Carol Stobie, Audience Development Officer at Scotland's Urban Past, tells more about the upcoming creative workshop in Inverness on Saturday 19th November, open to all.

What’s your idea of heritage? For many of us, the word ‘heritage’ can be off-putting, signifying something others decided was important and worth recording – not our own, ‘ordinary’ lives and places. At Scotland’s Urban Past, a nationwide HLF-funded project about the hidden stories of Scottish towns and cities, we want to make it feel more democratic, more participatory. We’re not alone in that, and things are changing. What we’re trying to do with Scotland’s Urban Past is make heritage something more accessible that we can all shape, share and tell the world about.

We’re having a gathering in Inverness, about turning heritage into creative outcomes. The aim is to learn how community groups who are sharing the story of their places have dreamt up imaginative, creative solutions – making a greater impact – and how you can take inspiration from them. Learn how to create a drama script with playwright May Sumbwanyambe, to create a graphic novel with Magic Torch Comics or learn how to craft a story for live telling with storyteller Andrew MacKintosh.

When and where?

Saturday 19th November, 2016 - 10:30 to 16:00
The Spectrum Centre, 1 Margaret Street, Inverness, IV1 1LS
There is a £5 entry fee for this event, including refreshments, which can be booked via Eventbrite.

You can read the full programme here.

Who’s the event for?

It’s for all kinds of folk. Groups (and individuals) that are doing history research and would like to share their findings in creative ways – but need inspiration. People that are doing creative work and would like to incorporate history into that, but aren’t sure how to start. People who would like to learn more about and get involved with Scotland’s Urban Past, Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland, which is sharing and inspiring people to take part in traditional art forms, or The People’s Parish, a new intiative inspiring local creativity of place,  encouraging us to rediscover the mapping of our locality and how it’s shaped our identity.

What might you gain from taking part on the day?

You’ll meet inspiring folk who are doing creative and history-themed work using new approaches. You’ll experience for yourself some exciting ways of turning history into creative forms that will attract new participants. You’ll come away with a sense of some potential for projects that might be developed in partnership with others, whether national agencies like us or more local like-minded folk you’ve found out about.

Download the full programme here

Download the flyer here

Book Tickets here

Facebook Event Page

This networking & training opportunity combines Historic Environment Scotland's Urban Past with the #DareToDream Storytelling Festival Campaign 2016.

Image: Leith Citadel Arts

New Wee Story: The Man an the Lintie

New Wee Story: The Man an the Lintie

Written by Becky Carnaffin for the #DareToDream day of action on Thursday 27th October, part of the Scottish International Storytelling Festival of Dreams 2016.

A lintie sits oan a branch o a tree. A man walks up tae the tree. He sees the lintie, an no havin seen a lintie afore, he goes, ‘whit’re you?’ An the lintie says, ‘I’m a lintie’. An the man goes, ‘whit’s a lintie?’ An the lintie says, ‘I sing’. An the man says, ‘but whit’s a lintie?’ An the lintie says ‘I sing.’ ‘Are ye a bird?’, the man says. ‘We’re aw birds’, the lintie says. ‘I’m no’, the man says. The lintie says, ‘whit are you then?’ An the man says, ‘I’m a man’. An the lintie says, ‘whit’s a man?’ An the man takes a shotgun fae affay his shoulder an shoots the lintie deid.

A lintie sits oan a branch o a tree. A man walks up tae the tree. He sees the lintie, an no havin seen a lintie afore, he goes, ‘whit’re you?’ An the lintie says, ‘I’m a lintie’. An the man goes, ‘whit’s a lintie?’ An the lintie says, ‘I sing’. An the man says, ‘but whit’s a lintie?’ An the lintie says ‘I sing.’ ‘Are ye a bird?’, the man says. ‘We’re aw birds’, the lintie says. ‘I’m no’, the man says. The lintie says, ‘whit are you then?’ An the man says, ‘I’m a man’. An the lintie says, ‘whit’s a man?’ An the man takes a shotgun fae affay his shoulder. An the lintie goes, ‘that wis a joke. I’m a man as weel’. An it pulls oot a gun fae under its wing. Points it at the man, pulls the trigger. But it’s jist a wee gun, wi wee sma bullets nae bigger than seeds, an they wee sma bullets barely break through the man’s jaiket. The man laughs an shoots the lintie deid.

A lintie sits oan a branch o a tree. A man walks up tae the tree, sees the lintie, goes ‘whit’re you?’ The lintie says ‘I’m a lintie’. The man says, whit’s a lintie? The lintie laughs. ‘That wis a joke’, it says. ‘I’m a man’. An the lintie pulls oot fae under its wing a gun near twice the size o it. An it shoots the man. An the man faws deid. The lintie laughs, an stumbles back aff the branch. An bein a man noo, an no actually a lintie, it cannae fly, so it faws an breaks its neck.

