Sunday, 2 November 2014


Recently Nicola Morgan wrote a blog on Top Tips for Tip Top Events and I found myself asking… why do we do it? Apart from the extra income, why do we put ourselves through the extra angst? Are all authors just frustrated would-be actors? Or do we simply need to get away from our laptops and have a break from the norm? I think I do it for the fun of engaging with children and just generally having a good time in a group with the concept of ‘story’.

We get to be presenters, actors, musicians (if your name is John Dougherty)
and in doing so, we expand and spread the concept of story through the spoken word, or the read word, through music and song, through puppets, or working with shadow and light to create the magic – so that story becomes an alive experience that is even more powerful in a group.

Writers, musicians, puppeteers, film makers – we are all storytellers. As Mike Leigh, Director of Mr Turner put it in The Times this week: ‘we enter a conspiracy to say we are bringing something to life.’

And how do stories come to life? We imbue them with a certain magical power. Before the first word is spoken the audience is ready to be entranced. Frank Cottrell Boyce refers to that silent and humbling moment when everyone sits still and waits for the story to begin.  Expressions on the faces of children from an informal camp near Cape Town at the start of a storytelling session, tell it all.
The Children's Book Network in South Africa plan workshops to create and enjoy and share story through music, story telling and shadow puppets with children who normally have no access to books and then the magic begins...

Back here in London, spotlights and darkness go a long way to creating magic for The Magic Bojabi Tree at the fantastic STORYSTOCK circus at the Bush Theatre. Behind a mask you can lose inhibitions!

pic from Lucie Bright's blog & review of  STORYSTOCK
An enormous snake at the Omnibus Theatre
A 'stare' of giraffes at Cheltenham 
A spot on (strip on?) zebra T-shirt (& yes I do always wear same shirt) at IOW Fest

For anyone not yet convinced of the magic of storytelling, watch this TED video of the creators of the War Horse puppets. I met Adrian and Basil at a friend's house in Cape Town about 25 years ago, long before their creation of The Tall Horse or the idea that a horse puppet would take the world by storm.

Take your stories back to their origins. Tell them in the way our forefathers told story. And even if you don't have the starry skies and the flicker of firelight on cave walls to support the magic (or the expertise of master puppet-makers!) you will be entering the conspiracy and bringing something to life.  

Twitter: @dihofmeyr

Zeraffa Giraffa, illustrated by Jane Ray and published by Frances Lincoln was recently chosen for The Sunday Times Top 100 Children's Classics of the past 10 Years.

The Magic Bojabi Tree illustrated by Piet Grobler and published by Frances Lincoln, will be performed to specially composed music, by the 65 piece Worcestershire Symphony Orchestra in Worcester on 8th Nov.

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