Where would we be without story-telling?

Good stories, well told, do two important things – they captivate and stir emotion. Human beings have used storytelling since forever, and today in 2018, I’m lucky that a large part of my work involves searching for unique, special stories and sharing them.

Forget the topic, style, tone and purpose (whilst they are very important), the very best stories strike a chord because we can empathise with them… they are relevant in some way to you and me. I was lucky to be invited to an International Women’s Day event at Bishop Burton College recently, the theme being “facing challenges head on”.

Gentlemen - Don’t switch off yet!

The speakers were women as you’d expect, but what I heard and learnt reached far beyond any gender discussion.

Where would we be without story-telling?

Imagine this

Single mother of 18-month-old triplets and not terribly fit, bank clerk by trade, enters a selection weekend in Dartmoor, competing against 200 other women for a place on a Polar Relay expedition… and qualifies.  That was just the start of it, Ann Daniels became the first British Polar Guide and the first woman in history, along with her teammate to reach the North and South Poles as part of all women teams.

Ann’s description of the hardships and the physical as well as mental endurance required was just astounding – not least being stalked by a polar bear for 3 days.  Her story made me feel inspired and awestruck and there were also three great morals to the tale: Courage comes in many forms; motivation can come from many places and sometimes your biggest challenges become your best memories.

Totally different but as poignant was Rachel Hallos’s story.  A farmer who with her husband inherited a family farm with no money, unsecured debts and no investment - a business on its knees.  Rachel didn’t look for the challenge, the challenge well and truly found her.  After a lot of hard work, creativity and open-mindedness the business turned a corner for the better and came out the other side. 

What made the difference when things were at rock bottom?  It was the fact that Rachel could talk, be honest and open about her circumstances, she said it made all the difference and meant she could achieve far more. Everyone in the room could feel how much this process of transformation had hurt and there was an overwhelming feeling of admiration and respect.

Where would we be without story-telling?

It's a privilege to hear speakers such as these but I took a moment to sit back and look around me and what did I see? A room full of inspiration: Andrew Ward MBE who set up the charity Forage Aid as a result of altruistic tweets to help farmers hit by massive snowstorms & floods. Emily Saunders, a young farmer passionate about educating children about farming – she even secured crowd funding to pay for a life changing agricultural management course.  Last but not least, Jono Dixon, co-founder of #clubhectare, a group dedicated to raising the profile of food, farming and also offering a valuable community for those passionate about everything rural.

There are stories all around us.  In our media saturated lives, I guess we just need to remember to take time to listen and learn.  Stories can change opinions, perceptions and most importantly lives. 

With thanks to Rhonda Thompson, Bill Meredith and Bishop Burton College.

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