By Oliver Farrimond
ONCE upon a time … happy students from a Midlothian college were left celebrating winning the first ever qualification of its kind in Scotland – in storytelling.
Newbattle Abbey College, which specialises in adult learning, teaches the 10-month course to students to use at work jointly with the Scottish Storytelling Centre.
With backgrounds in tourism, education and social care, graduates can either bring their skills back to their day-to-day work, or join more than 100 PROFESSIONAL STORYTELLERS already working across Scotland.
Spinning a yarn is an ancient art and many traditional Scottish folk tales are passed down through word of mouth.
51-year-old Lyndsay Weir, from Glasgow, was asked to participate in the course while working as a Young People’s Officer.
She said: “I first heard about the storytelling course when I was asked by my manager at work if I would like to participate.
“I always enjoyed telling stories to children through my work in community libraries, and so I thought this course would provide the perfect opportunity for developing these skills, as well as gaining a formally recognised qualification.
“Perhaps the greatest benefit of the course was sharing experiences with others, hearing of their approaches to storytelling, and discovering the many diverse ways storytelling can be used.
“Having participated in the course I now find myself focusing on the development of story sessions in more detail and concentrating on more than just the ‘telling’ of the story.”
Students on the course receive a weekend’s tuition in September and another in the following May, and in between they must develop a project to present so that they can receive their SQA-accredited qualification.
For anywhere between £200 to £1000, companies can hire out storytellers for either an “Interactive Workshop” or just an old-fashioned storytelling performance.
Areas covered in the course include “effective presentation”, “story sourcing” and “analysing the purposes of oral storytelling within different professional contexts”.
Donald Smith, director of the Scottish Storytelling Centre, teaches storytelling skills at the college.
He said: “Scotland has a rich ancient tradition of oral storytelling and today, more than ever, many professions are using aspects of storytelling in daily work.
“This course has been a breakthrough for contemporary storytelling.
“The students have gained the confidence to be creative, and leaned how the art of storytelling can make a real difference in many areas of society today.
“I am immensely proud of our graduates, and hope they will be the first of many.”
Norah Fitzcharles, deputy principal at Newbattle, said: “One area that we receive a lot of students from is forestry.
“As well as preserving forests in urban areas, foresters can use our storytelling skills to keep people interested, and engage them in a positive way about the natural world.”