Sharing the living art of storytelling   Phone Jenni 0403 328 643

A Labyrinth, a Goddess and a Descent to the Underworld in Byron

Written on October 14, 2016
PHOTO CREDIT: U.S. labyrinth teacher, Catherine of Creative Pilgrimage http://www.creativepilgrimage.com/

PHOTO CREDIT: U.S. labyrinth teacher, Catherine of Creative Pilgrimage http://www.creativepilgrimage.com/

For many years, my friend, Jacquelina Wills and I have dreamed of building a public, local labyrinth in Byron Shire. We recently scored a small grant from the Byron Shire Council’s Placemaking Seed Fund, as one of seven catalyst events for the Byron Bay Town Centre Masterplan to create a temporary labyrinth on the grassy foreshore in Byron near Clarks Beach. Yippee!!

However, we’d also really love to offer a range of events and activities: two ceremonies, twice weekly guided labyrinth walks and other clay modelling activities. Also I want to record the related ancient descent myth of the Goddess Inanna will also be broadcast on The Bohemian Beat on BAY FM Community Radio. To do all this and pay modest fees for creatives and materials involved in the project, we need another $2 000.

We are looking for both individual and business sponsors to support the project with cash and in-kind donations and has created a crowd funding page, which you can find here: https://chuffed.org/project/temporary-labyrinth-byron-bay.

While this is a pop-up place activation, if the community embrace it, an application will be made to Byron Shire Council for permission and seed-funding to install a permanent labyrinth next year.

If you can contribute, please visit our Chuffed ‘Temporary Labyrinth, Byron Bay’ crowd funding page or contact Jenni on 0403 328 643 or info@storiesonfoot.com. https://chuffed.org/project/temporary-labyrinth-byron-bay.

Opening Ceremony

Please join us at our Opening Ceremony on Saturday, November 5 from 4pm.

Come and stand in circle with Jenni Cargill-Strong and Jacquelina Wills, local Arakwal custodian Delta Kay and other locals as we dedicate our temporary labyrinth with a short ceremony and then we can all walk it! We will be painting a labyrinth design on grass on Friday and on Saturday Jacquelina will create an ephemeral mandala within it.

OPENING CEREMONY: Delta will give welcome to country, Whaia Whaea will sing, I will tell a story, Jacquelina will lead a water ritual and meditative music will be played as we begin to walk. We will let you know details of other guests as they are confirmed.

THEME: Our theme will be “Honouring the Sacred Waters”

WHERE: The grassy foreshore (Denning park) along Lawson Street, at Clark’s Beach end, between the two kayak companies.

WHEN: The Ceremony will begin at 4pm
Jacquelina will build the mandala all day, but from 1pm on you can come and paint a stone with a water fractal design.

WHY: Read more about the project and events here. https://chuffed.org/project/temporary-labyrinth-byron-bay
More details will be slowly revealed as we get closer to the Opening.

SUPPORT: We have not yet reached our crowdfunding target and some unexpected insurance costs just came in. Please support our crowdfunding campaign which ends NOV 2: https://chuffed.org/project/temporary-labyrinth-byron-bay Here is the FB Event page https://www.facebook.com/events/1213527485373045/ so you can keep informed.

Jacquelina's water mandala Uplift Festival, Byron

Jacquelina’s water mandala Uplift Festival, Byron

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BUSINESS SPONSORS of our Crowdfunding Campaign so far:

Big warm thanks to our business sponsors who have contributed the following cash and in-kind donations. We welcome lots more sponsors in cash or see our In Kind Wish List above.

Spiral Foods have made a very generous pledge which will go far.

The Crystal Castle will supply crystals and flags for Opening event.

Moontime Diaries donated 5 diaries worth
Byron Kinesiology (Australian Wellness Centre)

Painted Earth (also known as Green Building Centre) donated non-toxic, eco friendly paint for decorating stones with fractal designs and painting the footpath and clay paint to lead people from busy Surf Club area towards us.

