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Last Updated: Wednesday February 01 2006 16:32 GMT

Storytellers speak out for National Storytelling Week

Giles Abbott photographed by Andrey Zvoznikov performing a story
Giles Abbott performing at the Westcountry Storytelling Festival
It's National Storytelling week from 30 January to 4 February - an annual event which aims to raise awareness of this ancient form of entertainment.

Storytellers Rona Barbour and Giles Abbott talked to Newsround Online about their work keeping the tradition alive.

What is storytelling all about?

Rona: When you are stood in front of your audience it is as though you are the artist painting a picture on their minds which are a blank canvas.

Giles: It is a way of keeping stories alive. You tell them to different people so they are never the same, as you don't repeat the story word for word.

Why is storytelling important?

Rona: It is a very powerful way of stimulating the imagination. It covers all forms of entertainment as well as learning and building up confidence in children.

Being spoken to develops our listening skills - which are essential for learning. This is why we have two ears and one mouth!

It was also the traditional way parents used to nurture their children and teach them the difference between right and wrong.

How did you become a storyteller?

Rona: My father's father was a storyteller and so was my father. We didn't have a television until I was nine so we would sit around the fire and tell stories to each other.

Giles: When I was 24 I began to lose my sight and was unable to read anymore so didn't know what to do. After a few difficult months I found a storytelling club. I sat and listened to the stories and thought that was for me as I don't need to be able to see to tell stories.

What skills do you need to tell a story?

Rona: The basic skills are opening your mouth and letting the words come out. The rest is how to imagine and then finish a story and not get stuck for words.

What makes a good storyteller?

Rona: A good storyteller needs to really love what they are doing and want to tell stories and enjoy it.

Giles: The storyteller has to always adapt to the size of the audience - and how confident or shy they are. So your performance and the words you use are right for the audience. The audience change the way you tell the story.

Is the art dying out?

Rona: It was a dying art but now it's making a comeback. Storytelling is alive and well and travelling across the nation.

Where do you get your ideas from?

Rona: I might be asked to deal with the issue of bullying or a child who can't make friends so I make a story around that.

How is telling stories different to writing them?

Rona: Children all interpret the story entirely differently when you tell them it. When you read a book you're getting the author's interpretation of the story.

Giles: It's the listener that creates the story so it is more personal.

How do you remember them?

Giles: You remember the important bits and you re-fashion it so you don't tell the story the same way twice. Most of the stories I tell I've never seen written down. You're telling it to different people - so why should they be the same?

Everybody has a story to tell, so what's yours? Check out the tips below for how to tell your own story.

Then enter our competition on the creative messageboard!

Tips from a storyteller:

The best way to tell your story is to write it down first and then practice reading it. Stories have at least five main elements - the important bits that make them make sense. These are: characters, plot, theme, conflict, and resolution.

If you get stuck for ideas, think about your own favourite story, what bits did you like about it? Whatever made it good for you will have made it good for other people too. Use some of those ideas, change them around a bit and put them in your own stories but don't copy them exactly, or use the same language. This has to be your story.

One of the most exciting things about telling a story is that you can make it your own. It can be something that has actually happened (these true stories sometimes make the best stories) or you can make the whole thing up!

Follow these guidelines when you're thinking up your story:

  • It must be your own, original story
  • Nothing too difficult, around 100 - 200 words
  • Use lively and descriptive language
  • Have an easy to follow storyline - not too complicated
  • Use well described characters that will either be loved or hated - or the character could be you!
  • Make it exciting with maybe a twist at the end
  • Make sure you have fun!