Day 17 – The Storyteller

I was back in Kirkwall today and meeting up with Tom Muir, a local Storyteller who I had been previously told several times that I must meet. I met Tom in his attic office at the Kirkwall Museum and had a very honest and enlightening discussion about storytelling.

Tom described an approach that was different than those which I had previously encountered from the island Storytellers. He told me that his stories were not told word for word each time; he would tailor each storytelling to the audience adlibbing and embellishing where it suited and choosing stories according to the mood of the event and the reactions of the audience. He told me of times where elderly ladies would giggle at some small innuendo so he would throw in a few more throughout the stories and of a woman who was visibly distressed by the story of a still born infant which made him get quickly to the happy ending where it was discovered that the child was alive after all. He also said that everyone has a story but not everyone is a storyteller, some people have a natural flare that makes them want to tell stories however you do not need a qualification or even to call yourself a Storyteller to be able to tell stories.

I liked Tom, he seemed like a very genuine and open person and he obviously loves telling stories. Speaking to him has made such a difference to my thinking about storytelling too. It was great to see the different approaches each Storyteller has and I really felt like Tom’s approach resonates with what I feel the essence of Storytelling is; connecting with people, sharing an experience and entertaining them along the way. It is the way Tom reads his audience, the way he responds to them and spins the stories around them that I feel made his approach stand out to me.

This afternoon I took the peedie plane to Papa Westray (or Papay as it is known to the locals). It was a short walk to the Hostel and the small but extremely well stocked shop which are both run by a community co-op. When I had dumped my bag I went for a walk. It was a beautiful evening there was hardly any wind and the sun was just beginning to set as I reached the end of the road and began to wander along a track towards the old mill on the edge of the beach. I passed a barn which was alive with roosting starlings. The noise of their wings and their chattering calls was amplified by their sheer numbers and the hollow building. It was incredible. By the time I got back to the hostel I had already fallen in love with Papay.

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