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 – #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.

Once upon a time lasts forever

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I stumbled across the above quote, and it resonates incredibly powerfully. Early on this summer I completed a course called The Performer’s Playground with ClownLab. It was a 12 week exploration of playfulness. We had a lot of conversation about finding the joy or the fun in something and enjoying being beautiful even if we were playing something ugly. How do we create fun or channel playfulness?

On reflection, I think the things that inhibit me are the parameters that I  have either set myself or the the ones that I have allowed others to set for me – ‘the table of do’s and don’ts‘ as Pullman calls it. There are a list of things I can do and a list of things I can’t do. I wrote a while back about Growth Mindset, the idea that through a shift in personal attitude can alter our potential. How do we know that our personal attitude needs to shift? How do we believe that our potential is unlimited?

Neil Gaiman wrote in Coraline “Fairy tales are more then true; Not because they tell us the Dragons exist, but because they tell us that Dragons can be beaten”.

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illustrations by F. D. Bedford  J.M. Barrie’s Peter & Wendy

Stories allow us to see that we can do, or be anything. Some of our favourite characters in our most loved tales and stories have the hardest start; they are orphans. Harry Potter to Cinderella; Superman to Peter Pan; Mowgli to Sophie in the BFG. Their world has been disrupted in a way that no one would want for a child.  Yet, these characters go on amazing adventures, and overcome huge obstacles and show a resourcefulness and resilience to find their way through. Peter Pan has no ‘list of right or wrongs’ just a love of play and make believe. His game playing allows him survive and outwit his enemies.

The art of oral storytelling transcends age, ethnicity, education, borders and gender whilst also recording and reflecting our difference in those things. This kind of storytelling is a shared act between teller and listener. Jane B. Wilson tells us in her book The Story Experience, “Those who tell tales are both speakers and listeners. They have heard and remember”.

We are all storytellers and we are all listeners, if we allow ourselves the possibility to listen. We can all believe that we can do more, be more then we think we are. If we see others have defeated the bad guys, maybe we can too.

“The listener is caught and whirled into a talk, living for a single moment in the good, the great, the naughty, the lost. The tellers voice awakes dreams and spins stuff for thought; incites to contemplation.”

The Story Experience, Jane B. Wilson

 

 

 

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.

Book List for Really Little Kids 0-2

We consume books at a fast rate in our house and the titles below are well and truly tested on our two children. The eldest is an avid reader and has always liked sitting with book or youngest happy if there is nothing else to do, but would rather explore turning pages as suppose to looking at pictures. The books that made the list, had both of them gripped and are the ones that often get requested to be read that don’t make us Adults feel bored.

Me – Emma Dodd

This is a beautiful book and I love the simple designs and the simple words. Emma Dodd has an amazing ability to create  depth and feelings that communicate the love between parent and child. It’s the perfect gift for new parents who are feeling overwhelmed by the never ending demands of a small person

 Rosie’s Walk – Pat Hutchins

Words are few and tell a simple story, the pictures however tell something quite different. first published in 1968 and filled with yellow, oranges and browns, this book tells us that good illustration can make a book timeless

Each Peach Pear Plum – Janet & Alan Ahlberg

A simple story in verse that has lots go things to hunt for in the pictures. With all the different characters from famous fairy tales and nurses rhymes featured, this is a great book for triggering other stories and songs.

Oi Frog! -Kes Gray & Jim Field

This book is a great one for silly voices and having fun with language. As a voice teacher,it appeals in the same way that Fox in Socks does for older children.

The Lion Inside -Rachel Bright & Jim Field

My parents gave this book to out youngest for Christmas, I love the message behind bandits great for talking about being brave and scared.

Grrrrrr – Rob Biddulph

Really nice for expelling competition and playing fair. Also for underlining that success isn’t everything.

Oh No, George – Chris Haughton

George is a dog who keeps getting into trouble. A great read for consequences of action and perfect for you little one who loves throwing their food on the floor!

What the Ladybird Heard – Julia Donaldson & Lydia Monks

This book has glitter, farm yard animals and a brilliant story! That ticks about every small child box, right?

So those are our favourites. What are yours?