Generations came together for an inclusive storytelling session led by internationally acclaimed performance storyteller, Richard O’Neill, assembling around a virtual camp fire, complete with tipi and fairy lights, at the Nursery in Belong, located in Belong Chester older people’s care village.
The audience ranged in age from eight weeks to 92 years and comprised care village residents, nursery children, their parents and siblings. The nursery is run by national charity Ready Generations, working in partnership with Belong to ensure a fully integrated approach to creating intergenerational experiences and opportunities.
The stories centred around the adventures of three wooden puppets carved by Richard himself. After delighting audiences with tales of their adventures, children and older people were invited to work together to make their own puppets from twigs and scraps of material, and tell stories about their creations. They then paraded their creations around the care village, led by a drummer.
Richard learned his craft growing up in a traditional, nomadic Romani family with a rich storytelling culture while travelling around the North of England and Scotland. He performs for a diverse range of audiences, including schools, colleges, universities, local authorities, charities and companies, as well as teaching storytelling skills to educators and other professionals. As the author of several children’s storybooks, he has won awards in the UK, Europe and USA, including being awarded National Literacy Hero status. A traditional wood carver, Richard makes all of his own props for his original stories.
Doreen Barnes, apartment tenant at Belong Chester, who attended the storytelling session said: “It was a lovely time with the children watching their imagination come to life. Storytelling is an age-old way of communicating that will never die. We learn and gain new skills from people’s stories, helping us to relate to others and make sense of the world.”
Commenting on the intergenerational storytelling session and the benefits for participants, Ruth Sandbach, Nursery Manager at the Nursery in Belong, said: “Richard’s storytelling was really well received by both children and older generations, and the venue was full. The nursery has been established to encourage connections and friendships between generations, and storytelling is a key part of helping relationships to flourish. Richard is a keen supporter of the nursery and visits us regularly with his puppet friends to tell stories and hear the fabulous stories our children and older people create together.”