All arts including storytelling have suffered during the pandemic.
However, I have been heartened to discover that our art form is a survivor. Since lockdown begun in March I have done projects on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook Live and of course the ubiquitous Zoom. I have worked with museums, galleries, schools, literacy and community organisations, done storytelling for a TEDx “virtual summer school” and changed my once-a-month adult storytelling night to fortnightly.
I have also been hugely inspired by other storytellers who are running story rounds, story circles and live online storytelling events.
(Just a few: SofaStoryClub run by Rachel Rose Reid, the amazing World Storytelling Cafe which brings tellers from all cultures and traditions across the world to your laptop, popular online story clubs Strange Times, Word Spun and SO many more.)
What are the successes of the last few months?
Zoom is a good way to connect with an audience. I’ve used the Chinese version for a regular kids class in Bejing with English-learners and a lot of corporate events with clients who want to provide a treat for employees with kids at home. Ir’s also been a wonderful way to connect with schools because it allows you to appear in classrooms and homes simultaneously. (below) I’ve also done an absolutely brilliant 11th birthday party via Zoom, telling scary stories with party guests in various tents and darkened bedrooms across London! Investing in a long ethernet cable meant I am able to get vastly better sound/image quality. Using a professional admin means we are not troubled by Zoom “trolls” and a lot of technical issues can be resolved smoothly.
(Pic: Zooming into a classroom!)
There’s also YouTube. One school asked me to record the stories in advance and then be online replying to comments while kids were watching. This meant that children could watch many times or catch up. We ended up getting multiple re-watches and kids were able to post thoughts, questions and answers in the comments. We use YouTube regularly for our adult events too.
We have also used OBS software to stream on Facebook and YouTube simultaneously with Big Fish Little Fish. Watch the story here.
As challenges present themselves, it’s up to us, the artists, to keep innovating and responding. We will continue to find new ways to reach audiences with the power, beauty and magic of storytelling.
“such brilliant experience for children at our school.” (Churchfields Primary School PTA)
“Absolutely brilliant. Thank you. Lots of the parents were saying how funny it was listening to the reactions.” (Scary Stories Birthday Party)
“It was great to share the experience over here in Germany with my 10 year old niece and the family (including Poppy the dog) in the UK. We thought Vanessa was perfect – very wacky and an excellent storyteller.” (Corporate event)
“Just a quick thanks for inviting my children to the storyteller events today, they both enjoyed their respective sessions very much. My 7yo was particularly excited about it all day, and we both thoroughly enjoyed learning about the Pearly King! Vanessa was superb.” (Corporate Event)
“Thank you so much for the storytelling sessions this morning- the children in school absolutely loved it and I have had so many lovely emails from parents saying how much the children at home enjoyed it.” Class Teacher Farnborough Primary School
“Thanks so much Vanessa, went really great and loved loved loved it!” Marketing Officer Leighton House Instagram Live (part of five week project)