Sunday, October 14, 2012

Kuril, West End Crossing Boundaries and Ashgrove Young Explorers

Had a really enjoyable workshop at Ashgrove Library with the Young Explorers of Ashgrove History.

Uncle Nurdon Serico shared his knowledge of the local country and of the Turrbal people.

He reminded us of the Turrbal name for Ashgrove - Kallindarbin and of the fact that Waterworks Road was once an Aboriginal pathway leading to Mt Cootha and to the Bunya festival in the Bunya Mountains.

I remembered the Kuril Story that Vanessa Fisher told and painted for the Crossing  Boundaries project in 1997- 98. Here's the link. It's been archived on the Pandora site these days but it's still all there.

It was a great project. It would be good to do it again sometime, get some different stories and compare results.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Ashgrove local history stories and yarns

I had great pleasure telling my 'Clothes Props Man' story to children and adults at the Launch of the Creating Young Local Historians project at Ashgrove Library on Saturday.

Local History is all about stories really. Sure some people get bogged down in detail of dates, addresses and exactly what was said at times but really they are just getting bogged down in Narrative Structure or at least one part of it.

The other delightful story we had at the launch was the story of The Children's Coach. For some years around 1937 at St Finbarr's School in Ashgrove the kindergarten children were delivered by a horse and cart owned by the nuns.  Miss Pat Fahey was there at our launch to share the story about being one of the children photographed sitting in the buggy. She's the one sucking her thumb.

She reckons that it was probably because, although the horse plodded up the hill in Jubilee Tce where she was picked up, it used gallop along at a great rate along Waterworks Road and they all had to hang on.

If you would like to see what Pat looks like now have a look on our YEAH blog.

Really looking foward to our first children's workshop in the library on Saturday at the Ashgrove Library. Uncle Nurdon Serico is going to come along to tell us a story or two about Turrbal enjoyment of the area.

We'll have some games, technology, more stories and fun, so if you know of any children living in the greater Ashgrove area who would like something really different to do on Saturday here's the link to the information.

We'll be publishing stories, local history information, podcasts etc on the YEAH blog so you might like to follow our progress.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

This Old Man He Told Stories

Wonderful day today of performing at kindergartens - Samford Community Kindergarten and Chapel Hill Community Kindergarten and running off a DVD of the ANTaR forum on 'Sovereignty in the 21st Century'.

I'm really enjoying adding more ukulele to my storytelling as well. Today we went for a choof down the track with 'Down By the Station, Early In the Morning' and that led into my 'Little Blue Train takes the children to the Zoo' story. Because the children at Samford have been exploring a space theme lately, I also improvised a story that started with 'This Old Man He Played One' song. When we got to 4, he played knick, knack on the door, the door creaked open and I asked the children 'who or what came out'. One girl said a ghost, so, of course, we all screamed and ran and ran and ran all the way to the space station and took off on the Lunar Explorer Mission as fast as we could.

You wouldn't guess who we ran into on the moon? Give up? It was that dreadful space pirate Captain Hook. He stole the treasure and blasted off to Mars. Did we get back? Of course we did. Came back to earth just in time to sing 'this old man he played five'. Good fun.

Chapel Hill's Kinders were dominated by boys and the energy was .... masculine, well 4 year old masculine. I did notice that the girls were having the most fun though. We finished with The Clever Turtle. At the end of the show, the children had a choice of strumming the uke while I did some chords or playing on the djembe. What value.

Stories are so much fun for all ages. It is important that we remember that as we embrace and work with the national curriculum.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Bringing stories alive and joyful Ted

Really enjoyed running a  bringing stories alive storytelling workshop for some very talented and dedicated kindergarten teachers today.

Wavell Heights Kindergarten is one of those very professional C&K kindergartens that add so much to our Qld society.

Enjoyed this Ted talk tonight.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Fair is Fair - World Folktales of Justice and Snow White

Have been reading some more of 'Fair is Fair - World Folktales of Justice' by Sharon Creeden. I bought this August House Publisher collection of folktales around the subject of justice at the NSW Storytelling Conference and have been dipping into it at regular intervals.

