Thailand, Singapore and India 2015

Storytelling opens up new horizons, and not only for the listeners. The first engagement of my Asian tour was to a new country for me, to be part of the Third International Storytelling Festival in Thailand, organised by the indefatigable Dr. Wajuppa Tossa.

There were many other tellers from around the world, a chance to meet old friends and make new ones, including some I was delighted to meet up with the following month in India.

Telling with an interpreter is not always easy.

I was fortunate in having the support of Phanida Phunkrathok, whose lively and spontaneous interpretation of a tale she had not heard before added much to the story.

fter a workshop for the Storytelling Association (Singapore), I travelled on to India.

First stop was Bangalore, where Hippocampus organised performances in several schools. Some were expensive international schools, but the one which will definitely stay in my mind was the Shishu Mandir School, working with the under-privileged community living on the outskirts of the city.

The children were such wonderfully receptive listeners.

Moreover, although all first-generation speakers (i.e. no English spoken at home), their speaking skills were most impressive.

In Bangalore a Hippocampus evening performance for adults.

This was followed by a one-day workshop for the Kathalaya Storytelling Academy.

Then the night-train south to the temple city of Madurai and two days’ work at the Mahatma Montessori Academy.

Here numbers were larger, especially on the final day, which began with telling to 700 students. And again, attentive listeners!

Later that morning, with a smaller group,

I was telling a story about a monkey. Just on cue, a real monkey jumped down from a tree and walked right across the assembly hall behind the students. Fortunately the listeners were so engrossed in the tale that they did not notice a thing.

After Madurai it was off for 10 days to Chennai, where Eric Miller arranged workshops and performances, such as this one in Kids Central School.

This was all part of the 3rd Chennai Storytelling festival.

The photo shows just a few of the tellers involved, local as well as international.

Some of you will recognise Kiran Shah of Australia/Singapore on the left – whilst Eric is modestly in the background.

Two performing highlights stand out for me. One was a tandem telling in English and Tamil by Aparna Athreya and Sowmya Srinivasan of a traditional Tamil chain tale about a fly that has forgotten its name. Again, the simplest of stories brought to life by two excellent tellers.

Another wonderful performance was by Deepa Kiran, a teller from Hyderabad. She told the well-known tale of the grains of rice on the chess board. This is a simple tale, one I’ve often heard, but I was mesmerised by her brilliantly incorporating classical Indian dance to illustrate the mathematics as the grains of rice are increased by the power of two on successive squares.

Watch Deepa combine telling, dance and music in part of her Bhakti Tradition show.

The festival culminated in a two-day seminar hosted at the University of Madras. The theme, always close to my heart: Storytelling in Education and Training.

Here, posed before the impressive Victorian architecture of the university, together with Kiran and Usha Venkatraman of Mumbai, who also presented at the seminar.

In both Chennai and Bangalore it was impressive to see how the storytelling community is developing, with enthusiastic tellers not only taking up the artform, but moving it forwards in serious, professional directions.

It was a privilege to be part of this, and my thanks again to Eric in Chennai and Hippocampus in Bangalore for inviting me.

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Permission to tell outlines my views on copyright

For those who are teachers: Telling stories in the classroom: basing language teaching on storytelling