Alastair is an experienced public speaker and educator and can give community talks on a range of story-related topics:
Storytelling - The Social Art of Language
People have been telling stories for as long as there has been language and, in this talk, Alastair starts by asking what evolutionary drive led humans to use story to shape experience. From this beginning, he takes his audience on a journey from ancient myths and legends all the way to contemporary approaches to oral storytelling, via the storytelling revival in the 20th century. En route, Alastair will draw on his experience as a performance storyteller to explore the connections between everyday tales that people tell during casual conversation and storytelling as an art form - as well as what makes the oral tradition distinct from the written word.
Fairy Tales: a brief history
Fairy tales are embedded in contemporary culture so that (for instance) an advertiser’s use of the image of a red cloak among trees is immediately recognisable as a reference to Little Red Riding Hood. In this talk, Alastair explores the history of fairy tales from their origins in the oral tradition, their popularisation through the literary salons of the 17th and 18th century, the impact of the moving image on their popularity, and modern reinterpretations.
Power and representation in fairy tales
We cannot underestimate the impact that stories have upon us and our understanding of the world - and this is doubly the case when considering the stories that we share with children. Fairy tales are embedded in western culture and beyond and, in this talk, Alastair unpicks ways in which power is situated in some of the most popular fairy tales, and where these representations have come from, discussing representation in relation to gender, class, age, religion and sexuality.
Literacy learning and storytelling
Being able to both understand narrative and create coherent narratives is essential to the language comprehension that enables learners to both read and compose written texts. In this talk, Alastair looks at how oral storytelling can support the exploration of literature, how it can be used to generate ideas for writing, and its potential to be a low-stakes context for exploring the effect of grammar on meaning.
Storying the past: history and storytelling
Alastair has a life-long fascination with history and has worked as a consultant and resident storyteller for museum education services. He has also written on the connections between history and story and, in this talk, Alastair looks at stories that surround specific artefacts, historical characters, events and themes to explore the ways in which the told narrative shapes how we understand history.
Storying place: how stories turn space to place
Alastair has a deep interest in the way that place is given meaning through story, perhaps an interest that has deep roots in the Anglo-Saxon settlement of his home county of Kent in the 5th century, and where (even today) a person’s tribe is determined from which side of the River Medway they hail – a complex question of identity for someone born on one side of the river and raised on the other. This talk brings together traditional tale and domestic anecdote, historical account and family story, to build a picture of how humans shape their stories to fit the landscape that surrounds them.
A dyslexic learner in a world of print
Alastair wasn’t diagnosed as a dyslexic learner until his mid-thirties, but it was a diagnosis that made sense of much of his life-experience. Perhaps a career focused on oral storytelling makes sense for a dyslexic learner as a means of avoiding working with print but, despite this, Alastair is a published author, achieved a doctorate, and worked as an academic in the field of language and literacy education. In this talk, Alastair not only explores some themes around the impact of dyslexia on his life (including poor spelling and slow reading) but also celebrates the gift of dyslexia in some of its lesser-known traits (such as being able to think in three dimensions).