Jack’s Wednesday guest blog on Thursday –
One of my favorite bloggers is Andrew Tickell (Lallans Peat Worrier), who’s normal subject is the oddity of Scotland and the rest of the UK having completely separate and different legal systems. His posts are always interesting and frequently hilariously funny.
But a few days ago he wrote a guest column for The National – a Scottish daily newspaper, that was completely different. It was a tribute to his Great Grandfather who had been a family doctor on the West coast of Scotland and who had been diligent in making sure that little trace of his great humanity and service to his community would be recognized after his death (even insisting on being buried in an unmarked grave).
I was very moved by Andrew’s tribute and also by his plea for family stories to be guarded and passed on.
When Wendy and I first met she was working as a community storyteller in Kingsport TN with folk living in a housing project using the power of stories to help them deal with a range of personal issues. After we married she continued with this use of storytelling, both in Scotland and England, and with groups as diverse as single mothers, school-kids, relatives of terminally ill children, refugees and asylum-seekers.
During that time I became more familiar with storytelling as a specific tool and also as a popular entertainment. That’s where I begin to have difficulties, though – –
My first experience of story as a ‘cousin’ of songs and music was in a domestic setting. The home of the famous ‘Stewarts of Blair’ was the place and the family were famous as tradition-bearers and much recorded by folklorists. Despite their popularity at festivals and concerts they were always at their best in small intimate settings. Much later I would accompany Wendy to storytelling festivals, in Ireland, England, Scotland and the US. The biggest, of course, is the famous one in Jonesborough TN, with lots of marquees and thousands of attendees.
What I take from this?
I definitely do believe that family stories should be preserved and passed on. I also believe that there’s a real skill in telling stories and that they can serve a powerful educational purpose. As entertainment on a big stage? Maybe not so much.