Everyone loves a good story, and most of us associate stories with reading a good book. With the increasing ubiquity of the internet, concern has recently grown over the place real, hand-held, page-turning books will have in our lives – is this the end of the book’s era and if so how will this affect our understanding and interaction with stories in the future?
However, there is a much older tradition that has been dying out for centuries as the written word, then radio and TV pushed it to a long-forgotten corner of our universe. That is the tradition of oral storytelling, so important to the understanding we have of ourselves, our history, our culture and our place in the world.
Attending Saturday Stories, an opportunity that presents itself at the Traverse on the last Saturday of every month, therefore feels like the precious preservation of a shared experience that has become all but lost.
Saturday Stories is not just about listening enthralled as the stories are told – although a lot of that does go on. An important part is also the participation, the fact that the kids get to join in, be part of it, and give voice to their ideas and imaginings.
Today Andy Cannon brought his friend Beth to tell some stories. Beth is from Kansas and comes from a tradition of storytelling that, she says, has been passed down through the generations. It all began for her on her grandmother’s knee.
Amongst the stories Beth told where ones passed on by a man called Duncan Williamson, who himself had gathered them through the tradition of the ‘Ceilidh’, which originally meant ‘house visit’, where neighbours would gather together in the evenings to tell stories, perhaps sing songs and generally entertain each other in the days before radio and TV.
Many of the traditional stories told were not written down and so, in the tradition of Grimm and others, Williamson gathered as many as he could so they wouldn’t be lost. He made a point of telling these stories to particular people before he died, as he was aware they existed only in his head and once he was gone the stories would die with him.
I would have loved to have given a brief outline of some of the stories we heard today, as I would usually do, but feel that would only exacerbate the problem – these stories are meant to be told, person-to-person, face-to-face.
So forgive me if I say – just go, don’t sit at home watching the telly on a Saturday morning, or reading your Kindle or the daily newspaper – get out and go listen to some of the finest storytelling you and your kids are ever likely to hear and keep the tradition going.
Saturday Stories is the last Saturday of every month at The Traverse