Tag Archives: Rudyard Kipling

2017:the summer that zipped by at 100mph

So the six week holidays are coming to an end and another Summer Reading Challenge is drawing to its conclusion.  Once again thousands of young people have participated as readers and volunteers in libraries across Britain and once again I have played my small part in launching, enhancing and celebrating the challenge through storytelling.

This year my major project was Jeremy Strong’s “The Hundred Mile an Hour Dog”, a silly story about one boy’s efforts to train his chaotic pet.  I first presented the story in libraries in June and by the end of the summer between myself and Dan McGarry will have presented it over 80 times to just over 2500 people.  I have also been presenting Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories.

I have had a very good summer and a lot of people have said a lot of very nice things about my work (I’ve met lots of lovely people, worked in a couple of new areas and for the first time I have been receiving reviews on Facebook).  This has been very flattering but I feel it’s really me that needs to thank people for their contributions to what must be classed as a successful project.

Lauren and Verity – I love you both and I’m looking forward to a family holiday; you deserve it.

Jeremy Strong and David Higham Associates – the author of this fantastically silly story and his agents has been a very active supporters of the project and their encouragement and flexibility has been important.

Dan McGarry – I can’t take credit for all the presentations.  In Northamptonshire sessions were delivered at all but two libraries and Dan brought his unique twist to the presentation of the story.

Joseph Attenborough – this is the fourth project where Joey supplied an original soundtrack for me to work with.  Whilst some would say music is unnecessary I say the music is a vital contribution, setting the tone of the story and the atmosphere at key moments.

Dan White – another valued contributor, Dan’s image of Streaker at full speed has appeared in libraries across the country (at one stage it dominated my twitter timeline almostly entirely!) and has really helped to attract an audience to the project.

The Libraries – we can have the best project ever but without library staff support nobody would come.  This year more than any other it has become clear just how crucial good library staff and their relationship with service users is in building a suitable audience for events.  I have discussed advertising in this blog before and once again word of mouth proved the best way of drawing a crowd.

The service users – my style of storytelling relies upon interaction and participation (if you come to my event I’m going to spray you with water and stick a silly wig on your head).  It has been brilliant to see young people at my events up and down the country willing to get involved in my madness with good humour.  It has also been great to see so many people who I met in 2016 whilst doing Roald Dahl’s “The Twits” returning to hear about Streaker.  As one storyteller said to me, this is the ultimate compliment.

One of the privileges and pleasures of this year’s Reading Challenge for me has been talking to people about stories and books and recommending new and old stories to children.  It is quite easy to become consumed by the logistics of delivering events at multiple venues (believe me, it’s a mammoth task) and lose sight of what it’s all about; the pleasure of reading.

I’m not going to lie, there have been mornings when my body has told me that I’m no longer in my twenties and there have been late nights when I have felt desperately guilty for leaving Lauren literally holding the baby but I have enjoyed it and have already started work on next year’s challenge.

For now though I’m preparing for the new school year.  I do have some more reading challenge dates into the autumn and then some more public appearances into the winter including a couple of small festivals.  Keep an eye on my website and I’ll look forward to continuing to share my work and any developments with you here soon.   For now though, Streaker and I are off to pick out a sun lounger on a Spanish beach!

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Swansea

Odysseus and PoseidonAnother week another odyssey – this time I went to Swansea via Oxfordshire.

First Oxfordshire for Rudyard Kipling’s “Just So Stories”.  The Just So Stories may not be the most fashionable collection of short stories and are certainly overshadowed by The Jungle Book, but Kipling’s clever solutions to things that occur in nature (How the Camel gets its hump, how the Rhinoceros gets its skin and how the Elephant gets its trunk to name the few I incorporate) are little gems and great to tell.  As a child I thoroughly enjoyed these stories and they offer a wonderful and imaginative Launchpad for further learning.

As I already knew the stories from the collection I wanted to tell and I had an idea of how I wanted to tell them the preparation work was very enjoyable.  As with many of my stories, finding the right props was trickier but in the end my Mum came to the rescue as she made the most wonderful crocodile for the story of The Elephant’s Child.  I would not be exaggerating if I said that when I presented the story in East London, the crocodile’s appearance left two Reception classes speechless – he is brilliant (photos to follow)!

I’m glad to say my version of Kipling’s tales have been very well received.

HUNGRY MEAD1“We had a great time and our little ones were enthralled.” (Parent, Ebb & Flo Bookshop Session, Chorley)

“The day was absolutely fantastic and enjoyed by all! An imaginative and creative way to bring the ‘Just So Stories’ to life for younger children.” (Teacher, Wychwood Primary School, Oxfordshire)

It is always pleasing to be given the challenge of developing new material rather than simply trotting out the old favourites.  It is often good for my practice and my relationship with an organisation (the experience of working together becomes far more personal when the booker has been very specific about the day).  I particularly like to develop stories I feel will have a life beyond the intended audience.  So far my version of the “Just So Stories” has been in front of almost 350 children and I hope it will be a part of my repertoire for some time to come.

So that was Oxfordshire but what about Swansea?

I have been touring Britain for the better part of a decade.  I have been up and down England, into Scotland and even visited the Channel Islands but I had never worked in Wales.  I had heard stories of how wonderful Welsh audiences could be so I was very excited to take “The War Game” a story about football, to Swansea Central Library, situated in the heart of rugby mad Wales.  I had a very memorable day (even if the three schools I worked with all wore blue and had unpronounceable names) and it was all over much too quickly for my liking.

It wasn’t just my day or lime green hotel room that were memorable..

The War Game

Now one of the reasons why I perhaps hadn’t worked in Swansea before is the fact its 42 junctions along the M4 from London.  Don’t get me wrong, I love travel and visiting new places but motorway driving is monotonous.  Wishing I had got the train I set off for home, deciding to stop for fuel at Membury Services (not far from Swindon).  It was here that I picked up Sheffield University students Alex and Dom – my first ever hitchhikers.  It turned out that the boys were spending their Easter break hitchhiking for charity and were en route to Bucharest(!).  They had left Sheffield that morning and were attempting to get to Dover.  What they had been doing in Swindon was a little confusing but I gave them a ride to a service station on the southside of the M25 before turning for home.

As March ends so too does my busiest period of the year.  Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be taking bookings for April thru July and firming up my summer schedule.  Highlights will include another trip to The National Football Museum, visits to libraries in Peterborough and Hull and work on a Heritage Pop Up project in Redbridge but beyond these landmarks who knows where the next few months will take me…