Tag Archives: who dunnit

Partying into 2019!

Happy New Year! I hope you had a peaceful festive period and that the post Christmas blues haven’t set in just yet. This Christmas I had a run of children’s birthday parties. They were all so much fun and I’m just bursting with excitement to tell you more about them..

I started with a 1st birthday party in a play cafe in Islington. It was a bit of a tight fit but with shuffling tables (and parents) about we managed to create an adhoc performance space where I led a song, rhyme and storytime similar to the work I do for nurseries and libraries. I did a 30 minute set and tacted on some of my favourite global folk tales (Indian and Turkish) due to the wide age range at the party. Here’s the host feedback:

“I was a bit apprehensive as I had not seen John live however he was brilliant! and most of all the kids loved it just as much as the parents.”

Whilst the first party was fairly straight forward the second party was an absolutely bespoke project as I retold Chris Van Allsburg’s Polar Express for a book loving six year old in Greenwich. For reasons to do with preparation time and the difficulties I can have getting performance rights I decided quite early on that this would be a narrative storytelling (an abridged but interactive version of a far more elaborate story). Rather than just more drama roleplay activities, as it was a party I interspersed the storytelling elements with traditional party games like Follow my Leader, Blind Man’s Buff and Pass the Parcel. Here’s the hosts feedback:

“John managed to take a story we’ve read 1000 times and turn it in to a new and exciting adventure for my son and 20 of is friends. He held the audience of 3-6 year olds throughout and was energetic, innovative and entertaining throughout”.

For the last party I did something really quite exciting and at the same time really quite terrifying; I presented a who dunnit? for nine year olds. The party was held in a Pizzeria in Chingford and the eight guests were seated at a table. I shared a scenario about a missing birthday cake and then cast the guests as characters in the story. And do you know what? The children really got into it. They enjoyed playing the game of detectives and just as importantly I didn’t get thrown out of the restaurant for being a rabble rousing nuisance!

So three parties in two weeks. A very special first birthday, a retelling a family’s favourite story and a risky concept in a restaurant. Each had its challenges but they were a lot of fun and now the parties are over I want to do them all over again.

If you know somebody celebrating a birthday or are looking for party entertainment at affordable rates contact me to discuss how a storyteller can help deliver a unique and memorable event.

Storytelling and Code Breaking

Can you crack the code to continue the story?John Kirk specialises in drama workshops and theatre for young people.

1911 1955 1912 1916     1937 1972    1920 1981 1951!

Where A is 1908, Z is 2000 CODE IS FUN!

You might be thinking, what has code breaking to do with storytelling? Well, my work is nothing if not varied and I was recently invited to launch a Homework Club at a Library.

The challenges of storytelling for informal settings are numerous: who will attend, how old will the participants be, how can we best use the time to deliver something which will be engaging and not patronising?

On this occasion I came up with the idea of creating a story around a fictional counter terrorism agency to meet the client’s brief.  The agents were told at an initial briefing that the unit had been infiltrated by an enemy agent.  It would be the task of the group to crack the clues and root out the villain before the unit was destroyed.  Jack Bower meets Cluedo – the game was afoot!

As well as the date cipher above, I used the Dewey system and the characteristics of books to disguise information (page numbers, line numbers, even the number of characters into a line!)

John Kirk specialises in drama workshops and theatre for young people.

Allowing the participants to approach the narrative in a free form way is a risky venture but attempting to crack my ciphers was an important part of the session.  Like homework, the ciphers required the young people to work for their reward using problem solving and research skills.  The pay off for the young people was revealing their role in the narrative which they were then able to use to complete the story, taking part in a further game of conspiracy and intrigue at the end of the session.

It was encouraging that the group saw the session through to its conclusion.  It would be quite easy to struggle with the puzzles and drift away from the exercise but the group persevered and the final game was a hail of accusations, bluff and enthusiastic double bluff based on what they knew about themselves from the previous games.

In the end the enemy agent was brought to justice and everybody seemed happy with my deviously vexing games.

As I basked in a job well done one thing was clear – I wouldn’t have got away with it without those pesky kids!