Meet Nicola. Nicola has been a Host with Befriend for a little over a year. But the journey that led her to the Befriend community began long before that, as she discovered the power of oral storytelling as a medium for bringing people together and for unlocking inner wisdom. Now, she shares her passions with her local community, inviting people to walk their own path towards oral storytelling, and discover more about themselves and the world along the way. This is Nicola’s tale.
August 2020, post-lockdown. I was eager to connect with real “3D” people in person. Through Facebook, I heard of a Ukulele meetup at the community centre around the corner, so I dusted off my baritone uke and showed up. During tea break (a banquet of home-made cakes, biscuits and snacks), I caught up with Befriend Community Builder, Inger Ward. This was the first I’d heard of Befriend. When she explained how they help people share their passions and skills, I had a brilliant idea!
Backtrack a couple of years, and my husband and I spent a few days in Orkney, one of Scotland’s Northern Isles. A place where many of my ancestors lived centuries ago. On our last evening we visited a local storytelling centre for some “peatfire tales”. Something magical happened that night as I sat entranced by Lynn Barbour’s performances of old tales of the Selkies and Finn people. I felt a sense of deep recognition, a current of electricity that ran through my bones, as if reminding me of something precious lost long ago. As a child, I’d read widely and written many a fairy tale of my own. In my twenties, I’d dabbled in the art of storytelling as a healing art, but given up through lack of confidence.
In one of those epic life circles, almost thirty years later, I remembered and felt the calling I’d known as a child and a young woman—not only to write stories, but to share them through the oral storytelling tradition—in circles, around fires, and in forests. These old Orkney tales fed a very particular kind of hunger in me—as watching a movie or reading a book had never done. In some sense, I realised I was starving for stories.
I returned to Australia on fire, and in 2019 designed and ran a nine-month oral storyteller development project in Denmark, WA, with theatre director Silvia Lehmann. In 2020, I went to the UK to study storytelling at Emerson College for a 13-week journey of transformation and discovery. Even though I had to finish the course online due to Covid, the experience confirmed and informed my passion to help revive the art of oral storytelling in Western Australia—not as a performance art, but as a family and community practice.
So the day I met Inger and heard about Befriend, I knew I’d found the next step in my storytelling journey: a way to share my passion locally via sessions that were accessible, free and fun. So began our weekly sessions at the Koorliny Arts Centre on Tuesday mornings. This year, drama teacher Miranda Santalucia joined me as co-host and began threading more dramatic play and improvised fun into our sessions.
I’ve watched our members grow in confidence, not only as storytellers, but socially, as they rediscover the wisdom, richness and depth of the old tales and how these help us make sense of our lives. I’ve seen them overcome shyness and self-doubt to embrace the oral storytelling tradition. Week after week, they put aside their papers and books to tell original and traditional stories by heart, in their own words. It’s not about memorising and performing perfectly; it’s about being yourself and having a go.
If you are interested in starting a storytelling circle in your area, please get in touch with me at Befriend where I am now a Thinking Partner and Community Story Weaver. In future, I plan to run a series of workshops and mentoring programs for applied storytelling in the community arena. Email me to register your interest () or find out more.
Sharing stories in safe, supportive circles is, in my experience, one of the best ways to make deep, true friendships and to discover our inner wisdom and gifts.
“… sometimes we need a story more than food.
Certainly, there are times we need to hear a story to heal our souls. But there are also times we need to tell one”.
– Erica Lann-Clark, The Healing Heart Communities: Storytelling to build strong and healthy communities
As you read Nicola’s story, what has it left you thinking about? Is there something in your life that brings you joy that you could share with others? If there is, and you’d like a friendly ear to talk it through, then reach out to someone on the team. We’d be happy to support you!