Day 11 – Telling Tales

It was a quiet day today, spent watching the wildlife through the window and putting my new embroidery skills into practice. This meant that there was plenty of space to think. The phrase that Fran had used yesterday was still circling in my thoughts; “people need a narrative” .

I was thinking about the role of the Storyteller. I had been questioning whether the storytelling events in Orkney were attended by locals or if they were purely tourist focused, intent on serving up a taste of ‘Orkney life’ to visitors. One event that I had previously attended proclaimed at the end “I put it to you that you have had an authentic Orkney experience”; I had certainly had a very enjoyable experience, I had learnt a lot and had felt transported by the atmosphere and the narrative but there seemed to me something inauthentic about the evening. Sat as a silent audience we had watched as the Storyteller wove her carefully choreographed magic, my mind had wandered back to a campfire where a group of friends and strangers had sat and told stories, sang songs and recited poems. I do not mean to suggest that this storytelling was irrelevant; on the contrary I think that what was being done was very important, it was keeping traditional stories alive and sharing them in a skilled and entertaining way. I enjoyed it immensely. However I couldn’t help but wonder if the role of the Storyteller had changed from those peat fire gatherings this event was trying to evoke.

People need a narrative…

Fran had suggested that in the past storytelling had been discouraged as a pastime for the uneducated and has recently experienced a revival through the Storytellers working in Orkney today. She told me that they had a great turn out of local residents in the audience at the Storytelling Festival events. She also mentioned that when all the Storytellers got together over dinner and drinks they would all tussle to tell the next tale and the stories would flow until the early hours.

People need a narrative…

One of the first things Fran asked me was “are you a Storyteller?” I replied “as much as anyone is I suppose.” I had also been previously told by someone “you can’t do a couple of workshops and then call yourself a Storyteller.”I wandered just exactly what a Storyteller was.

There is a need to preserve the traditional tales of the past. There is certainly a skill to spinning a yarn in an entertaining way that captures the spirit of the old characters and evokes an atmosphere. Perhaps this is the reserve of the Storytellers, to recount tales with a certain flare and theatrical edge that transports us to another world or another time. But people need a narrative and we all tell stories of one kind or another, the stories of old were once fact to those who told them. They were explanation of the landscape or the recounting of a strange experience, told and retold, altered and transformed, passed from generation to generation. The most popular or widespread were remembered but countless would have been forgotten. Told in the course of everyday life, just as we tell stories today storytelling came naturally to all but did they see themselves as Storytellers?

Maybe I am not a Storyteller but I certainly tell stories.



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