The art of storytelling

Saddened by the recent loss of my Grandad, a good natured and very humorous man who loved to laugh, apart from being dressed head to toe in black, you wouldn’t have guessed it was his funeral reception, such was the raucous laughter coming from all corners of the room. The main root being the over-enthusiastic story telling. One man who had known my Grandad since the age of eight, proceeded to tell us abut how my Grandad used to pick him up in his imaginary bus every morning on their way to school. He wouldn’t budge until he’d rung the bell for the next stop and he had wonderful anecdotes from when they were young right up until recent times, when every time he would visit my Grandad, he would roll his eyes and quiz him “Who died this time?”, such was his dry wit and wry humour. Having grown up on a diet of Blackadder boxsets and Fawlty Towers marathons, chewing toffees until my jaw ached sat next to Grandad with the roaring fire on, it without a doubt instilled a certain sense of humour in me that I shall always my grateful for. Let’s just say there’s not many ten year olds who could quote Monty Python and do Basil Fawlty impressions (often at the same time confusingly).

It really got me thinking about how the many generations in this one room gathered to celebrate the life of my 83 year old Grandfather, and how their prolific stories would live on. The under 30s were entirely out numbered by the biddies and yet they were the ones with the best stories. My Dad had a few gems but they were by in large, left to the elder generation to tell.

It got me thinking about how important it is to keep these stories alive for us to pass down, and how the way that stories are told in themselves, is surely an art. To re-create a moment, a character, and capture their nature and personality in a story is captivating. My Dad told a story of how he and my Grandad tried to stop a shop lifter from nicking a ‘top shelf’ magazine from my Dad’s cornershop. They were both pulled into a tug of war over this magazine in the middle of the high street only for my Grandad to start getting the giggles, closely followed by my Dad, until they realised the hilarity of the situation and let go as my Dad fell face first to the pavement and Grandad was to blame for letting him get away. With hindsight, as text it might not have its impact but he had the whole family in stitches when he re-enacted the tug of war with this desperate porn-starved man!

On researching the art of story telling further, I discovered The Society for Storytelling , that aims to support and promote the ancient art of storytelling, bringing together tellers and listeners, hosting events all over the country. Then there’s also StoryCorps, an American not-for-profit company whose mission it is to give as many people as possible the opportunity to record their stories regardless of background and beliefs. My friend came across them whilst spending some time in America and you can hear all their stories here, but be warned – there’s some true tearjerkers.

Well, it looks like I’ve missed my boat to record all my Grandad’s wonderful stories but after all, I doubt he would have liked any fuss anyway.