"Become aware what is in you. Announce it, pronounce it, produce it and give birth to it." - Meister Eckhart

25 April 2014

Teller and the Tale with guest storyteller Peter Snow

Storyteller Peter Snow
This week's guest on the Teller and the Tale will be Edinburgh storyteller Peter Snow.

Peter is a former Steiner School teacher, poet, musician and ex-psychiatric nurse. Oh yeah, he was also once a goatherd! And he lives in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Our listeners have sent in some questions which I put to Peter recently and here are his answers.

1. What called you to be a storyteller?
Storytelling for me arose out of teaching, but I was knocked out by a storytelling performance by Ashley Ramsden, and went on a short course that he led many years ago.

2. What was the last story you told?
The last story I told was that of Parzival the Grail Knight.

3. Who is your favourite storyteller?
My favourite storyteller? Too wide and various a selection to choose from, but I like Michael Williams, David Campbell, Ruth Kirkpatrick, Claire McNichol, Janis Mackay, Andy Hunter, Noel Cochrane, Daniel Allison especially.

All the best!


If you want to learn more about Peter and hear him tell a cracking good story, listen to The Teller and the Tale, beginning Sunday at noon BST (UK/Ireland) and 7am EDT (Canada/US) on Blues and Roots Radio (www.bluesandrootsradio.com).

Simply go to the website and click on "Listen Live".

And don't forget, the show is repeated on Tues/Wed at 8pm EDT (Canada/US) and 1am BST (UK) and again on Thursday at 4pm EDT (Canada/US) and 9pm BST (UK/Ireland). 

Peter and I look forward to your company!

Happily ever after!

Michael Williams
Host of the Teller and the Tale
Check out our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/TheTellerAndTheTale

16 April 2014

Journeys with M.E.: Action for M.E. Digital Storytelling Project

Action for M.E.

Monday May 12th will mark National M.E. Awareness Day in the UK. M.E., or myalgic encephalomyelitis, is a long-term, chronic illness that affects more than 20,000 adults and children in Scotland. Symptoms include persistent fatigue, muscle and/or joint pain, sleep disturbance, problems with concentration, headaches and other flu-like ailments. Frustratingly, there is no diagnosis, no blood test to detect it and worse, there is no cure.

For far too long, there has been little understanding of the disease and scant sympathy for those suffering it. From some quarters of the media the illness is mocked as 'yuppie flu', sufferers scorned as 'shirkers'. Some doctors treat their patients as if they're suffering a psychological rather than a physical illness. As a result, many retreat into shame and guilt, their stories unvoiced.

A year ago, Action for M.E., a national charity that campaigns on behalf of M.E. sufferers, approached me about facilitating a digital storytelling project. The National Director Sonya Chowdhury and Scottish Director Katrina Allen were passionate about encouraging and empowering those with M.E. to share their stories. Thanks to funding from the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland's Self-Management Impact Fund, the project took form.

The purpose of the project was to encourage participants to engage in the art of storytelling, video technology and the internet to tell their stories and raise awareness of the illness. Given that most participants had little or no media experience, I decided to take a 'low-def' approach, using readily-available technology such as digital cameras, smartphones and laptops with which most people were familiar. We took advantage of free software such as Windows Movie Maker and Apple's iMovie for editing purposes, and used video-sharing sites such as Vimeo and YouTube.

Two groups were formed - one in Edinburgh, the other in Fort William - and the first storytelling workshops were held last summer. Sharing stories led to creating storyboards and plans for filming, taking photographs, recording narration and selecting music to accompany their stories. I enlisted the help of film-maker Paul Maguire from the Edinburgh Art College to provide technical advice and assistance. Over the months, we supported the participants through the creation of their videos, while sharing our expertise with the view that these film-makers would go on to share their new-found skills with their support groups.

Despite the ever-present spectre of ill-health which occasionally slowed us down, I'm pleased to say the project has been a success. Nearly everyone who joined the project finished their video and some went on to undertake a second one. One of our participants in Fort William became so enthused during the project that he enrolled in an Open University course in film-making; one of the women has used her storytelling and video skills to create a blog; and another has turned her media and storytelling talents to training doctors and health care professionals toward a better understanding of M.E. The project will also share its learning through a web toolkit, available through the Action for M.E. website, to encourage and enable others to tell their stories.

