Monday, April 20, 2009

Should Storytelling Conferences be Professionally Recorded?

Last summer I pushed for the recording of important sessions of the National Storytelling Network’s (NSN) 2008 Conference I was recording my session on the future of storytelling online for this podcast. I figured why not do a little more? I exhausted myself and recorded the membership session and the regional NSN rep session. These recording are the property of NSN. Unluckily I work for myself like most artists and it took me two months to edit the work – then having finished it - I promptly forgot about it. Finally in November I got my copies to the NSN board. Jo Radner, the NSN board chair was very excited about getting some key sessions recorded. I got the feeling the board would have liked faster service – but you know the old saying you get what you pay for and I was free.

Others recorded the Keynotes and the Master storytellers concert. I don’t know what happened to these files. I’m sure the NSN got a copy of them somewhere. The master storytellers performance - Doc McConnell’s last performance - was almost not recorded! I saw the volunteer putting his equipment away before the performance, and when I asked why, I was told by NSN volunteers that the storytellers would never agreed to their work being recorded.

So I walked up to each storyteller and asked them for permission to record their performance “for NSN” with any other uses to be worked out later. They all said yes with a great deal of passion and Doc McConnell said we could do anything NSN wanted with his recording. I’m sure I was too pushy for bystanders

The reality is that storytelling has an advantage over other art forms, because new work is always being created. We all have material that we have not performed in years. We all have stories that were once primary to our performance, but now no longer capture our attention. What if all of that material was still available? Mostly I try to downplay storytellers’ fears by asking this one question: Reframing the whole debate… Do you want to be a part of the historical record?

That is how I would frame this debate over recording conference sessions.

Five years from now if this material is available will it still matter to you? Won’t you be on to other things?
Wouldn’t it be nice to have this historical moment recorded? The question is not “Do we record our conference sessions?” The question really is ”When do we release our conference sessions? One year? Two years? Five years from now?”

The storytelling skill set is timeless – the skills and abilities we have today will not, unlike computers, internet or blogging, become old fashioned – they are ageless. I personally know that the storytelling movement has a lot to offer the world and think it’s time we stepped up to the plate to offer our skills. NSN or any other national organization could be the vehicle for that delivery. Who ever builds a content delivery system around the art of storytelling first will win that race and be the source for the international storytelling movement for the next twenty years. My website is well on the way to being the source for all things relating to storytelling with children, but what about storytelling with seniors, in business, marketing, or any of a dozen different topics that I have not had time or resources to cover in the depth that should be covered?

NSN could be so much more then a network, using it’s conference it could bring the separate candles of the storytelling community into a bright light that would shine forth across the world.

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