Blow Your Own Trumpet

Wednesday, 05 December 2012 16:56

Teacher, Storyteller - interview with Richard Martin (5 November 2007) Featured

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Introduction: One of the people I previously interviewed, Karen Chase recently introduced me to Richard Martin's website. I found it an interesting website and contacted Richard to request an interview. He agreed and without further ado, I have great pleasure in introducing to you Richard Martin...

Aneeta: Richard, thank you for agreeing to this interview.

Richard: My pleasure.

Aneeta: Please tell me a little about yourself – where were you born and brought up? What do you do for a living? Where do you live now?

Richard: Born and bred in various parts of England. Being very unfocused at school and university, I still didn’t really know what to do when I was in my mid-twenties. So I thought, “Any fool can teach” and trained for that.

Experience soon showed that there were some fools who couldn’t.

But when I came to Germany (just for a year) with my future wife, I discovered that teaching English as a foreign language was something I could do. That year has stretched to more than 30, and storytelling (performing and leading workshops) became added to my bow.

I live in Darmstadt, Germany and my work takes me to many different parts of the world.

Aneeta: What do you consider to be an important aspect of storytelling?

Richard: One of the most important aspects of storytelling for me is the performance situation: practice beforehand is fine, but only with listeners can the magic be generated.

Secondly, this magic is what keeps storytellers telling. In workshops with teachers I give a health warning and tell them that storytelling is like sex and drugs: once you start – oh, it is very hard to stop!

Thirdly, respect the listeners and also the story.

Aneeta: What is this thing called ‘Alexander Technique’ I read on your site (

Richard: This is very much a lay explanation. Go to Alexander was an actor early last century who often lost his voice on stage. From this catastrophe he developed a series of techniques which help the practitioner to improve general control over their body and voice. But you really should visit their website for more information.

I took lessons and immediately noticed the benefit in my stage presence, my voice control – and even in my work in the classroom. Everything gained a lot more “authority” – in the most positive sense.

Aneeta: Please elaborate on the resources you’ve created for storytellers, especially the recordings you’ve listed on your site.

Richard: A storyteller’s website without stories seems a contradiction in terms to me. So that is what I started giving my visitors – and the majority of page visits are to story pages. Theses have grown in number, some to hear or see, many to read. I keep adding new ones.

Then as a teacher, of course I use stories in my classrooms. So sometimes those ideas are added to the website, too.

I want it to be a resource rather than just a presentation of ME.

Aneeta: I understand that you conduct workshops. Can you please explain what you try to achieve in these workshops?

Richard: Most participants (although not all) are teachers, often of English. There are wonderful methodological ideas for using stories in language teaching – and most are never used. I’m convinced that teachers will only feel comfortable about using stories if they are comfortable telling stories.

So that is the first part of my workshop: practical work which shows participants that they can indeed tell a story freely.

The second part is usually then various methodology, be it for young learners or secondary and adult learners.

I feel very privileged to have been able to conduct so many of these workshops and in so many parts of the world. This spring I led my first workshop in America, next year I am returning to Asia twice to do more there.

Aneeta: As you know, this website caters for storytellers. Can you please give my readers some advice especially for those who would like to start storytelling?

Richard: Choose a tale you like (traditional folk tales are definitely best).

Decide how to start the story and learn that sentence.

Decide how to end it and learn that sentence.

Now you know where to start and you know where you are going to. Don’t hesitate any longer: just find your audience, gain their full attention and say, “I’ll tell you a tale …”

Aneeta: Richard, this is all I have to ask. Is there anything you’d like to add?

Richard: Thanks for asking the questions!

Aneeta: Richard, thank you.

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