Interview with storyteller Paul Timoney, conducting the Hello Myself workshop for children as part of First Fortnight Festival 2016 in association with new Year’s Festival at Smock Alley Theatre on New Year’s Day.
A Spoken Word/ Poetry event during the New Year’s Festival is an unusual one. Are people looking for calm amongst the madness of Christmas?
Yes, I think so and events like these can have a fundamental impact on their attitudes and facilitate the development of ways of expression of feelings. My workshop is for the age group 6-12 and although we probably won’t even mention the concept of mental health directly, certain aspects of it will be stressed, how important it is to be able to talk about how we’re feeling. I recently watched the film Inside Out and loved the way emotions were embodied by different characters, as that kind of symbolism allows us a way to embody and express our feelings. The thing about even negative emotions is that they are there to help us, in a way, to tell us when something isn’t quite right, and so finding the right way to express them isn’t a negative thing but a positive.
You are taking part in the ‘Children’s storytelling’ event Hello Myself- how important is the act of storytelling for children?
I like the stories I tell to be interactive, as I find it works best when the kids are feeling that they have agency and so are engaged in the story, rather than just passively listening, as even then, they are usually not that passive, but looking for ways to be part of it, they want to be a character in the story. My fellow workshopper Natasha Duffy acts out the role of a robot whose emotional chip has short circuited, causing her to overreact or under react, say her football team is losing and it sends her into a spiral of deep depression or having mushrooms for tea causes this huge stomach churning reaction. We get the kids to help teach her appropriate ways of responding to and expressing her emotions, using story and artwork, while at the same time, focusing on the value of those emotions.
Do you think storytelling is becoming a lost art?
Some people seem to have that perception but I don’t think that at all, personally. As part of how I earn a living is through storytelling, and I’ve been very busy for the best part of a year, it would be churlish of me to say there’s any problem with the state of storytelling! It’s an odd perception, maybe that we’re all too modern and have moved on, I think it’s particularly huge in Dublin, and even among a certain generation from say 20-30 years of age, it seems more popular than ever with so many high quality spoken word and storytelling events, like Milk & Cookies, the Monday Echo, Flying South, Poetry Slams, and the audience for those is extremely appreciative and generous in their willingness to listen and respect new and more established voices. So I’m not sure if it ever was in decline, but if it was, it’s certainly not now.
There are also Poetry Slams/ Open Mics and other events involved in the NYF and First Fortnight festival. Will you see much of the festival, other than what you are involved with?
I hope so, I find it hard to plan ahead to do other stuff when I’ve projects coming up to focus on. I’ll be taking part in the Flying South event for First Fortnight in Film Base in the evening after my show on New Year’s Day, with Kate Quigley and a number of others, which is a brilliant open mic night on the theme of mental health so I’m geared up for that.
How will you spend New Year’s Eve?
I’ll be performing in Smock Alley as part of the Lingo/NYF event for children A Guard at the Cross. I’m a fairly quiet, introverted fellow when I’m not performing so I’m not sure how far my celebrations will extend beyond the show … but we shall see.
Paul is performing Hello Myself, a series of workshops for kids age 6-12 at Smock Alley Theatre at 12, 2 and 4pm on New Year’s Day. Tickets €10 and at the Flying South Filmbase spoken word and music event for First Fortnight festival on Friday, January 1, 7pm, tickets €5
Paul is also performing a show for kids A Guard at the Cross at Midday on New Year’s Eve at Smock Alley, tickets €5.