What is Storytelling — John W. Kelly

FLAMES fanned by a cold wind dance across the cave walls as the hunter re-tells his tale of the hunt to the few who live there.

Broad shouldered, a knight stands before a blazing fire as he recounts battles in far off lands to a crowd of unbelieving peasants.

Millions listened to the radio as war is declared. Multitudes watch as a man lands on the moon.

A family sits in their lounge room and gaze at the box in the corner as some dramatic story unfolds.

Two people watch a documentary on the life cycle of the African beetle.

One person reads a book or listens to their walkman.

Are these forms of storytelling? Yes, and No.

Apart from the first two there is a very important ingredient missing. The `Human’ touch.

Radio may bridge the miles and reach a lot of people. Imagination can be used to a certain extent but, who is speaking? What do they look like? Do they believe in what they are saying? Television takes away the need to use your imagination there is no challenge.

The box in the corner shows in graphic detail the gun, the blood (in slow motion), the body falling.

The written word teases the mind and can take you into another world but, it is a solitary occupation something that cannot be shared with another at the same time.

Down through the centuries (why do we say down when the number is going up?) Storytellers have travelled the world telling tales. Wherever they go, people stop and listen.

Why? In the world of telephone, telex, fax, internet, radio and television, people will gather and listen to a performer.

They go to live theatre. They stop and listen to a street busker. There is no age barrier. Adults listen and watch performances that are designed for children, children hide behind their parents as a horrible tale unfolds, fascinated.

Why? Because it is flesh and blood and happening right before their eyes.

They can see, hear and become involved in every part of the performance. Whether in mime, song or narrative, you and we are Storytellers.

Our goal is to do it well and leave our audience satisfied yet wishing for more.

I told a story at the Merrylands festival and when I finished received applause (that I was truly grateful for).

When the show was over I was talking to someone when I felt a tug on my jeans. Large blue eyes smiled up at me. She never said a word, just nodded when I asked her if she enjoyed herself. That was enough reward. I had touched someone’s imagination.

So, keep all your TV’s and radios too.
Your records and CD’s, the odd book or two.
Just give me a fire with lot’s of wood in store
And a Storyteller with tales galore!

John W. Kelly, NSW © 1997,