrove.)


'Ho, Ho, Ho. Deck the halls with lots of mangroves'
(photo Tatters; on Flickr)

I'm looking forward to retelling it over the next couple of weeks.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Giant With No Heart Rocks Terrace

Had the pleasure of performing the folktale 'Giant With No Heart' to approximately 900 Terrace students today for their End of Year Liturgy service.

Connor Finn was looking for a good story that would stimulate some thoughts about appropriate student behaviour over the Christmas holidays and that would fit in with the Christmas message. I gave him the choice of 6 or 7 folktales that  I thought would work with boys of that age group and he picked the one I thought would be best.

'Giant With No Heart' is both a dramatic and interesting story from northern Europe. It basically talks about how men get to be 'giants with no heart' and what to do about it.

I asked for some music students to play drums and cymbal to add some more atmosphere to the story and we went for it.

It worked. It's great to have 900 teenagers interested, involved and challenged. Our percussionists were spot on. Loved the orchestral base drum but I couldn't talk them into loading it into my van after the show.

It was a really good try out for the Queensland Storytelling Guild's 70w amplifier system as well. It filled the hall quite well. I was able to play a mp3 sound effects recording straight from a memory stick.

One little moment afterwards was when I was just driving out of the school grounds. One of the students looked up and recognised me. It was good to see his smile.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Use of Stories Around the World

I keep on being pleasantly surprised by the number of people making use of stories in all sorts of creative ways.

I just replied to an email from Liz Gregory, a teacher in Rugby in the UK, seeking my permission to use my version of the traditional folktale 'The Pied Piper of Hamelin.'

She wants to 'create a compact unit of work as part of a mathematical investigation with cross-curricular ICT, music, environmental science and literacy links'. She pointed me towards an NRich maths activity based on the story. Here's the link -

This activity is based around the number of people and rat legs that might exist in the story but there are so many other possibilities as well. The Piped Piper has so much potential to be used as a modern day parable around sustainability as well. That was one of the things I had in mind when I did my version of it. I look forward to seeing Liz's version.

Here are some 'rat plague' images:

The rat catchers, 1900

From a series of images showing the areas in Sydney affected by the outbreak of Bubonic Plague in 1900. Taken by Mr. John Degotardi, Jr., photographer from the Department of Public Works, the images depict the state of the houses and 'slum' buildings at the time of the outbreak and the cleansing and disinfecting operations which followed.
Professional Rat Catchers (in front is a pile of dead rats)
Dated: c. 17/07/1900
Digital ID: 12487_a021_a021000009

I like this one of  celesteh Charles Hutchins of some grafitti in Killarney.


and here's the Pied Piper in Hamelin (photo by By sophiea sophie)


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Meaning of Fairytales

I was going through my emails this wet Saturday morning and came across a LinkedIn discussion in the Folktales group about the prominence of the Wolf in stories like 'The Wolf and the Seven Kids' where the kids don't listen well enough to their wise mother and get eaten for their trouble. There was quite a bit of discussion about the wolf as representing Evil. I have always been a bit troubled by the quickness to ascribe evilness to any thing let alone animals. I responded in LinkedIn with the comment below.

"I'm inclined to look at the wolf as representing wildness that comes knocking unbidden at the doors of the house and family of civilisation. The three little pigs and the big bad wolf is another example of course and in this case the little pigs are actually constructing their own additions to civilisation at their wise mother pigs direction.

A interesting recent event in Australia developed mythic proportions and that was the case of the disappearance of the baby Azaria Chamberlain at Uluru. The parents claim was that a wild dingo had taken their baby from beside their tent and dragged it into the wildness of the surrounding bush. In this case the dingo/wolf was not seen as evil but the parents and especially the mother was. She was pilloried in the media charged and jailed. It took quite some time and a number of inquiries to establish that she was not at fault and had not killed her own baby.

Another example has been the dingos of Fraser Island where families like to go camping and fishing. They like to see the dingos as extensions of their family dogs but they are carnivores and a some children have been killed and mauled recently. A local woman, who loves/cares for the dingos and was feeding them because they were 'starving', was charged with doing so and dragged through the courts to prevent her with doing so. Her caring was creating more wildness in the Fraser Island camping sites because it encouraged the dingos to come into the sites and expect food even child food more often. At campsites of course civilization is quite flimsy and their are no fences or walls to keep children in and dingos out.

