LUCY LILL: Hello Pyn! I’m here and ready to go if you are.
PYN STOCKMAN: Here and ready.
LL: Thanks so much for agreeing to do this. I think initially, I would like to ask you a bit about what drew you to storytelling.
PS: I have always had an interest right back to university days – but was also drawn to the visual side of theatre and spent time learning and training in the art of mask making – where of course you work with archetypes – the storytelling and the mask making and work are,for me, closely connected.
In 2010 (I think ) I was asked to run a dramatic storytelling residency for Warwick Arts Centre. I spent a year in a primary school working with stories – I also began to look a little more deeply into Storytelling as an art form and that was it I was hooked !
I heard Ben Haggerty talk the following year and took part in one of his courses and my interest deepened and has continued to do so ever since!
I love the combination of structure and improvisation – the development of a story and the sharing that story in many different ways.
LL: Yes, me too! When you watch someone tell who really knows their material they are always completely spontaneous with it – the structure allows the freedom. Does most of your work involve mask? I am very excited about the ones you’re bringing to Story Jam
PS: It depends on the story. I do like stuff! Props and bits and bobs – peg dolls too .. The masks for story jam mr fox are currently under development – am making while your next message appears!
LL: Ha ha! I love Mr Fox – it’s one of my favourites. There is something very English about it, although I can’t quite put my finger on it… You’re based in the West Midlands and co-director of Secret City Arts- can you tell me about that? Is it a local organisation?
PS: It’s great isn’t it? Secret City is a collaboration between myself and writer Mandy Ross – we also work with other artists on a project by project basis. We explore wild green spaces and history in the urban environment. We investigate and make creative responses to localities. We also make things up! Our last project Erdington High St stories involved lots of re-imaginings of myths and folk tales inspired by the shops we saw on our walk. My favourite is Athene’s Hairdressing salon which involved retelling Medusa and Arachne stories. We have had lots of exciting news recently and will be developing a piece of theatre for children in the autumn, funded by arts council – we’re working on partnership with local schools and Birmingham hippodrome.
LL: That’s really interesting – the relationship between the wild and the urban and how they live in harmony or conflict with one another. That’s at the heart of a lot of stories isn’t it – the untamed within the civilised
PS: Yes ! I get a strong sense or scent of that within Mr Fox!
LL: When you work with children do you tend to use traditional tales or create new stories?
PS: The work I do with children almost always has its roots in traditional tales – myths- epics etc – so times this can be s straightforward storytelling session, sometimes it’s working with them to create a performance or to become storytellers. In the case of the A Cinderella A day project – we told a series of Cinderella tales from around the world and the children and parents made peg doll characters for an exhibition at MAC.
LL: The purpose of our Stories Road season is to invite tellers from other parts of the country – I think any area can get a bit stuck in its own bubble. What appetite is there where you are for traditional storytelling for adults?
PS: For adults there are lots of storytelling cafes and nights popping up! Birmingham Storytelling cafe is a regular event – also seeing more storytelling in the theatres – MAC put on the Kalevala piece and even the Birmingham Rep had Devils Violin perform as part of a festival. There are other cafes too, and Thimble Mill Library has Utter Bear Wood. There’s also young storyteller of the year and Graham Langley offers storytelling training too.
LL: I know of the Storytelling Cafe – Alys has performed there I think, but that’s a fantastic range. And it’s good to see more storytelling in theatres generally I think – it encourages audiences who might have thought of it as a ‘niche’ art form (though of course it isn’t). I won’t keep you much longer – you’ve got all those masks to make (!) – but we’re really looking forward to having you at Story Jam next week. My final question is – you live on a narrowboat. Can you sum up life on the water in one word?
LL: Pyn, thank you so much for giving up your time. I’ll look forward to meeting you in person next week.
PS: Likewise xx