A lintie sits oan a branch o a tree. It feels something cauld under its wing, diggin in. It brings the cauld thing oot, and wonders at this strange metal contraption, wonders how it came tae be in sic a place as under a lintie’s wing, wonders how it came to be at aw. The lintie doesnae see the man wi the gun below. The man raises his gun an shoots the lintie deid.

A lintie sits oan a branch o a tree. The lintie sings. A man walks up, raises his gun, shoots the lintie deid.

A lintie sings. A man shoo/

The man stops. He listens. He feels like he kens the sang, like he’s heard it afore. Mibbe when he wis a bairn. Mibbe when he wis in his mammy’s belly. The man sits doon oan the grass an closes his een. The sang’s caught him in a place where he’s no used tae feelin things. He’s no used tae this feeling, this feeling is different. Aw he kens is that he doesnae want the sang to finish. But it does, the lintie finishes its sang. An it sees the man sittin below wi his een closed. The lintie asks the man, ‘are you okay?’ But the man doesnae answer the lintie’s question. Because there’s a question in his heid that’s louder, a question that wisnae there afore.

Whit are you?

‘I dinnae ken’, the man says. Tae the grass. Tae the lintie. Tae the world. Tae hissel. ‘I dinnae ken’.



A few pics from Saturday's Flicks in the Sticks Event. Thanks to all those who turned out and helped us get lift off!

We had some lovely feedback, especially from the kids. Huge thanks to storyteller Andrew MacIntosh to the Scottish International Storytelling Festival for sponsoring his time, and thanks to Caitie Mary for cutest tuck shop. 'Hamish' was absolute joy to watch. Thanks to super lassies Rachel Harris and Fiona Black for some great tunes. Pizzas were delicious. Maybe another one in the spring... : )



Alice Sage from the Museum of Childhood tells us about the Bedtime Stories exhibition.

The Bedtime Stories exhibition at the Museum of Childhood celebrates the power of stories to inspire lifelong creativity. The centrepiece is a big quilt made by over 60 people from across the UK.

The range of responses is wonderful. Adults and children all created wonderfully individual squares. Some very accomplished artists made exquisitely detailed embroidery and patchwork. Other enthusiastic amateurs used simple felt pen to evoke familiar books from bedtime.

These are very early memories, and often buried quite deep, but one joy of this project was watching people struggle to remember their bedtime stories, and then experience the memories come rushing back. What surprised and delighted me the most was the number of people who remembered the stories their fathers had made up, night after night, coming up with new chapters of ongoing sagas.

Elena Fiorotto grew up in Italy, and her square was called ‘C’era una volta’. Elena recalled, “When I was little my father invented this story for me. There were two young princes who became really really small due to a spell cast on them. To return to their normal height, they had to reach a room with the antidote at the top of the staircase in the tower of their castle. Every step was an exciting adventure, full of great fun but also risks. Watch out for the big mouse!”

Becky Howell’s dad also made up stories “starring the fabulous London Mouse. The little mouse would travel around the UK having adventures, some of which included me (those were my favourites!)”

Kate Hayton’s dad told his children about two characters, “Bill and John, and their adventures together. Every story started the same way, with Bill and John waking up early, coming downstairs, eating a breakfast of porridge and heading out on another adventure. My dad would do the best sound effects for each part of the story and my brother, sister and I would fight to stay awake to hear to the end of every story.”

Now, I can’t remember my parents reading to me when I was little - however hard I try - but I do remember huddling under the covers with a torch and continuing my favourite books far too late, just as I still do now. So I was very pleased when my mum agreed to make a square, and she chose the Very Hungry Caterpillar, which she used to read time and again to me and my sisters, and she could probably recite by heart!

In the exhibition we also have a notice board where visitors can share their own memories of bedtime stories. We’ve had hundreds of responses, with people remembering their favourite books and characters and recalling more of those homespun yarns told night after night by imaginative relatives. Here’s a few of my favourites, including one from a lovely grandmother using modern technology to spend bedtime with her grandkids.

To read more memories from the Bedtime Stories quilt, visit the project blog.

The Great 'What If'? Storyteller Claire Druett

The Great 'What If'? Storyteller Claire Druett

A dream, an aspiration, an idea, a what if holds power, arguably our greatest intrinsic worth. It means inevitably we have the opportunity to move from progressive theory into everyday practice. As long as there is this, there is hope.

Storyteller and poet Claire Druett reflects on the great 'What If' questions that have led us to new understandings, with an excerpt from her poem 'A Question of Blasphemy'

‘We and the queen of the faerie go back a long way,
We’ve passed in dingy hall ways at parties, held each other up…’

‘….She played cards with The Rhymer, the deck was truly stacked,
How many bells need to chime to welcome rhyming back?’

