Why Storytelling? - the mistake I made in not recognising the value of storytelling:
When I first set up my business, storytelling was just intended to be the glue to join the two main activities of environmental education and creativity. In hindsight, I had a very poor appreciation for the wider role and appeal of stories back then, but that was about to change. Within the first year of business 90% of bookings were for storytelling. By year two, I’d scrapped the original business plan and was focussed entirely upon storytelling services.
So why did I so badly underestimate how successful the storytelling service would be? There are probably many answers to this, but most of all I simply didn’t recognise the universal hunger for stories within our society.
Before we go on, let’s disentangle some of the baggage that comes with the word storytelling. When I refer to ‘storytelling’, I mean spoken word storytelling. The kind of storytelling that existed long before movies, before television, even before the written word. The kind of experience that is created in a shared space between a person telling a story and a person hearing and accepting that story. For some this kind of storytelling happens around a fire with a group of friends, for others it’s across a table in a busy café, for others it’s standing up in front of a group of strangers who by the time the tale is told, feel more like a group of friends. This is the kind of storytelling I mean!
There are many other kinds of ‘storytelling’ out there, but spoken word storytelling is fundamentally different. It’s the kind of storytelling that brings people together, that forges a connection between disparate people who suddenly discover shared understanding. The kind of storytelling that leads to an audience lingering long after an event because at some unconscious level they want to bathe in the powerful sense of connection for as long as possible. Compare this to the end of a theatre production or movie where people scrabble for the doors as soon as the house lights come back on.
When I set up my business I was focussed on delivering a good story. It seems obvious now of course but back then I hadn’t really paid attention to the profound effects a well told story can have on an audience. The role of stories and storytelling are central to what makes us human and it was this I hadn’t recognised when incorporating storytelling into my business.
Within western cultures, traditional storytelling has been buried by the avalanche of film, television and now even on demand media and social media. We bury our heads in this ‘white noise’ trying to ignore the hunger in our hearts for connection, for calm, for reflection. If you’ve never been exposed to a spoken word storytelling experience you may struggle to understand what I mean. It can be hard to believe that a single person telling a story can compare with the excitement and drama of the latest Hollywood blockbuster or your regular dose soap opera or reality TV … and yes you’re right – because the two aren’t comparable. Whilst both may involve revealing a story, their method of communicating it is fundamentally different.
My challenge to you if you are reading this and have never
experienced a spoken word storytelling event – go to one! I can’t tell you what
it will be like because even when I tell the same stories, it is different
every time. All I can say is that it will most likely reveal something to you
that you never knew was missing; not necessarily in the story that you hear
spoken, but in the sense of connection to something you’d forgotten. To this
day, I still love the look on someone’s face the first time they discover
spoken word storytelling. The wide eyes, the almost breathless appreciation
that comes from deep within.
Try it – then you’ll know!
Tags: storytelling spoken-word society audience