“I heard there’s treasure buried under the floor”.
“No, it’s hidden in a secret passage, my uncle said so”.
“How does your uncle know?”
“He said he knew someone who saw it, but Baldy chased them away”.
“Woah! I heard that if Baldy catches you then he takes off your head”.
“Yeah, I heard that too!”
That was one of the scarier stories we’d tell ourselves on the playground of a primary school that no longer exists – demolished and redeveloped into homes and a doctor’s surgery. Some of you may have heard the same story at your own school, of the grisly tale of Baldy’s Mansion and its head collecting poltergeist of the rich and elusive owner. Yet now more of you probably know it now as the Sheldon Hall Stonehouse, a pub and carvery in a quiet little part of Birmingham. Some of you may even know it from some of our events held there. Did you know the story of Baldy’s Mansion?
The story now only survives through those of us who where there to hear the stories and pass them on, adding our own little elements to them of course. We grew the story as we retold it. Adding details of the lost treasure, knowing people who went into the mansion to find it but never were seen again. Of course, those who went missing were friends of friends of friends that went to different schools and were only in the area on holiday, so no one else should go looking for them. And when you had no mobile, no internet, and no address of the alleged treasure hunter, it was difficult to fact check the stories.
We didn’t care about any of that though. The truth wasn’t what made the stories exciting. It was the ideas behind them. We could go and find some treasure that was hidden away for decades or centuries depending on who you asked, but only if you could evade the poltergeist that protects it. We could go and find it. Yet we never did because to us the truth of the story was what happened in our minds as we heard it. Never written down to read but instead passed around the playground from the mouths of over excited children; adding details as the story is passed around, creating memories of events that none of us witnessed but can still remember to this day.
That is the power or story telling and that is why we are letting everyone know that this is National Storytelling week. The magic that a great story can inspire is a miracle of the mind. We know finding time to read can be tricky in this constantly rushing world, especially when you are also a carer, but there are resources available to people of all ages that can help to find a new story; a new world, even if it is just for 5 minutes a day. Let’s not forget that stories don’t have to be written either, they can be passed around verbally, and for a lot of human history this is exactly how it was done. We still do it now. We tell our friends about the legendary night out we had, or how Dorothy down the road had to deal with a problem in an inventive way.
Children have minds and imaginations with the energy to power it all and more, so why not get yours to create their own stories. They can write them down, they can draw them as little comics, or get some puppets and create a show. Adults, the older we get the more knowledge and even some wisdom too we build up. We have our own stories we have lived through that can be shared with young people.
Tell them about your time at school and shock them with the concept of POGS, or how you would spend a day painting dolly pegs to be the Kings and Queens in your own stories. Share these miracles of the mind with each other, don’t let them be lost to time.Reading and telling stories are how we can connect to people who live entirely different lives to us, in worlds we never even knew existed or could even be possible. Finding the time to do can be difficult, we know, but you don’t have to read 300-page novel to be transported to a new world. Try a short story or flash fiction, every character has their story to tell, regardless of how grand or fantastical it may be. Reading and telling stories are one of the great ways we share our knowledge, inspire others through great deeds, to share morals and lessons to the next generation and beyond.
Children of all ages
Twinkl.co.uk and National Literacy Trust are helping children celebrate National Storytelling week by providing free resources to tell their own stories. Kids can get free posters, quizzes, stick figures and templates to start them on the path to storytelling. Find out whats available to you and start telling your story!
There are also websites that have free stories for children to enjoy too, and not just reading. There are videos, animated books and audiobooks as well.
If you’re looking for something a little grown up then there are places for you too – more than you think.
As an adult, it can be very difficult to find ways to enjoy a story but it doesn’t mean they don’t exist. There are services like Audible that give you access to tonnes of audiobooks for you to listen to while you go about your routine. It’s not the only way to listen however. How many of you have tried Youtube? Simply searching for ‘Audiobook’ will bring up thousands upon thousands of results.
Reedsy may be known to some of you, but for those who don’t know; it is a site dedicated to creating stories. It even has its own collections of free short stories for you to read. So, if you find yourself with 5 – 10 minutes of free time, give them a go. You never know where or with who you could end up. One of my favourite short stories is The Lottery by Shirley Jackson, so if you haven’t read it yet (it’ll take around 10 minutes) then give it a go!
Of course we can’t ever forget to mention the fantastic mines of resources that are our local libraries!
I never would have discovered Goosebumps or Horrible Histories without mine, and these days they do so much more than just have free books. Go to them, they’re free and could have services that allow you to read digital copies of books, audiobooks, or deliver them to your home if you can’t get away.
Find your local Solihull library by clicking here
Telling stories is one of the greatest techniques we have to connect as people; spanning countries, languages, and generations. So where will you go with your storytelling adventure? Will you create the next bestseller, or will you share with the kids the school trips you used to take to places that don’t exist anymore. It doesn’t matter what you do if you love what you’re doing. The truth of storytelling is that it helps us to connect with ourselves and helps us to find what it is that we love about the world around us, regardless of the facts or not. Just like the story of Baldy’s Mansion, we don’t know if it’s true or not. If there is treasure buried under the floor or hidden in a secret passage that was found by someone’s uncle. We certainly don’t know, and some won’t believe, that it was haunted by a head collecting poltergeist. They are stories and links to memories of being in the playground with our friends, scaring, exciting, delighting, and shocking each other. It didn’t matter if it was true – it was fun and still is to this day. They are our legends; our stories and they grow with us. Never mind the fact that there is now a plaque exterior wall of Baldy’s Mansion commemorating the day the church completed a successful exorcism and expulsion of evil spirits. That’s just a story, made up by kids in a playground.
Or so the legends go.