‘How hammered we were those seven years!
Ouzo for Oona, Mead for Meave,
To sober up, we skinny dipped in Janet’s Foss’
‘Whose timely breeze through the apple trees bought Newton’s bright hypothesis?........
as Mathematica led to Hayley’s comet and all cheered-
all danced upon it, all raised their eyes to heaven’
‘She filtered Dirac’s window and lit the dingy room,
Kissed his pillow, stroked his head, span three times then off she fled,
No shadow in her whirligig ‘’ No matter to us’’ we said ‘’spinning is what we do best’’


Any concept has to start somewhere - whether acquired knowledge, inspiration, the eureka moment!, the prophetic dream. External yet sieved through our internal consciousness then back out, into the air, to be worked on and measured. The great 'What If.' For children this process offers much more flexibility; as adults we become more rigid in our ability to think outside the box. The What If in its pure form is much more ambiguous: it is a dream within a dream, a whisper, something under the surface.

When I wrote the poem 'A Question of Blasphemy' it was not altogether a clumsy attempt to undermine theology but rather an attempt to shake off assumption. To remind myself of the What If, that any answer given may be one of several.  

When the Queen takes Thomas the Rymer she is portrayed as both powerful and fickle.  She gains access to Thomas because he is open to her. If he hadn’t spent so much time loftily daydreaming, half asleep amidst the golden hums of the honey bees he would never have envisioned her.  For Thomas, dreaming is dangerous. It takes him into an unknown realm, ultimately he gains heightened skills and gifts. It has to be worth it, this dreaming lark.

To escape the drunken feasting with the muses, we sober up in Janet’s Foss. It is said that the Queen lives behind the waterfall in the cave there. She appears at Midsummer and in the mornings about the wild bluebells and garlic. So again, she is both deliverer and saviour.  A master of water management, water being our oldest form of purification.

It may not be coincidence that the ancient apple provided us with the the theory of gravity.  The Alma-Ata, father of all apples from the first tree in Kazakhstan. Yet we still look to the external, to the comet for answer. No inspiration could come of the glaurie ground, from ourselves connected with it. Or could it?

Dirac essentially tried to work out a mathematical equation for beauty. His work and spinning theories underpin our knowledge of nature. He attempted to formalise the invisible. All of our great scientists have to start somewhere, with theory, with a What If. It is this fundamental belief that the What If can be proved - formalised into something tangible - that has resulted in the modern world we enjoy inhabiting today. The very buildings we live in and the forces of nature whirling around them all relate back to it.

If something practical and tangible can be utilised through inspiration, then our dreams are fundamentally our anchors to the unknown, to potential then progression. Do we recognise a difference in dreams? The specific feeling of being visited by something external to ourselves amidst those spaghetti dreams, hankered by cheese and chocolate after 8pm. 

A dream, an aspiration, an idea, a What If holds power: arguably our greatest intrinsic worth. It means inevitably we have the opportunity to move from progressive theory into everyday practice.  As long as there is this, there is hope.       




Nobody is any better than anyone else because of where they were born. Our common link is story - we all have our own narrative. From story we all get nurture and culture. Story is what connects us all across the world
— Storyteller Michael Kerins

This year, as part of the local storytelling festival campaign Dare To Dream, Glasgow children will welcome the world in a live a storytelling event that takes in eleven different time zones, three continents and children from across the globe!

On Wed 26 and Thu 27 Oct at Hillhead Library and the Library at The Bridge Easterhouse, storyteller Michael Kerins will host four live sessions for local children and children from across the globe. This is the third time such an event has taken place as part of the Scottish International Storytelling Festival. This year's event is by far the most ambitious, reaching from the local to global and covering an area from Pennsylvania in the West (where pupils will be joining in the session in their pyjamas!) to extend eastwards to Scotland, South to Johannesburg and then North once more to Moscow and beyond to Perm in The Urals in Russia.

Hosted by Michael, each session will include songs and stories from Scotland and stories from abroad. Local children from Glasgow will tell stories inspired by their hopes and the dreams for the future. Alessandro Ghebreigziabier of Rome will tell the story 'Sunset' (2002), a recipient of a White Raven special mention - a label given to books that deserve worldwide attention because of their universal themes. Michaels says that the event is all about uniting children of the world through story. 'Nobody is any better than anyone else because of where they were born. Our common link is story - we all have our own narrative. From story we all get nurture and culture. Story is what connects all across the world.'

