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  • Writer's picturehannah brailsford

Storytelling Next Steps

Perhaps it is only fitting that my first blog post comes in the wake of an unprecedented year for us all! A year which has, for so many of us, thrown questions up around our lives and work; questions of why, how, where and when?

For many of us in the creative arts the past 10 months have been especially challenging. The financial impact of the pandemic has been one of these challenges, but as a creative freelancer this isn't necessarily something new. The uncertainty of earning a regular wage is something that comes with the territory and we are perhaps more used to navigating this uncertainty than those who have enjoyed job security and now find themselves adrift.

This is not to say it has been any easier, especially as before this year it was difficult to see 'When' things might improve and start to get back to normal.

When has certainly been a difficult question for storytellers; 'when will we be able to engage with our audience face to face?', 'When will we be able to meet and collaborate in person again?', 'when will we be able to visit schools, community spaces and festivals?' and for some, 'when will I feel like a storyteller again?' This question can certainly weigh heavy and zap energy, especially creative energy.

Luckily it hasn't been the only question and one thing the pandemic has provided is a time for reflection and to pose those other questions which sometimes there isn't the time when we are busy to address in full. Perhaps the simplest of these is 'Why'?

Personally, the question of why am I a storyteller has usually been answered by the very act of working. Every time I'm lucky enough to work with a group of young people, whether in a school setting or in the community, witnessing their engagement and hearing and seeing their imaginations lit more than answer this question of Why? Every time I'm lucky enough to perform to an audience of adults in whatever setting; a theatre, a field or a cafe, alone or with a group of fellow storytellers and have that moment of connecting in time and space through story, again the answer is simple. So to be bereft of work and to have to face the question without simply doing has led to deeper reflection.

I haven't always been a storyteller in the way I am now. I studied and trained as an actor and my passion was and still is live performance, especially theatre. I was blessed as a child to have a mother who exposed me to art in all its forms, nurturing my interest and instilling the importance of creativity. She was the one who showed me how stories can be told in so many different ways and how important stories are for the soul. Such a precious gift to bestow upon a child and one I will be eternally grateful for. Reflecting upon this has made me realise that, whilst I have done many other jobs along the way to support my arts career, nothing comes close to being a performer and creative practioner. This was never just a means to earn a living, creating and telling stories is part of who I am.

So with the Why settled, perhaps the next most challenging question is 'How'? Although challenging to navigate, this has been a really exciting question to tackle and has been the driving factor to continue creating through these difficult months. I am not alone in answering this question to some extent through technology. Like many I have embraced an alien medium and started to explore its possibilities. It's made me realise how lucky we are to have the ability to connect virtually and whilst it can never replace physically being with people, it has allowed many other wonderful opportunities.

One of the opportunities the virtual world has opened up and which has provided a real lifeline has been in both the creation of a peer group for storytellers that I have been involved in and the moving of my event 'Word Spun' online. Both these opportunities have allowed me to connect with storytellers and audiences both nationally and internationally and grow as a result of these new found connections. It has afforded me the opportunity to see fellow artists work without having to negotiate childcare and geography and has provided so many special moments and endless inspiration. How is definitely the ever evolving question that sparks the creativity.

So that leaves 'Where?'. Personally for me this is definitely a question of 'where am I now?' and 'where do I want to go?'. It's a question in development and an exciting question full of possibility. For now, that is all I will say, but do watch this space to see what possibilities unfold.

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