Peter and the Wolf is another interesting variation around the wildness aspect. It brings up the question of fear really well. I love the animated adaption by Suse Templeton of the Sergei Prokofviev's version. Here Peter is the counterpoint to the fear of his grandfather and the hunters and frees the captured wolf to return to the wildness.

I can't help wondering about these walls we create and the stories we tell. I think I'm going to have to come up with a different ending to my normal one for the Three Little Pigs. I normally have the little pigs succeeding against the 'big, bad wolf' and living happily ever after in 'their house made out of bricks and mortgage'. I wonder if one of the little pigs could learn about wildness somehow?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Bringing Back the Magic

Really looking forward to presenting my workshops at the Bringing Back the Magic Conference down the Gold Coast in a couple of short weeks time. Should be fun.

Hope so anyway because that's partly what the workshop is about - reminding Early Childhood Workers that one of the easiest ways of having Bringing Stories Alive for children is to have fun.

I was at the Fortitude Valley Centre today telling stories and had a wonderful time. Mind you I was a little concerned about the very young children because the three, four and five year olds were laughing so loudly that the little's were wondering what was going on.

After the show one of the boys came up and said, "Can you come back tomorrow?"

I had apologise and tell him that I was sorry, I couldn't because I telling at a library tomorrow.

He said, "Well when can you come back?"

I said, "Friday," knowing that it would be another group on Friday.

"Oh, I don't come to kindy on Friday, could you come tomorrow?"

Here's the workshop description for Bringing Back the Magic :

Bringing Stories Alive by Daryll Bellingham – having fun with stories and storytelling’ in a hands on and entertaining way is an essential skill for all early child hood educators. This workshop will remind you how easy it is to involve your children in rich storytelling experiences whilst also touching on a selection of other activities that may include improvising new stories, adapting nursery rhymes, creating local place stories, telling personal and family stories, putting children in charge, effective story time planning and addressing story time issues.

Have fun,


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Greener stories, Carers Workshop and new DVD delivered.

It's only Thursday and it seems like it's been a really busy week already.

I've been enjoying some kindy shows this week. I notice my stories are getting greener. I suspect that it is partly the launching of the 'carbon tax' and partly the influence of the Catchy Lockyer Stories Bush to Beach Tour that I did as part of Under 8's Week.

I've been enjoying telling some of those stories to kindy kids and watching the results. They've enjoyed them, especially 'David and the Snake Necked Tortoise'. They love Mr Stinky practicing his tortoise self defense mechanism on young David - anything smelly, stinky and poo-ish is a hit with kindy kids.

I was wondering if kindy kids would know about Tawny Frogmouths. The children at Chapel Hill Kindy sure did. After I finished 'Sally and Harry Save a Mopoke' one of the children pointed out a photo on the wall of a Tawny Frogmouth that had visited one of their playground Stringybark Trees. They liked the 'more pork' joke.

The other thing I've noticed is that I'm putting more environmental detail in other stories like 'Rosie and the Whale.' There's definitely a lot more environmental awareness amongst children then there used to be.

Family Day Care Carers Storytelling Workshop
Drove out to the wilds of Kuraby last night to present a storytelling workshop for Brisbane Family Day Care. Nice group of people, all women not surprisingly. I wonder if there are any male Family Day Carers?

I enjoy doing these workshops. They are usually 'introductory plus' because they all at least read stories and most of them tell stories as well. It's great to see adults letting go and having fun with stories and realising that that is what children want. Good to see the professional support that Brisbane Family Day Care is giving their carers as well.

Welcome Feedback
Kaori van Baalen sent me an appreciation card the other week for my participation in Catchy Lockyer Stories. It was a project I'm really proud of so it was good to get such positive feedback from her. I must make a habit of doing the same sort of thing myself. It really makes a difference.

Yarns and Life Stories DVD
Delivered the first of the Yarns and Life Stories - Inala Elders DVD out to Inala today. I'm in the process of drawing up the distribution list and making sure all of the Elders are happy with it but Aunty Vi's granddaughter and great granddaughter are visiting her so she was keen to get some. They look great and I know they are going to be an important community and educational resource.

