Before I was ever a storyteller I was a writer and only when I began to realise how phenomenally difficult it is to get books published and read did I gravitate towards storytelling. At first it was for children on the beach in India, then maybe a girlfriend in an affectionate mood, and only slowly did I come round to the idea that grown ups might be interested in listening to stories of kings of chocolate and men who fell in love with the moon.
It was in the Rainbow Gatherings that I began to tell stories to an audience. Still nervous that storytelling might not be for adults I guessed that the spirit of the child is well and alive in the Rainbow and so my stories might find receptive ears. The Gatherings are also a great place to try out something new as everyone comes to your event or workshop without any big expectations and even if it all falls to pieces it’s rare to meet with any harsh criticism. People tend to appreciate your effort and intentions even if it’s a total disaster.
At first I thought the stories would b best accompanied by a big pot of chai. Two hours of everyone sat in the dark waiting for the water to boil convinced me otherwise and from then on I always arranged the storytelling around a big fire in the open. The big fire in question being provided by everyone who came to listen as they were sent off to the forest to gather firewood. This is Rainbow, after all.
As long as I didn’t choose a night when an Angel Walk was happening the storytelling tended to get good crowds. When I told a (shortened) version of 1001 Nights with a couple of Israeli musicians providing musical interludes between stories there were over 150 gathered in a moonlit field in Slovakia. Lit by flames and flooded with moonlight, ancient Arabic fables blending with harmonic minor scales, it was the kind of performance you could never create in the outside world.
Although there are all kinds of people at a Rainbow Gathering there’s not always a taste for more complex theatre. Sometimes I get the feeling that people would be more content with a happy ending and a spiritual moral than the stories I tell which often don’t have any particular message at all. But an art that is designed only to please isn’t an art at all. Stories that are alive are the ones that confound genre and elude expectations.
Which, at their best, is what the Rainbow Gatherings themselves can do…
And if you want to listen to some storytelling…