“Dare to Dream is a fabulous theme for this year’s storytelling campaign. What could you possibly dream about? You can dream about the past, the present, the future. You can dream anything you like. You can be a movie star, an astronaut, a mountain climber – you can be anything you want, go anywhere you want in your dreams...”

Earlier this year, Michael launched an Ebook, published by Glasgow Libraries, celebrating the work of school children across the city of Glasgow, pupils in Moscow and University students from the city of Perm in Russia who took part in last year’s Scottish International Storytelling Festival. As part of this project, children imagined what the future of their local place might look like 50 years into the future and wrote creative stories with illustrations of their views and dreams for life. One student created a new story, a vision for the future, which was then translated back into Russian to share with his peers. China was also represented with a new piece of writing by Susanna Zhu of Blossom Haus, Shenzhen China.

This is about the freedom to dream and the power of story to connect us across Borders. We’re all just people.
— Michael Kerins





«Мы все равны по отношению друг к другу, независимо от места нашего рождения. Нас с вами связывает история, и у каждого она своя. История взрастила всех нас и научила правилам этого мира. Именно она соединяет наши умы по всему миру».

— Майкл Керинс, сторителлер

В этом году библиотеки города Глазго приветствуют своих маленьких посетителей, студентов и весь мир на сессии сторителлинга в прямом эфире, которые будут проходить одновременно в одиннадцати часовых поясах и на трёх континентах в рамках местного фестиваля сторителлинга «Мечты без границ»!

Сторителлер Майкл Керинс проведёт четыре сессии в прямом эфире для детей из Глазго и всего мира 26 октября в Библиотеке Хиллхед (Глазго) и 27 и 28 октября в Библиотеке Центра искусств Bridge (Истерхаус, Глазго). В третий раз подобное мероприятие проводится в рамках «Шотландского международного фестиваля сторителлинга». В этом году мероприятие подаёт особые надежды, ведь оно пройдёт как в местных, так и в глобальных масштабах, и охватит территорию от Пенсильвании на западе (там школьники присоединятся к сессии в своих пижамах из-за позднего времени суток) до Шотландии на востоке, Йоханнесбурга на юге и Москвы на севере, держа курс на Пермь на Урале.          

Каждая сессия, проводимая Майклом, будет включать песни и истории из Шотландии и других стран. Дети из Глазго расскажут истории, вдохновлённые их надеждами и мечтами на светлое будущее. Майкл считает, что это мероприятие объединит детей всех возрастов со всего мира через историю. «Мы все равны по отношению друг к другу, независимо от места нашего рождения. Нас с вами связывает история, и у каждого она своя. История взрастила всех нас и научила правилам этого мира. Именно она соединяет наши умы по всему миру».

«Тема «Мечты без границ» прекрасно вписывается в концепцию фестиваля в этом году. Что может стать объектом ваших мечтаний? Это может быть настоящеепрошлое или будущееВы можете мечтать о чём угодно и стать кем угодно – кинозвездой, космонавтом или альпинистом. Вы можете посетить любую точку планеты в своих мечтах…»

«Это мероприятие несёт в себе свободу мечтать и силу истории, которая объединяет нас, стирая все возможные границы. Мы все одинаковы».

— Майкл Керинс, сторителлер

Ранее в этом году Майкл Керинс выпустил электронную книгу, опубликованную библиотекой Глазго, включающую истории школьников этого города и студентов из Перми в России, принявших участие в «Шотландском международном фестивале сторителлинга» в прошлом году. Дети и студенты представили свой родной город через пятьдесят лет, написали свои собственные истории и составили иллюстрации к ним, включающие их мечты и взгляды на будущее. История одного студента была вновь переведена на русский язык для конкурса перевода KerinsNaumov в Перми. Впервые была представлена история на китайском языке, её предоставила Сюзанна Жу из Центра искусств Blossom Haus (Шэньчжэнь, Китай). Сюзанна представила свою историю перед живой аудиторией со всего мира, находящейся в разных часовых поясах, из Библиотеки Центра искусств Bridge (Истерхаус, Глазго).          





Stories stitch people and place together. People keep stories of place alive and stories keep people connected.

Storyteller Lizzie McDougall tells us about her Story Quilt Project, a visual celebration of over 30 traditional stories from the North and Inner Moray Firth in the Scottish Highlands.

This storytelling project has involved people of all ages in the creation of a special quilt and a hanging which celebrate the traditional songs, tunes and stories of the Inner Moray Firth and the Dunbeath Area.

This area has a wealth of local stories and lots are connected to the sea. The title of Neill Gunn's novel 'The Silver Darling's about the herring fishing inspires the title of this project. Many traditional stories were collected by Hugh Millar, such as the 'Mermaid in the Firth.' Another great collector of local stories is my mentor Elizabeth Sutherland, with tales of the Picts, early Saints and the Brahan Seer. The project has also been inspired by poems in the Avochie dialect about the last days of the herring fishing in the Firth by Willie Skinner, and songs and stories composed by Gordon Gunn and George Gunn for The Musical Map of Caithness.

