National Storytelling Week: What is your story?

National Storytelling Week is an annual event celebrated in the United Kingdom. It typically takes place at the turn of the end of January and the first week of February. The National Storytelling Week 2024 takes place from 27th January to 4th February. The purpose of National Storytelling Week is to promote the art of storytelling and encourage people of all ages to engage with stories in various forms.

During this week, individuals and organisations across the UK organise storytelling events, performances, workshops and activities to celebrate the power of storytelling. Furthermore, the initiative aims to foster a love for stories, whether through spoken word, written narratives or other creative forms of storytelling.

In sum, National Storytelling Week is about storytelling and recognising its importance in literature, education and community building. Moreover, it encourages people to share and listen to stories, promoting oral traditions and the joy of narrative.

How to celebrate the National Storytelling Week?

Celebrating National Storytelling Week can be an enriching experience involving a variety of activities that promote the joy of storytelling. Here are some ideas on how to celebrate this week:

  • Read aloud: Gather friends, family or colleagues and read aloud from a favourite book or share personal stories. Importantly, reading aloud not only celebrates storytelling but also brings people together.
  • Attend a storytelling event: Attend or organise a storytelling event in your community. Look for local libraries, bookstores or cultural centres that may host special storytelling performances or workshops. Also, check out the events organised by the Society for Storytelling.
  • Create a storytelling circle: Form a storytelling circle with friends or family to share a short story. For instance, these can be personal anecdotes, traditional tales or creative pieces of fiction.
  • Explore various formats: Listen to or watch various storytelling formats, including podcasts, digital storytelling or video storytelling.
  • Host a family story night: Dedicate an evening to family storytelling, including family history, traditions or personal experiences. This can be a meaningful way to pass down stories to younger generations.
  • Create a storytelling corner: Set up a cosy storytelling corner in your home. Next, decorate it with books, storytelling props and comfortable seating to create an inviting space.
  • Share stories online: Use social media or online platforms to share your favourite stories or create and share your own. Additionally, consider starting a storytelling blog or podcast during National Storytelling Week. Moreover, use the occasional hashtags in your posts: #NationalStorytellingWeek, #NationalStorytellingWeek2024, #StorytellingArt, #ShareYourStory, #StorytellersUnite, #StorytellingTradition.

What are the origins of the National Storytelling Week?

National Storytelling Week is an initiative that aims to celebrate the art of storytelling, promote literacy and encourage the sharing of stories in various forms. However, the origins of National Storytelling Week are not quite clear and trace back to the UK.

National Storytelling Week 2024 celebration by the Society for Storytelling. Image source: X (Twitter) @sfs_uk

The Society for Storytelling, a UK-based organisation, plays a significant role in promoting National Storytelling Week. The Society for Storytelling was established to support and promote the art of oral storytelling and holds a week-long celebration — the Gathering.

While the specific historical details of the initiation of National Storytelling Week may not be widely documented, it is part of a broader effort to recognise and celebrate the importance of storytelling in human culture. Storytelling has been an integral part of human communication for centuries, serving as a means to pass down traditions, share knowledge and entertain.

What are the functions of storytelling?

Storytelling serves a multitude of purposes, and its benefits extend across various domains. In the context of National Storytelling Week, here are some key purposes, uses, benefits and functions of storytelling:

  • Preservation of culture and traditions: Storytelling is an essential tool for passing down cultural values, traditions and oral histories from one generation to another. Moreover, it helps maintain a connection to the past, fostering a sense of identity and belonging within a community.
  • Education and learning: Storytelling is a powerful educational tool, enabling the conveyance of complex ideas, moral lessons and information in an engaging and memorable way. It enhances cognitive development, language skills and comprehension, especially in children.
  • Communication and connection: Stories are a universal language that transcends cultural and linguistic barriers. They facilitate communication and understanding among diverse groups of people. Personal stories can create empathy and emotional connections, fostering a sense of shared humanity.
Various items, including a ladder, a trophy, a stage, a dialogue window, a comet, coming out of an open green book. This image illustrates the power of storytelling.
The impact of storytelling and celebration of National Storytelling Week. Image source:
  • Entertainment and enjoyment: Storytelling is a source of entertainment, providing enjoyment and escapism. For instance, it engages the imagination, allowing listeners or readers to experience different worlds, perspectives and emotions.
  • Inspiration and motivation: Stories often convey inspirational messages, motivating individuals to overcome challenges, pursue their goals and strive for personal growth. They can also serve as role models or examples of resilience, determination and success.
  • Community building: Storytelling fosters a sense of community by creating shared narratives and experiences.
  • Therapeutic and healing: Storytelling can be therapeutic, allowing individuals to express and process emotions. Among others, it has been used in various forms of therapy, such as narrative therapy, to help individuals make sense of their experiences.

