Finding inspiration in a lockdown

Six weeks ago I was in Yorkshire touring regional libraries with “The Enormous Crocodile” and “The Twits”. Six weeks later with all my dates either cancelled or postponed I am at home and work is at the check out of major supermarket. If I had told you this story a year ago you’d have said it would be improbable or incredible but then the truth is often stranger than fiction. At times I have found this situation very difficult to cope with and in so many ways thoroughly demotivating but when you have a toddler and bills to pay you can’t afford to wallow so I have had to find inspiration in some new and unexpected places.

Spending time with Verity

I have relished looking after my daughter. With time on my hands I have been able to plan science experiments, craft activities, garden and indoor games. I have already blogged about how our stories have inspired our play but as this unprecedented period extends, everyday brings the renewed challenge of keeping us both interested. As the videos below indicate, we have been getting creative…

Talking to Peers

Storytellers Andy Copps and Hannah Brailsford have been running meet ups on Tuesdays where storytellers can come together and talk. These sessions have been attended by some tremendously talented folk from all around the world. There is relief in knowing that this situation is effecting everybody and I have found energy in sharing views and ideas.

Discovering Zoom

Unless you count scrubbing dates out of my diary, I hadn’t done a lot of storytelling work since March. Having found YouTube quite frustrating Zoom has been a revelation and in the past few weeks I have lead three sessions for under 7s. Like most storytellers you’ll ask, I miss a live audience but working through Zoom does have some advantages as I can now be in Manchester and Swansea simultaneously. In a couple of weeks I will be leading a workshop for a group of wheelchair users in Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Glasgow from the comfort of my living room – this workshop wouldn’t have happened without the lock down. Its a steep learning curve as we overcome the restrictions of working in front of a computer screen and cope with Zoom bombing.

Set up for The Gingerbread Man…
… an engrossed audience.

The lockdown itself

I was asked to record a story for Southwark Libraries Festival of Words. I opted for the story of Rapunzel. Once I started thinking about the story (a little girl locked in a tower by a wicked witch waits for a Prince to save her) I started thinking about the national predicament and how the story might be updated for the lock down. I have written a story about the lock down but putting a child at it’s centre. A little girl school closes and she is forced to stay in her flat for reasons she doesn’t really understand. From her window she can see a playground and one day she sees another little girl on the swings. A friendship develops but she can’t go outside to ask the mystery child her name. When they finally meet it turns out that the girl in the playground is called Hope. For Rapunzel see the girl in the flat, for the Wicked Witch see the Lockdown and for the Prince see Hope. Had it not been for the situation I would never have written the story which whilst based on a very simple idea is already resonating a week before the festival opens.

So you see inspiration comes in all shapes and sizes (and often when you least expect it). As we take the first tentative steps towards a brave new world I’m going to keep trying to find creative ways to thrive because never was it truer to say, necessity is the mother of invention.

John Kirk is a professional storyteller telling stories in schools and libraries and at events and festivals.  For more information or to make an enquiry, complete a contact form.