There's quite a range of stories both from different cultures and about different issues. One I enjoyed was 'The Two Otters and the Fox'. It's a short folktale from India and Indonesia about otters who are fighting over who should get the bigger share of the fish they've both caught. They ask the fox to solve the question for them and, of course, he makes off with the biggest share. The otters are left with an unexpected moral - fighting leads to losses.

This story can be used in so many ways, about bullying for example, but what came to my mind, I must admit, is the current fighting by the Australian political parties over refugees. We all lose by that fight, especially the refugees. More importantly though the political parties lose respect.

Another story in the book is 'Mr Fox'. I used to tell it a lot when I first started telling stories but I stopped. It is a pretty gruesome story. Sharon Creeden compares it to the serial killing of Ted Bundy. He was certainly gruesome. I still don't know if I want to tell it. It does have a brave hero, Lady Mary, and justice is done but it is capital punishment.

I find myself turning off TV a lot lately because of all of the murderous crime stories. Who needs them? I know I don't. What effect do they have on viewers? I don't know but I suspect that the balance is not positive. So should I tell Mr Fox or not? And in the words of a panto I saw as a child, 'That's the burning question. Let's have your suggestion.'

Who's seen 'Snow White and the Huntsman'?

I enjoyed it. Thought it was good storytelling in general. I liked the way they played with the Snow White story and brought in all sorts of other references from other folk tales, legends, movies, genres etc. - the three drops of blood on the snow, the rose, the witch and the ravens, the white hart and many more.

Snow White was quite Joan of Arc-ish riding into battle. If she was a contemporary country or nation which one would she be? What about the scarred women with the head scarves in the village by the lake? Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam?

The troll was cool but it was a bit of an anticlimax when he just slunk off. It demonstrated Snow Whites compassionate power but really they missed a good opportunity there. They went for  mono-cultural or mono-specific heroes. The closest thing to a non white human team members were the dwarfs and they were clearly white human, just a little quirky in a easily loveable way.

I thought it was interesting that, while there was lots of killing in the movie, most of the means of dying were not directly presented. I guess this was a way of making the killing more acceptable. It certainly worked.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Back in Bris, Little Tots and the Single Story

Back in Brisbane after corporate storytelling trip to Perth. It was a bit quick and I didn't manage to catch up with Perth storytellers. (Sorry about that WA storytellers.)

The session with Honda Australia salespeople and managers at the Burswood Entertainment Complex went well. It was good working with a local jazz band, John Bannister and The Charisma Brothers, as well. One thing I like about these corporate awards nights is the smiles on peoples faces as they are acknowledged for their hard work.

Really enjoyed our visit to the Art Gallery of WA. The Warholl to Picasso exhibition is definitely worth it and the general gallery collection is quite special. Good to see some old favourites again like Lin Onus's 'Maralinga'.

In my corporate storytelling presentation to Honda, I've been making the assertion that, 'If you want to oppress a culture one of the easiest ways to do it is to stop the people from telling their stories and especially stop them from telling their stories in their language.'

So today I was pleased to hear that idea expanded on in a Ted talk by ‪Chimamanda Adichie: 'The danger of a single story.'‬  She won me over very quickly with 'I'm a storyteller and I'd like to tell you a few personal stories about ...'  In her talk Chmamanda argues very eloquently about the effect of our tendency to simplify our perceptions of peoples and culture into - 'single stories'.

She says, among many other things, - 'Power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person but to make it the definitive story of that person.'

She finishes her talk with:

'When we reject the single story, when we realise that there is never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise.'

I like that.

Told three different stories to some Little Tots children at Stretton today. So many different faces and cultures, all hungry for fun and stories. We had both but I do see that it is easy to slip into one type of story.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Weaving corporates, festivals and dramatic boys.

Last weekend was great hobnobbing with storytellers from around Australia and overseas at the NSW storytelling guild's 'Weaving Stories Together' Conference in Sydney.

I can't decide if the highlight was listening to Dianne Ferlatte the keynote speaker and featured storyteller from the USA or the energy of the primary school boys who won the children's storytelling competition. Then again I did really enjoy the workshop by Graham Ross called 'Enriching the Perspective and Power of Historical Storytelling' and the 'Improvised Storytelling' workshop by Lillian Rodrigues Pang. Jenni Cargill Strong's workshop on bullying was really informative as well.

