I wrote this article originally for the Hilltop Views.
We listened to bedtime fairytales told by our parents when we were children, told scary stories to each other when we were teenagers and still enthusiastically divulge anecdotes to one another every day. In celebration of this age-old oral tradition, people from all over the state met to share their stories for World Storytelling Day.
World Storytelling Day is an international celebration of the art of oral storytelling that happens every March 21. This storytelling fête is the first of its kind to recognize and celebrate the oral tradition. In addition to allowing storytellers to forge new connections between one another, World Storytelling Day allows others to become a part of this tradition as well.
Sponsored by the Kappa Delta Pi International Education Society and produced by Tellers2 Productions, World Storytelling Day at St. Edward’s was a huge success. The event, held last Saturday during Spring Break, was one of only two sites in the United States hosting this international event. Over forty-eight countries participate in this massive, global event. The campus hosted a total of forty wandering storytellers, all of whom were gathered to share in the event that celebrates oral tradition. Some were professional storytellers, while others came simply to share their favorite family stories, fairytales and legends.
Planning for World Storytelling Day began in June 2008, with wheels really beginning to turn around December 2008. David Thompson, administrative coordinator of University Programs, explained that several considerations had to be made for the event, including who would act as sponsor. Kappa Delta Pi and their sponsor, David Hollier, graciously stepped in and helped Thompson run successful storytelling groups all day Saturday.
This year’s theme was “Neighbors,” with past themes including “Dreams,” “Bridges” and “Birds.” Beginning at the St. Edward’s seal, groups of storytellers shared tales, then moved to other locations throughout the day. Groups met at Sorin Oak, the Moody Atrium and Mabee Ballroom. Even university faculty and staff participated in a storytelling group called “St. Edward’s Shares,” where individuals shared personal anecdotes of their time at the campus, funny personal stories, legends about Father Sorin and so forth.
The evening concert, which featured locally, statewide, and nationally known tellers, wrapped up World Storytelling Day. There were four professional storytellers in attendance, including Lucinda Wise, Gene Helmick-Richardson, and Peggy Helmick-Richardson. Thompson, who was also one of the four professional storytellers at the event, was very excited about the turnout and success of the event. “It went really well. We were so excited.”
The event was free except for the evening concert, which asked that participants either pay $4 and/or donate four food items to be donated. Over 100 pounds of food was later presented to the Capital Area Food Bank.
Thompson plans to make World Storytelling Day at St. Edward’s an annual celebration. He already has plans about how to make the event a bigger success, such as inviting more professional storytellers, pushing for more sponsors, having more “zappy” publicity, and not holding the event during Spring Break. “The official [World Storytelling] day fell on Spring Break, so next year we’ll try to not do that. But it will still be in March.”
When asked what storytelling is and why World Storytelling Day is so important, Thompson fervidly explained that keeping the oral tradition is important. “Storytelling is the world’s oldest known performance. It passes beliefs, morals, customs, and history between and among groups. It keeps alive families and nations.”