How to leverage storytelling in business?

Storytelling has many use cases and benefits and can also be used in business. Here are several ways to effectively use storytelling in the business context:

  • Compelling brand story: Develop a narrative that communicates your brand’s values, mission and unique selling proposition. Share the journey of your business, emphasising the challenges overcome and the impact on your customers and community.
  • Connecting with your audience: Understand your target audience and tailor your stories to resonate with them. For instance, use relatable characters and situations that your audience can empathise with to foster a deeper connection.
  • Storytelling in marketing: Integrate storytelling into your marketing strategies. Whether through social media, blog posts or video content, tell stories that highlight your products or services in a way that engages and captivates your audience.
  • Employee onboarding and training: Use storytelling to enhance the onboarding process and training programmes. Share success stories, case studies or examples of teamwork and innovation within the company to inspire new hires and reinforce company values.
  • Client testimonials and case studies: Showcase client success stories and case studies. Real-life examples of how your products or services have positively impacted clients build credibility and demonstrate the practical value of your offering.
  • Pitching and presentations: When pitching ideas or giving presentations, incorporate storytelling techniques to make your messages more memorable. Share anecdotes, use metaphors and structure your presentation as a narrative to capture and maintain attention.
  • Leadership communication: Leaders can effectively communicate their vision, values and strategy through storytelling. Personal stories can make leaders more relatable.
  • Product or service launches: Use storytelling to create anticipation and excitement around product or service launches. Frame the narrative around the problem your offering solves and the positive impact it can have on customers’ lives.

What skills does storytelling require?

Effective storytelling involves a combination of skills that contribute to creating engaging, compelling and memorable narratives. Here are the key skills needed for effective storytelling:

  • Communication: Clear and effective communication includes articulating speech and conveying ideas in a way that resonates with the audience.
  • Listening: The ability to actively listen to your audience or their feedback is crucial. In consequence, understanding their reactions and adjusting your storytelling accordingly enhances the overall impact.
  • Empathy: Being attuned to the feelings and perspectives of characters and listeners helps create a more authentic and relatable narrative.
  • Creativity: Creativity enables storytellers to craft unique and imaginative narratives outside the box, develop original ideas and present information in novel ways.
  • Adaptability: The ability to adapt your storytelling to different audiences, contexts, or feedback is crucial. Being flexible in your approach ensures that your narrative is relevant and resonant in various situations.
  • Voice modulation: Varying your voice tone, pitch and pace adds dynamics to your storytelling. This skill helps convey emotions, differentiate characters and maintain audience interest.
  • Body language: Non-verbal communication through body language, facial expressions and gestures complements verbal storytelling. Effective use of body language enhances the overall impact of your narrative.
  • Authenticity: Authentic storytelling involves sharing genuine experiences and emotions. Being true to yourself and your message creates a more compelling and trustworthy narrative.
  • Humour: Incorporating humour, when appropriate, adds entertainment value to your storytelling. It lightens the mood, engages your audience and makes your narrative more enjoyable.
  • Time management: Being mindful of time is crucial, especially in contexts with time constraints. Importantly, effective storytellers can convey their message without rushing or losing audience interest.

How to prepare a story for storytelling?

