Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Our media correspondents visited Emirates Airline International Festival and following are a series of features written by our Print Specialisation Students - this one by Fatima Hussain
Alec Williams, a UK-based story teller at the 'Storytelling' workshop organised by the British Council
After a jolly and enjoyable workshop on Storytelling, organised by the British Council at the Intercontinental Hotel (Festival City), as part of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, I decided to interview someone with an unusual profession- I caught hold of Alec Williams; a story-teller! Alec works as a storyteller, trainer, consultant, writer and speaker. A British story-teller, Alec happens to be an enthusiast for children’s reading, his experience managing library services in the UK has given him an extensive knowledge of children’s books and the power of stories. Alec has written articles, spoken at conferences, and appeared on radio and television in the UK. He gives talks on the importance of children’s reading, and trains teachers, parents, librarians and others. Alec Williams was present here, at Dubai, to conduct a workshop on the art of story-telling, for a spectrum of audience from a wide-age group – in fact, anyone could join in! Below is the interview with Alec Williams: Q. Where are you based in? A. I am based in North of England, in Yorkshire. I live between Manchester and Leads. And there’s where the world-famous Manchester United Soccer team comes from! Q. You have been ‘specialising’ in story-telling for quite a long time. Is story-telling only a form of fun or is there something else to it? A. Yes, there are many more facets to story-telling. Stories are fun but they also are a means of learning language, they help in co-ordination- children and the audiences joining in, with actions together, they help in experiencing things or maybe rehearsing something scary in a story. Taking turns, in speaking, if you are asking children for ideas in a story-so there are lot more spin-offs. They are also telling you about the culture, for example, in case of the English stories, it’s about the English speaking world, because these are stories from that world, and in the case of English, opening it up and giving them a glimpse of the huge amount of literature present in English, So, all these things happen when you do a story. Q. During the course of the workshop today, you did mention the television today, working as the ‘e-nanny’. As it can be observed that due to the power of the electronic media taking over the traditional story-telling, what according to you is the future of story-telling, now? A. I think story telling has a future. But what makes it a future, is if all of you are enthusiastic and (as I know many of you were in today’s session). I think it’s important not to ‘set’ media and stories against each other. So, not to say to a child: We won’t go to a movie tonight, I want you to read a book, instead, because then, you are setting up a conflict. There are plenty of films or movies based on children’s’ books, so you might say that if there is a film coming up: Let’s read the story first and then go to see the movie. Or the other way round after you see a movie. The same goes for television, the same with computers – there is a lot of reading on the screen. So, any reading is useful; reading magazines, reading newspapers. It will be good to have a place for stories, because children, from any area, (turning towards me) and yours is an area (Middle East and South-east Asia) where, I think, where children need to know about the culture of their own country. And many familiar stories like Sinbad and Ali Baba and Aladdin, and many more from your area (Muslim cultural stories and Indian stories), can help children learn about things as part of their cultural heritage. Q. Since you spoke about ‘culture’, how can stories be seen as a way of bridging cultures, in your view, with the rise of the ‘Global Village’ concept coming up? A. Yes, Indeed. Stories, like people, travel. Because stories travel with people and the Gulf countries here have great sailors and great explorers and they took their stories. If I tell a story, from England called The Peddler and it has a parallel in this area – here it’s called The Ruined Man and his Dream. So, it’s great to see, when you share a story, people say: Ha! That is like the story we heard called ‘Such and Such…’ And that is a great way of bringing people together. -The workshop ‘Storytelling’ was held on February 28, 2008, at the Intercontinental Hotel (Festival City). Organised by the British Council, the workshop was a part of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, held in Dubai. - By Fatima Husain


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