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The chicken, the hedgehog — and the storyteller
Posted Wednesday, November 9, 2011 10:00 AM
The enthusiastic and expressive Patrick Ryan, U of M’s fall 2011 storyteller-in-residence, captivated the crowd at his welcome event with a folktale that influenced Shakespeare’s Hamlet and a funny story about the friendship between a chicken and a hedgehog.

Since its opening in the fall of 2008, University of Manitoba’s Centre for Creative Writing and Oral Culture has hosted a residency that brings a writer and/or storyteller to the U of M to give such unique public performances. The resident storyteller also speaks in classes and offers one-on-one mentorship and advice on the craft of writing and storytelling. This semester the centre hosts Ryan, a London-based teacher and professional storyteller.

Ryan grew up listening to his great aunts tell stories, but it wasn’t until after university when a tutor who was also a folklorist saw his storytelling potential and taught him to do field work in the area. He went on to complete a master’s degree in education at the University of Chicago, a program that encouraged him to develop storytelling as a specialty alongside his teaching.

While teaching in America, Ryan continued to spend summers in Britain and Ireland collecting stories. In Belfast in the early 1980s, when it was often too dangerous for children to go to the library, Ryan was involved in a program in which library staff went into the community to tell stories. Ryan trained staff in the program and later conducted professional development seminars on storytelling in London. He developed a reputation for storytelling expertise and performance until the storytelling started to supersede his teaching.

Ryan also studies the cognitive and neurological aspects of storytelling. He is particularly interested in how narrative is crucial to the development of the brain:“[Storytelling is] one of the first ways we think,” he says. ”Listening to oral stories, whether they’re told from memory or read aloud, is important for the young child’s mind to develop as the mind of a reader and writer.”

Ryan is interested in how memories are translated into narratives and then used as guidance in new or unusual circumstances. “We think about stories we know from movies and books and friends,” Ryan says, “to negotiate what to do next. We keep those stories in our heads.”

The first institute of its kind in North America, the centre promotes scholarly research into oral and literate cultures. It provides support for students, faculty and community members working to create their own stories or studying others’ stories.

The CCWOC is an interdisciplinary, research-based facility that permits artists, scholars and students from diverse backgrounds to explore the transformative possibilities of the spoken and written word.
Patrick Ryan is in residence at the CCWOC until December 2.


>>For more information about the centre and Patrick Ryan, go to the link below.

Want to learn more about storytelling and try it yourself? Patrick Ryan’s last storytelling circle is on Wednesday, November 16th from 2:30-3:30 at the CCWOC’s Creative Communities Studio at 390A University College. To join, email ccwoc@cc.umanitoba.ca, or call 480-1065.

For more information, contact:
Mariianne Mays Wiebe
Editor, The Bulletin
Marketing Communications Office
Phone: (204) 474-8111
Fax: (204) 474-7631
Related Links (Internal):
  •Centre for Creative Writing and Oral Culture