Meet Dominic Kelly

Dominic KellyDominic Kelly is a professional storyteller who has performed at international festivals and other venues, including London West End theatres, and his work in schools has inspired thousands of young people to gain confidence in themselves, and as storytellers. 
His performances are packed with energy, and we are proud to welcome him to the Settle Storytelling Festival, where he will perform, accompanied by musicians from Sweden, ‘The Devil’s Purse’ - a mind-tingling tale of boggarts, fairies, goblins let loose from a purse that should have been kept closed.  You have been warned!
We spoke to Dominic about his career.
What is it about storytelling that attracts you?
"As a storyteller I love the shared journey one goes on, through a story with the audience, the way it changes you as well as the listeners, and how one finds new things in a story as one tells it more. It’s an extraordinary feeling when the magic of the story is really alive in the room - you can feel it when it happens, and no other art form creates that same effect."
"I love traditional stories, the material - playing with these tales for oral storytelling performance and bringing them to life in new ways is the most fantastic, satisfying experience - these stories are extraordinary; they feel like living, continually evolving organisms."

"Also, storytelling is both very simple and infinitely complex, and there lies endless fascination and interest - I’ll still be learning and discovering new things about it at the end of my life and I know I’ll feel I’ve barely started on the journey! But it’s also a mystery - some things grab you and call to you, and one can intellectualise about why that might be but underneath it all, if it’s in you it’s in you."

What makes a good story, and why?
"I’m attracted to stories for different reasons - some have startling or vivid imagery; others some fantastic ‘reveal’ or a beautiful plot twist; and others have a compelling emotional thread. Many have all of these! But there’s also some underlying ‘muscularity’ to a story’s structure that I need to feel before a story really feels like a story. If it’s insubstantial under the surface, despite some wonderful imagery for instance, I don’t feel properly ‘fed’ by it. "
"I find this muscularity more often in traditional stories than in modern fiction, for instance, because the ‘what happens’ of the story has been distilled through the life experiences of countless generations of people who’ve passed it on. I also want to discover some multi-layeredness - a metaphorical richness to a story usually (not that I can’t hugely enjoy some 5 minute belter of a narrative joke!)  Perhaps most of all, I have to CARE. If I really care about what happens to just one character in the story then I’m in and it’s working!"
What can the listener gain from storytelling?
"When you’re listening and watching a story being told, you’re creating the world of the story in your own mind - the cinema of the imagination! This can also happen when you’re reading a book, but I think it’s more intense in a storytelling performance - the energy of the live telling, the in-the-moment and breathing-the-same-air relationship between the teller and the listener, the sharing of the story with everyone in the room, all these contribute to this. "

"And because of it, the material world can sometimes seem to disappear for you as an audience member - one can really end up stepping into the story-world, and the journey of the people within it, so that when one leaves at the end of the performance, one’s perceptions of the ‘real world’ outside are changed."

"At the same time, there’s the wonderful complicity that can build between teller and audience which is so enjoyable, the laughter or the suspense, the feeling of temporary community that grows not only from sharing the story, but sharing reactions to it."

How do you develop your storytelling repetoire and skills?
"I commit time each week to reading new stories, and the collection of story collections continues to outpace my bookshelf-building! Finding the stories you really want to tell is a huge work by itself. There’s no point telling a story if it hasn’t grabbed you at a ‘heart level’ as well as a ‘head level’. On the one hand you needs to read an awful lot of them to find those that are really waiting to be found by YOU; on the other, if you read stories too fast, you can miss what they have inside them (waiting for you to release it!)."

"So that process really takes time. Then I meet regularly with Jo Blake Cave and Clare Murphy as a storytelling development trio called Talking Skull Ensemble, where we work together to collectively push ourselves into new territory, both technically and artistically in a wider sense, and grow and challenge ourselves as tellers. The three of us are also involved in another development and exploration group that meets for a week each year in Europewith Abbi Patrix."

What are your three main tips for aspiring storytellers? 
"Firstly, if you’re telling at floor spots at clubs or informally elsewhere, keep a storytelling journal: reflect honestly on how each storytelling session goes and what you’d like to keep in mind for next time. Go back and read it again later - you’ll probably notice patterns of the same feelings or difficulties cropping up repeatedly - these make good starting points for further development."
"Second, find someone or some people you respect who will give you rigorous feedback. One is quite exposed personally as a teller, and it’s easy to take criticism as an attack, but actually good critical support is the most invaluable and rare nourishment! But the source can make a big difference."
"And seek out and see as much good storytelling as you can, and also take inspiration from artists working in other disciplines."

Away from the professional storytelling scene, what do you do to relax?

"I like wild places, and being out in nature. I go backpacking, hillwalking, rock climbing and wild camping when I can. I sea-kayaked through the Swedish archipelago this summer, which was a wonderful experience. I also love dancing!"
You can meet Dominic Kelly at the Settle Storytelling Festival, Saturday 12th October, 7.30-9.30pm, Settle Victoria Hall. Tickets £12 (Concession: £10). Under 16: £5.00.  Family (2 adults/2 children): £25.