storytelling and singing and movement

Storytelling traditions in our indigenous European storytelling traditions.

Many people are rediscovering the pleasures of telling stories, despite the fact that our Anglo and Brito culture has lost most of its traditional storytelling. Yet it isn’t easy to find out much about the countless millennia of oral traditions with all their wisdom and techniques.

I hope this page will help me find others who wish to discover and appreciate something of the central role which traditional storytelling has played in our cultures, and in some places still does.

Your help will be welcome if you know or come across any facts or resources to add, current or historical. To begin with I’ll be adding bits and pieces as I can – this is a big subject!

One thing to bear in mind is that in many old traditions storytelling is synonymous with dance, song, chant, music, or epic poetry, especially in the bardic traditions. Stories may be chanted or sung, along with musical accompaniment on a certain instrument. Therefore some who would be called folk musicians by foreign music enthusiasts are just as accurately called storytellers – their true roles are more profound, as their names reflect: bards, ashiks, jyrau, griots amongst many more. Their roles in fact are often as much spiritual teachers and exemplars, or healers, for which the stories and music are vehicles, as well as historians and tradition-bearers. For instance the term bakhshi used in central Asia, means a shaman or healer who uses music as a conduit to the world of the Spirit.

Performances and storytelling workshops can focused on storytelling, myths, folktales, local traditions and legends – which form part of the cultural identity and historical background of local communities across a country. We could work in underprivileged schools – including second chance (prison) schools, special schools for children with disabilities and multicultural schools.

Centre for the Study of  Dissemination of Myths and Folktales (Stavros Niarchos Foundation)

Storytelling and the European Union

It makes no sense to look at Britain in isolation; we have to consider ourselves with Ireland as part of the wider ‘Atlantic Archipelago’, nearer to continental Europe and, like Scandinavia, part of the North Sea world.

Storytelling of our first peoples

The first ‘Britons’ were an ethnically mixed group. From the arrival of the first modern humans – who were hunter-gatherers, following the retreating ice of the Ice Age northwards – to the beginning of recorded history is a period of about 100 centuries, or 400 generations. This is a vast time span, and we know very little about what went on through those years; it is hard even to fully answer the question, ‘Who were the early peoples of Britain?’, because they have left no accounts of themselves.

Throughout prehistory there were myriad small-scale societies and many petty ‘tribal’ identities…

We can, however, say that biologically they were part of the Caucasoid population of Europe. The regional physical stereotypes familiar to us today, a pattern widely thought to result from the post-Roman Anglo-Saxon and Viking invasions – red-headed people in Scotland, small, dark-haired folk in Wales and lanky blondes in southern England – already existed in Roman times. Insofar as they represent reality, they perhaps attest the post-Ice Age peopling of Britain, or the first farmers of 6,000 years ago.

From an early stage, the constraints and opportunities of the varied environments of the islands of Britain encouraged a great regional diversity of culture. Throughout prehistory there were myriad small-scale societies, and many petty ‘tribal’ identities, typically lasting perhaps no more than a few generations before splitting, merging or becoming obliterated. These groups were in contact and conflict with their neighbours, and sometimes with more distant groups – the appearance of exotic imported objects attest exchanges, alliance and kinship links, and wars.

12 June 2016