Byron Bay Council with line-marking

Community Partner: Mullum SEED Inc has kindly stepped in to auspiced our event

When stories are bread for a thousand

Written on August 20, 2016
Though this article is a reworking of the blog post below it,  I have posted it here due to popular request. It has enjoyed some good editing, thanks to American environmental storyteller Pete Griffin and the editors at theNational Storytelling Network (NSN) magazine. NSN is the  peak storytelling body in America, and they published this article in the last issue of  ‘Storytelling Magazine’ Aug/Sep 2016. 

Environmentalists often assume that to motivate people to make environmental choices, they just need to be provided with more scientific information.  This assumes the problem is one of ‘information deficit’. (1)   In the Information Age, however, we suffer the opposite: information overload.  Most of us know the facts all too well, but may lack emotional engagement with that information.  English poet, David Whyte describes this in his poem, ‘Loaves and Fishes’.

 

This is not the age of information.

This is not the age of information.

Forget the news, and the radio, and the blurred screen.

This is the time of loaves and fishes.

People are hungry and one good word

is bread for a thousand. (2)

 

Climate angel dance end march

Climate Guardian Rosie Lee leads a post Paris Climate Summit rally earth dance; Photo: Jenni Cargill-Strong

Storytellers regularly experience how a well crafted tale can be ‘bread for a thousand,’ but how do we use our tales to amplify an environmental message and furthermore foster environmental understanding and behavior?

 

Last year, I did a two-day training with corporate trainer and change agent, Margot Cairnes.  Margot explained the strategic importance of persuading independent thinkers (also called cultural creatives). They represent about 25 percent of the population.  Independent thinkers weigh evidence.  Even if their conclusions are opposite to the status quo, they are capable of changing their minds and changing their behaviour.  This is enhanced when they become emotionally engaged.  Once a critical mass of independent thinkers take on an idea, the rest of society will follow, sooner or later.  This shift can be swift and dramatic.  Naomi Klein, in her book “This Changes Everything,” documented an ‘effervescence of rebellion’ arising on a global scale in response to climate change. (3)   The grassroots actions of thousands of independent thinkers at the Paris Climate Summit had a powerful effect on the outcome.  We must first target independent thinkers and work to get that critical mass.

 

Next, consider whether we need a big “S” story or a little “s” story.  Shawn Callahan co-founded  Anecdote, is a world leader in business storytelling, and recently published “Putting Stories to Work.”  Shawn says, “to change a culture, you need to change the stories told.”  In a corporate setting, however, Shawn says we will have much more success with little “s” storytelling.  By this he means short, informal anecdotes, told naturally without fanfare, rather than big “S” stories which are grand, dramatic narratives. (4)  This is in alignment with what Steve Denning teaches.(5)

 

I agree with Shawn in that little “s” stories are best in a business setting.  But I argue that in non-corporate settings, it is possible to use big “S” storytelling for environmental messaging with adults as well as kids.  My mentor, United States biologist and environmental storyteller Fran Stallings, teaches environmental educators ways to repurpose simple, short folk tales to communicate scientific facts.  Fran uses a strategy reminiscent of Malcom Gladwell, who created a simple and effective formula: tell a story, then use it to illustrate your point.(6)  Fran often uses folktales to illustrate Barry Commoners Four Laws of Ecology.

In my experience, as long as the point is clear and the story serves the message rather than overwhelming it, a little fantasy and whimsy can delight and enchant adult listeners who are generally more starved than they realize for soul food.  When I explain the ways to interpret that story to unlock relevance for modern real world situations, their delight is only deepened.

Jenni-Cargill-Strong-March in March 2014 Echo

Jenni tells three fables to illustrate social change at a political rally; Photo credit: Tree Faerie, Byron Shire Echo

References

(1) Lussier,P teacher at Yale College quoted in Dennehy, K .Reframing the Climate Story 

(2) Excerpt from ‘Loaves and Fishes’ by  David Whyte. (1996) The House of Belonging  (Many Rivers Press)

(3) Klein, N. (2014) This Changes Everything: Capitalism Versus Climate Change, (Simon and Schuster)

(4) Shawn’s slideshare presentation (slide #13) http://www.slideshare.net/ShawnCallahan/from-experienceseekers-to-storyseekers

(5) Denning, Steve. (2000) The Springboard: How Storytelling Ignites Action in Knowledge-Era Organizations (Butterworth Heinemann, 2000).

