Restorying the Earth
By Alette Willis
Restorying the EarthOct 28, 2021
Shifting the Narrative: Exploring the Role of Arts Interventions in supporting communities in working across sectors to achieve place-based climate action
This is a cross-over episode with the Scottish Communities Climate Action Network's (SCCAN) podcast 1000 Better Stories. This episode is hosted by SCCAN Storyweaver, Kaska Hempel, who interviews me about the Shifting the Narrative Project.
Shifting the Narrative is a research project I led at the University of Edinburgh from January 2022 until June 2022 engaging with over 50 storytellers who work with stories in relation to nature crises, nature connection, community and social change work, and environmental education. In these six months we collected and synthesised the experiences and wisdom of this group of people to come up with some good practice recommendations for communicators more generally.
We found that dialogue is integral to traditional and performance storytelling and that most storytellers working in this area integrate some form of dialogue into their practice. The research also highlighted that the flexibility of stories to interpretation is story's super-power, enabling listeners to meet story wherever they are. Live performances create community at least for the duration of the event, while allowing diversity in interpretation. These key findings challenge mainstream communication around nature crises, which emphasise reaching as many people as possible through broadcast forms of storytelling and ensuring clear messaging.
The University team consisted of myself (Alette Willis), Ramsey Affifi and Jule Hildmann in Education and Arno Verhoeven from the Edinburgh College of Art.
Our Community Partners:
- SCCAN https://sccan.scot/
- Traditional Arts and Cultures Scotland https://tracscotland.org/
- Architecture and Design Scotland. https://www.ads.org.uk/
Our research was funded by the British Academy, which funds research to inform policy. Our research contributed to their Net-Zero Policy Programme
More about the research project can be found on my blog: https://restoryingtheearth.com/stories/research-on-storytelling-ethics-and-social-transformation/shifting-the-narrative/
1000 Better Stories: https://scottishcommunitiesclimateactionnetwork.podbean.com/
Our Sacred Home -- A Story from Megan Ward
COP26 is going on just up the road in Glasgow and the Scottish weather has turned cold and rainy. I felt a need for something nourishing this week and figured that you might too, so I asked Australian storyteller Megan Ward to share a story of nature connection and healing with us. Megan recently told this story live and in person at the New Economy Network Conference--Growing a Wellbeing Economy for Australia.
Megan writes: "My life has been influenced by a love of nature and a curious mind, with the need to understand and a thirst for knowledge. A scientist, yogini and naturalist, immersing myself in nature and witnessing the interconnectedness through the web of life, I now share the stories we have forgotten."
Megan Ward's website: http://manasayoga.com/
New Economy Network: https://www.neweconomy.org.au/
Music, Storytelling and Climate Justice with Emmanuela Yogolelo
We are on the eve of COP26 here in Scotland, and today I am joined by Emmanuela Yogolelo from Manchester who is going to talk to me about her work with story and climate justice. Emmanuela is a well known singer and musician known for her voice, harmonies, unique melodies and now storytelling and interactive performances. Her music draws on her cultural roots in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and she has been instrumental in co-developing 'Amani Creatives' in Manchester, which nourishes, celebrates and promotes African arts and culture and African artists in the city and beyond.
Emmanuela has been commissioned by HOME arts centre in Manchester and Community Arts North West to put together an interactive live performance which will debut this Friday, October 29th (2021). In this piece she will explore climate justice activism through a range of art forms including music and storytelling. Hello, Emmanuela and welcome to the Restorying the Earth Podcast.
Emmanuela would really like to hear from others working in the area of arts and climate justice. She is open to feedback, collaborations and more. Please get in touch with her through her website.
