Interviews with Storytellers - Chris Bostock

Meet Chris Bostock.

Chris has worked as a professional Storyteller for 22 years. He is a founder member of A Bit Crack - Storytelling, based in the Newcastle upon Tyne. He started work in teaching in a secondary school in South London, but moved on to work in Theatre. He was a founder member of the Pip Simmons Theatre Company, worked in repertory theatres as an actor and director, then became Director of Theatre in Education Companies in the North East for twenty years before becoming a full time story teller
As a storyteller, Chris works with listeners of all ages and ability to share his love of stories and joy of language and works in partnership with musicians, textile artists, sculptors and other storytellers. He is currently touring his show SALT with music and live art for village halls.

A creative adviser to the North Pennines Storytelling Festival and regular lecturer to Newcastle University’s PGCE Students, Chris also runs training courses for teachers in schools. Storytelling has taken him to three continents and to venues and festivals large and small in Canada, Singapore, France, Ireland, Greece, as well as across the UK.
Chris, what is it about storytelling that attracts you?

I’ve worked as a professional storyteller for 22 years and the stories I tell are friends that I’ve picked up along the way.  So telling stories to me is sitting down with the best companions you could find. They show themselves in different lights on different days, which makes the whole process even more enjoyable.
Having worked with writers in theatre before becoming a storyteller, I really appreciate the challenge of letting individual stories find their own voice through me. I think of storytelling events as conversations, that way you can never cease to be surprised by what may come back to you from listeners or even the stories themselves. I also really enjoy the company of good listeners.
What makes a good story, and why?

Isn’t it amazing what a range of stories there are? The stories that delight me most are the ones where you can see the whole story in your mind as soon as it’s told. They are the time stoppers, the stories that make you forget the time and space around you, that hold you in their arms and make you feel better about the world. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to be challenged or surprised, and to laugh, or to even nurse a tear - good stories take you on a journey of delightful discovery - and I’m ready to go!

You tell traditional tales from many cultures. Do you find common elements amongst these tales, if so what are they?

Whether the stories are about animals or humans, all the emotions are there. Stories from different cultures literally take us to another place and there we can learn to feel empathy with other people’s lives and priorities. Wherever we travel we take stories with us and carry others back - and it’s always interesting to meet a story you know in a completely different setting. I tell stories from other places as a reminder that we all share the same world and same feelings - it’s these thoughts and images that bind us together as humans.

One of the sessions you are co-hosting at the festival this year is ‘Ghost Stories’.  What makes for a good ghost story?

You’d better come along and find out! It’s all about atmosphere, more awe than shock I hope! Since your imagination is your most powerful element in your body, you can experience surprise, mystery, wonder, horror and suspense from behind the comfort of your own chair! Storytellers are just the creaking open of the door and daring you to look in.  So, are you brave enough to join us?
A storyteller usually needs at least one listener. What can the listener(s) gain from the process?
Hopefully the encouragement to tell stories themselves. Of course, the other thing is that tellers want you to get lost … in the story of course. We do have to admit that storytelling is very therapeutic and who knows what stories can cure by taking you out of yourself, for a while at least. 

How do you develop your storytelling repertoire and skills?

Listen, practice, listen, practice, listen, sing, dream, smile, reflect.
Listen, read, listen, reflect, listen, practice, listen, talk, listen, tell.
Yes, you have to do more listening than telling! No one can give you a repertoire, just as no one can give you a circle of friends - you have to gather them yourself. Keep a record of when and where you’ve told different stories and make a note somewhere of which stories suit different circumstances, audiences, ages or topics. Get selected listeners to tell you truthfully everything they thought about the stories and the way you told them. Oh! And keep on listening!

Who are your favourite storytellers, and why?

Well that’s easy – they’re the ones who make me laugh, make me wonder, make me dream with open eyes.  And then there are the ones who make me happy, make me cry, and make me curious and glad to be alive.  Plus the ones who make me forget everything, the ones who make me remember everything, who carry me away, who share their love of the natural world and joy and richness of our language. The storytellers who excite me make me fall in love, wake me up - and make their stories unforgettable.

What are your three tips for aspiring storytellers? 

  • Listen, Practice, Listen, Practice, Listen, Practice, Tell.
  • Remember that the story is more important than the teller, the story has to be remembered, not the teller.
  • Enjoy - no, really enjoy, and make sure that you can be heard!
Away from the professional storytelling scene, what do you do to relax and unwind?
What? You really think there’s time for anything else? Well, I do have an allotment - where there’s a lot meant and a little done. But then I have my therapy sessions with the wisest counsellors in the world - my grandchildren.
What questions would your grandchildren ask you if they were here now?
How many beans make five?
If you were me and I was you, what would you think and what would you do?
Where would you start to store a store of stories ? Would it be in a head case?

Come and meet Chris at the Settle Storytelling Festival in October.