Alterations

I have been thinking over this last month about listening. It goes without saying that if we all want to have greater connection to the world around us, we have to be attentive listeners. I have previously blogged about the things you can do with your body to help you listen more comfortably. I am aware that we all understand that we should be better listeners, but its easy to forget about that when Facebook prompts us with ‘What’s on your mind?’ or Twitter’s decision to double the number of characters late last year.  We are told to tell all,  but are we listening?

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie talks about the dangers of a single story in her powerful TED talk. We have to challenge that one story we know about a certain person or country.   This  single story limits us and stops us listening. At the extreme, this is what the far-right have always used to justify actions of hate and discrimination. However, at the milder end, we are all missing out on opening our minds to the people and possibilities that surround us.

I am currently reading Keith Johnstone’s ‘Improv for Storytellers’. He writes that instead of telling his students to be ‘Good Listeners’, he encourages them to ‘Be altered by what was said.’ I can’t think of a more apt way for explaining the effect that listening should have on us. So whether we are trying to tune into a conversation in a board room, our children telling us about their day or trying to listen to ourselves with greater integrity, all these moments could lead to alterations about the way we perceive the world. It’s time to let our minds be changed, influenced, informed or moved by what we hear in the world around us.

Reading Challenge

Last November, I finished reading Phillip Pullman’s Book of Dust. Wow, I was swept up in the storms and flooding of Oxford and thrilled with reading about the early days of Lyra, 15 years after first picking up the Amber Spyglass. I was pleased, I had had a good run of books, before Book of Dust, I had read Jonathan Safran Foer’s latest book, Here I am and re read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby for the twelfth time.

I thought about the books that I wasn’t reading. The majority of the books I have read have always been written by white, men. Here I was, trying to throw myself into other worlds. Worlds as varied as the last few books I had read and yet I wasn’t challenging myself to read work written by other, not enough. So I decided to challenge myself  to only read books by anyone other than white men. Six months in, I am more excited about reading than I ever had been.  I have time travelled along the Indus, with Alice Albinia and trapped between the pages of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus.  I have been haunted by the language of Nikita Gill’s Wild Embers. I have commuted with short stories and essays from Chinua Achebe, Betty Friedan and Dorothy Parker (Penguin Modern Classics, £1 a book). I uncovered the history of the women and their voices with Mary Beard and am currently lost in 1970’s America with Joan Didion in her collection The White Album. These are just some of my highlights.

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However, I have had to break the rules. Normally when it came to do with work. Storytelling and folklore theory have tripped me up and I have had to read books that where edited, collected or written by white men. Women are present in this scene, but seminal works belong to white men – clue in that adjective.

Generally this challenge has been really fulfilling and exciting and I currently have a shelf full of books that are still waiting to be read. I am always looking for recommendations, what do you suggest?

Why we should all explore traditional tales….

Little Red Riding is a shocking tale. It’s more than the simplified children’s tale of doing what your told (Sticking to the path) and not talking to strangers (the Big, Bad Wolf). We think of all of the Grimm tales and their counterparts as being for children.

 

The original name of the Collection was Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Children and Household Tales.) We as modern audience focus on the side of the tales that are for children, but what about the ‘Household’ part of the collection?

When I get asked, as a Storyteller, what content I would perform for adults, I see a lot of nose wrinkling when I say traditional tales like you would find within the collections of Grimm Brother’s, Charles Perrault, Giambattista Basile.

Many of these collectors and writers including Hans Christians Anderson, had not purposely written or recorded their work for audiences made up solely of children. If you read the Juniper Tree from Brother’s Grimm, you are faced with a tale of murder, deceit, cannibalism and children being horribly manipulated alongside a magic tree, a bartering bird, and a little girl. These traditional tales can be (and should be) adjusted to the audience that are listening to them. Often though the tales are heavily diluted into sweet bedtime tales and a patronising delivery of “And the moral of the story is….”

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Marleenken, from The Box collection based on The Juniper Tree

Storytelling is a gateway into literacy (more on this is another blog), if we cheapen the tales in this way, it is no wonder no one can be bothered to sit down and orally share tales. We all love telling anecdotes, we are all storytellers, so why not take these tales and use them as a tool to unpick our modern life.