To celebrate the completion of the project and National M.E. Awareness Day, we are showcasing a selection of the short videos at the Scottish Storytelling Centre on Monday May 12th from 7pm-8:30pm. There will be an opportunity to meet and talk with some of the film-makers, the project organisers and, of course, to learn more about M.E. The evening event is free but you must book your place with the Centre. There will also be an afternoon workshop facilitated by myself and Kate Craik, one of the project's participants. We particularly invite anyone currently suffering or who has suffered from M.E. or who wants to learn more about this debilitating disease. Cost for the workshop is £8/£6 concession. Come and share your story.

Action for M.E. Digital Storytelling Project Facilitator

12 April 2014

Margaret Atwood explores forms of storytelling

Margaret Atwood explores forms of storytelling

Appeared in The Observer, the student-run daily print and online newspaper serving Notre Dame and Saint Mary's in Indiana, USA.

11 April 2014

Teller and the Tale - featuring Canadian storyteller Dean Verger

Start your Sunday morning with a story. Listen to the Teller and the Tale on Blues and Roots Radio. Next week my guest is Ottawa storyteller Dean Verger.

Listen to how Dean managed to shrink a whale of a story in Herman Melville's "Moby Dick" down to a humorous one-hour storytelling performance. And don't miss his telling of "Hair", a personal reminiscence of a boy's crossing into adulthood. A follicking-good time guarantee!

06 April 2014

Let's Ask the Storyteller -- Dean Verger

"Let's Ask the Storyteller" is a new feature, whereby I ask listeners of my radio show The Teller and the Tale to send me questions to ask of my storytelling guests.

Canadian storyteller Dean Verger came to the world of storytelling as a writer. He began by telling his own original works, then added traditional tales for all ages from all over the world.

He has acted with Ottawa's Theater For Children, Orpheus, and Ottawa Little Theater. He has appeared at Centrepointe Theater, on stage at the National Arts Centre's Fourth Stage, and in the Museum of Nature. He has performed his original works on both radio and television and across Canada at festivals, cafes, and libraries.

Who or what called you to storytelling?
In my early days of school, in Ottawa and in Toronto, I was involved in the arts. I was in the school choir, I played music, and I was in theatre. There was no concept of storytelling. After my formal education, with a business degree, I opened my own restaurant, a little café called Rasputin’s. Being interested by the arts, in the early 80’s I co-founded the Ottawa Storyteller’s Workshop for Children. We were writers, as opposed to performers. I then found out about a Storytelling course given by the Toronto School of Storytelling. I took a weekend off, and took their introductory course. From this I added storytelling to our Sunday Brunch.

In the café, during the evenings’ quiet moments, I would pull out my guitar. Friends brought their instruments and we would jam. This lead to me building a stage, and beginning what we called an Open Stage. We hosted music, poets, and actors. And then I met Jan Andrews and Jennifer Cayley. I was still programming content for the stage. I asked if they wanted to bring storytelling to the evening stage? And they countered with the now famous Epic Series, a series that ran for over 12 years. This addition to my café’s programming introduced me to the storytelling community and my life-partner, Ruth Stewart-Verger. I have been actively performing, developing, and supporting other tellers for over thirty years.

What was the last story you performed or told?
My last project was a one-hour storytelling adaptation of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. In the early stages of the development of the tale (as opposed to tail) I told select snippets at the Ottawa Storytellers’ monthly Swap. Then I performed it at house concerts, the Tea Party, Collected Works, the Ottawa Fringe Festival, and then finally in British Columbia. There I told to high school students during the day, and adults during the evenings.  During the BC tour I brought along my mandolin, and used music to bridge the transitions between the episodes.

I am presently partnered with a brass quintet. Myself and a second storyteller will be telling stories about the Rideau Canal. Each story will be bracketed by music.

