The Storyteller or Bard as Social Commentator

Posted in Bard Craft and the Use of Stories

The Storyteller and Bard’s role as social commentator remains as valid today as ever, one could say even more so when the legitimacy of journalistic social commentary has been so successfully brought into question, by those who should be asked questions, and abdicated by the ‘popular’ press seeking popularity through social shaping and entertaining rather than commentary and question. Seeking to create the news rather than report and comment on it, to set and shape the agenda rather than question it. As a Storyteller I have been commissioned at times to tell themed stories, examples being:

  • For a dementia carers group a story of long struggle and ultimate resolution that contains both relief and grief, my story ended with the queen though having won through still asking “could I have done more, should I have done more”;
  • A Voluntary Organisation wanting a story that told the tale of Older People in today’s society, a tale told of planned fratricide as the old father was no longer economically productive;
  • A Voluntary Organisation wanting a story of how to tell their story, I spoke of needing to hear the stories being told to be able to then tell your own, telling a tale of a deceitful Mayor, banker and journalist working together to confuse and con a farmer, hegemony at the micro level;
  • An Environmental Arts Exhibition wanting environmental message stories for their awards ceremony, I told 2 tales of partnership, or lack thereof, with the earth and ‘spirits of place’.

Storytelling traditionally has been a tool of a community to express ideas, concepts and the ‘norms’ of the society / culture. As such it can transmit the cultural knowledge of what is seen as right and wrong, but this can work both ways, the storyteller is both the voice of the society and its ‘rules’, and the voice of dissent, telling the stories that challenge the ‘rules’.The storyteller today can tell the stories of yesterday to carry messages ‘for’ today, he/she can also tell the today’s stories to carry the messages ‘of’ today. Telling tales that educate, question, gets the audience thinking. Telling tales for change; that is the Storyteller as Bard.