Emmanuela shares a teaser from her upcoming performance, Tales from the Congo Basin. If you are in the Manchester area, you can catch this performance on Friday the 29th of October at HOME. More information and tickets here: https://www.creativetourist.com/event/tales-from-the-congo-basin-at-home/
Emmanuela's website, with videos and music recordings can be found here:
Sustainability, STEM Equals and Storytelling with Allison Galbraith
In this episode, I speak with my friend and colleague Allison Galbraith. Allison and I co-wrote Dancing with Trees: Eco-Tales of the British Isles and she has recently launched her book Lanarkshire Folktales. Allison is a storyteller, student of folklore, voice artist and author. She has backgrounds as an actor and as a teacher of pupils with additional support needs. She joined me from her cottage just outside of Lanark in Scotland to talk about how storytelling can help make STEM education more accessible and equitable. Our conversation took us from her work on storytelling and climate change with local farmers through to a recent project at Culzean Castle where she worked with scientists to create original stories about the lithosphere, atmosphere, biosphere and hydrosphere.
The story Allison shared was 'The Fairies of Merlin's Crag' from her recent book, Lanarkshire Folk Tales (History Press, 2021), which you can find here: https://smarturl.it/LanarkshireFT
More information on Allison Galbraith can be found here: www.voiceandstory.com
Culzean Castle: Dolphin House Outdoor Education Centre: https://www.thedolphinhouse.co.uk
Dumfries House: STEM Education: https://dumfries-house.org.uk/education/morphy-richards-engineering-education-centre
GROWL, Glasgow Region Outdoor & Woodland Learning | Outdoor and Woodland Learning (owlscotland.org): https://www.owlscotland.org/local-groups/glasgow_fei
The Children's Wood and North Kelvin Meadow - The Childrens Wood: https://www.thechildrenswood.co.uk/
photo credit: Finlay Stevenson
Become Aware and Dare to Care, my conversation with Fran Stallings about responding to environmental crises through story
How do stories help people become aware of and care about environmental issues? How does storytelling support people in daring to take action?
In this episode, I speak to Fran Stallings in Oklahoma. I met Fran through the Earth Up! Festival that she co-organised through the National Storytelling Network in April of 2021. Earth Up! brought together storytellers from around the world who are passionate about using their craft to help reconnect people to the rest of the natural world and to bring about change in relation to sustainability. Fran has had twin interests in stories and biology since she was quite a young person. She trained in biology and taught it at university, before leaving academia to become a full-time storyteller and trainer of storytelling. She has had a long, illustrious and international career in storytelling. Currently, she brings together her scientific background and her storytelling experience in writing the Earth Teller Tales column, which is available on her blog and through Oklahoma City University's Environmentor. And she hosts the Artists Standing Strong Together online Climate Conversations. Join me in finding out more about Fran's work; her aware, care, dare approach to telling; stealth eco-telling and EarthUp! 2022.
Fran Stalling's website is: https://www.franstallings.com/
EarthTeller Tales can be found here: https://www.franstallings.com/web/Environmentor
The Oklahoma City University Enviromentor page is here: https://www.okcu.edu/artsci/enrichment/environmentor
Watch this space at the National Storytelling Society for more information on EarthUp! 2022: https://storynet.org/earth-up/
Artists Standing Strong Together Climate Conversations can be found on their Events page here: https://www.artistsstandingstrongtogether.net/upcoming-events
With their resources page here: https://www.artistsstandingstrongtogether.net/climate-resources
photo credit: James McColloch
The Three E's of Storytelling and Ecology with Anthony Nanson
What does oral storytelling have to offer in relation to efforts to make a positive impact on our damaged ecosystems?
In this episode, I speak to storyteller, author, scholar and educator Anthony Nanson about his newly published book, Storytelling and Ecology: Empathy, Enchantment and Emergence in the Use of Oral Narratives. Anthony's passion for stories and nature informs all his creative work. He runs Awen Publications, a small press that publishes 'writing that is imaginative, boundary-pushing, eco-conscious, enchanting, and challenging of received wisdoms'. He was one of the editors of the important 2014 book Storytelling for a Greener World: Environment, Community and Story-based Learning. In our wide-ranging conversation, Anthony explains the importance of embodiment, the energy of performance and the role of enchantment in healing the rift between people and the rest of nature.
Storytelling and Ecology: Empathy, Enchantment and Emergence in the Use of Oral Narratives is published by Bloomsbury and can be ordered here: https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/storytelling-and-ecology-9781350114920/
For a limited time, listeners can purchase the book on Bloomsbury’s website using this 35% discount code: GLR TW7 (or, in the Americas, GLR TW7US).
