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Art of the Storyteller: Beverley Bryant

The Art of the Storyteller series is all about getting to the heart of storytelling and showcasing the rich variety of skills, interest points and avenues that the artform can take you. The next enticing workshop and performance session is on Fri 9 Dec with Beverley Bryant and Ruth Kirkpatrick bringing their expertise to the fore in the afternoon and impressing with performance in the evening.

We grabbed a few minutes with Beverley Bryant to find out about her storytelling journey so far.

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How long have you been telling stories and where do you perform?

I have been telling stories for over a decade now. I'm a teacher, so a great deal of my work is in inspiring teenagers to get involved and it seems that everyone loves a good story and can grow in confidence to tell their own tales. I used to bring my young sons along to events so that I could hear new tales – now they are both young storytellers in their own right!

I also love my opportunities to tell at the Scottish Storytelling Centre and enjoy helping the emerging storytellers in local Edinburgh group, Burgh Blatherers. I was given lots of help when I made the same journey, so it's a pleasure to give back to this community of storytellers.

What would you consider the definition of good storytelling?

Every storyteller is different but I would say good storytelling always looks and sounds the same. It's when you see an audience with a sparkle in their eyes following every word and gesture as a teller weaves their tale.

There's a true quality of silence when an audience is really involved in a tale and that relationship between teller and audience makes a great storytelling experience. A good storyteller has to care about their listeners and care about their story. It's a sharing art form.

What basic elements do you require for a good story?

A good story has to take a listener on a journey. It might be a path they've travelled often, or a path they'd never considered taking and the destination might make them laugh out loud, cry, or both!

Why did you become a storyteller?

I went along to a storytelling event years ago, at the Storytelling Centre in fact. I sat on my own and listened and I left that evening just knowing that this was the mysterious thing that would make me happy. I just didn't have a clue how to go about it.

That's where the Scottish Storytelling Centre and lots of lovely storytellers – including Ruth who leads the Art of the Storyteller events with me – came in. The support I had along the way was nothing short of incredible.

Where do you get your stories from?

I love to listen to stories and some will just stick with me. That's when I go about finding out more about the story. Sometimes another storyteller will 'give' you a story, or point you to a story because they think it will suit you. These are the most special.

What advice do you have for aspiring storytellers?

My advice to aspiring storytellers is to just get up and give it a go. The storytelling community is very encouraging and very forgiving. They want you to succeed and they will applaud you for trying. It doesn't need to be perfect. A story has to live with you for a while before you feel completely sure of it.

Who is your favourite storyteller?

The list is too long to name all of my favourite storytellers so I'll tell you my most recent favourite. I had the pleasure of hearing Amina Blackwood at this year's festival. There is still so much I have to learn, when I hear someone tell stories like she does!

What is your favourite story?

My favourite story changes all the time. Maybe it's Dream Makers but then it might be the Stolen Bairn. Next week it might be something else entirely!

I have a tendency to love the big, old stories that make the hair stand up on the back of my neck.

What can people expect from your afternoon workshop and evening performance?

At the workshop we'll be taking participants into the stories behind the stories we tell for insight into the life of a storyteller.

In the evening, we'll be focusing on stories for this winter season. I hope our guests can leave behind the frantic shopping and the even more frantic spending and allow themselves some time out to remember the magic of the season; the warmth, wonder and sparkle they felt when they were little.

Workshop: Art of the Storyteller is on Fri 9 Dec, 4pm (2hrs)
Evening Performance Art of the Storyteller is on Fri 9 Dec, 7.30pm (2hrs)

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