Cinderella is a tale of slavery. Worldwide, it’s estimated that there are 4.5 million victims of sex trafficking. Beauty and the Beast a tale of imprisoning a young woman. The Beast can be found in the likes of Ariel Castro and Josef Fritzl. The Elves and the shoemaker tells a story if helping those most in need. We need these stories to help us connect into the world we live in.

These stories could be serving as much now, as when they were originally bought into the public consciousness, as they have throughout the whole history of humankind.

 

 

Love Letters – #3 Ever Moving Mind

Dear Emily,

I am not Cathy Earnshaw.

I am not Cathy Linton.

Or Isabella Linton.

Yet you are write these characters with such texture that I connect to them. They are not women who are likely heroes, but I still hear the trials and understand them.

This seems important, as you seem like none of these women either, from the short biographies we now have of your life. You write in such an a rich way, that we even connect with Heathcliff.

You come over as someone who had a sense of wonder alongside a sense of home. Who could carve rich imagined worlds from the limits of your bedroom. If we could all write like this or imagine life like this, we would all be able to live freely.

Your poetry also talks of being in the moment. Connecting ourselves into the presence.We have a name for that now – Mindfulness. Linking that to your rich imagination is both inspiring and humbling.

“Thy mind is ever moving
In regions dark to thee;
Recall its useless roving—
Come back and dwell with me.”

Shall Earth No More Inspire Me, Emily Bronte

My mind is ever moving. If I could hang out and chat with you, I am sure that I could become enlightened on this darker regions.

Love,

Felicity

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Love Letters – #2 Joyful Leaving

Dear Frida,

You were brave.

And I loved that.

You gave us all you pain

Your doubt

And your uncertainty

In sharing your complex relationship

You had with yourself

And the world around you.

You showed us

That identity is a movable feast.

In this you were not only ahead of your time,

But my time too.

 

I hate boxes.

I hate labels.

I hate the notion

That we are one thing

Or the other.

You showed us all

That we could be more

Than what the world

Would shape for us.

We could be more

Then what we could

Shape for ourselves.

 

You lived fiercely

Overcoming pain

And sharing it with us

In vivid paintings.

In your work,

I see that as Artists

We have to be brave

In sharing ourselves

With the world.

We can not simply

Put ink to paper

Without our heart

Pulsating through our hand

And onto the page.

 

You last diary entry

‘I hope the exit is joyful

And I hope never to return.’

Sings sweetly of a life lived to the full.

 

All my love,

Felicity.
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Love Letters – #1 Still Marching

 

Dear Suffragettes

 

Here I am writing

The first of my of Love Letters.

I plan to write a 100.

1 letter for every year

Since the change you

So fiercely fought for began.

1 letter to all 100 women who I love.

 

You stand out

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Deeds Not Words

In a crowd of women and men

Who changed the course of history.

You saw that quiet negotiation

Was not working

And you drove social change

With your militant approach.

I am in no doubt

Had you been here

100 years later

Trump would have described you

As a ‘Nasty Woman’.

 

And you were.

You were unsettling

You discomfort drove others to be uncomfortable.

You were loud and divisive

You were more the floppy hats

We see now in grainy black and white

You were cotton and earth

You were long hours

You were sexually, physically

And emotionally attacked

You were without things

I now so readily take for granted

Rights over my body

Rights over my property

Rights over my children.

 

You were dismissed as temperamental

You were dismissed as difficult

And I am so thankful

That inspite of this

You ploughed on.

You clogged up the prison service

With your revolution.

When they had enough of the force feeding

When they had realised that prison

did not hold sway over the power

Of your mighty hearts

They took their violence onto the streets

Assaulted in broad daylight at the middle of the road.

 

How can I honour you?

How can I carry on your fight?

It’s more than voting and petitions.

It’s more than banner waving.

It’s more than marching.

It’s more than online campaigning

It’s living my life to the fullest

Not being held back

By the views of others

The laws support me

Even if some people do not.

I will stand up for fairness

And I will stand up for others

Whose representation is missing

I will hold space, create space

For others.

I will support, share, hold hands

Walk alongside those

Who are not granted the platform

That I do have.

 

I will not run away

I will not be apathetic

Or indifferent.