I have also worked closely with people living in the area, visiting communities along the coast in Dunbeath, Latheron, Portmahomac, Cromarty, Foulis, Dingwall, Strathpeffer, Kinkell, Rosemarkie, Avoch and Inverness, holding storytelling and story gathering sessions to collect traditional stories of each area. This led to a collection of around 30 traditional stories that are now celebrated in the Quilt and Hanging.

The quilt itself came together over a period of one year. Inspired by all the stories collected, I developed images to illustrate these stories, and led applique sessions where people cut the fabric, embroidered, chatted and stitched a bit of themselves into the quilt. At each venue, people brought buttons, beads, ribbons, threads and fragments of cloth much of which have been included in the panels. The project also benefited from a donation of fabric by ANTA. The completed applique panels were then sent to Denmark to be quilted and then stitched in to a patchwork border by quilting artist Brenda Sanders (who also happens to be my sister-in-law!).

We now have a 12 panel quilt called 'The Gold and Silver Darlings Story Quilt' and the Dunbeath Hanging, now called 'The Silver Darlings Hanging.' I take the Story Quilt to events to share the stories with people of all ages. My hope is to encourage children in particular to look after the stories, to cherish and remember them, and to pass them on, inspiring new stories of the local place.

Christine Gunn from Dunbeath wrote;

"With six story panels inspired by stories told to Lizzie during three story-gathering sessions at Dunbeath Heritage Centre (and our atmospheric salmon bothy at Dunbeath Harbour), the panel is an artistic triumph as well as an attractive, thought-provoking, and portable record of aspects of Dunbeath and Latheron parish's heritage.  A key part of the project was contact with people from our community.  This included all pupils from the local Primary School, as well as a cross-generational spread of older people - their participation was valuable as a way of re-igniting local interest in our work at the Heritage Centre as well as for the work they put in.

We hope the panel will inspire local people and visitors for many years to come."

Many people have taken part in the process and the involvement of each of the venues and their staff has been very enriching to the project. I am very grateful to all the people who have been involved in the process.

If you are interested in a Storytelling session with the Quilt or would like more info, please contact me.

The project is thankful to funds from Dunbeath Heritage Center, Museums and Galleries Scotland, Caring and Sharing Inverness, the Highland Council, and the Creative Scotland Fèisean nan Gàidheal TASGADH Fund.


Dreaming at The Harvest Festival, Leith Community Croft

Dreaming at The Harvest Festival, Leith Community Croft

Leith Community Crops in Pots aims to grow healthy, sustainable food, and provide a bit of country life, in the heart of an urban community. Over the last 2 years, Crops in Pots was has turned a dull grey, barren, entirely concreted yard in the heart of Leith into a fascinating, ever-changing slice of  nature on the doorstep. 

The organisation engages in a wide range of activities, including developing wildlife habitats, composting, creating recycled art and wood salvaging. It runs environmental and healthy eating clubs in local primary schools, and has a community garden on Leith Link where it plans to set up a local food market, healthy cafe and farm shop as social enterprises.

This past weekend saw Crops in Pots partner with St. James Church in Leith for their annual Harvest Festival - a fantastic way to give thanks to the land that has provided the community with so much yummy food over the season. With music, dancing and storytelling from Marie Louise Cochrane (Mrs. Mash) and a pot luck feast of food, the community came together to Dare to Dream of what our urban spaces could all look like!

‘Stories bring to life a yearning for people to reconnect with lost parts of their cultural identity. Stories have power to imagine, they bring together our love of land, of food and the possibility of cultivating our own gardens, the power to nourish our young by our own hands. A potent and compelling mix bringing a taste of what is missing in our busy city lives.
— Evie Murray, Crops and Pots

In the blog below, storyteller Marie-Louisereflects on qualities we need to nurture ourselves, our children, our communities, our land and our dreams.

"I moved to Leith Links about twenty-two years ago. The waiting list for an allotment back then was about six years. Our communal green consisted of a border of dying overgrown shrubs encircling a blue tarpaulin, covered with red chucky stanes since no one would cut the grass. 15 years later, my neighbour came to me and suggested we make some changes. So we all got together, hefted stones, chipped in for a gardener who replaced the tarpaulin with turf and a raised bed, and the place was transformed. The new back green really improved our family’s quality of life.