I've also been enjoying the corporate storytelling I've been doing with Honda Australia. An adult corporate audience is so different from a school or a community audience. There is so much content wrapped around the stories I've been presenting them. It is a buzz to do that walk on stage with the spotlight and the musicians providing backup. So if you walk into a Honda salesroom in the next 6 months and get told a story or two by the salesperson, you'll know why.

Kalinga Park playground, image with thanks by Graeme Lanham (Panoramio)

 A funny thing happened on Tuesday - World Environment Day. I was doing some performances for the Brisbane City Council Catchment Coordinators under a marquee beside Kedron Brook - lovely setting. My audiences were Catchment Kids - primary school children from different schools involved in the junior catchment protection programs. They were short shows, just 30 minutes which usually meant telling one story and improvising a second one with the audience about the catchment. At the end of the last show, I invited the audience to do a little drumming each on my African djembe.

I noticed one boy, probably in about Year 6 or so, stepping up quite excitedly. He was obviously planning how we would play the drum in a different way as I saw him clench his fists ready to punch it. I said, "No not with your fists please."

I saw him unclench is fists and I thought 'that's good,' but I wasn't ready for what he did next.

He head butted the drum, twice! and unfortunately split the skin, duh! Needless to say I wasn't very happy.

Still that drum and that goat skin has had a lot of use in the 10 years or so since I bought it. I dropped it in a Eumundi Drums yesterday for a new skin and for the time being I'm djembe-less. I'm experiencing some withdrawal symptoms, oh well.

Still being without the drum will spur me into experimenting with some new story support activities such as my green ukulele.

I've already improvised a new story that starts with the song 'This Old Man' it's pretty simple chords and lots of opportunities to branch out into different stories.

Today I was at Augusta State School out by Redbank Plains and had fun with the students there. I'll be back there tomorrow to do another three shows looking forward to telling and creating some more stories with them.


Friday, March 30, 2012

Library Storytelling and Creative Advertising

Have just enjoyed two Brisbane City Council library performance gigs in the last two days:

- Wynnum Library storytime for the Wynnum up late program

- and the opening of the new Carindale Branch Library.

The Carindale Library children's area is really cute. Works pretty well for storytime as well.

While I was at Wynnum I was making up a song:

'Pelicans and Seagulls, Pelicans and Seagulls are flying overhead, are flying overhead,
Pelicans and Seagulls like eating fish and chips.'

I like Pelicans but sometimes those Seagulls get just a bit pesky.

Someone sent me an email with a great advert on YouTube where a seagull gets his just deserts from some well organised crabs. Here's the link. (It's fine for children so long as you take some parental care around some of the other YouTube content that might pop up around it.)

I can see a story coming on with crabs in it for sure.



Sunday, February 05, 2012

Riverview Stories and the Aboriginal Frog

Enjoying my participation in the Riverview School Artist in Residence project. I'm helping students enjoy the experience of telling stories and creating them.

There's a great photo and article about the project  on the Queensland Times newspaper website.

It was great to have Aunty Ruth Moffat drop in to listen to some of her grandchildren taking part. She told us some of her stories of working as a Teacher's Aid at Riverview (among other places). One of the little anecdotes she shared was of a young girl telling her that she had 'seen an Aboriginal frog' at her place. When Aunty Ruth asked her why it was an Aboriginal frog, the girl said, "That's because it's covered in dots."

The students loved the story of course so we added it to the story we created about a visit by the Riverview School Christmas Choir visit to Riverview Gardens Retirement Village.

I love this sort of working, being able to share stories and retell them in completely different  settings.

Mind you, you have to be quite flexible working in a school. We were recording our story as we created it and I had 4 students singing Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer as if they were performing at the retirement village. It sounded great. We advanced the story and got in the frog and I turned to our 'choir' to record them singing again but I had found that 3 of the 4 had left to catch buses. Our remaining choir member rose to the occasion however and sang our improvised song quite brilliantly.

Another quite wonderful adaption was finding out that one of the original choir members 'wasn't really in the choir' and that, despite a disability, had won the school comedy competition last year. I asked her if we could record her pretending to tell a joke at Riverview Gardens. She did so swimmingly:

'Why did the fish cross the sea?"


"To get to the other tide."