 (6) Malcom Gladwell Tipping Point quoted by Shawn Callahan in his blogpost ‘Sharing stories so they can be retold’

 

About  Jenni Cargill-Strong

Jenni Cargill-Strong is an Australian storyteller with five recordings. Four received “Honors” from “Storytelling World,” and her fifth album was a “Winner.”  She teaches environmental storytelling, works as a sessional academic, and operates “Stories on Foot: Tales of Byron Bay and the Rainbow Region,” a walking tour for visitors. www.storytree.com.au

 

The best story wins: amplify your environmental message using storytelling

Written on March 13, 2016
Photo Naomi Klein speaks at Paris Climate Summit 2015, Democracy Now

Naomi Klein speaks at Paris Climate Summit 2015, Image Democracy Now

As the power of story has been increasingly recognised, the quote ‘the best story wins’ (1) has enjoyed high circulation. Organisational storyteller, Annette Simmons used it in the title of a book and subsequent workshops. So let’s unpack for a bit, why stories are such a powerful way to communicate.

We are hard-wired to process information in the form of a story.

Information skilfully encoded into an emotionally engaging story is retained for far longer than facts alone. Educational research has shown that told stories ‘enhance recall, retention, application of concepts into new situations, understanding and learner enthusiasm for the subject matter.’ Coles (1989).

OK, so stories are good. But how can we use them to amplify an environmental message?  How do we successfully evoke, not only understanding of an environmental message, but new behaviour and action that is in alignment with that awareness?

Know your audience: cultural creatives, big ‘S’ and little ‘s’ stories 

Firstly, it is important to clearly understanding your target audience. Last year, I did a two day training with corporate trainer and change agent, Margot Cairnes.

Margot explained the strategic importance of persuading independent thinkers (also called cultural creatives).

They represent about 25% of the population. Independent thinkers weigh up evidence. Even if their conclusions are opposite to the status quo, they are capable of changing their minds and changing their behaviour. But this is enhanced when they become emotionally engaged.

Once a critical mass of independent thinkers take on an idea, the rest of society will follow, sooner or later. This shift can be swift and dramatic. Naomi Klein has documented an ‘effervescence of rebellion’ arising on a global scale with attitudes and action on a grass roots level in response to climate change. Independent thinkers are taking the lead with action on climate change and this had a powerful effect on the outcome of the Paris Climate summit.

So, target the cultural creatives or independent thinkers first and work to get that critical mass.

Little ‘s’ stories for corporates

Next consider whether you need a big ‘S’ story or a little ‘s’ story. I heard Shawn Callahan of Anecdote, speak recently. Shawn is author of “Putting Stories to Work” and one of the world’s leading business storytelling consultants. He says, ‘To change a culture, you need to change the stories told’. However, in a corporate setting, Shawn advises you will have much more success with little ‘s’ storytelling. By this he means short, informal anecdotes, told naturally without fanfare, rather than big ‘S’ stories which are grand, dramatic narratives. (2)

I agree with Shawn that little ‘s’ stories are best in a business setting. But, I would argue that in non-corporate settings, it is possible to use ‘big ‘S’ storytelling for environmental messaging not just for kids, but with adults as well.

My colleague and mentor, US biologist and environmental storyteller, Fran Stallings, teaches environmental educators ways to repurpose simple, short folk tales to communicate scientific facts. She uses a strategy reminiscent of Gladwell, who created a simple and effective formula: tell a story, then use it to illustrate your point.(3) Fran especially likes using folktales to illustrate Barry Commoners Four Laws of Ecology.