Preparing a story for storytelling involves careful planning and consideration to ensure that your narrative captivates your audience and effectively conveys your intended message. Here are steps to help you prepare a story for storytelling:

  • Define your purpose and audience: Clearly define the purpose of your story and for whom it is. Are you entertaining, informing, inspiring or persuading? Knowing your objective will guide the tone, content and structure of your story and align it with your audience’s interests and expectations.
  • Craft a compelling beginning: Start with a captivating opening that grabs your audience’s attention. For instance, this could be a question, a surprising statement or a vivid description.
  • Develop engaging characters: Create relatable and well-developed characters to anchor your story. Your audience should connect with these characters emotionally, whether they are real people, fictional characters or even concepts.
  • Establish a setting: Set the scene by providing enough detail to help your audience visualise the surroundings and immerse themselves in the narrative.
  • Build a clear plot: Develop a clear and coherent plot with a beginning, middle and end. Simultaneously, ensure that each element contributes to the overall narrative arc.
  • Incorporate conflict and resolution: Introduce conflict or tension to create suspense and keep your audience engaged. Next, resolve the conflict by the end of the story, offering a satisfying or cathartic conclusion.
  • Consider the tone and mood: Determine the appropriate tone and mood for your story. Whether it is humorous, dramatic or inspirational, maintaining a consistent tone contributes to the overall impact.
  • Practice delivery: Rehearse your storytelling to ensure a smooth and confident delivery. For instance, pay attention to your pacing, tone and gestures to refine your storytelling skills.

How can editing services refine your story?

If you need assistance with editing and proofreading your stories or written narratives during National Storytelling Week 2024, editing services can help you refine your writing. Moreover, they may help ensure your stories are clear, engaging and error-free. There are several different types to choose from: 

  • Proofreading is a service that focuses on catching and correcting grammar, spelling and punctuation errors. 
  • Copyediting, on the other hand, goes a step further and also checks for consistency in style and tone. 
  • Line editing is a more in-depth service that involves examining the structure, flow and clarity of the writing. 
  • Finally, developmental editing is a comprehensive service that looks at the big picture of the writing, including plot, character development and more. 

Depending on your needs as a writer, one or more of these editing services may be necessary to ensure that your writing is polished and professional.

What courses can you take to improve your storytelling skills?

In celebration of the National Storytelling Week or to improve your general storytelling skills, consider taking a storytelling course or class. Taking a storytelling course can enhance communication skills, foster creativity and empower individuals to craft compelling narratives that connect with diverse audiences.

Here are some examples of storytelling courses and classes:

  • The Society for Storytelling Gathering is an annual weekend conference containing a number of talks and workshops catering for a variety of interests and levels of experience. In 2024, the Gathering tickets cost £55–£195 for in-person attendance.
  • The Art of Storytelling MasterClass is taught by an award-winning writer Neil Gaiman. The author of Stardust, Coraline and The Sandman teaches how to craft vivid, absorbing fiction. Access to all MasterClasses costs $180 for an annual subscription or $10 per month. There is also a 30-day free trial.
  • The Art Of Storytelling: How to Craft Engaging, Persuasive, and Memorable Stories from SkillShare discusses components of a good story, how to use your voice and body to increase storytelling engagement and how to use stories to improve the relationships you have with others as well as yourself, among others. SkillShare costs $29 per month or $168 per year, with a 7-day free trial.
  • The Story Course by Udemy teaches how to create, write and tell stories that impact and engage your audience each and every time. Over 21,000 students have taken this class taught by Paul Jenkins, a documentary film director and audiobook narrator with over 40 film credits and 20 audiobooks. As of June 2024, this course is discounted and costs £17.99.

Final thoughts

In summary, the National Storytelling Week celebration goes beyond acknowledging traditional storytelling. It stands as a testament to storytelling’s enduring significance in our lives. Not only is this week about oral traditions but also about recognising storytelling’s broader impact on literature, education and community building. Moreover, it invites the exploration of stories in various forms, be it spoken words, written narratives or innovative storytelling.

I am an experienced editor, working with non-fiction, academic and business books. If you need proofreading and editing of your story, contact me for a free sample edit (and remember to use my early bird discount).

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I am an editor, indexer and a lifelong lover of literature with a PhD in literary history. I am an Intermediate Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading, a student member of the Society of Indexers and a vetted partner of the Alliance of Independent Authors.