This weekend we began our first weekend of storytelling events at Ham House. I wasn't entirely sure what to expect but i was confident that the event was organised well and that we were equipped enough to work with whoever and whatever came our way.
The first hour was quite slow with only a couple of families through the door but as the afternoon progressed more and more came in to enjoy the fun. My first couple of stories i felt were quite energetic as they were fresh but i didn't feel as though i really got into it until the afternoon when we had told it a few times. We would only be telling the story to 3 or 4 children at a time but each story was different which i really enjoyed. We adapted it to the age of the children; one of the stories we told to a baby who obviously didn't understand the story but could enjoy the pictures so we focused more on them and on our facial expressions.
When we were on a break from our stories, i went to encourage children to listen to other people's stories and to see what was happening around the house. I tried to get the children into stories so that people had audiences. Jayne, Jess and Emily were really good at getting the children into the house as they stayed in character all the time.
The roaming stories worked quite well as they were unexpected. There was a really nice moment when Laura told her story to some parents whilst they were quing for balloons. When she ran off the child wanted to know what she said but the parents played along and told her it was a secret. She had to find Laura if she wanted to know. This was really lovely as it encouraged the children to go off and explore the rooms to find stories.
Sunday worked a little more smoothly i felt as we had got into the swing of it and knew what sort of thing to expect. However we had a lot more people come into the house. The first hour on Saturday was quite quiet but on Sunday there were a lot more people and they seemed to be a lot more willing to explore and get involved. We had decided that we weren't really going to schedule breaks as on Saturday we found that it was better to have people interacting with the families and encouraging them to listen to stories. There were also times that we found that we needed more stories on. I felt that this worked better as the children got to know all the characters before we told our stories and therefore they were a lot more engaged.
In our story, we encouraged the children to go and meet the other characters and we interacted more with them by asking them what else they had heard and what they wanted for Christmas. Siobhan's character was the elf who looked after the reindeer and she never came out of it. After our story she would give the children a task to ask Mrs Claus for some new gloves. This was nice as it gave the children a sense of involvement and linked the stories together. They would come back and tell us that they had asked her and tell us things about the other stories.
I really enjoyed the weekend and i thought that we did very well as a new company. We may have had a few hiccups before, but on the day everyone worked really hard to make sure that the families enjoyed themselves and the stories had audiences and energy. I feel that i learnt a lot about what works when telling children a story, in as much that its not always about what you are saying but about how you say it and how engaged you are. The story might not be very interesting but as long as you are invested in it then the children will enjoy it. Having props helped a lot as it gave the children a visual focus, but we also let them use their imagination which i feel kept them engaged and interested. When i was watching the other stories i noticed this too, especially with the elves. They had so much energy and involved the children all the way through even after they had finished the story.
I'm really looking forward to next weekend. We will have some different stories which will keep the event fresh and therefore the energy and enthusiasm will continue. The event will probably be better than this weekend as we have changed some things because of seeing what worked and what didn't. Just as Sunday was better than Saturday, we are learning from each event. With a play, we wouldn't have been able to change very much and it would have been more or less the same each time. What is good about the storytelling events is that we are learning all the time and have the ability to analyse the event and change and adapt as we go along.
I'm hoping the rest of the weekends go as well! We should all be very proud of ourselves.
Well done everyone!!!