Jenni-Cargill-Strong-March in March 2014 Echo

Jenni tells three fables to illustrate social change principles at a rally. Photo: Echo

As long as the point is clear and the story serves the message, rather than overwhelming it, a little fantasy and whimsy can delight and enchant adult listeners who are generally more starved than they realise for soul food. It is my experience, that even though adults assume storytelling is just for kids, when they hear a tale told with deep layers of meaning richly told, they are enchanted and gratified. It is deeply rewarding to watch the faces of adults who don’t expect to enjoy storytelling, sink into their chair and listen with an unmoving ‘reptilian gaze’. After the story, when I  explain ways  to interpret for modern real world situations, this delight is only deepened.  There is an ‘Aha’ moment, as it sinks in that our ancestors addressed perennial issues, using the code of metaphor.

Many environmentalists have assumed that the way to transform peoples understanding and behaviour is by giving them more scientific information and trust that they will then make rational decisions, based on the evidence. They are assuming the problem is one of information deficit. But this is not the way we humans work! In this Age of Information, we suffer the opposite: information overload! What we lack is emotional engagement with that information. (4) Poet, David Whyte puts it beautifully.

‘Loaves and Fishes’. 

This is not
 the age of information.

This is not the age of information.

Forget the news, 
and the radio, 
and the blurred screen.

This is the time 
of loaves 
and fishes.

People are hungry 
and one good word

is bread for a thousand. (5)

 

Weaving your message into a well crafted story is a potent way to make that ‘bread for a thousand’, so that people can become emotionally as well as intellectually engaged, retain and act on your message.

Would like to know more about how to do that? If you live in Byron Shire, enrol in my upcoming storytelling workshop.

If you live further afield, contact me if you’d like me to teach these skills to your organisation.

   About  Jenni Cargill-Strong

Jenni Cargill-StrongJenni is a professional storyteller. She is also Principal of The Story Tree Company and under that label, she has recorded and self published five award-winning recordings for children and adults. She is Owner Operator of “Stories on Foot: Tales of Byron Bay and the Rainbow Region”, a storytelling tour for visitors. In the academic realm, Jenni has worked at Southern Cross University (SCU) since 2009. Her roles include being a featured presenter for UniBound Hero’s Journey program for Year 7 & 9 students run by Equity and Diversity. She teaching Storytelling to pre-service teachers through the Education faculty​ and is also a Guest Lecturer for SCU Occupational Therapy students.

Jenni co-founded and leads the Byron Circle of Tellers who convene ‘The Golden Tale’​ local storytelling concerts in Brunswick Heads in Byron Shire. Her passions and expertise are focused on storytelling for environmental education, community building, healing, myths and tales of the feminine.

Denmark COP, Kris Krug

Denmark COP, Kris Krug

Read more posts by Jenni on Environmental storytelling workshop

  1. Green Stories and The Hero’s Journey here
  2. Video of interview with Jenni by Manly Councillor Paul Joseph, plus transcript here

 Connect with Jenni

Facebook: storytreetales
Instagram: jennistorytree

 

References

(1) ‘The best story wins’ is a quote from the Stephen Spielberg film ‘Amistad’, based on a landmark court case during the Abolitionist movement,

in which slaves rebelled against their cruel treatment on a ship of that name.

(2) Shawn’s slideshare presentation (slide #13) illustrates this. 

(3) Gladwell quoted by Shawn Callahan in his blogpost ‘Sharing stories so they can be retold’.

(4) Paul Lussier, teacher at Yale College quoted in Reframing the Climate Story by Kevin Dennehy

(5) Excerpt from ‘Loaves and Fishes’ by  David Whyte, The House of Belonging ©1996 Many Rivers Press

Klein, N., 2014, ‘This Changes Everything: Capitalism Versus Climate Change’, Simon and Schuster.

Participants at Jenni's workshop at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Sydney

Participants at Jenni’s workshop at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Sydney

 

‘Stories on Foot’: connecting visitors and locals to place through story

Written on March 10, 2016
Stories on Foot foreshore walk

Stories on Foot foreshore walk

This year I have begun a new business called “Stories on Foot: Tales of Byron Bay and the Rainbow Region”. Here I make a start on the story of why I started it and what I want to offer people through these tours.