I'm hoping Aunty Ruth will come back and tell us some of her stolen generation story. The multipurpose hall at Riverview is named after her husband Uncle Jack who sadly passed away in 2008.

You can read some of her story on the Goodna State School website at:

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Riverview, Storytelling Guild and National Gathering

Great day at Riverview Primary today. The school has a  good feel about it. I've been enjoying pushing my technology boundaries with the new iPad, well enjoying in the sense of great when it works and frustrating when something goes wrong. Mind you what went wrong was my forgetting about setting the recording length to 'automatic'. I guess it must default to 8 bars. Good for musos not so good for story'os.

I just love it deeply storytelling works with people. It's great seeing those special moments.

I've started a special blog for the project at

Queensland Storytelling Guild AGM and storycircle on Sunday at Bettina Nissens house at D'bay. So, if you're a member, or, if you're thinking of getting involved now is a good time. We're a great bunch of warm, creative people who love stories and storytelling. We've got some more home tellings planned and likely a fundraising concert. Here's the Guild blog page link

There is a Sydney Storytelling Festival coming up on the first weekend on June. There will be tellers from around Australia and visitors from overseas as well. Should  be a buzz.

Watched a great story about Shannon Noll the country singer from Condobolin on the ABC tonight. They made really good use of video and his family and their old photos. It was a bit Australian Stories like.

Was tempted to watch the next show about The Straits by the same people who did The Slap but enough TV for one night. So in compensation here's a story about a slap. It's not any story it's a Hodja Story. I've pinched it from a very nice collection of Hodja Stories on  Thanks Lale. They're really worth a read. Here's one:

One day Nasreddin Hodja was walking on the street, when a total stranger came up to him and slapped him on the back of his neck. The Hodja demanded some kind of rectification. But the man was unapologetic. He had thought the Hodja was a good friend of his, whom he was accustomed to greeting with such gesture.
`It is not an incidence of great significance, Effendi,' he said to the Hodja, `I thought you were my friend, I shouldn't be paying for such a small mistake.' 

Nasreddin Hodja was not convinced. He was wronged and he had to receive the damages. Since the discussion was going nowhere, they decided to consult the kadi. However, unbeknownst to the Hodja, the man and the kadi were friends.
The kadi listened to them both, and although it looked like the Hodja was right, he was still determined to get his friend out of this without having to pay a penalty.
`Hodja Effendi is right,' the kadi said, winking to his friend, `you have to pay him a gold coin.' The friend, reassured with kadi's wink, said that he didn't have a gold coin on him but if they waited a few minutes, he would go and get it. Kadi allowed him to go fetch the money and Nasreddin Hodja started to wait. After waiting quite a while, and recalling the familiarity between the kadi and the man, the Hodja figured out that he was tricked and that the man was never going to come back. He approached the kadi and startled him with a forceful slap on the back of his neck.
`Hodja Effendi, what did you do that for?' the kadi said in pain.
`Kadi Effendi, I am a little late for my errands, I can't wait any longer. When the man comes back, you take the gold coin!'

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Riverview Stories

The Riverview School Artists in Residence Project is underway! The adventure has begun.

I enjoyed the warmup session with the teachers on the third of their start of year professional development days. The energy was interesting - professional but playful. The story we created together is rough. It had to be, we didn't have enough time for anything but rough, but it does have all the components I'm hoping for in this project,  local setting - the skate bowl in Pickering Street, students as characters and some local flavour.

Skate Bowl from Google Street View in Hayden St, Riverview

It was good watching the teachers working out how to have a bit of fun with the process. One way was their choosing students who had been a little challenging for them last year as the characters in their story. I got so much pleasure out of seeing their linocuts and look forward to putting them together with the text of the story on the project blog.

Stories of place are such an important part of community and cultural development. We all live in place and are shaped by place. Our stories are shaped by place and our stories shape our places. Telling stories about our places helps us take pride in our country, our town and in ourselves.

The four introductory storytelling and story creation sessions in the library with the whole of school were rich and textured. Most of the sessions went well although the years 4,5,6 year session didn't get off to as good a start as I would have wished because the Queensland Times journo and photographer had arrived just before the start.

I'm looking forward to meeting with the four participation classes this week and working with them to develop their stories.