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Holiday StoryLab for Film Workshop Day 1: Names and places

Easter holidays invited the opportunity to create a StoryLab for film workshop. As it turned out I was lucky enough that almost all of the children had also participated in the Músaem na Scéalta (Museum of Stories) project which was useful as we already had some shared experience and a practical and verbal vocabulary for the work. We worked bi-lingually (Irish and English). I worked with three 6 year olds, four 7 year olds and one 5 year old in the workshop of Dún Laoghaire Rathdown Arts facility The Grainstore which I rented for the purpose assisted by my Arts Council Bursary Award for YPCE.


I wished to develop the StoryLab work I had done in the past for Dublin City Council Arts office as part of their Childrens’ Art in Libraries Programme. But as these children were younger I decided to make the collaborative process less direct. I launched them on individual work which they could then share with each other or we would allow to merge through play etc. This also allowed however for children - like the older two girls - to work collaboratively from the start if they so wished, self directed.


The workshop was from 10am -12pm each day and we took a ’fruit break’ after the first hour or so, sticking to their school habit, or when they seemed to need it. Often the discussions or play during this time fed into the work.


Day 1 

Introduction. Name stories. Places (images and memories) collage and drawing.

As I often do I had prepared multi coloured name tags ready for them to choose and write and decorate their name on while they waited for everyone to arrive and settle on the first day. This then became part of the daily ritual - at the end of each session they are collected or hung together, at the start given back out. 


We moved naturally from this into telling stories about our names, and we had some good stories. Another child expressed anxiety that anyone would make fun of his name, so I reassured him on that front, using it as a chance to introduce the idea that we were all a team working together and so it was important that we are good to each other. I told them of Niamh Cinn Óir which lead us into some recalling of the Oisín sagas. Not everyone volunteered stories, still feeling shy perhaps, but that was good as it had gone on long enough. 


I then introduced the idea of a lab. Asking did they know what one was and what a scientist is - agreeing it is someone who makes experiments to discover things - uses games and tests and questions. I told them it was my hope that we were going to be scientists of the imagination, and have a lab of stories, where we wonder about and tell and maybe make up stories. We are a team working together and helping each other, like scientists do.


I told them how to help us in our work they would be visited every day by a different puppet. Most of them had met the first puppet already, and greeted her like an old friend: Mamó na scéalta (Granny Story). She told them a little about her tower of stories and introduced our first exercise, asking that they each choose a favourite character from a story to be - a person or an animal or even a thing, but to keep it a secret for now. When everybody was ready we asked them to take it in turns to show us the character by acting out something about them, playing a little of their story, using body, hands, objects as clues. To help encourage the idea of their being someone else and to introduce the idea of using shadows I used an overhead projector and a sheet to cast their image on the wall as they did this. Then we guessed who they were. Mamó wrote down all their guesses and their chosen ideas as they were all interesting to her, we discussed what they liked about the different characters as well. By then Mamó was exhausted and took her leave, thanking them for their help and we moved onto preparing to make up a story of their own - although they could also choose to stay with the story they had shared with us (but none of them did).


We started by thinking about the places where stories happen, using examples from their chosen stories to introduce the ideas. We then looked at some images of special places (I used these before as mentioned in the Pre-school Puppet Making and Play blog), which they took turns to lucky dip pick and then discussed and shared. It had been my intention also to spend time discussing some of their favourite remembered places, but by then there had been enough talk so it was time to start doing.


I showed them the sheets of clear acetate (for photocopying) that we could use to make a place that would be good for a story and enlarge it on the overhead projector. I showed how the large bag of scrap coloured acetates, lace, plastic and other found materials and permanent markers could be used to collage these, and let them at it. 


They were very quiet and absorbed in their work, most of them opting for drawing, taking them awhile to move onto collage with mostly the younger two boys taking pleasure in this.


At the end of the session they put them up on the projector and were very excited to be able to add their own shadows to them.


Day 1 Materials

Name tags prepped. 

Permanent markers (multi coloured sharpies)


photocopy acetates A4

Bag of coloured cells and scrap materials that cast interesting shadows etc



Day 1 Resources

Mamó puppet

Clipboard for Mamó 

Place images




Overhead projector

Bum bag: knife for my use only

Cutting mat

Group table for 8

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