Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Extraordinary Storytellers

Wearing my reviewer’s hat I went to see Pam Ayres on Saturday night. I enjoyed her immensely. She singularly talked to the audience for over two hours – no mean feat. Her observational humour was sharp, yet her delivery – relaxed, and her comic timing was spot on. Her poems are borne out of her personal life events and experiences.

What really struck me was Ayres’s ability to tell a funny story and to relay so much additional information in an understated manner that was completely captivating.

The storyteller is an educator, a teacher of the wonders of language in the first instance, and much more besides. The orator can make the link between formal subjects; they can provide historic accounts, geographical description, or dramatic detail, simply by using the power of the imagination and the skill in being able to tell a real good yarn.

Many schools, in recent years, have formed creative partnerships with outside individuals, organisations and businesses. The funding has been available and most pairing up/grouping has, undisputedly, benefited pupils. As well as having storytellers, writers and poets working in the school environment, children have had opportunity to attend workshops/exhibitions and events run by visual artists, photographers and filmmakers and been involved in the work of performing artists either as participants or as spectators. I know of collaboration between London based architects and a Derbyshire school. The architect’s input was ‘off the wall’ somewhat, which was fine actually, but there were a few issues and so I think the long distance working relationship did not necessarily benefit those ‘on the ground’ as much as the employment of a local architectural team might have done.

But what better way is there to learn! We’re on the right track, but I think that not one of the three political parties currently locking horns have imaginative policies in regards to Education overall. Politicians need to get creative within the educational system itself and address those problematic areas. The building of new schools is long overdue, if an extensive building program was ever underway, then the difficulties brought about by large class sizes would begin to be addressed. Alternatively, careful consideration could be given to introducing flexibility to the structure of a long school day, particularly for first school pupils. The possibility of utilising venues/buildings in communities as learning centres should be explored (back to my point about using library buildings in my last Blog), and setting up courses online so that secondary school pupils can work from home on occasion might work well in the long run. We would be in the realms of making radical changes to our economic framework and social structure, but it would be interesting to consider how this might impact if such changes were introduced.
I found this news item about how children in Finland are educated. They have a much more relaxed approach to the early years and to the structure of a school day, as well the input of parents is key to their success. Perhaps we should take some tips from them. Watch the video - it's interesting stuff:

Back in 1997, in Labour’s first term, priorities concentrated on making necessary repairs and updating school buildings and the supply of IT equipment. This was followed by a spell by Mr Blair of blaming parents for all that was wrong with society, and not the schools. He may have had a point and I notice this slant is being echoed again in recent Labour campaigning. It is not right for parents to shirk their responsibilities’, but politicians are being somewhat hypercritical by continually offering incentives for parents to take up free childcare and nursery places etc. to enable a quick and swift return to the workplace after having a child. It becomes very difficult for many to remain connected and in touch with their children later on and I have often found that teachers are sometimes unwilling to work with parents to solve problems.

Furthermore, there should be less red tape coming down from
teachers should have the freedom to be more inspirational in their teaching and less dogmatic. Teachers should be role models but constraints make this difficult. A good teacher wants to teach but also to nurture; a good parent educates and informs but is loving and emotionally supportive too. Of course, this isn’t an ideal world and for some children school becomes an escape from an unhappy home life and vice versa. Every child needs good role models whatever their situation. Good role models come in many guises. He or she can be a clever person who is not academic, or a scholarly individual who is not an all-rounder. They can be musicians, dancers, or footballers. They can be doctors or cleaners, they can be team members or leaders; they can simply be people who are patient and giving of their time… they can be a grandparent with a lifetime of interesting stories to tell.

And I’m back to the subject of storytelling and storytellers and Pam Ayres. To read my review visit https://www.remotegoat.com/uk/review/5186/woman-after-me-own-eart/ I promise it is not as long as this Blog entry.

Lastly, and not least I want to relay a story Ayres told on Saturday night. There is not much educational value to this but it is one to make you chuckle.
It was Christmas Eve in her household, she was a young mum at the time and she was expecting guests for Christmas lunch the next day. Her boys had been late to bed and she realised, to her dismay, that she was completely unprepared. She knew she would not have time the next morning to prepare things and make a good job. So, although she felt mentally and physically shattered, she decided to make a start on the preparations. She’d got criss-crosses to make in each and every sprout, and a bird to stuff.

The TV was broadcasting a Bruce Springsteen Concert. The audience was frenzied and wild. And Springsteen stood proud, America’s favourite, and a fine example of 1980's gorgeousness – his hair all thick and wavy tied up with a bandana. His sleeves ripped off at the seams to reveal pulsating biceps. He’d been got! A leather studded belt, tight jeans, and boots. Thrusting his guitar, and his hips to the opening chords of his signature song – yes, you got it - ‘B-o-r-n in the USA’. And, suddenly Ayres had found a second wind. Tiredness fell away. She felt vivacious. She felt young. She felt sexy. She began to dance around the kitchen in time with the music. She was singing. She was carefree. The hard work forgotten; she was completely happy.
All of the sudden, as she gyrated across the kitchen floor, she caught a glimpse of her reflection in glass of her oven door. What she saw did not reflect the way she felt right then. Momentarily she’d stirred up youthfulness from within, but now she just felt silly, very silly and this made her sad. The experience prompted the writing of the poem "Do You Think Bruce Springsteen Would Fancy Me?"

I think Ayres is still one of the funniest females around and that she should have been included in a list of Top Ten comediennes: to understand what I’m going on about see my Blog entry of 06 April entitled ‘the list goes on’.
See you next time!

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