Tomorrow I'm off to tell some stories to year 2's at Redbank Plains. Should be fun.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Monday, April 25, 2011

Mother Goose's Fairy Tales Retold In Easy Words Chiefly Of One Syllable

Took a break on Saturday and went down to the West End Markets to see who we could see. Caught Jeremy Youse busking with his usual flair and energy. He's added a top hat symble to his line up. Sounded good.

Met a few other friends, had a curry puff and a cup of coffee and couldn't resist an old copy of 'Mother Goose's Fairy Tales : Retold in Easy Words Chiefly Of One Syllable'. It's undated but probably from around 1950 or so. Had a mix of stories some of which I had not come across before but, really, it was the illustrations, especially the colour plates by G. E. Breary that sold me and anyway it was only $3.

The stories and characters are so English. All the children are rosy cheeked, the girls have bows in their hair and the boys quite Elizabethan in doublets and hose. Of course boys and princes rescue girls and princesses. Good manners triumph over just about everything else and, yes, most of the words are one or two syllables.

Here's an excerpt from 'The Giant Hands'
'Willy lay down that night with a heart full of thanks that he had met so good a master, and thought f his home to which he hoped soon to go back to make his fond mother smile once again.

'He was nearly asleep, and his thoughts were in part mixed with dreams, when a loud shout of "Fire! Fire! roused him.

'Up he rose and dressed quikcly, while the cries grew louder and louder. He ran down stairs. the smoke nearly choked him, for thehouse was on fire. He rushed into the farm-yard where he say his master, with the maids, in a great fright; no water at hand, no fire-engine, every one shouting, the pigs squealing, and the geese cackling.

' What was to be done? The staircase was burned, the flames ran from room to room, and there at a bedroom window stood (can you guess) the farmer's daughter with the smoke all about her; very soon it would be too late!

'As Willie looked on and thought what he could do to save the poor girl's life the giant hands were seen to place themselvers by the side of the house in the form of a ladder, and up this Willie sprang quickly. Soon he reached the window and seized the girl in his arms; he then rushed down and placed her, safe and sound, in charge of her father.'

Aaaaaah! Goodness prevails. Order is restored and the GIANT HANDS are revealed to be the HANDS OF INDUSTRY - known to many and always ready to help the willing and the good.

We didn't get an illustration of Willie braving the fire but we do have

'The Farmer's Daughter Gave Him a Kind Glance'

In some ways its all of another age. Or is it. Princes are still rescuing people although, these days, its from a helicopter. I must have been exposed to similar books as a child but I suspect even then I was cringing while knowing that I had some sort of cultural access.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Life Stories in West End

Enjoyed a cup of chai and an interview with Ian Kath, local West End podcaster this morning. I'm looking forward to seeing the post on his podcast and another on .

Mind you the conversation before and after about storytelling and stories and audio software and iLife etc, etc was just as interesting. One of the things we talked about was human consciousness and how it was related to language and story. How do we learn about story structure? Is it scanned by the baby brain like language sounds?

What stories we choose to tell and what we include in them, feel safe to include in them, I find fascinating. I'll be interested to listen to some of my own stories after the editor has his way. Oral History and Life Stories make such important contributions to cultures it's well worth encouraging the practice.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Value of Fairytales

Have been spending time doing some culling of old files in my office and library and came across a couple of quotes from Rudolph Meyer 'The Wisdom of Fairy Tales' that I obviously thought were worth writing out on the second page of a notebook.

The notebook was saved from the recycling bin because of them so I thought I'd better post the quotes for what passes for blog posterity.

'The characters in fairytales lead us to discover the treasures in our own souls. We become instinctively aware of the sorrows of life and the guidance of destiny.'

Well, I don't think I believe in destiny but I must admit as I look at the news reports of the tsunami in Japan I do wonder about the forces of nature and the sometimes disastrous effects they have on life.

'Fairytales told and retold by mother to child (father to child, storyteller to audience) enrich those depths of soul from which our later hopes and ideals are born.'

I did two shows today with preprep children. One of the centres always requests the same three stories. 'The Tailor', '3 Billy Goats Gruff' and 'Caps for Sale'. Afterwards, the director said,'You know we'll be playing '3 Billy Goats Gruff' and 'Caps for Sale' for months after you visit. They take turns being the characters and the narrator.'

Will those depths of their souls be enriched? Who knows. They'll probably have lots of fun though.