Interacting with the Stories: Dave Tonge, Settle Stories Schools Week

If you’re reading this, you probably know about the many and varied storytelling events and workshops that Settle Stories run for the general public, but did you know that those events are only a small part of all that we do? One thing that a lot of people don’t know about Settle Stories is that we work with over 6,000 school pupils every year as part of our learning programme, bringing professional storytellers into schools to tell stories and lead workshops with children of all ages. In the lead-up to World Book Day this year, we ran workshops with three storytellers in schools, celebrating the connection between written literature and oral storytelling. We spoke to one of the storytellers, the marvellous Dave Tonge, the ‘Yarnsmith of Norwich’, about his workshops, and about the importance of World Book Day.

What kind of stories do you tell, and what do your workshops involve?

My stories are historical in nature and range from Roman myths and legends through to Tudor tales that give pupils aninsight into all aspects of life over 400 years ago, be it the differences between Tudor rich and poor and the changes to religion during the reformation. Most of my stories are comic in style and offer plenty of opportunity for pupil interaction through repetition, and questions built into the stories themselves and also as part of the introduction to each tale. I also break up the sessions with games suitable to the period my stories are from and also music and dance where applicable. This year I have developed a set of world tales, but told by an English sailor from long ago and brought back from his adventures overseas, to demonstrate that we are not always that different to people from other lands - after all we share the same stories! 

What do you hope will be the outcome of your workshops?

Since my stories focus on people and not dates and dry facts, I hope to give the pupils an insight into everyday life long ago. I like to demonstrate that history is not just about Kings and Queens, but rather it is also the history of the people including the pupils I meet. My sessions show that history is not fixed in books, but open to interpretation - that it is alright to be creative with history, that we can imagine the past. Above all however my sessions are meant to be a fun addition to whatever subject children are studying in their schools.

What do you believe is the importance of World Book Day?

For me anything that encourages children to read is a great idea. In these technological times where the word is being replaced by images and where information is being reduced to bitesize facts, it is more important than ever to encourage children to commit to the written word and stories in particular. It encourages them to use their imaginations and by fusing World Book Day with oral storytelling in schools, it also demonstrates to pupils that stories are not always fixed in print, but can be changed and adapted - that they, the pupils can interact with the story in much the same way that they can interact with a computer game or the latest app!

Three cheers to Dave who had a manic week up in Settle delivering workshops across 5 different schools in the area.

If a school you know is interested in having a storyteller in for the day, please contact us. Whilst our work is mainly focused in the North our vast network of storytellers work across the cournty. Get in touch to find out more.