When my kids were still quite young I had the idea of a walking tour of Byron Bay, but for various reasons I didn’t pursue it. Then slowly, over the years, the idea kept resurfacing in my mind. When I was 19, I travelled in Europe (as you do!) and enjoyed several ‘walking tours’ where great storytellers regaled us with well crafted tales of the places and the people who had lived there. Some of the stories were historical and some were ghost tales but they were all immensely enjoyable. Later when I had young children we travelled to Tasmania to perform in a Storytelling Festival, where I got to join some wonderful historical tours.

As a professional storyteller, as soon as I moved to Byron Bay as a pregnant Mum in 2000, I began wondering about the history of the people and the land. By the time my kids were a few years old, I had started taking notes in a large bound book from history books from the library and from talks I attended by Frank Mills. I started taking clippings from the newspaper about anything historical.

The idea was really gathering momentum in my mind last year, when I went to Melbourne to teach early educators environmental storytelling, and found myself with a few spare hours and no-one to hang out with. I googled ‘walking tours’ and up came Dave’s ‘Melbourne by Foot’. I had such an intensely wonderful time because Dave is such a relaxed, friendly, amenable guy and I kept thinking, ‘I could really do this! This could really work in Byron!!’

However being a perfectionist, at least about my work- not so much the housework! :), I set about doing much more research about the history of Byron right back to it’s geological formation 23 million years ago. I attended more history talks, researched avidly online, and poured over articles, documents and books in the wonderful room dedicated to history of our Byron Bay library.

Jenni enjoying her work as tour guide for storiesonfoot

Jenni enjoying her work as tour guide for storiesonfoot

Hear me talk about the tour with Mayor Simon Richardson on his Bay FM show the Bubble here (I come on at 16 minutes but I have set this link to start at that spot). You can also see photo’s of the tour at my Stories on Foot FB page, jennistorytree Instagram page  or watch video testimonials at the ‘Stories on Foot’  playlist at my You Tube channel.

To be continued- but for now I am off to hear the fabulous Delta Kay and her wonderful Dolphin Dreaming show at the Pass! Lucky me!!

Updraft

Written on December 19, 2015

I wrote this poem in winter at the 2015 Byron Bay Writer’s Festival. It celebrates some transformations going on in my life and in me. I am posting it today to celebrate my birthday.

I worked as a volunteer this year, and wrote it inspired by a Vollies Poetry Competition organised by Louise Jane Moriarty. Thanks Louise! Enjoy.

 

Steven DaLuz 'photo'

Steven DaLuz ‘photo’

Updraft

by Jenni Cargill-Strong

 

There are little nubs growing where my shoulder blades should be

Little nubs and upon them hang wings:

translucent, tremulous, wet, wrinkled, folded.

 

As I walk here,

the crunch of gravel beneath my boots

the song of the earth reverberates up my legs

and yet how I long to fly

 

There are words here

floating freely

through the air

through radio waves

through cyberspace

 

There are words here

golden threads of words, stories that flow

from ear to mouth,
from old to young and

young to old

 

As I walk those shimmering threads of words

weave themselves into the fabric of my wings

 

Words have peeled off my coat

that cumbersome heavy black one

words have swept it off my shoulders

it lies discarded, unraveled at my feet

 

revealing my wings

naked to the kiss of sun and the gentle caress of the breeze

 

This updraft of words, ideas, inspiration

is building

I long to fly

a bit too high like Icarus

I am forewarned

Respect the Sun: beware your hubris

 

There are little nubs where my shoulder blades should be.

Upon them hang wings: delicate, intricate, magnificent, unfurled.

I am ready for the updraft

ready to soar

a

little

 

too

 

high.

 

 

Happy Solstice for Monday 21 Dec, 2015.

Happy Summer Solstice for those of you in southern hemisphere and happy Winter Solstice to all in the northern hemisphere.

