Laureate to help storytelling live happily ever after
New role created to boost oral literary tradition
Sunday 01 November 2009
Are you sitting comfortably? Then let's begin. Britain is to have its first laureate for storytelling. Taffy Thomas has been waxing lyrical, spinning yarns, telling tall tales and holding children and adults spellbound with his repertoire of 300 stories culled from oral sources for the past 30 years.
Now the 60-year-old, who was made an MBE for his linguistic prowess, is to have his skill at the oldest literary form further recognised by being given the honorary role, which will be launched at the British Library in London in January as part of National Storytelling Week. During his two-year term of office, Mr Thomas, who lives in Cumbria, will travel the length and breadth of the UK to spread the word.
The former street entertainer, who founded the folk-theatre company Magic Lantern, turned to storytelling in his mid-thirties as part of his recovery after a massive stroke.
Yesterday, Mr Thomas was dusting off his spooky tales in preparation for a Halloween session near his home in Grasmere. The key to successful storytelling, he says, is forming a bond between teller and listener.
"The essential components are a storyteller, a listener and a good tale," he said. "The teller and the listener bring something of their own life experience to the moment. Together they're both making the same journey. A warm relationship grows between the two through that storytelling moment. A good story well told has the potential to draw together a very disparate group of people."
Mr Thomas believes success in his new role will be to leave behind both stories and storytellers: "If someone can tell a story they can also speak at a job interview... or even in a court of law. The art of storytelling empowers a person."
The position of laureate is the brainchild of a group of artists and writers, including the poet Brian Patten, the former children's laureate Michael Rosen and the artist Adrian Johnson.
"Stories inspire and encourage us at critical moments in our lives, and with the brilliant success of the poet laureate and other regional projects the time seemed right to honour the oral tradition of storytelling and those that tell them," Mr Johnson said.
The role comes with a small stipend of seven "wonderful objects": a bag of dried beans, a compass, a packet of love hearts, a clear glass bottle, a tall white candle, a silver lucky charm bracelet and a whistle.
musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years
Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Russell Brand says he will 'probably' give up acting to focus on his revolution
- 2 Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
- 3 David Beckham's Haig Club whisky is exactly what’s wrong with the Highlands
- 4 Queen's first tweet: Reply telling Her Majesty to 'f*** off' broadcast on BBC News
- 5 #AskNigelFarage: Twitter starts hilarious Q&A for Ukip leader
This is what a film sex scene actually looks like on set (mostly awkward)
Revolutionary lost Caravaggio painting 'Mary Magdalen in Ecstasy' identified
Pottermore: JK Rowling writes new Harry Potter story featuring 'greying' 33-year-old wizard
JK Rowling to publish new Harry Potter story online for Halloween
Fury, film review: Brad Pitt stars in visceral and brutally ugly drama that reminds us war is hell
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Tony Blair 'says Ed Miliband will lose 2015 general election'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Putin: The US is to blame for almost all the world's major conflicts
Poppy Appeal 2014: This is why I won't be wearing a red poppy this year