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Rosy Dawn or False Glow: The Future of Storytelling in Ireland, England, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Please find the notes below of a recent Conference on the future of storytelling in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and England below...

Rosy Dawn or False Glow: The Future of Storytelling in Ireland, England, Northern Ireland and Scotland.


Now is the moment to step forward, with the world spinning as it is, the idea of cultural currency has become a potent one.  Storytelling is connected to identity, development, belonging and healing.


Storytelling in Scotland.

o       In Scotland the idea of storytelling as a tool to promote literacy is quite widely accepted, through nurture groups and other programmes. 

o       The NHS is promoting storytelling through the gathering and publishing of tales and personal stories. 

o       Storytelling still maintains a lower profile than something like Scottish Opera, how can we raise it up to that level?





o       How to organise the business of storytelling

o       Physical training; breath and vocal training

o       Repertoire and development

o       Know your limits, don’t say yes to everything!

o       Child Protection Training

o       Learn the fundamentals and then ask “What am I best at?”

o       “Story Repair Workshops”, Story groups of storytellers to work on stories

o       How do we measure or assess the quality of storytelling




Funders Response:

During recession we must focus on strategic development, areas like:

Cultural tourism

Individual artistic support

Support Training





Venues / Marketing / Audience development


Nobody knows what we do, so it is time to VISIBLY VALUE THE VOCAL ARTS!

1.       Storytelling Laureate position was created to beat the drum and raise the profile of storytelling on an international level.


2.       Storytelling competitions (story slams etc) can be used to create connections and grow new audiences.


3.       Catchphrases are helpful in spreading the word

“If you can’t tell it you can’t spell it!” said by one UK politician.


4.       While we are in a recession we must stay aware that the lottery money is going to increase and therefore pools of money are still available.


How do we start raising the profile?

o       Bring the art of storytelling into the public profile through television reality shows or competitions.


o       Be aware of where the social focus is.  E.g. Hip nós is a blend of sean nós singing and hip hop (Dublin).



Marketing Approaches to building audiences


1.     Word of Mouth

2.     Targeted email

3.     Categorise your event

4.     Be persistent and consistent

5.     Approach e communications analytically

6.     Target your audience for your event

7.     Perople have to know what they’re coming to.  What will it feel like to be there; storytelling events often don’t’ tell/inform people of what
they’re coming to.

8.     Themed events might build more audience more quickly.

9.     Do your own audience analysis, keep up to date records of your demographic

10. Plan your PR strategy as an individual or as an organisation

11. Build partnerships with Arts Council / Funders to avail of the support

12. How to pitch it: it’s a lifestyle thing, it’s a social thing

13. University email lists

14. Promoting your event at another event (t shirts, flyers etc)

15. Branding

16. Cultural Economics ; remember that culture is a form of currency. #

17. Clear Message + Target = Success

18. Offering beginners classes in storytelling always sells out, meets a niche market of beginners

19. Offer your funders more, give them branding on the event, give them your time etc




Anecdotal evidence versus proof

There needs to be an academic gathering of evidence that supports the idea of how storytelling works, how it promotes literacy, why it develops the human psyche, how it fills the gaps that currently exist in the
educational system.


How do we take what’s already being done (nurture groups etc) and develop that into an international focus on storytelling?

1. National storytelling month / year

Get governments and educational organisations behind this, charities too.  Market it worldwide and this would allow a huge market for development not just of the profile of
storytelling but of the possible work that could be achieved.


2. Proof

Get analytical or statistical information based on the work that is already being done in schools.  Get demographic sheets for every school visit to keep record of who is
being reached and what the after effects are.


3. Archive of best practise

Resource for other storytellers and future storytelling work. Spark the Imagination monitored a term of storytelling so statistics are available on this. T3 at the Verbal Arts Centre also has some information



Much reminiscence work that has been done with communities is not appreciated, it sits in an archive and never gets looked at again once the project is finished. 
Storytelling is a live art, perhaps the archives should be live too? As
in ongoing community activities?

Or perhaps a visual display put in a prominent place after the project happens would be useful.


Community development + the role of the storyteller. 

The storyteller becomes the animateur, the voice that animates the community by feeding back positive stories about itself. This art of positive reflection allows the community to change its perspective and to
grow in new directions that would not have been possible before.


Storytelling develops understanding and it is this understanding that creates change.  We have no idea of the reach of our work, a story told now can ripple forward and make a change in 70 years.

“If you don’t know the trees you might be lost in the forest, if you don’t know the stories you might be lost in life”



Storytelling is the vocal art.


We are living in a moment of change and opportunity.


It is an art of the people, for the people and by the people.


Storytelling allows the owning identity, claiming value of self, culture and community


Are we offering the routes for development of new tellers


Stay aware of the social focus…what is popular is usually well funded


Are we using the media properly?



Preview your event: Tell people it is going to happen

View your event: Remind people it’s about to happen

Review your event: tell people that is happened and what it was like.


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Replies to This Discussion

Thanks, Clare! Where was this held, who organised it, and who attended?

Some very interesting, intriguing and promising ideas here. I think Adrian Johnson is spot on when he says: "Be aware of where the social focus is." Did anybody make any further comments on where it actually is, beyond the hint that it might have something to do with hip-hop?

Was there any discussion of "market shares"? - e.g. what share of the British or Irish entertainment market does storytelling currently take? How does this compare with stand-up comedy, conventional theatre, cinema, etc.? Did he talk about the demographics of the storytelling market (particularly age and social class distribution), and how they compare with those of comedy clubs, theatre, cinema, TV, etc.?

