2010 Storytelling Festival in St. John's Newfoundland
by Mary Wiggin
Until this summer I had never had an opportunity
to visit any part of Newfoundland. I had also never attended a
conference presented by Storytellers of Canada. When I saw the
advertizing for the conference I was intrigued - "Sometimes you've
got to go to the edge for a good story". How could I resist the
opportunity to spend the better part of a week immersed in storytelling
on a rocky isle visited through the ages by so many cultures,
so many bringers of story and myth?
A good root under the sofa cushions provided the
air fare and the conference registration and before you could
say "once upon a time" I found myself in the City of St. John's.
With a couple of days added on for sightseeing I managed to see
a portion of The Rooms, the largest public cultural space in the
Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Basilica of St. John
the Baptist and the Anglican Cathedral named for the same saint
who so kindly lent his name to the city. Tea in the crypt of the
cathedral (now decorated in uncrypt-like pastels) was a special
treat. Along with many conference participants I was in awe of
The Veiled Virgin, a beautiful marble statue, housed in the Presentation
Conventt. I know for certain that if a window had been open the
Virgin's marble veil would have wafted in the breeze!
And then there was the conference itself ... Since I've never
attended an SC-CC conference I can make no comparisons to previous
events but I thought this one was superb. There were interesting
people to meet from all over the world. I was never bored or at
a loss for something to do; the days were filled from dawn till
dark. I particularly enjoyed the workshop on Inuit Throat Singing.
Two talented young women shared their gifts and then invited the
participants to participate! We had so much fun! Katie Knutson,
a funny, talented young woman from Wisconsin offered an energetic
workshop on Vocal Warm-ups. And Graham Langley from Birmingham,
England delighted with songs and stories from the Black Country
(the dirty, smoky, industrial area west of the city).
A highlight of the conference for me was the trip to Cupids
which is celebrating its 400th anniversary as the first English
settlement in Canada. We had a chance to visit the new Legacy
Centre and tour the archeological dig that has uncovered the first
plantation of John Guy and his men. The day ended with the Cupids
400 Storytelling Concert featuring four English-born tellers including
our own fantastic Jan Andrews. The concert was in a former Anglican
church set high up on a rock looking out over the Atlantic. It
doesn't get much better than that ... .I didn't even get to the
day trip to Signal Hill, Cape Spear and whale watching or the
absolutely wonderful Dance-Up - another time ...
Outreach Committee Can Be Exciting
by Ruth Stewart-Verger
Thursday, September 23, 2010 Ruth Stewart-Verger
and Marijke Dake walked through the doors of the Center
Block on Parliament Hill and were stopped by a guard. The Storytellers'
names were demanded; picture identification required. Names and
Id were inspected and compared against a list of names and data.
Ruth and Marijke were lead down a ramp and asked to put their
bags and coats into bins to be scanned. (Ruth kept waiting for
them to demand a passport and an airline travel ticket.) The storytellers
were required to pass under a metal detector arch and then be
"swiped" by a wand, their shoes removed and tested for hidden
When all was deemed "safe", the two tellers were
ushered into the Senate Rooms. There, the storytellers were greeted
by several dozen women who had preceded them through the same
Ruth and Marijke were in the Senate chambers to
participate in a Round Table held on Parliament Hill under the
sponsorship of Senator Mobina Jaffer and Senator Charlie Watt,
hosted by the Zonta Club of Ottawa (a part of Zonta International,
a world-wide service organization of executives and professionals
who volunteer their support to advance the status of women locally
and globally). The Round Table discussion was held to create awareness
and to help explore possible connections between the talents within
community-based volunteer, professional and arts organizations,
and the missions and projects of the agencies that serve and support
immigrants within our community.
The Zonta Club recognizes the need for mainstream
involvement in making Ottawa more welcoming to immigrant women.
They believe that arts organizations, like the Ottawa Storytellers,
have an important role to play in building that welcome.
The Ottawa Storytellers was described as an Arts
organization with many aspects or "arms", one of which is Outreach.
One small aspect of outreach has sometimes involved immigrant
women: examples being ESL classes and literacy-based programs
- where OST members have presented stories or workshops on storytelling.
As members of our organization know, OST Outreach
efforts tend to start as one person speaking to one person. (The
storytelling in palliative care and bereavement services project
for example.) When a need in the community is recognized and a
matching set of skills is found within our organization, an outreach
effort can be built.
Specifically on the topic presented by the Round
table, increasing awareness of newcomers to Canada, OST can point
to a connection with Susan Namulindwa. Susan is a Canadian
who was born and went to school in Uganda. Susan came to Canada
twenty-five years ago with her husband to work. Her children were
Susan returned to Uganda to visit family in Luwweero,
Uganda and was struck by the number of young girls, the age of
her own daughter, who were being "graduated" from orphanages in
their early teens. The AIDs epidemic and civil war have left many
children orphans. Girls between age 12 and 14 are "graduated"
from these orphanages to make room for the new born babies and
toddlers that need a roof over their heads. No longer small children,
but far from being self-sufficient adults, they have few skills
and no resources. The young women/girls have little education
and no commercial skills. There are few options to make money
with which to feed themselves and pay for shelter.
Susan set up Maama Watali (roughly translates
"in the absence of a mother"). Maama Watali is a multi-faceted
organization: teaching girls to make a variety of handcrafts...
to provide a means of earning money: economic independence leading
to self-sufficiency, thus self-esteem. Those who have nowhere
to live are invited to stay with a "mother" to provide them with
a home and to teach them life skills. Maama Watali is small scale.
Micro financing. Susan says it is one woman's answer to a colossal
problem, one girl at a time.
Next summer Susan plans to take 4-6 girls from Ottawa
(her daughter's high school peers) to Uganda to meet the girls
that are working (and living) in Maama Watali. The hope is that
these Canadian girls are going to develop storytelling skills
over the next year, and then "tell the story" of the Ugandan girls
when they return. One place the Ottawa girls may tell their stories
will be The Ottawa Storytellers Children's Festival 2011.
After the presentation Marijke and Ruth were approached
by several volunteer organization representatives for information
about either workshops or getting a teller to visit their group.
(We gave them the website). The agencies that work with Immigrant
Women also wanted to talk to OST about a partnership where OST
would work with their agency to develop programs that enable participants
to use the tools of Storytelling to fashion and share stories
of their own experience.
The OST Outreach committee will meet with representatives
of three agencies to discuss how these organizations can build
such programs. The partnership may result in designing a workshop
for facilitators, or simply providing a starting place for the
organizations to create their own in-house training program.