Holly Sierra art

Holly Sierra art

LAST MINUTE, ETHICAL, GREEN XMAS present ideas

Written on December 13, 2015

VeganFreeRangeHere is an updated version of this post I wrote last year.

Do you need ideas for a last minute, low stuff, low impact Christmas? As we transition not all our choices may be 100% green but with some awareness we can still minimize our Xmas impact! It is a bit late but there are many things you can buy online to speed things up. Here are some ideas and links.

(Scroll down for giveaways: Story Tree colouring in page to download and a sweet and quirky, nature-loving Xmas story.)

LAST MINUTE ETHICAL, GREEN IDEAS

If like me, you have been so busy with work that your Xmas shopping got behind and you’d rather not go hunting the shops for junk no-one really needs or wants, here are some last minute ideas.

Buy digital downloads- you can email them tracks or print details and put into a card for the day. Story Tree downloads are here.

Buy idevice audiobook subscription Tales2GoDoes your family love stories and also use idevices- ie ipod, ipad, iphone? Here is an idea to boost literacy and enjoyment for whole family with a free trial to test it out first. StoryTree tales are on there. Search catalogue for Jenni Cargill-Strong here.

Buy experiences, not things: eg tickets to a concert, buy a gift certificate for a massage or workshop voucher from a local OR check out Red Balloon. Hand them a voucher on Xmas day.

Buy donation certificates from charities- especially good for the person who has everything. I love Kiva, a microloan system; Greenpeace and Orangutans. However Peter Singer wrote about a new organisation, ‘Give Well’ http://www.givewell.org/, which attempts to rate the effectiveness of charities, in his book ‘The Most Good You Can Do’. Which is your favourite?

Story Tree CD’s: Environmentally friendly gifts  You won’t be harming the environment by buying my album. All Story Tree album covers are printed in Australia, on recycled cardboard and printed with soy-based ink in a cover which uses no plastic or wrapping. The disc is the only plastic involved. This means the CD’s are very thin and extremely cheap to post, if you are looking for a quality present to send. If you buy digital downloads there will be no plastic involved and your download will last a lifetime also. CD BUNDLE: ANY 4 CD’s for the price of 3, STILL only $65, including FREE postage! Order soon to receive for Xmas: dates on the my story shop page. ORDER NOW

recycle_logo_green

My favourite online sites:

 Stories and songs from Australian teller Annie Bryant

Dragonfly Toys

Natures Child for babies and young kids

Planet Corroboree Aboriginal and local art, craft, books, clothes

Stainless steel lunch boxes

Go Green at Home

DIY Xmas presents with Epsom salts 

 

xmas_waste and recycling

 

Learn more:

Australian Ethical Xmas Shopping Guide

Story of Stuff

Great Article with ideas Help! I Don’t Want More Stuff for Christmas

1 Million Women– Australian organisation mobilizing against climate change.

Minimalist movement video Australia

 

 

 

 

General Ethical Buying Principles

Buy local: reduces carbon footprint from transport and supports local economy, driving the ‘multiplier effect’- the more money you spend locally, the more jobs you create locally, so the more the money there is in the economy which if spent locally creates more jobs and income etc).

Buy from artisans, independent artists and small businesses: with multinational corporations responsible for huge impacts on the planet and society, spread the love to smaller businesses.

Buy fair trade and local goods: avoid Made in China where workers conditions are poor and carbon footprint very high.

Buy long lasting, quality goods: Ask yourself how long will this last? Will it biodegrade?  

Buy local and/or organic food and minimise food waste by catering conservatively, rather than extravagantly.

Buy recycled stuff

Use recyclable wrapping: eg fabric

OR Buy NOTHING: the most radical of all!

As my US environmental storytelling colleague Fran Stallings likes to say, “There is no ‘away’ to throw things to.” It will all end up in our overflowing landfills.

 

 

Story Tree Colouring in Sheet

Would like to download and print out a blank version of my Story Tree backdrop for your children to colour in? Follow this link to my Resources page and see it under heading “Colouring in Sheet”.