A few years ago I heard about Crops in Pots: a local project growing food with kids, encouraging outdoor play and supporting the bees. I thought it sounded great and offered them my storytelling skills and my good will. Never could I have dreamed that three years later there would be a community growing space called Leith Croft on Leith Links - that schools nearby with pupils, parents and staff would be helping to grow food, with our very own community Orchardnearby!

I find our community progress incredible, amazing and exciting. Not only the interest in food, growing, health and being outside, but also the building up of community that goes on through these activities. The struggle, conflict and finding of solutions which taking part creates.

At the Croft’s Harvest Celebration this year, I was telling stories and encouraging a sing along of songs written for the project. I shared a favourite story of mine about a young girl (who, alongside many others) is given responsibility to grow a seed from a pot.  Despite incredible efforts to nurture the seed in the pot, nothing grows. Knowing she had done her best and, wanting to be honest and return the pot - despite no signs of life - she returns it to the owner. The owner is delighted! The girl is the only one who has returned the pot as it was given to them. All other pots are filled with amazing plants, but only the owner knows that there was in fact no seed in the pot. The owner of the pot is looking for someone who will do all the right things, who will work, nurture, and persevere in the face of limited success and then be willing to be honest about the process. I think these are qualities we need to nurture ourselves, our children, our communities, our land and our dreams."

Thanks to Lari Don who shared the Seed story with me on a bus to Leith one day.

Land is vital for healthy communities, growing food is a part of our cultural heritage.
— Evie Murray, Crop and Pots

#Storyteller Beth Cross: A Pedagogy of Dreaming

#Storyteller Beth Cross: A Pedagogy of Dreaming

Why should we all use our creative power? Because there is nothing that makes people so generous, joyful, lively, bold and compassionate.
— Brenda Ueland, Hands on Scotland

Are we such stuff as dreams are made of?  How are we such stuff as dreams are made of?   Daring to dream gives us the opportunity to explore the resource for creativity within dreams.

Ted Hughes (1988) noted that there is both an inner imagination focussed on interior reality and an outer one.  He was concerned that we as a culture were losing a language to connect the one to the other. He was concerned that our focus, aided by the camera, had become so entranced by the outer, that the traditions and facility to understand and navigate the inner imagination was waning.  This was disconcerting, he believed not because the inner imagination would quietly fade away, but rather it would become inchoate, tangled in upon itself and prone to sneaking up and pouncing.

Hughes reminds us that Plato, whose careful stepwise argumentation laid the foundations for the scientific method, nevertheless recommended that children’s education should not concern these arguments, rather it should be an exploration of myth. In a child’s imagination Hugh argues that a myth

that engages, say, earth and underworld . . . contains not merely the contents of these two places; it reconciles their contradictions in a workable fashion and holds open the way between them.  The child can re-enter the story at will, look around him or her, find all those things, and consider them at leisure (1988:32).

Myths are the treasure store of the interior world.  In many myths - the outer sense of the word dream, that is - ambitious adventurous undertakings can be found.  But in myth the interior meaning of dream, the monstrous, mysterious and quixotic are integral to the adventure.  It is this very mixture that calls on a myth’s hero to hone the important creativity skills of Open Mindedness, Curiosity, Problem Solving, and Imagination. The hero’s use of these skills to meet challenges in unexpected ways is what fascinates us about myth and make them so memorable.

The following activities invite children to explore the bridge between the inner and outer world that stories offer.  The pared/small group activities provided invite children to first draw as a first step to articulating resources from their dreams and then share.  Children can then use their drawings, for example, giving each other a tour of their dream landscape or comic strip. The drawings provides a scaffold for their developing storytelling and also serves to help focus listening.  The drawings provide touchstones for ongoing individual and collaborative storytelling.  These activities can be used alongside a Dream Journal where children can make notes and drawing as they occur to them.  We suggest that this be something they keep for themselves without expectation that it will be handed in for assessment.


Each drawing activity begins with a time of quiet imagination gathering.  Many teachers will now be familiar with mindfulness activities, and can draw on this practice to help transition into activities.  The script for activities is a suggestion which can be adapted to draw on teachers’ own expertise and the temperament of each classroom.  Introducing the myth at the close of the session provides an opportunity for it to simmer in imaginations, allowing the “hare brain to slow down” (Journey to Excellence, n.d.) before being drawn upon.

As with all circle time and PSE activity, it is important to wisely gauge the depth with which topics are explored. It is important that all children are aware and willing to play their part in developing trust and maintaining the classroom as a safe space when engaging in creative work.  Encouraging children to develop “rules for the expedition” as they embark on these activities is a good idea.  As with any adventure unforeseen circumstances can arise and it is wise to have contingency plans to batten down the hatches.  Here Roal Dahl’s Big Friendly Giant can be of assistance.  All his dreams are kept in glass bottles.  Should activities need to be suspended for any reason a way to focus imaginations to this task is to invite children to blow an imaginary glass bubble themselves, tuck away what they are working on within it and safely place it in their own mental travelling case, to be taken out again when time and space permit.

