Storytelling- Lupton

LuptonI went to the literature festival at Bishops Stortford College where Hugh Lupton was telling stories for the evening. He told his stories on a Russian theme.

20 years ago I used to be part of a storytelling group in Camden. Hugh Lupton was one of the Company of Storytellers just down the road. Their emphasis was on getting people in to listen to the professional storytellers. Our was mostly on learning how to tell stories ourselves so it was rather like a folk club with everyone present taking turns to tell a story. And it all rushed back to me listening to Lupton hold the room with story after story.

His great uncle was Arthur Ransome the author of the Swallows and Amazon stories. Ransome had been a journalist (and spook) in Russia during the Bolshevik revolution. He eventually absconded taking Trotskis secretary with him – travelling through the front line to the Estonian coast. This for me was the best story of the evening because although it was interesting hearing Russian folk stories which Ransome had gone to Russia to collect, listening to different types of stories woven together was much more interesting. Firstly the outer wrapping story was of Ransome telling the story after a picnic on the edge of Lake Windermere years later. Then the story of the escape from Moscow to the coast itself. This was broken into 3 parts grouped by the structures of a folk story – the early good luck, the need for boldness and the final trial. But woven into it were 3 nights where Ransom dreams of his boyhood in England by salmon rivers in the English lake district – as the salmon driven by a homing instinct. A tradition of stories about the English landscape which has a whole strand of literature (Henry Williamson, Richard Jeffries, William Cobbett, Isaak Walton and Kenneth Graham) which I had never heard told live before. The 3 different story forms made a wonderful blend and offset what would otherwise irritate me – namely the folky use of archaic words and the self concious use of drums and other instruments to conjure up what to me is a largely imaginary past. It may work for folkies. But it can makes the stories artificial. Standup comedians are storytellers too who don't need props to protect their ability to hold a crowd.

So all in all a very special night – which made me want to get back to storytelling myself. There are 3 types of storytelling group you could try out yourself. The first is the learning and retelling of traditional stories. The second is a kind of serial conversation where one anecdote – funny thing happened on the bus last week leads on to someone else's recollection. The third is a kind of therapy group where people share stories from their past and is a kind of self disclosure. All 3 work well in a format if you gather a roomful of friends and have a clear beginning and end and some ground rules about courtesies extended by tellers and listeners. The trad story one takes more preparation because the tellers need to master the material. I have a bit of a specialist area in this one because I like using biblical material sometimes – which ranges from mostly improvised and embroidered – to memorisation and delivery to 95%+ accuracy of the written text.

Here's Hugh Lupton's site where you can listen to him tell you a story or two.

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