Every December I do a “looking back over the year” type post. (like these: 2016 2017 2018 & 2019 )
2020 was supposed to be our biggest year yet, seeing our live bookings growing from 80-100 seaters to larger venues. We only got to actually do one of these bigger shows (at the Union Chapel for Daylight Music. Watch us ) We got a promising early boost in January with a Radio 2 interview and bookings were really strong.
Today, less than 12 months later, everything has changed. Many of our biggest partners and clients (the mighty Daylight Music, Southbank Centre, Time Out, the Albert Hall) are more or less in hibernation- who knows how long for? And who knows what the cultural landscape will be like in 2021?
A lot of storytellers, me included, have struggled with dispair, fear and anger. This has been a hell of a year with some very dark moments for us, our loved ones, our communities and our world.
But to focus on the positives… Hadn’t I been saying for ages that I wanted a really big challenge?
Firstly I need to say THANK YOU. Our friends, colleagues, audience members and clients have helped us, supported us and encouraged us, taking a chance on hiring us, bearing with the learning curve as we transition to online storytelling,
In October we were bowled over by a hugely generous response to our crowdfunder which enabled us to update all our tech and continue working virtually. I have no words to thank people for their support, both financial and emotional during that time. It was the boost we needed to keep us driving forward when the UK was plunged back into national lockdown in November.
We have continued to survive and even to thrive.
Here are the six top joys of the year.
- A fantastic regular booking. Since May I have told stories once-a-week or more with a group of Mandarin-speaking kids who are mostly based in China. This regular work has been loads of fun, a financial godsend and also a creative lifeline as it has made me develop an online style quickly. I’ve started using cut-outs as they look so nice on the camera- and I’ve tried lots of different ways of being interactive!
2. Companies (usually international) want to provide entertainment at home for clients and staff. So many people, adults and children, have discovered the joy of storytelling for the first time.
Maybe the biggest challenge of 2020 was to devise a virtual pantomime based on the 2020 performance report of one company – it was called “A Tale of Two SOCs”.
“oh no we didn’t”
what an amazing opportunity and a good laugh!
3. Schools/ SEN/ Care homes /Birthday parties and Bookshops
Although I never would have realised this in January 2020… virtual storytelling can be incredibly interactive and sensory. It works just as well in a single room or a number of different spaces. We have had success with creative use of simple widely-available props like scrunched-up paper, tinned mackrel (!) and water with a straw.
One of the nicest things about this year is the number of people who have booked us in their professional capacity (e.g they are a teacher) and gone on to book us again for something personal like a party. Yay!
Actual clients have definitely been thinner on the ground than usual so I don’t know what we would have done without so many re-bookings and multiple bookings from schools and organisations. Thank you!
4. Trying new things all the time!
Clients including museums, heritage and cultural organisations have asked us to do all kinds of new things. We have experimented with Facebook and Instagram lives, filmed pre-records, and audio-only …as well as getting the very exciting chance to record a story and have animation added. (Thank you National Literacy Trust)
In Spetember we got our first ever Arts Council England Grant. It funds an audio project with four amazing storytellers. Blue Bermondsey BID also paid for a story (making it five in all) and has supported us massively
This provided a “dream-come-true” opportunity to work with some of my storytelling heroes: Alim Kamara, Rachel Rose Reid, Griot Chinyere, Richard O’Neill and Usifu Jalloh.
We have also had quite a few other opportunities to work with other storytellers- one of my favourites was Southwark Festival of Words YouTube “Story Night”
You can watch the whole thing here.
6. London Dreamtime
Our regular site-specific storytelling-for-adults went virtual. Firstly with back projections and then using stories filmed on location. We combined recordings with zoom to keep the “live” feel.
In September and October, when rules allowed, we also did very small and very magical real life events with no more than four audience members. This was absolutely brilliant!
As well as re-visiting familiar tales, we have also come up with quite a few new including a Werewolves of London walk, a terrifying Christmas ghost story and The Norwegian tale of the Draug.
We’ve also released a number of listen-along audios to take on your walks (like this)
We have lots of new ideas for 2021, we can’t wait to continue innovating and learning. If you want to sign up to our mailing list to find out about whats coming up (in real-life and virtual worlds) just click here. And meanwhile…
….Wishing us all the grace we need. Have a safe and peaceful start to your 2021 and hope to see you soon.