Storyteller and child psychologist Steve Killick returns to Books and Adventures this week, in advance of his workshop ‘Being Our Best: Bridging Storytelling and Positive Psychology’, run with Eric Maddern at Cae Mabon this month.
The four day event offers participants the opportunity to explore and apply the wisdom of traditional stories in the context of modern psychology.
Steve explains: ‘By Being Our Best we mean looking at the best aspects of human nature, love, creativity, compassion, co-operation, rather than our negatives: selfish, destructive, short-sighted ,fearful. In a sense, this is the symbolic struggle between good and bad that is played out in stories.
‘Stories have always been the most effective ways of transmitting ideas, values and beliefs essential in religion, mythology and simply learning how to live. Education without them is impoverished and, in my mind, impossible.
‘In the course Eric Maddern and I are running we look at what Positive Psychology, the study of wellbeing and optimal performance, and what the wisdom of traditional tales is telling us- and what they have in common- and there are some surprises there!’
Steve is concerned that, in a technologised world, oral storytelling should continue to have a place alongside other media. ‘Storytelling takes place without technology, just “eye to eye, heart to heart and mind to mind” as the proverb goes.’
Often, participating in this oral tradition involves retelling time-honoured myths and fables. This requires a delicate balance of respect and reinterpretation:
‘On one hand, you cannot just change a story on a whim. On the other hand, it is a dynamic thing that needs to resonate again in the present, rather than be a museum piece to be looked at and never touched.
‘A story is a message from the past to today. For me it is about making the tale live now – what values do we find in this story now? We don’t always know what the story meant in the past.’
As an example, Steve points to the radical renegotiations of traditional stories which have been popularised by the like of Neil Gaiman and Angela Carter:
‘Heinrich Zimmer said about myths that they have to be questioned and consulted anew, with every age approaching them with its own variety of ignorance and understanding. If you are working with traditional material you do it with love and care. You retain the spirit and breathe new life: That’s what I think Carter and Gaiman have done fantastically. Carter’s reworkings, particularly, have contributed to the revival of interest in storytelling.’
There’s still an opportunity for participants to sign up for Steve and Eric’s journey of narrative exploration at Cae Mabon from 23rd-26th September. You’ll find more information on Steve’s site at http://www.wordsofwonder.co.uk/Cae-Mabon.html