Thursday, 17 September 2015

'Storyknowing': A Symposium and Festival on Storytelling and Theatre with Young People

WHEN? Fri 22nd and Sat 23rd April 2016 
WHERE? York St John University and York Theatre Royal
WHO? Researchers, practitioners, teachers and young people (12-18)

Advance notice of ICAN's biggest practice research event yet: a two-day festival and symposium to explore the artform of storytelling for, with and by young people.  It will both disseminate our research, and contribute to it - threads from the workshops, talks, discussions and performances will be tied together into a short film, and perhaps ultimately into a book. 

Story is the way human beings make sense of the world they live in.  A story does not tell us what to think - it poses questions and leaves spaces for us to interpret them together.  It carries wisdom and experience, and asks us to add our own wisdom and experience before passing it on.  Therefore stories – whether modern, mythical, traditional or fantastical – are particularly important to help young people to position their own lives and difficulties in a wider context, and to become critical, responsible, problem-solving adults. 

The ‘narrative turn’ in literature and the social sciences (Kearney 2002, Meretoja 2014) has been mirrored in community arts practice.  Storytellers and theatre practitioners, ever more conscious of the impact on young people’s wellbeing of prevalent narratives of individualism, academic competition, physical perfection and social division, are increasingly seeking to provide alternative narratives for them to explore. Story is well and truly back at the centre of practice with young people.

And yet many young people may rarely hear or have the chance to work with stories.   The revival in performance storytelling has tended to favour adults and the very young, neglecting teenagers and older children.  ICAN’s research has found that secondary teachers, often constrained by tightly planned skills-focused curricula from reading a whole novel (OFSTED 2012), wish to ensure pupils’ access to stories; recent conferences on child and adolescent mental health have featured opportunities to build professionals’ confidence and capacity to use personal or fictional stories in their work. 

So what kinds of stories do young people need to hear?  What do they find in them, and how do they use them to put across their own perspectives?  How should we make the most of their power in our practice?  How should practitioners develop a participatory practice of storytelling? In what ways is this challenging to, or congruent with, current trends in education, mental health and youth work?

This festival and symposium will bring together practitioners, teachers, academics and young people to explore, through workshops, performances, discussions and outstanding practice, how we can use story to enrich drama and arts practice with young people.  It will also be about performance both by and for young people, showcasing both professional performances developed specifically for audiences aged 11-18, and performances by teenagers across various artforms.

There will be calls for papers (CfP) issued on research and practitioner networks, as well as on the ICAN website.

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