And any good answers to this one: "How do we measure or assess the quality of storytelling?" In particular, how can we assure quality in the way we match stories to the needs of different audiences (e.g. adults versus children, working-class versus university students or graduates)?
Hey Coilin

The notes I took were thin compared to what was actually discussed. There was much discussion on social focus and especially the way in which the media is used to convey popular culture..can this be used for storytelling? I don't know.

It is also a matter of funding, keep your eye on what is popular to see if you can match that with your work to avail of current funding trends.

Market shares were not discussed, but the ways in which to raise the profile of storytelling was.

It was organised by Donald Smith, Director of the Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh.

The measuring quality discussion was intermingled with how to train up new storytellers and there were a lot of different ideas. But mainly it focused on providing good technical and vocational training to new storytellers.

Targeting audiences and branding your events better was discussed which might pertain to your last point.

What I really learned from it is that there are a lot of divergent storytelling projects going on, a lot of excellent research and fabulous collaborations and so we need more integration of the storytelling communities as "A rising tide lifts all boats". We help each other by sharing information and collaborating as much as possible.
Scotland has a different system to Ireland insofar as they have a criteria for joining, a panel of judges and assistance for helping new and young tellers. They also have a set bar of costs that storytellers can charge etc.
It's a system well worth examining.

Thanks, Clare. All very interesting.

I agree that we need to collaborate as far as practicable. Mind you, I think there must be an acknowledgement that there may be different approaches to different market segments, so that what I am doing may not always be of interest or value to you, and vice-versa. Some people might be working mainly in education, while others may be working to break through in the mainstream entertainment market, and the circumstances of one (e.g. funding, advertising, choice of stories, etc.) may be utterly irrelevant to the other.

I have looked at the Scottish system, and I see a lot of merit in it, but I have some wee reservations and unanswered questions about it.

For example, when a Committee member is assessing an applicant for inclusion in the storytelling directory, he/she is asked to assess "Appropriateness and quality of story" but I don't know what criteria are to be used to assess either appropriateness or quality.

This is important to me as somebody who is not just a teller but also a keen listener and club organiser, because I have sometimes found myself listening to stories that were very appropriate and entertaining for children, but rather dissatisfying for adults. On one of these occasions, as a reality check, I asked my adult friends whether it was just a matter of my quirky tastes, but both of them agreed quite emphatically that the stories they had heard were too childish for their tastes, too.

This kind of experience is harmful to storytelling, because those people might never come back.

Class and educational background may also make some stories interesting to certain audiences and boring to others. The stories I tell to an audience at an art college may be very different from the ones I tell to a working-class audience in a city-centre pub. The stories a group of women ask for may be different kinds from those that interest a group of men. (One listener in a group of all women once requested: "Tell us your own love story.") There may also be an urban-rural distinction in tastes and expectations, and so on.

So, to be useful to me, a directory should include a fairly detailed description of repertoire and target audience for each story.

Let me hasten to add that other aspects of the Scottish feedback system seem to include very useful detail, e.g. "Style of delivery, e.g. use of expression, gesture, pace, voice"
Yvonne Healy Responded to this in my blog, I had to post her reply here as well because it is so valuable!! Thanks Yvonne!

Yvonne wrote:
Your detailed report is the next best thing to being there. Thank you!

Below are some thoughts which might have some application beyond my American culture.

Education/proof: check out the quantitative research at NSN sponsored site at is also an overview of 16 other studies in the book “Story Proof.:

Marketing to Funders:
Funders want to know what benefit(s)they receive in exchange for sponsorship other than general goodwill.

Offer the funder various combinations of the following items dependent on how much the funder gives to the storytelling event/organization:
*(Funder’s) Logo on (event/organization’s) brochures
*Logo on tickets
* Logo on invitations
* Logo on posters
* Logo on t-shirts
* Logo inclusion in e-mail blasts
* Ad in the event program
* Opportunity to include * Promotional Offer * in organization’s newsletter
*Click through to funder’s site on organization’s website sponsor page
* Tickets to event
* Reserved table at event
* Opportunity for a funder’s speaker/panel to present at event
* Funder’s banner displayed in a key location at event
* Inclusion in Signage
* Inclusion in Digital Signage
* Opportunity to display promotional table tents at event tables
* Opportunity to promote a Funder’s discount for event ticket
* Distribution of promotional item in goodie bags/favors/giveaways
* Opportunity to place a promotional item on each attendee’s chair
* Opportunity to be included in event * Video * PowerPoint * Other
* Opportunity for a readership online contest:
* Opportunity for a booth at event
* Opportunity to display marketing/advertising materials
* Access to event attendee database
* Mention in event’s * radio * TV spots *print ads
* Mention in press releases
Hi Clare
Thanks for giving such an exciting update on that course.
As you have said, there is already a huge amount going on in research about storytelling etc, alot of which is being co-ordinated by the Society for Storytelling, the UK national society. They are holding their annual meeting in a couple of weeks they are well worth getting involved in.
Recently a number of "International" communities of storytellers have started....find the Spanish one talked about on here....
Good luck with your efforts. More power to your storytelling arm!!

Thanks for the link Kevin

That is my point exactly, so much work has already been done! So we need to connect up the dots and post an international collection of information somewhere online. This site is probably perfect in terms of reaching as many storytellers as possible. Thanks for the sfs link, I tend to forget what is right in front of me!!

beir bua




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