To find out more about Anthony Nanson and his books, check out these links:
Storytelling for a Greener World has been re-issued as Storytelling for Nature Connection and can be ordered from Hawthorn Press:
The Society for Storytelling can be found here: https://www.sfs.org.uk/about-the-sfs
Connecting to the Land Through Traditional Tales with Lisa Schneidau
How can traditional tales re-connect us to the landscape in ways that heal the relationship between people and the rest of nature? In this episode, I talk to Lisa Schneidau, a Devonshire based ecologist and storyteller, about her journey with story, nature conservation and education. Lisa is the author of two popular collections of traditional tales, Botanical Tales of Britain and Ireland and Woodland Tales of Britain and Ireland, both from History Press. Lisa shares her experiences with and tips for working with traditional tales to connect people to place, to plants, to animals and to the issues that need tackling.
Lisa shares the story of 'The Apple Tree Man', which can be found in her book Botanical Folk Tales of Britain and Ireland (History Press, 2018).
Resources mentioned in the podcast can be found through these links:
Halsway Manor National Centre for Folk Arts: https://halswaymanor.org.uk
A Kist in Thyme with Amanda Edmiston
This week, I share my conversation with Botanica Fabula's Amanda Edmiston. Amanda is an herbalist, folklorist and storyteller here in Scotland. She has a particular passion for reconnecting people to plants, to the land, to traditional knowledge and to each other. While she has a number of fabulous projects on the go the focus of our chat is on an intergenerational project she led called a Kist in Thyme.
The Kist in Thyme pages are here: https://botanicafabula.co.uk/the-kist-in-thyme and here: https://botanicafabula.co.uk/kist-in-thyme-poppets-and-besoms-halloween-2020
The story of Chase the Devil is told here on the 'Tales of the Taibhsear' album (with musician Debbie Armour, Burd Ellen) https://talesofthetaibhsear.bandcamp.com/track/chase-the-devil or on the podcast that accompanies Amanda's other project The Very Curious Herbal here: https://anchor.fm/amanda-edmiston/episodes/St-Johns-Wort--The-Very-Curious-Herbal-e10mdfh/a-a5hi8ol
There's also a wee piece Amanda made as part of the first strand of the project with the children's art and a story on Youtube here: https://youtu.be/e1tPirWJDLU
The Tobar an Dualchais archive is here: https://www.tobarandualchais.co.uk/?l=en
The Scottish School of Herbal Medicine is no more, the co-founder still operates courses under the same name but they are no longer the same degree and masters level National Institute of Medical Herbalists accredited courses. There is only the archive offering links to research and methods left here; https://www.herbalmedicine.org.uk/
Glasgow's Hidden Gardens are here: https://thehiddengardens.org.uk/
Amanda's website and social media links are
Facebook: Amanda Edmiston, Botanica Fabula: herbal storyteller
Photo credit: John Ritchie
Story in Environmental Education with Kevin Strauss
In this episode I speak to Kevin Strauss, author of one of my favourite books for environmental education Tales with Tails: Storytelling the Wonders of the Natural World. The book includes stories that Kevin has written or re-told along with activities that can be used in formal or informal education, by teachers, parents, park rangers and, well, storytellers. I talk to Kevin, an environmental scientist, about what got him into storytelling. He shares tips for using storytelling in teaching natural history both inside and outside of the classroom, how to create and adapt stories and where to find inspiration. He shares an original story, The Stonemason's Daughter, which has a folktale-like format and theme. It is not available anywhere else either in print or as a recording.
Folks can find Kevin and his book at: www.naturestory.com
Links to storytelling groups in the US:
Northlands Storytelling Network (Midwest USA): www.northlands.net
National Storytelling Network: www.storynet.org
You can find lots of storyteller videos at www.storylibrary.org
Photo credit: Andrea Lorek Strauss.