A Pedagogy for Exploring the Creative Dimensions of Dreams will be ready download by 1st Sept.

Beth is a storyteller and a lecturer in Community Learning and Participation and is interested in the interface between formal and informal learning contexts. Her PhD work explored storytellilng and children’s activity and she has since worked with a number of creative interdisciplinary projects that involve visual and dramatic arts involving participants and encouraging their own creativity across mediums of expression. She is always eager to help design new initiatives along these lines. Read more

#Storyteller Ken Shapley: Dream Journeys

#Storyteller Ken Shapley: Dream Journeys

Dreaming is one of the most natural things in the world.

I am a natural dreamer and lucid dreamer. But I still have the memory of my education sewing the seed of doubt. Being a dreamer was not encouraged! Maybe I just went to the wrong school. The art teacher was hardly ever there, with the notable exception of Reggie Renshaw. The creative writing tuition was dull dull dull, and, as for a mention of the 'dreaming arts,' not one look in. Perhaps things are different now? I hope so, for it is through our dreams that we tap into our aspirations and our creative source. It's through our subconscious that we tap into...well, the really interesting stuff. Sure, the left side of the brain is essential for the waking world, but ask yourself this: what manufactured object be it a building or a chair did not come to us through creative imagination first...through our dreams?

Whilst travelling in Canada throughout most of 1997 and then again in 2002, I was lucky enough to meet some First Nation people and take part in Sweat Lodge, Vision Quest, Fire Walk and Drum Journey Ceremonies. I was even lucky to meet people back here in Edinburgh who held regular drumming journeys. There is nothing like exercising your right to dream, and I do mean exercising. Once the directions are given with due honours and the guardians are called in, a sacred place is created for the drumming to begin. It is a sacred thing accessing this dream world. Done in the right way, you can learn so much about a side of your self and your world. You may need an animal guide to show you the right path to take or who gifts you with some courage, cunning, confidence, wisdom, transformative power. - or even their magic! - to guide you on your way. 

Once you forge a link with this side of your self, you build a bridge between the right and left hemispheres of your brain and your creativity and sense of identity expands. With more experience, you begin to get to know yourself more and more, and,  at the same time the way you relate to the world around you changes. Everything becomes more vibrant, more alive, more exciting.

I'll tell you a true story. I lost my keys once whilst sitting in long, long grass high on a hillside overlooking Brighton. All of my flatmates were out, and when I got home, I was locked out! I figured they must have fallen out in the grass. My chance of finding them was so very slim! So I started the long walk back. As I approached the hillside, I saw a Kestrel. Immediately, without hesitation, I spoke out loud to the Kestral. “Oh Kestral you have the sharpest eyes, I have lost my shiny keys, please can you help me?” The Kestral broke from its masterful hovering, swooped around, hovered once more, and then dove down to the ground. I raced over and sure enough - there were my keys. Result!

For storytellers and artists,, having regular drumming journeys can be a very useful experience. It lets you enter into any character’s senses and emotions in a more intimate way. Having been eaten by a leopard in your dream, you awaken with more cat-like reflexes; you move with more grace, you know hunger differently and a knowing patience fills your cells. Does this all too shamanic for you? Such a dream might scare you as a child, unless you are taught to understand the process. In First Nation cultures, this kind of dream is a 'medicine dream.’ A medicine dream? Yes, a medicine dream! By experiencing a medicine dream, you can gain new strength, a strength to work with and nurture,  to deepen into and to use to help others when they could use a bit of cat-like cool.

My own dreaming adventures came to a peak when one night I had a particularly vivid dream return to me after a nine-year gap. The very same dream. I wrote it down, and kept on writing. Story upon story poured out of me, and, over time - with a lot of patience and editing - it became a book. It's called ‘When We All Dream Together.’ It's about what happens when thirteen people around the world are guided to meet The Dream Wizards, and what happens when they learn to dream lucidly together.  If they can believe in their dreams, learn how to re enter them at will and meet each other in waking life they can spark a dreaming revolution. Are they true? Are they worthy?Are They ready?

What if you could return at will to these dreams and share them with others?  Enjoy.

 When We All Dream Together


Ken Shapley is a storyteller artist and Drum Journey practitioner living in Edinburgh. He can be booked for storytelling or drum journeys for children and adults through the Scottish Storytelling Centre.

