Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Anecdotal evidence

22:40:00 Posted by Lindsay , , , , 3 comments

I come from a family that love anecdotes. They're our social lubricant, and usually very amusing. I've lost track of the times I've been embarrassed by my auntie telling people how I once was found as a toddler swearing at an injured pigeon which was hiding under the bed from me for being naughty, and how I tried to turn its legs round because they were "the wrong way round". Poor pigeon. Having grown up around it I find myself loving other people's stories, and it often made me wonder why we enjoy this so much, both the telling of them and the listening. I'm fascinated by folk stories and fables.

Whilst studying on my MA we were visited by a remarkable storyteller Taffy Thomas MBE ( He's the UK's first storytelling Laureate. He suffered from a severe stroke and taught himself to speak again using the art of storytelling. He came in and put on his storytelling coat which was a handmade coat made up of various images, each representing a folk story. He asked us to pick a picture and he would tell from memory the story. He was captivating, in presence and skill. We hung on his every word, amazed that he could remember each of these stories so perfectly and tell them so beautifully. He spoke about how important stories are, particularly to children and how they could develop emotional literacy, empathy and communication skills. The morality in some of the stories also acts as a guide for children to develop within the community. Taffy was keen for us to remember the stories, and taught us a few handy ways to recall them using anchor points within the story. He said as long as we could remember these it didn't much matter how we told it, so long as it was told with conviction and respect for the story.

The art of verbal storytelling has been around far longer than the written word, but is just as important. We've evolved to tell stories to pass on information, alert to dangers experienced in the past, teach empathy and morality and of course help us to communicate with each other better. Both in speaking and listening. In his book Telling Tales Taffy quotes a 12 year old he met at one of his workshops;

A story's like a game of tig that's passed on
And around. A story is like a gift that's
Given by sound. A story is like a Mexican wave
Whirling above the ground. Around and
Around it goes, by word of mouth it flows
Hold the gist as it goes by. Pass it on or it will
Die. A story's a game of tig.

I like this quote, a story is a game of tig. A verbal tale or anecdote is passed on much like any other type of story, and whether it gets twisted a little on the way it doesn't matter. We're wired to tell stories, whether in verbal or written form, so pass em on.


Colin Davies said...

The essence of the meme.

Cracking post

She who shall not be named said...

Taffy Thomas is a star :-)

Inspiring post. Thanks!

Adele said...

I am just beginning to write down some of the wonderful stories told to me as a child and some of the ones I told to my own kids. Pass them on or they fade and die.

Thoroughly lovely post Lindsay