Earth Stories and the Earth Charter with Catriona Blanke
For this week's episode, I spoke to Catriona Blanke in Germany. Catriona is a gifted singer-songwriter and storyteller with a passion for sharing Earth Stories with joy and connectedness. Catriona has a background in theatre and organisational change. She offers courses and trains people in theatre and storytelling for social transformation. She has been an Earth Charter Ambassador for almost a decade and weaves this into the storytelling work she does. In this episode, she talks to me about why stories matter, the renewed interest in storytelling in Germany, the Earth Charter and the Earth Stories Collection.
The Earth Charter here: https://earthcharter.org/
The Earth Stories Collection: https://theearthstoriescollection.org
In Germany, you can learn about becoming an Earth Charter Ambassador here: https://erdcharta.de/1/about-the-initiative/erd-charta-botschafterinnen/
Link to the Story:
The Storyteller and the Samurai (Japan): https://theearthstoriescollection.org/en/the-storyteller-and-the-samurai/
Photo Credit: Svenja Kranz
Stories for a More Beautiful World with Jenni Cargill-Strong
In this episode, I talk to award-winning Australian storyteller and workshop facilitator , Jenni Cargill-Strong. We had a fascinating conversation covering a range of topics from enchantivism, to working with different types of stories for social change, telling stories in a country dealing with the legacies of colonialism, storytelling and place...and of course trees. Trees seem to pop in to almost all of these podcast episodes. We love trees. Throughout our conversation, Jenni outlines stories that point audiences towards 'The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible' (the title of a book by Charles Eisenstein).
Jenni's website: www.storytree.com.au with a list of storytelling resources https://storytree.com.au/stories-for-a-more-beautiful-world/storytelling-resources/
'Stories for a More Beautiful World' online workshop: https://storytree.com.au/stories-for-a-more-beautiful-world/ (one starts July 19, 2021)
The story ‘Lily and the Fig Tree’ and ‘The Mulberry Tree’ are recorded on Jenni's album 'The Story Tree and other nature tales' which you can listen to and buy here: https://storytree.bandcamp.com/album/the-story-tree-and-other-nature-tales
Jenni's YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQP1tbNivZmFpB_KOv68-Hg
Other Websites mentioned
Enchantivism and Dr Chalquist https://chalquist.com/
Charles Eisenstein https://charleseisenstein.org/
Michael Meade retells the Native American story ‘Black Dog and Weaving Woman’ in his book 'Why the World Never Ends'; explains it to Russel Brandt here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1VaEKZRa1rQ and shares it on his podcast here: ‘Living Myth’ Podcast: ‘Making the Earth’, Episode 172 (paywall)
‘Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants’ by Robin Wall Kimmerer. I’ve been told the audiobook read by Kimmerer is fantastic as she has a great voice and hearing her read the text adds meaning to it.
Charles Eisenstein, ‘Climate: A New Story’ and 'The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible'
'Favourite Folktales from around the World' Yolen, Jane (Ed)
Jenni's story ‘The Mulberry Tree’ is in Susan Perrow's ‘Stories to Light the Night: A Grief and Loss Collection for Children, Families and Communities’ http://susanperrow.com/
Festivals and Social Transformation, a Conversation with Dawne McFarlane
In this episode, I caught up with Dawne McFarlane, Artistic Director of the 2021 Toronto Storytelling Festival. Dawne discusses how festivals provide leadership in promoting a global culture of respect and gratitude through the art of storytelling. Festivals are one of the places where diverse people meet up and can find common ground. Dawne shares how she approached organising a rich and diverse festival around the theme of 'Listening to the Voices of Nature' during a time of lockdown. Listening, she argues, is a important as speaking in the art of storytelling. Indigenous artists were at the heart of this festival and Dawne shares the role that traditional tales and elders can play in helping the world to transform to a more holistic worldview.
Dawne shares an Irish story, “The Daughter of the Fairy Queen,” from Told by the Peat Fire, stories by Sibylle Alexander, Hawthorn Press.
