For those of you not on my mailing list, here’s the email I sent out this month. Details of how you could sign up are at the bottom.
Fellow Story Lovers,
Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, Happy New Year. I appreciate it’s a bit late for that now – you’ve almost certainly already got the decorations down, assuming you had any. Some of the more organised among you will be making plans for the Summer. Best of luck to you. But Happy New Year all the same and I hope 2021 unfolds rich in blessings. For those of you who like to skim headlines, in this email you’ll find:
A link to a recording of The Queen of the Court of Claywood Flats, available from Radio Crick Crack for a limited time: (https://crickcrackclub.com/radio-crick-crack/)
An upcoming online gig, 20th January, with Birmingham Storytellers:(https://www.tradartsteam.co.uk/calendar.html?a=viewevent&id=1434)
Advance notice of a spooky upcoming online Experiment with Adverse Camber – Seven Uncanny Candles (save the date 12th February).
Details of regular fixtures at Beeston Tales and The Storytellers Bookclub.
A Reflective Bit on 2020. (Something of a downer so feel free to skip.)
I’m not much for making profound statements. I prefer the specificity of stories – this happened, to this one person, once upon a time – over the generality of aphorisms or attempts at universal truth. Having said that, I do want to share some wisdom that has been a consolation to me over the past year. As I have had to assure a few people lately, it’s not compulsory to have had a tough time in 2020, but I will confess that I’ve found last year tough, lonely, full of disrupted plans, bereavement and the constant awareness that things have been a lot worse for lots of other people.
Earlier this year, I was introduced to the concept of “ambiguous grief” by Gina, a wonderful woman who works in a charity that supports the families of missing people. The pain those families feel is akin to the pain of bereavement, but with the added complexity of not knowing. Not knowing if their loved ones are coming back. Not knowing what has happened to them. Hope, pain, confusion and fear interlace.
‘Ambiguous grief’ describes our response to any loss we can not understand or qualify, without closure or clear expectation of what will happen next. That could be the pain of a loved one with dementia, a loss of faith or just an inability to imagine where our life is headed. Ambiguous grief flies in the face of the idea that grief is a process that we can “go through”, showing just how inadequate that notion really is.
There is, Gina told me, only one thing to do if you’re living with ambiguous grief – and I suspect many of us whose lives have become chaotic, whose support networks are disrupted and whose plans are in tatters may be experiencing some level of ambiguous grief – and that is to find connection. To be in relationship with other human beings, where talking about and exploring the feelings we’re going through is not taboo.
I don’t want to paint an overly romantic picture of storytelling as a panacea for the soul. But I have found solace in old stories, in listening and telling, and in the wider community of story-loving listeners and creatives. They have made things easier for me.
And now, for those of you who have made it through all this, here’s a link to something radically happy –http://hitherby-dragons.wikidot.com/easy
Radio Crick Crack – The Queen of the Court of Claywood Flats
Bringing soul food to the nation during isolation, Radio Crick Crack opens the archive of the Crick Crack Club with recordings of their performers through years. The Queen of the Court of Claywood Flats is a show I put together in Sheffield more than a decade ago, inspired by the demolition of Claywood Flats, the 2007 flood, with glimpses of myth, story and mystery.
You can listen for free, although any money you donate will go to storytellers struggling to sustain an income during the pandemic. It’s at the top of the page!
With thanks to Graham Langley and Birmingham Storytellers as this particular recording was made in the Kitchen Garden Cafe at one of their evenings.
A Recipe for Hope – Birmingham Storytellers – 20th January 2021
And I will be returning to the Birmingham Storytellers on 20th January to join them for an evening of online tales. Whether you’re anywhere near Birmingham or not, hop along on Zoom to hear me and their resident storytellers fill the night with hope:
Seven Uncanny Candles – 12th February 2021
I’m working with Adverse Camber and Sarah Liisa Wilkinson on a fabulous, one off, online experimental ritual event – Seven Uncanny Candles.
There’s a folk game in Japan where one hundred candles are lit, one hundred stories of the supernatural are told, and after each tale a candle is extinguished so that the room slowly descends into darkness. (It’s called Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai if you want to read more.) Inspired by this custom, we’re going to be telling stories of the weird and supernatural, and invite you all to join us. For the full effect, you’ll need seven candles, a dark room and a Zoom account, but you’ll be able to listen with just Zoom.
The event hasn’t been officially announced yet, but I wanted to give you the opportunity to get the date in your diary. Full information will be coming out shortly. I’m really delighted to be trying this out and I hope you’ll join me for it.
Regular Features – Beeston Tales & Wild About Story
Beeston Tales is this Wednesday, 13th January, on Zoom, with dynamo Katrice Horsley telling tales and troubadour Owen Shiers singing songs. Come along!
And Wild About Story’s “The Storyteller’s Bookclub” is back in 2021, with our first event on 1st February. I’ll be in conversation with Dominic Kelly about Peter Matthiessen’s The Snow Leopard. This 1970s travel novel interweaves Matthiessen’s experiences of grief, his exploration of his Buddhist faith in the landscape that gave it birth, his official goal to look at some Himalayan goats and his unofficial yearning to glimpse the elusive snow leopard.
What else am I up to?
Some of you may be aware of the work I do with researchers, teaching storytelling skills for public engagement. Here’s a blog post about a project I ran for the Political Ecology Network in 2020, written by Judith Krauss.
Apart from that, I’ve been pretty busy with things lately. I’m involved with Equity’s Storytellers Network and we’re exploring Equity’s statement on Cultural Appropriation to make sure it reflects the particular nuances that storytellers have to navigate. Plus it’s January, which is traditionally the time when I ritualistically swear that I won’t leave my tax return so late next year.
May our paths cross in 2021
And until then, all blessings of the New Year to you!