Who's your favourite storyteller?
There are a number of tellers who catch my attention. And all for different reasons. Sometimes it’s the voice. Sometimes it's the physical delivery. And sometimes it’s the selection of tales. Right now my two favourite tellers are Marta Singh and Jan Andrews. Both bring a lot of thought to each presentation. They think about the story, the characters, their own movements, voicing intensities, and interpretations. They dive deep, past the words, and create motivations, background, and emotions from which they then launch their performances. Both are Ottawa Storytellers. Marta is originally from Argentina, and Jan from England. Each can tell traditional tales, or true personal stories that snare the audience and draws them through an emotional labyrinth.

Dean's latest project is a one-hour re-telling of Herman Melville's Moby Dick. Learn more about Dean at http://www.rasputins.ca/dean.htm.

02 April 2014

The Teller and the Tale -- Listen Again

Did you know that you can listen again to previous sessions of the Teller and the Tale?

Go to the 'Teller and the Tale' link on my website and scroll down to find a selection of 'play it again' audio players and listen to your favourite storyteller or discover one you didn't know before. Each episode is only available for a limited time but each week, another new guest will be featured so come back often. Bookmark the page or subscribe to the blog and never miss out on an update.

In the meantime, why not check out Blues and Roots Radio, which broadcasts the Teller and the Tale three times a week (Sunday, Tuesday and Friday). You'll find a host of shows dedicated to the blues, roots and Celtic music and the latest in singer-songwriters and, of course, storytelling.

Recent additions to my audio players include shows with storytellers Owen Pilgrim (originally from Newfoundland), singer Laura Smith (from Nova Scotia), and Sudha Umashanker (from Chennai, India).

And don't forget to listen to the Teller and the Tale next Sunday when I introduce my guest storyteller Nils Ling from Prince Edward Island, Canada.

The Teller and the Tale on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TheTellerAndTheTale

Blues and Roots Radio www.bluesandrootsradio.net

01 April 2014

Let's Ask the Storyteller -- Fiona Herbert

Storyteller Fiona Herbert
"Let's Ask the Storyteller" is a new feature, whereby I ask listeners of my radio show The Teller and the Tale to send me questions to ask of my storytelling guests.

Fiona Herbert is a storyteller, writer and comedienne who performs for adults and older children (from aged six upwards). She also runs storytelling and creative writing workshops. 

1. Who or what called you to storytelling?
The form itself. Its immediacy and connection with the listeners. I enjoy writing, inventing my own tales and my own versions of established stories. Storytelling grants me the buzz of seeing their effect on the listeners, whether they are moved to tears, laughter, a new understanding or a mix of all three. It connects people, and we all need more of that these days.

2.What was the last story you performed or told?
The "Ring of Brodgar" at Aberdeen Arts Across Learning Festival, in front of one of the panels of the Tapestry of Scotland which shows these standing stones. In my version the stones were drunken eedgits who stayed too long at the party. The perils of alcohol...

3. Who is your favourite storyteller?
David Campbell. He can tell beautiful old Celtic tales of love and sorrow, and follow that with a cracking tale about farts.

Learn more about Fiona Herbert by visiting her website www.fionaherbert.co.uk.


"We have received only very positive reports of your workshop, and must thank you for being so flexible and responsive both before and in the course of implementing the workshop. It has been lovely to work with you. . . . We are hopeful this project will give rise to future storytelling endeavours, and would be very happy to work with you again if the opportunity arises!" Muireann Crowley, At Home in Scotland, University of Edinburgh, May 2014 ("Storytelling, Research and Public Engagement" workshop)

Michael Williams is a a storyteller of compelling skill. He is also a fine human being who engages in all situations and draws people into the warmth of communication and shared experience." Donald Smith, Director, Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh Scotland

"Michael's understanding of storytelling within a leadership and business context has helped us provide a great service in helping leaders determine their personal and organisational destiny and legacy. Working with Michael is inspiring and fun; and pulls you to be fully engaged from start to finish." Norton Bertram-Smith, Managing Director and Leadership Consultant for On Purpose.

Kamink: the little boy who grew into a giant of a man

Blues and Roots Radio

Blues and Roots Radio
Check out my weekly storytelling radio show, The Teller and the Tale on bluesandrootsradio.com.

Creative Scotland

Creative Scotland
I'm grateful to Creative Scotland for its support.