Author and Storyteller Katy Cawkwell visits Penrice Academy

Devon-based author and storyteller Katy Cawkwell visited Penrice Academy on Friday 12 November in order to lead workshops with the Year 7 and Year 10 students.

Katy’s workshops are fast gaining a reputation amongst the school community and English teacher Mr Newton was keen to share Katy’s infectious enthusiasm for storytelling with Penrice students.

Mr Newton explained:

“The whole idea of today’s visit is to spark an interest in storytelling in our students. English can often be stereotyped as being, dry, dull and boring, so we want to challenge this concept. We want to get our pupils excited about literature and take English outside of the classroom.”

During the morning, in the first of her storytelling performances, Katy brought to life the story of Odysseus and Penelope; one of the oldest stories in Europe. The story was chosen as it accompanied pupils’ studies of Greek myths in English.

Katy explained:

“It’s often a story that goes down well with young students in Year 7 with Odysseus and the cyclops which is exciting and grizzly. You’ve also got a really strong female character (Penelope) in this story which isn’t always the case in older stories.”

She added:

The real power of storytelling is the storyteller’s ability to enter the world of the story, see it as if it is going on around them, and communicate that to the audience in a way that creates pictures in everyone’s minds.

In the afternoon session, Katy plans to captivate a Year 10 audience as she tells the tales of some of Shakespeare’s plays to help students visualise the plots of relevant GCSE stories.

She explains:

“It’s not trying to re-enact the whole play. It’s about trying to take the story within the play and tell it really clearly and dramatically so that it brings it to life for students and helps with their understanding of key texts.”

Katy has a wealth of experience in leading storytelling workshops for schools having started almost 25 years ago.

When asked to give one piece of advice to aspiring young storytellers, Katy said:

The key to storytelling is practise. Find opportunities to give storytelling a go with friends and family; it can be a great low-key way to improve your skills and you will learn as you go. You can practise at home, on a family walk, or on a long car journey; there are so many opportunities.”