The World-Changing Power of Dreams - Arlene Goldbard

The World-Changing Power of Dreams - Arlene Goldbard

#DareToDream is inspired by the 2015 #DareToImagine campaign sponsored by the people-powered U.S. Department of Arts and Culture. Arlene Goldbard is their Chief Policy Wonk. She is a writer, social activist and consultant whose focus is the intersection of culture, politics, and spirituality. Thank you to Arlene for writing this blog in support of our storytelling campaign 2016.

Outside it’s cold and gray
People don’t get in my way
The margins are wide enough, to hide all of us

Who don’t belong in the light of day
Who look like we started from far away
Who were born and raised without a break, and bruised ever since

Inside shines like a dream
Of freedom and time to breathe, of safety
Ways, and means and justice indivisible

These stanzas by Bethlehem & Sad Patrick are excerpted from the 2016 Poetic Address to the Nation, an account of the state of our union in the form of a collaborative poem inspired by hundreds of stories contributed by people of all ages, backgrounds, and circumstances across the United States. They are part of a national story-based civic ritual called the People’s State of the Union created by the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture, where I have the honor and privilege of serving as Chief Policy Wonk. (The USDAC isn’t a government agency despite its official-sounding name. It’s a people-powered department—a grassroots action network inciting creativity and social imagination to shape a culture of empathy, equity, and belonging.)

I am drawn to this poem because it illuminates the deep truth that imagination is a human right. No matter how unwelcoming everyday reality may feel, no one can take away our capacity to dream a different world, exercising social imagination.  

It sounds easy, doesn’t it? But as we said a year ago when the USDAC launched another national action—#DareToImagine, which inspired the Scottish International Storytelling Festival’s #DareToDream—there are obstacles:

Imagination is our birthright: everyone owns this power and everything created must first be imagined. But too often, we’re persuaded to believe our voices don’t count or that the future is determined by a powerful few. In these times, social imagination is a radical act, affirming that all of us make the future. When we have the audacity to dream in public, when we begin to turn imagination into action, we can move the world.

Whether we know it or not, all of us are storytellers. Without the story that gives it shape, a human life is just one incident after another. We are born, we learn to speak and walk, a series of accidents and choices—our own or others’—carry us from one circumstance to the next for the span of a life. But randomness doesn’t sustain us. It’s intrinsic to human nature to turn this jumble of incident into a meaningful narrative, a story that has themes, highlights, and direction. Whether we do it consciously or not, the way we shape our stories shapes our lives.

Think about something we’ve all seen many times: two individuals describe similar experiences in remarkably different terms, yielding opposite meanings. One individual living with a dire medical diagnosis tells a story of suffering, but suffering that refocused her attention on her most meaningful relationships and pursuits, leading her to drop whatever seems trivial. Another with the same diagnosis can’t stop complaining about how unfair it is that she was singled out for punishment she didn’t deserve, lapsing into resignation and despair. One story makes life bearable, however short. The other makes it an unceasing punishment.

Everyone has a story, an autobiography: which story will you choose?

Through #DareToDream, the Scottish International Storytelling Festival is inviting “you all, as citizen artists, to join us in the collective act of dreaming a better future. What are the stories that are yet to be told?”

The same dynamics apply to this collective challenge, dreaming together of future possibility. The way we shape our stories shape our communities, our hopes, and even our fears.

There is no shortage of ready made stories powerful people expect us to accept as our own. I first came to understand these forces through Paulo Freire, the great Brazilian educator. I found Freire’s concept of “internalization of the oppressor” hugely illuminating. This phrase describes the process whereby individuals and communities are subtly persuaded to worldviews and self-images that serve interests contrary to their own.

If we are continually told by authoritative voices—textbooks, politicians, business leaders, and others—that the group we belong to is inferior, it can come to feel natural to mistake that for the voice of truth, taking it into our own hearts and minds. Accepting disempowering stories encourages passivity: if we believe that others are smarter, better-informed, more powerful, or better-suited to rule, we may as well stand back and let them get on with it.

Working with landless farmworkers in Brazil, Freire developed an antidote: a kind of storytelling that helped people learn to speak with their own voices, in their own words, thus moving from the role of history’s object—the one who is always acted upon—to the powerful role we can all inhabit, that of a subject who makes history.

In the many decades since I discovered this work, I’ve had countless opportunities to see these dynamics in action. I meet people every week whose personal stories of possibility haven’t been told. They’ve internalized the idea that they have no say in shaping the future, so they resist dreaming. “Why should I waste my time? It’ll never happen.” This is internalization of the oppressor. A simple reality-check contradicts it,  revealing that we who desire a future of justice tempered by love vastly outnumber the few who benefit from our hesitation to dream a world in which we matter. “In these times, social imagination is a radical act, affirming that all of us make the future.”

The first step? #DareToDream. What stories of the future would you tell if you took your dreams one hundred percent seriously? I can’t wait to find out!