The Monthly interviews writer and storyteller, Vicky McFarland – Part 2 – Honing the craft of storytelling

Part one of this interview is here

What about immersive storytelling?

I did a mentorship with Replay Theatre and I learnt about immersive storytelling, and the processes involved, particularly in the area of working with people with special needs. They talked a lot about connecting the story to the body, so that a person who might not be able to access words will be able to access feelings, senses, experiences. I took what I learned during that time and integrated that into my own work.

To deliver sensory stories you have to be quite adaptable, especially if you are offering stories to groups where there might be different cognitive abilities. You have to allow flexibility within the design of the story, so you develop the language of words and the language of the senses at the same time. Then, when you are delivering your story, you are reading your audience, finding what is connecting and giving a story that is completely unique to their needs. It’s a lovely way to work.

Where has this led you to?

I have two very exciting projects that explore digital possibilities within storytelling and sensory storytelling.

Firstly, through the Arts Council digital evolution fund I have been able to work with animation and gaming students to explore the possibilities of a combined animation and live storytelling to create something exciting for young children. Future Screens have also financed the research and development of sensory storytelling within a dome environment using 360 projection. This is cutting edge exploration fusing live storytelling with gaming technology to make something that would use digital technology to enhance the experience of live storytelling, whilst keeping the elements of storytelling that make it unique and beautiful.

How did the pandemic impact your work?

My husband and I both work for ourselves and initially there was a small element of panic because everything shut down. But we received furlough and we were helped financially by the Arts Council which allowed us the space to adapt our work and find new ways to work.

The National Lottery Funded Triangle project was completely adapted to work online, this took some creative thinking as sensory storytelling really relies on being in a room with people. But I found ways to adapt, and was able to bring that to new audiences over the pandemic too.

What about the storytelling community?

Liz Weir and The Armstrong Storytelling Trust brought us all together to do workshops and courses online, which developed our skills. They continued to run Yarnspinning events and Liz moved her weekly Barn Sessions (Saturday nights) online. The most amazing thing was that the international audience grew during the pandemic. We were meeting up with storytellers from all over the world and I have been able to appear (and be paid) for events run outside of Northern Ireland, as have many other storytellers.

Where to now?

I am continuing to develop my repertoire for storytelling to both children and adults. Over the last few months this is increasingly happening in person again, which is very exciting.

The arts council backed a little experimental evening I ran at the Black Box, Myth and Magick, which brought together storytelling, music, poetry and an open mic session. This was really successful and I hope to be able to find funding to run more of these going forward.

I have also been involved in a big project with Tourism NI which explores storytelling events and experiences for tourists. We have organised events in Mid and East Antrim which connect local businesses to our work, we have been out telling stories in local forests and on local beaches.

I am also developing work within the dome which I am hoping will be ready to take out towards the end of the year and in 2023. Along with that I continue to work on my children’s MG novel and various screenplay projects. So, plenty to keep me busy for the foreseeable future.

For more information about Vicky McFarland’s work see the link below.

www.taletime.co.uk/#:~:text=Vicky%20McFarland%20has%20over%20fifteen,one%20teaching%20and%20group%20teaching.

also see the following:

2 Royal Avenue on Saturday June  4th June  – telling stories to families as part of the Jubilee celebrations.

Omagh Library on Saturday 2nd July – with NI Libraries telling stories of Science and Innovation to children.

Online with NI Libraries in July and August.

The Dome will be presented to audiences at the end of June at 2 Royal Avenue in Belfast (date tbc – follow fb page for details)

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