“The Fairy at the Top of the Xmas Tree”

If you haven’t gotten it from me yet, read and listen to this tale here. YOU could tell by your Christmas Tree this year.

xmas trees sustainable three

An ‘Interesting’ Christmas

Written on December 10, 2015
Celebrating the earth Byron style

Celebrating the earth Byron style

Last weekend, the world saw the largest global rally on climate change in history. I was at the Byron gathering and had the great honour of telling the folktale of “Elephant and Hummingbird” to the 800 gathered. We live in interesting times. So I am focusing my story output on teaching environmental storytelling and using story to support people to become more in tune with their environment and sense of place.

Jenni tells a fable at Climate rally. Left to right: Rosie climate guardian, Helena Norberg Hodge and Greens local candidate Walker

Jenni tells a fable at Climate rally.
Left to right: Rosie climate guardian, Helena Norberg-Hodge and Greens local candidate Dawn Walker

To that end, I am launching an exciting new story business, “Stories on Foot: Tales of Byron Bay and the Rainbow Region”.

All three local events are designed to further those goals below.

Late December, 2015

‘Stories on Foot: Tales of Byron Bay and the Rainbow Region’ launch is scheduled later in December!! Website now live here: http://www.storiesonfoot.com/. FB page here. Please give me a like and share with your friends!

2016

Sunday, 24 January 
Golden Tales Local Story Concert. Details on my Golden tales page: http://www.storytree.com.au/golden-tale/

Sunday, 14 February 
‘Environmental Storytelling Workshop’ Byron Bay. Details at my programs page:  http://www.storytree.com.au/workshops/ 
Video trailer here.

 Meanwhile, as Summer Solstice approaches, the Christmas marketing machines are revving up. May you find peace, gratitude and joy amid all the hoo haa!

 

Eco Tales for families at Australian Seabird Rescue

Written on September 22, 2015

This Friday 25 September, after the 10 am turtle tour with biologist Kathrina Southwell, I will be telling green stories at Australian Seabird Rescue Inc in Ballina.

I’ll tell the tale of “Shelley and Rustle” which ASR helped me write back in 2009 and some more marine tales. The tour and storytelling is by donation.

Jenni with daughter Layla telling "Shelley and Rustle"

Jenni with daughter Layla telling “Shelley and Rustle”

ASR is at 264 North Creek Road, Ballina, New South Wales 2478

 Read more about how I wrote Shelley and Rustle in my blogpost here http://www.storytree.com.au/shelley-and-rustle-an-environmental-story-of-turtles-and-plastic/

The Oldest Story in the English Language

Written on July 26, 2015

Brian Hungerford was one of my early storytelling mentors. Lucky me, as he is a master storyteller and author of some renown! 

I first met Brian at the National Folk Festival and we performed together at Woodford Folk Festival. He was always enormously gracious and generous towards me, even in the early days when some performances were less than spectacular!! We would have long conversations about myth and storytellings and I would hang off his every word!  One of the first tales I heard him tell was Tamlinn after I had been singing the folk ballad for some years in folk clubs and folk festivals. (I was a folksinger before I was a storyteller.) I loved the tale so much, I named my first child, a son Tamlyn. 

Brian is based in Canberra. You can read my interview with Brian here and listen to one of his fantastic original stories ‘Me and Me Grandma’ . 

Tam Linn

Brian Hungerford plays his pipes as he tells a Celtic tale.

TAM LINN by Brian Hungerford

In Melbourne recently, I was asked to tell the story of Tam Linn. I was happy to oblige. In truth, I am happy whenever anyone asks me to tell a story.

But Tam Linn is almost certainly my favourite story. In background it is known as the oldest story we have in English, translated from Irish. The story is set in Scotland at a time when the prevailing language right across what is now south Scotland (from Glasgow to and including Edinburgh) and down past Kelso, was Welsh. If you are not sure where Kelso is, look it up on Google. What academics now call Gaelic, was called Irish and, it was called Irish until well into the 17th Century.

