Saturday, 17 March 2018

Storytelling

World Storytelling day is coming and you may groan at yet another world 'something' day but this is one that I feel we should take greater heed to.


"World Storytelling Day is celebrated every year on March equinox and the following week. This year it starts on Tuesday March 20. The idea is to have as many people as possible tell and listen to stories in as many languages and at as many places as possible. Doing so we promote oral storytelling all over the world. We also get a chance to build friendships across national and cultural borders in joyful ways. As if we meet around a global campfire."

With it come some misconceptions. First of all, as you have seen, it is not a day it is a week and secondly, well secondly, allow me to elaborate.
Twitshot
 Storytelling is a wonderful medium of entertainment. We tell our children stories to help them sleep at night. Right? Wrong!

Storytelling pervades our lives on such a powerful level that we just take for granted. If you are in marketing or advertising, you already know what I mean.

Storytelling is one of the most ancient human arts, in fact it is prehistoric, pre-language even. We know this because the earliest creations of man, cave art told tales of hunts, of ceremonies and a need for moments in life to be passed on to later generations. Even the most primitive cave art, the hand stencils in France, Spain, Indonesia, Borneo and many others that date back 10,000 - 40,000 years display a need to transcend lifespan with their tale of existence. So how can a bunch of hand stencils tell a story. Well, the same way six words can not only tell an entire narrative but also evoke deep emotions.

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

In this work by Hemingway we can understand the power of narrative... it is the reader who writes the story. I showed this to some young children and their interpretations were quite different to yours or mine, this is called schemata and it is the way we connect our own experiences with the words.

Stories are eternal, common and unique and are written in the reader or listener. 

Aesop taught morals not by lecture but by stories. In fact, his "The boy who cried Wolf!" is my favourite tool for teaching the folly of lies. Plato passed Socratean philosophies through narratives of his mentor's exploits.

The Celts chose their leaders, not just by their prowess on the battlefield but by their skills to spin a yarn. A great leader, Churchill was a modern exponent of this skill, drawing on common schemata can inspire his people to achieve heroic acts.

Christ! just think, who are the most applauded writers in the English language, (and this applies to most, if not all languages) was it Isaac Newton or Charles Darwin, who wrote volumes on the most ground-breaking discoveries. No, it is Shakespeare, who wrote stories. 

Then came a man called Edward Bernays, a nephew of Sigmund Freud. He turned public relations and advertising on its head when he realised that emotions sold soap, cars, insurance and even ideologies better than information. And, it wasn't long before they realised that stories were the most effective conduits for emotional response.

So why is this?
  • Stories invite us into the lives of others. Some we relate to, others we abhor but all are fascinating.
  • Stories give us context. We understand the environment in which motivations develop.
  • Stories ask and answer the question 'Why?' We can understand why things happen because we make similar choices to the protagonists. 
  • Stories evoke empathy and take us to a place where we open our minds to new ideas.
At a recent presentation I attended there were two speakers, one employed a narrative to explain how she was sceptical about some new methods and materials asking "Why should I change something that has worked so well for so long?" then proceeded to explain why she did exactly that. The audience empathised and engaged with her. The other gave us information about how it operated and pretty soon, the phones came out and facebook was being checked.

Storytelling is one of the most important skills we can develop.

Steve Jobs was not the greatest inventor or innovator, Steve Wozniak did most of the heavy lifting but we bought his story and his phones.

Stephen Hawking may have had his equals and dare I say his betters but we bought his story and his theories and many were inspired enough to go into science. Maybe even inspiring his successor.

Elon Musk is doing the same...

It is no coincidence that the best selling books of all time are by Agatha Christie and God and he must know a thing or two about inspiring mankind.

"Would you like to organize your own event?
It could be a cosy gathering in your kitchen or a school event with stories by pupils, teachers or professional storytellers. Or an evening at the storytelling club, library or a museum. Or a big festival or anything you and your friends can come up with!" Click to enter the World Storytelling Day site.


            

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