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Young Tongues - The Story Continues

Article by Fiona Collins, published in Storylines, the newsletter of the Society for Storytelling in May 2008
Since 2004, the Young Tongues Young Storytellers Project has ridden the length and breadth of the land seeking out the best young storytellers to come forward into the public arena ... at least, that’s how storyteller Tim Ralphs describes it on the Young Tongues blog ... 

Some of the best up-and-coming young storytellers on today’s scene have won the title or received a prize at our annual event in Birmingham, the Young Storyteller of the Year Award:
  • Anna Conomos, Annamation, Rachel Rose Reid, Tim Ralphs, Joanne Blake ….
  • And now Tom Bland, David Clarke, Hannah Snell and Richie Crossman, as well as the impressive Under 18 winners, Lois Abena Duncan and Hajar Akhssassi …
  • Who will be next??? It could, as they say, be you!
However, since you are unlikely to be under 25 if you are reading this, you might be wondering what any of this has got to do with you ……
Read on, gentle reader ….
We are already spreading information about next year’s Award to our mailing list and to Storyclubs. You should find a postcard about the event in this issue of Storylines. Please pass it on, and help spread the word! Those young storytellers are out there, and they need to know what help exists for them.

Young storytellers need encouragement, they need support, and they need sponsorship
 Encourage a young person you know to give storytelling a go - your son, daughter, niece or nephew …. a promising student in your school or youth theatre, or member of your library … the young relative of someone in your Storytelling Club.

 Support a young storyteller by offering them opportunities to listen to stories and be heard telling … lend them books and take them to storytelling events … invite them along to watch you working with stories …

 Sponsor a prize at The Young Storyteller of the Year Award 2009 – in the past these have included: performance opportunities, mentoring for a young storyteller, a magazine subscription, a book token ….. We are always open to new offers, and we like being able to offer a LOT of prizes!

Young Tongues Plans for 2008-9

While you are thinking about what you could do, here’s what we are doing at the Traditional Arts Team to develop and extend our work.

Next year’s Young Storyteller of the Year Award will take place at the Birmingham Library Theatre on Saturday 7th March. We liked the venue when we used it this year, and got good feedback about it from competitors and audience alike.
  • Very good atmosphere, like the venue! Really enjoyed myself! (A competitor)
  • The Award itself is a really buzzing occasion!
  • So many stories, so many words, so many faces, some known, some new, all melded together into a tale of a day, a story in itself, not a beginning or an ending, just a continuation. (Audience member)
But Young Tongues is not just a one-day’s wonder: it’s about the ‘bigger picture’. As well as supporting young storytellers before and beyond the Award, we want to create a storytelling culture in schools and to galvanise the storytelling community into taking a serious look at our responsibility to future generations of storytellers.

Here is our ‘statement of intent’:
  • To help young people between the ages of 15 and 25, particularly those who have had less opportunities than others, to develop skills and confidence through storytelling
  • To support storytellers in developing skills to work with the 15-19 age group
  • To encourage schools to adopt a storytelling culture, and use storytelling throughout the curriculum
  • To support creative producers to get involved with the Young Tongues community and extend opportunities across the country
Young Tongues Projects 2008-9

In Birmingham we have applied for funding to return to some of our 2007-8 schools, as well as drawing in new schools and more storytellers to lead projects.

In Matlock funding is already secured to develop the school work begun there, which nurtured two of this year’s four Award winners.

In North Wales the Young Storyteller of Wales Award take place again on Sunday 25 th January in Llangollen, as part of National Storytelling Week in Wales. The Over 15 winner wins a place in the Birmingham Young Storyteller of the Year Award. Last year’s winners Lottie Cooper and Ryan Hopwood broadcast their stories to the nation on BBC Radio Wales.

Equally importantly, we are beginning to work in partnership with groups of like-minded people around the country to support them in setting up their own Young Storyteller Projects. They will fund and run their own events, and send representatives to Birmingham to compete at a national level.

New Partners

In Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin, a group has formally constituted itself in order to raise funds for storytelling projects in up to 6 local schools. This exciting venture is masterminded by Mythstories Museum, supported by local Storyclubs Tales at the Edge, Rhymes and Tells and Telling Space, and chaired by young storyteller Joe White ( one of last year’s Young Storytellers from Thomas Adams School and a member of Shropshire’s Youth Parliament) . With such a roll call, how can they fail?

In East Staffordshire the regional project is being developed by the dynamic Naomi Wilds, currently Storytelling Development worker for Arts East Staffs, who is also the producer of Adverse Camber’s storytelling tours and a freelance literature and arts development worker.

In Cambridgeshire, Cambridge Storytellers are working with the unstoppable arts development worker Kat Quatermass to raise money for an innovative project which will be delivered by both professional storytellers and ‘story coaches’ - story enthusiasts who will gain experience of working with young tellers by supporting the professionals’ work.

In London a group led by Alma Simpson and Nell Phoenix is working to establish Young Tongues Projects which may be based in libraries or connected with youth theatres.

In South Wales, Beyond the Borders and the Cardiff Story Circle are discussing ways to develop projects and an event for young storytellers working in both Welsh and English.

Feeling left out? Your area not mentioned? That’s because we don’t have you!

If you want to get involved, please contact us by emailing or phoning 01490 430 551. As Rumi said: "Start a huge, foolish project. Like Noah. It makes absolutely no difference what people think of you!"