The oldest written version we have of Tam Linn is well preserved in manuscript from 1248 AD. A note on the manuscript says of Tam Linn that it was then considered the oldest story. This would mean that the story is almost certainly set in the 10th Century.

However there have been changes. The story was not called Tam Linn. Tam Linn was a hostage knight of the Failim people. Disney and his ilk usually referred to the Failim people as Fairies. But Tam Linn was male and courted by the daughter of the Earl of March. The protagonist of the story was Janet, a female. Scotland at that time was matrilineal. All property passed through the female line. Women also had the right of a one-year trial-marriage. This meant that if the girl still liked the young man, she invited him to stay.

The other factor of the story was the existence of two religions at the same time. There was the young Christianity and the Old Religion. Each side was antagonistic to the other and each had their own magical powers, which always worked. But gradually Christianity won the war of faith – mainly because Christianity suited men. By the 13th Century, Wise women lost status to become dangerous hags. Women could no longer perform as priests and women protectors of younger women were called Witches. Women were denied rights to property and were paid less money than men. The slang word for female genitalia became the most abusive swear-word in the English language. It followed on that any woman with political ambitions was viciously treated with ribald jokes and scorn. Some beliefs are slow to change.

Anyway, the story of Tam Linn was a great success and I have received calls to tell such stories over and over again.

So from the 10th Century to now, Storytelling, in the oral tradition, is alive and well.

 

Read Brian’s fascinating posts at his website and blog here

Buried Trauma in the Australian Narrative

Written on July 22, 2015

In my last blogpost, I wrote about the inaugural Golden Tales Local Stories Concert, which I co-ordinated with the Byron Circle of Tellers. The locals who came to tell stories included Lois Cook, Nyangbul storyteller and traditional custodian. Lois was recently featured on ABC TV in an exquisitely made and profoundly important, mini-documentary, “Babe in the reeds: a story of massacres and resilience” . The Byron Circle of Tellers feel it is a must see for everyone who lives in our region.

The ABC site describes the mini-documentary like this: “Lois takes us on a history detective mission to track down people and documents to find out if her family’s oral history is supported by other accounts from the 19th century. This video was created by Lois Cook and her family in an unique collaboration with ABC Executive Producer, Catherine Marciniak… Lois and Lewis Cook and their extended family for sharing this story of great sadness.” Lois was the Producer, Co-writer, Interviewer, Researcher and Casting

I am enormously grateful to Lois Cook, her family, Catherine Merciniak, the ABC and all who contributed to this documentary. I have watched it several times and feel the need to watch it more, because the reality is so overwhelming, part of me forgets it. But I don’t want to forget. Knowing the true stories of our country and our region is profoundly important if we are to connect to country honestly and deeply. Then we can more properly honour and protect this landscape, and all who dwell within it and upon it.

Lois Cook Nyangbul woman stands in the Mangroves of Cabbage Tree island. The red fabric symbolises loss and grief about the history of what happpened to her people. (Catherine Marciniak - Catherine Marciniak)

Lois Cook

ABOVE: Lois in the mangroves of Cabbage Tree Island. Photo by Exec Producer: Catherine Merciniak

“Is there an Australian Fairytale?”

If you are interested in how the suppression of the true history of white invasion still affects our collective Australian story and identity, you may want to watch this lecture, “Is there an Australian Fairytale?”. It was a key-note by famous Australian author, Carmel Bird, given at the Inaugural Australian Fairy Tale Conference in Sydney in 2014. I believe it is ground breaking.  John Imbrogno (fellow member of the Byron Circle of Tellers) and I had the privilege of being at the Conference to hear her live, but as it was videoed, you can watch it!  Watch here or read Carmel’s text here. (Thanks to Carmel for making this available.)

Carmel Bird

Carmel Bird

Carmel has also written a related piece called “Dreaming the Place” for the Griffith Review edition “Once Upon a Time in Oz” which she co-edited.

You can watch more videos from the Australian Fairy Tale Society 2014 Conference here.

I presented at the AFTS 2015 Conference and will post links of the new videos once available.

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