I will not be silent.
Love
Felicity

Can we export Christmas to the rest of the year?

There are many things that I love about Christmas and I find that I am a late bloomer of love with it. As the day draws nearer and I look beyond the things I ‘have’ to do (present wrapping, present shopping, more wrapping, food buying, more wrapping, checking lists, checking them twice.), I am reminded of the things I love and surprisingly it’s not the vast amount of food. It got me thinking about how the world might seem a bit brighter if we exported the values of Christmas to other parts of the year.

1. Festive Family Fun

The world just opens open up for things for families to go and do together, big families or small families, young families or older families. From ice skating to crafting to visiting Father Christmas. Most people will be heading to some kind of theatre, whether its a traditional pantomime, or a magical tale or a relaxed romp for the little ones. Theatre’s (both conventional and others) through open their doors and the community descends. Here’s the thing, their are plenty of theatre’s opening their doors the rest of the year for family audiences too. Some of the smaller theatre’s host beautiful and intimate family shows and having the footfall at these places that the traditional christmas show has, could allow these companies to go further in entertaining your family.

2. Singing

City corners become the temporary dwelling of choirs and small groups, people hum along to the brass band, everyone knows the words to Christmas songs, whether its Mariah Carey or Slade. I had a realisation in a singing group for toddlers the other day that I was resisting singing the Bruce Springsteen version of ‘ Santa Claus is coming to town”. If anything makes people feel better its the singing.  We have scientific evidence to support this (http://www.bbc.co.uk/guides/zcc7tyc), you don’t need 3 eggnogs and a baileys to slur your way through Last Christmas at the staff Party. You could join a choir, go to open mic night or head out for Karaoke. Sing with your kids, sing to your Nan, your Brothers, your Dad!

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How happy does this dog look?!

3. Food

As I said above not the quantity (although that is great too), but all of sudden the most unexpected people are talking in culinary wizardry. They did 3 birds last year, this year their trying 5, their taking notes on Masterchef and Nigella. They have soaked the fruit for the christmas cake from the 27th December last year. the world is full of surprises, but gastronomy at Christmas is perplexing. Your Uncle Brian who doesn’t even know how to scramble an egg, is quoting Heston Blumenthal on making the perfect Persian Spiced Christmas Pudding. I mean, come on Brian, you thought Cumin was something very different in May! However if Uncle Brian rocked out those persian fusion dishes the rest of the year, then I’d be round his house for dinner more. (I don’t actually have an Unlce Brian.)

4. Goodwill

Friendly, helpful and a co operative attitude. Can you IMAGINE?!?!? This would be a completely different country right now if Goodwill was rolled out year round the way it is at Christmas time. We might notice each other more, we might stick up for each other more and we might listen more. This has been complicated by the boom in social media. We now have a soap box in which we can reel off our thoughts, without maybe a backward glance to what we wrote a week later and who we may have hurt in the long run. If we could share our opinions in person, I think we would be more understanding to one and other. We would find a way of working through difference co operatively. Social Media can be a friendly place, and many people are full of Goodwill year round, but if was there in the way it is at Christmas, I’m sure we all wouldn’t be looking at Scandinavia so longingly.

5. Charity

Here is where social media is an incredibly powerful tool. My Facebook newsfeed is filled with folk sharing the work of charities that they are supporting. From Lemn Sissay’s Care Leavers Christmas Dinner to Shelter, from local level charities collecting Christmas Hampers for those without, like Barakah Food Aid to funding campaigns like Bloody Good Period who bring sanitary products to women who can’t access them. It’s brilliant and inspiring to see all these forces of good and people getting behind them. Wouldn’t it be brilliant to see our level of generosity and action rolled out through the rest of the year?

So unlike Wizzard, I’m not wishing for Christmas every day, but I would like the positivity and the great atmosphere that this time of year brings to the forefront.

Although listening to The Darkness, Christmas Time, throughout the year would be great.

In my dream society….

In my dream society, all members have a voice. Everyone has a space to share their opinions, thoughts and feelings. Freedom of speech is the essence of the place I’d like to inhabit. In most ways, this is in place in the world I inhabit. However, the difference between my dream world and reality is that everyone has the ability to understand the power of their voice. Not just in the content, but in the vocal mechanism itself.