You can find the Toronto Storytelling Festival here: https://torontostorytellingfestival.ca/2021/
Dawne's page is here: https://www.dawnemcfarlane.ca/
Some of Kahontakwas Diane Longboat's work can be found here: https://www.soulofthemother.org/
Diane Beresford-Kroeger's bioplan can be found here: https://dianaberesford-kroeger.com/
Karen Noon - Personal Storytelling and Permaculture Education
In this episode, I speak to permaculture educator Karen Noon. Karen originally hails from South Africa, but now lives on a small farm in Brittany, France. Karen comes from a corporate background, but ten years ago that all changed. Today I speak with Karen about the importance of personal storytelling in transformative education and how she sees permaculture as a way of re-storying ourselves, our gardens and our world. She shares her 'river of life' story and the event in her life that led her to put people's voices at the heart of everything she does. She outlines how to do the river of life as a personal exercise or with learners.
Karen runs Afrinoon Permaculture, where you can find out more about her, her farm and her courses: http://www.afrinoonpermaculture.org/
Karen mentions the Permaculture Association, which oversees permaculture education in the UK. It can be found here: https://www.permaculture.org.uk/
A version of the River of Life exercise can be found here, if you'd like to give it a try yourself: https://pubs.iied.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/migrate/G02828.pdf
photo credit to Wes Meadows
Climate Change Storytelling from Town to Legislature with Judith Black
Join me for an inspiring chat with Judith Black, storyteller and climate activist, who has brought folktales into the belly of her State Legislature! Judith has been telling stories for 35 years. Five years ago, realising the full scale of the climate disaster we are facing, Judith dedicated herself and her storytelling skills to working on these issues. In our chat, she shares three ways of working with story: (1) a wake up call to responsibility; (2) a warning and education; (3) modelling strategies for change. She suggests a number of stories that fit these three categories and tells three: Spider and the Palm Nut Tree, Three Brahmans and a Tiger, The Giant Turnip. Stories are powerful, she argues, because they keep our gates of perception open.
Judith has done a Tedx talk on Storytelling and Climate Disruption and Hope: An Antidote to Despair: Storytelling and Climate Disruption
On her website, she generously shares her wisdom on crafting environmental stories from science:
She makes reference to Margaret Read MacDonald's Earth Care: World Folktales to Talk About.
Svend-Erik Engh on Folkehøjskole, Nordic Myths and Helping People to Find Their Voice
In this episode I talk to Svend-Erik Engh, a Danish storyteller, about plans to bring a Folkehøjskole ('folk high school') to Scotland. In our conversation, Svend-Erik shares the origins of Folkehøjskole in Denmark, the role of mythology in learning and the impact this form of education has on students and society. There is some master storytelling here as well, as Svend-Erik shares with us the myth of Odin hanging from Yggdrasil, the sacred world tree.
While Svend-Erik and his team plan to offer an in-person, residential Folkehøjskole sometime in the future, they will be offering a 'taster' Folkehøjskole, with a focus on storytelling, online for three weeks beginning in July 2021. This programme is open to anyone, anywhere.
You can find out more about Svend-Erik Engh (including how to contact him) here: https://svenderikengh.com/
You can find out more about the Scottish Folkehøjskole here: giantsheart.org
(Credit for photo of Svend-Erik Engh to Alice Fernbank)
Truth and Story
In this episode, I share one of the first stories that I ever learned to tell: 'Truth and Story'. This tale is one that I use often when working with researchers, scientists and students. It is a version of the old Jewish tale by the same name. However, this version is one that I learned from the Argentinian-Canadian storyteller Marta Singh. Marta will be performing at this year's Beyond the Border Storytelling Festival in Wales (2-4 July 2021).
Beyond the Border: https://beyondtheborder.com/
Marta Singh: https://www.ottawastorytellers.ca/marta-singh
Building Community with Storytelling with Sian Cornelius
In this episode, I speak to Sian Cornelius, storyteller, author and harpist, about being in the Christchurch Earthquake of 2011 and how that experience led her to become passionate about the power of story to transform ourselves and our communities after trauma. Her book, Transition Girl, shares the story of this part of Sian's life. She has also published Gower Folk Tales, a collection of traditional stories from the Gower peninsula in Wales, where she lives off-grid in a lovely solar-powered wooden cabin in the woods.
You can find out more about Sian, her books and her storytelling adventures at www.heartofabard.com and follow her on instagram @heartofabard.