miércoles, 14 de diciembre de 2011

Singapore International Storytelling Festival 2011 Report

It's hot in Singapore. It's always hot. The day before the starting of the Festival Bea and I landed at the airport of Singapore (high art design), we got on a bus, and we arrived at the Rendez-Vous hotel in the center, next to Orchard Street.

The Festival began the next day with two major international exhibitions on two consecutive days, always in the auditorium of the National Museum of Singapore, hosted by the tender Rosemarie Somaiah (Singapore). All tickets were sold out.

First showcase (Friday) with Ruth Kirkpatrick (Scotland), Bobby Norfolk (USA), Kamini Ramachandran (Singapore), and Beatriz Montero (Spain).

Second showcase (Saturday) with Sheila Wee (Australia), Roger Jenkins (Singapore), Lilli Rodrigues-Pang (Australia) and Kiran Shah (Singapore).

Poor Sherry Norfolk had an accident in her hotel’s room, fell, and broke her left wrist. She was in the hospital during the showcases, but the next day she got up and gave a workshop she had prepared with her husband Bobby Norfolk.

The level of the participants was very good. Especially those who deviated from the traditional rule of how to tell stories the orthodox way. I mean, Bobby Norfolk (in fact he has 3 Emmys in USA), Randel McGee (with his puppet companion, Groark the Dragon), and Beatriz Montero (with her incorporation of traditional songs and popular Spanish flamenco dance steps in the stories).

Beatriz closed the first international showcase telling in English her version of The Half Chicken" (a traditional Spanish folktale, meaning a rebel against the abuses of power). In her individual performance she told the English version of "Mr. and Mrs. Ramon Ramona" (a story forthcoming printed in OQO Publisher), "The Wayward Prince (another of her stories) and " The Frog Was Singing Under the Water" (a story / song cumulative with the public participation).

The rest of the tellers were good too, after all we are talking about the Storytelling Festival most important in Asia. They were very good, in fact, but sometimes there are those who excel. It’s not just a personal opinion, because both Bobby Norfolk and Randel Mcgee repeat Festival because organizers and public demanded their return.

From the outside, with that look of stunned tourists we should never lose, home problems are soon so relativized (even national ones), they look so small that I begin to be half Buddhist. May be Buddhist monks are no more than that, great inside travelers.

I had to work as master of ceremonies (facilitator) and present Sherry & Bobby Norfolk workshops ("The moral of the story: character education through storytelling"), and that of Roger Jenkins ("Interaction and bondage with children with special needs and hearing impaired using simple storytelling techniques"). Good workshops, filled in with concrete work and useful advices. At las it seems Book Council organizers of the Festival were more inclined to facilitate workshops than gigs. There were workshops of all kind of colors, I taught myself three of them about Creative Writing Resources for children and adults.

The organizers of the Book Council and the SISF 2011, particularly Serene Wee, R. Ramachandran, Jade Yong, and Haryani Othman, were at all times attentive, and ready to solve any problem.

Beatriz also had to give, outside the Festival usual activities, another storytelling workshop (always in English) about her book “The Secrets of Storytelling”, within the venue of the largest India Cultural Association of Singapore. And both, she and I, gave a four hands lecture to the librarians at the National Library (16 floors of books, a shell of concrete and glass) on Creative writing and Storytelling.

But as it usually happens in all the congresses and festivals, and that would not be an exception, much of the professional activity and contacts were made outside the formal presentations. The shows and workshops served as a meeting point and business card. I do this, how about you? At first there was some reluctance to share and to talk off the record, but little by little Bea and I managed to drag each other to cafes, restaurants and bars. The first to join us was Roger Jenkins, angry with the organizers of the festival because the publicity had been scarce in the city of Singapore. Lilli Rodrigues-Pang, Australian Central American ancestry, and Randel McGee, the great North American ventriloquist. Afterwards the other ones come, and they were losing stiffness, Ruth Kirkpatrick, Kamini Ramachandran, Verena Tay (a good writer), and Rosemarie Somaiah, especially during the last dinner at the Jumbo Seafood Restaurant at Clarke Quay, invited by the president of the Society for Reading & Literacy Serene Wee.

In Singapore they are concerned about the shortage of local themed books, authoring and editing native, especially in children’s literature. They are concerned about national identity. They are concerned about the closeness and vastness of China and India, and about all large minorities of these two countries in the distribution of population in Singapore. They are concerned about the almost absence of news about Asia and Singapore in the mass media of Europe and America. They are concerned about their islandness, about isolation in the world map. But they are not concerned about the crisis. They have no crisis at all. The crisis exists only in the news, every time speakers talk about Europe and USA.

We return after that, through the south of India for another two weeks. In Bangalore, Chennai and Madurai, more stories and workshops. But that’s another story.

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