INTERVIEW: Storyteller Kate Coleman

Storyteller Kate Coleman

Stratford-based Kate Coleman has been sharing her Storytree in a number of new projects around the town this summer. She tells us what it means to be a storyteller.

How did you become a storyteller?
I taught English in Italy, worked as a children’s bookseller at Waterstone’s and worked as a teaching assistant and so many of my jobs involved telling stories and sharing this love of them. But it was when I was working as a nanny in London and training to be a Montessori teacher that the idea of becoming a storyteller was clear. It was a difficult job and getting the children to bed was difficult.
So it was through bedtime stories, stories as we walked to school and stories in the park that led me to where I am and the creation of Kate’s Storytree. I spent a month in Galillee in Northern Israel practising the art of storytelling and working with young people exploring stories of conflict and peace.

What is the art of the storyteller?
Connection. Listening. When telling a story you are giving a gift to the people who come to listen and there must be a connection between you for the gift to translate. With every story told, there will be an element of it that strongly resonantes with the individual. By telling stories, I am saying to each person ‘I want to meet you, I want know you, I want to listen to you’. Community is strengthened through the sharing of stories.
By using traditional tales, told throughout humanity for hundreds of years, we speak a metaphoric language which is deeply human and understood. It is important that I tell stories that I love to deepen this connection.

It must be so rewarding, what is your favourite aspect of what you do?
I love it when the children take ownership of the space and the stories; when they find their voice. Kate’s Storytree is a space in which I tell stories and the space is created using blankets, props and books. Often children will come and create the space with me and it then becomes our space; our Storytree.
I often tell the story of The Three Billy Goats and more often than not there will be a child who starts to become the troll character within the story. They add their voice to the story and become a part of it. The troll is powerful and scary and has control and I love it when children identify and assume a role, I watch them grow in front of me. It is very beautiful.
The power of storytelling and a storyteller who listens and gives space to each voice. Each voice, each child is important. There will also be a lot of laighter during this … humour brings us together. It is loud and noisy and has a wonderful energy.

What are your favourite stories?
Difficult question! They change all the time, depending on what is happening in my life. I believe we need different stories at different times. I really love the story Stuck by Oliver Jeffers about a boy whose kite gets stuck in a tree and his tale of trying to get it down. I love the story of The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery and I am working on a telling of this. Possibly my favourite book would be Skellig by David Almond, or any book by him.

If you could listen to anyone in the world tell a story what tale would it be and who would be reading it?
Another difficult question! I would love to hear the actress Frances McDormand reading Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.

WHERE AND WHEN: Kate will be Down at the Bandstand on 31st August with A Rainbow of Stories during July and August. Head to the bandstand at Stratford’s Recreation Ground between 10am and noon on Saturdays for storytelling, play and making.

On 27th August from the Storytree will embark on a magical journey through the RSC gardens into an adventure-filled story. “Meeting at The Other Place, we journey together sharing stories in different spaces, exploring as we go.” It is pushchair friendly with an inclement weather alternative. Free.