A quest recognize and respect ownership of oral stories
This is a multiple part story
Part Two: Georgiana Keable
I’ll start with a friend and mentor, Georgiana Keable. We first met at a storytelling course she taught in Oslo, through Fortellerhuset. Later, I had the wonderful learning experience of assisting her during several storytelling courses.
After getting to know her better I’ve realized that she has a superpower: listening. It manifests as the art of holding space in a way which gifts the shyest person the comfort to speak – or tell a story. This also translates into her performances, she seems to listen to the audience and move the story as a dialogue with them. (Perhaps all tellers do this, Georgiana is simply the one I know personally and have observed most.)
At the age of 15, Georgiana began telling stories with Ben Haggarty in London. She’s now approaching 50 years of telling. Currently she lives on a farm north of Oslo in Norway. (The farm is a whole other story of its own, which you can hear here if you would like to ...)
Georgiana starts with the most logical advice, “Ask the teller if you want to tell their story. Some people just don’t want their stories told – in that case don’t tell them! Also, be careful with indigenous people’s stories, you need permission if you are going to tell them.” (She also gave me some contacts which will be in future articles.)
The fledgling storyteller learns the process of completely understanding a story. It involves researching the story, then making it yours and re-working it over time. A devoted teller tries to find as many sources as possible to understand all facets of the story. Georgiana says, “When you receive permission to retell a story, work with it. To retell a story you have heard, without working on it, to make it your own, can border on disrespect. The person who told it to you probably used loads of time to do the research and then worked with the story on an inner journey – that's why you enjoyed it so much that you yourself wanted to retell it. So you kind of owe it to the storyteller and to the story itself, to make that process of digestion happen within you. Then you can share the story in a fresh, renewed way, and the power of the story doesn’t get used up.”
Georgiana also notes that, sometimes, tellers will give the story to the audience as a gift. If a story is gifted to you, then it is yours to tell and rework.
As our conversation wraps up, Georgiana adds, “Personally, I’m honoured when someone asks to tell one of my stories. If you don’t let your stories be retold, they will die.”