Monday 27 February 2012

I have a new job

I am now the 'Curator of Stories' at The Story Museum in Oxford.

The museum will open in 2014, by which time, there will be a body of stories, (let's say, 1001) which are in effect, the museum's collection. These will be a core resource for anyone using the museum - whether that's the people who run it, appear there or plan exhibits; or whether that's curious and interested people coming to the museum or the museum's website.

I suppose another way of looking at the job is that it's analogous to a 'dramaturg' - the person who works in a theatre aiding and helping directors and producers to find shows that would be good to put on, to find out new things going on in the theatre which might help or add to the repertoire in some way.

As it happens, my step-mother, Betty Rosen, a great storyteller herself and author of 'And None of it Was Nonsense' and 'Stories and Polishers' - books about telling stories in schools, put my way today the postscript to the first of these books called 'Stories of Stories' by Harold Rosen, my father.

It's just the sort of paper or document that will be my job to circulate around for people to read, discuss, argue with along with my job of digging around in the story mines of the world.

Of course, storytellers and writers do this too and the museum will be opening its doors (as it already has) to many different kinds of tellers, and many different ways of telling stories. What I'll be doing is not intended to cramp anyone's style or contradict what others do. One of the key ways in which this museum will work is through diversity and variation. I'm hoping to contribute to that.

In the meantime, here's a small thought from Walter Benjamin that comes via another of my father's essays, 'The Nurture of Narrative' (from Stories and Meanings, NATE 1985):  Benjamin says, 'A proverb, one might say, is a ruin which stands on the site of an old story and in which a moral twines about a happening like ivy round a wall.'

My father goes on to talk about how any proverb - and a good deal of aphorisms that people come up with - are in effect moments from stories. We could if we wanted to resurrect some kind of story around, say, 'Too many cooks spoil the broth' or 'A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush' or 'A cat may look at a king'.

In fact, apart from anything else, it's quite good fun to do so!