Through teaching for the last ten years, it has become apparent to me, that most people think that individuals are gifted with a beautiful speaking voice. A voice that eases into their listener’s ears and transports us with their stories, awakens us with their ideas and moves us with their view. Maybe some people are lucky to have been born with this skill. However I believe that everyone can unleash this marvellous power and use their voice to their full potential, if they are shown how.

In my dream society this is something we would teach to children as part of mainstream schooling, so as adults they contribute to society confidently and freely. In the world we inhabit, children may access this through extra curricular activities. Those who practice the creative and expressive arts are more likely to have confidence in their voice.

As adults in the society we live in, we can feel the divide between those who have accessed this and those who have not. However we perceive it as raw, unlearnable talent. This is it not the case, a clear, confident, authentic voice is available to us all, if we choose to engage with training that explores and deepens our understanding.

In learning these things, we free our voice. In freeing our voice, we share our ideas. In sharing our ideas, we evolve and grow our communities.

My dream society isn’t as unattainable as perhaps it first seems. Maybe yours isn’t either.

Too Many Choices…..

That’s what she said.

Too many choices.

That’s the problem for us women today,

We just have too many choices.

Too many choices.

Like the idea that all the infinite possibilities that women could pursue

is  whittled down to the same principle of picking your dinner.

Too many choices.

When you go to a one of those big pub chains and you unfold the double sided 5 paged and your like I don’t know what to have there are just too many choices

That’s just the way that women feel.

Me.

I’m a woman.

That I don’t know whether to have the lasagna or the salad.

and I’ll spend ages thinking about it

and the waitress comes over

and I ask for more time.

And lasagna or salad

lasagna or salad

salad and lasagna?????

And just when I’m convinced the choice is whittled down to two and I’m just about to leap off  and commit to one

I see it.

The Mexican section.

And its there and I think what ever was i thinking going for lasagna when i could have an enchilada

or a burrito

or a fajita?

Then I think well aren’t these things all the same thing?

Just wraps in different varieties?

And they have a whole section on wraps.

And I love wraps.

They are all there.

Duck in Hoisin Sauce with iceberg lettuce and cucumber

Southern fried chicken with BBQ sauce

(less bothered about this one)

Chicken, bacon and tomato.

And Oh Mer Gerd!

They have goats cheese. With beetroot and carrot and baby spinach.

That does sound great.

Yep really good.

Like well tasty.

I mean it is a bit of a risk.

having something with that little ‘v’ next to it in a pub that could probably fund its own abatoir with the high levels of meat on this menu.

but no this is good.

great actually.

yep and I’m sure that’s what I’m going to say as the waitress comes over but when she says

what would you like?

It just happens

the words just fall out of my mouth

and I say a cheese burger in a brioche bun with onion rings and side salad and skin on fries.

That. That there.

That is just like the problem for us women today.

Too Many Choices.

A to Z Voice: M is for Mindset.

I was thinking I would be logical and deliver this series of blogs alphabetically but it actually turns out that my creative brain won’t beat to the drum of alphabetical order!

Here I am, jumping in at the letter M! In one to one coaching I am always finding that people’s opinion of their own voices is actually a bit of a barrier when it comes to working on their voice.

Your voice is a deeply personal vessel, that centres you and connects you to the world around you. Maybe someone has made comment on you voice previously or you feel you struggle to be heard? Maybe you really don’t like the sound of your own voice? Maybe some people’s voices are better then others.

This last idea is a common thought. A good speaking voice is a natural talent. Some people are just talented. It makes me think of the Iceberg analogy of only seeing what’s above the surface….

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I don’t believe that a strong speaking voice is a birth right belonging to a lucky and articulate few. Like anybody can sing, anybody can find authenticity, connectivity and confidence in their voice.

However the first step on the journey to finding your voice is most likely a case of changing how you view your voice. Dr Carol Dweck, psychologist, coined the terms ‘growth’ mindset and ‘fixed’ mindset. It looks like this:

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This principle is obviously applicable to more then just your relationship to your voice, it’s to do with your outlook on yourself and the world. Growth Mindset is simple, accessible and possible for all. We just have to put it in to practice.