Storytelling Festivals: Storytelling in New Zealand with Anna Jarrett: Professional Storyteller



Anna Jarrett

for the Storyteller Magazine, Australian Storytelling Guild (NSW) March 2009


There’s nothing more exciting than jumping on a plane and heading overseas to be part of a storytelling festival. A whole weekend of telling and listening to stories. Mmm I love the idea! The ancient oral art form of telling and listening to stories is alive and well in festivals around the world including Scotland, USA, Australia, Singapore and New Zealand.


While we’re all missing having a regular national storytelling festival in Australia, I thought I’d inspire you with a little review of my most recent experiences of two fine storytelling festivals in New Zealand – The Glistening Waters International Storytelling Festival (held biennially during October in Masterton on the north island), and the Southern Skies Storytelling Festival, a new festival held in Invercargill on the south island).


Both festivals have a uniquely delightful style, woven together with cultural threads of contemporary New Zealand life and traditional Maori culture.  One of the most powerful experiences for me was being part of the Maori Powhirri in Masterton. The visiting storytellers gathered with families, youth and elders to watch a cultural storytelling show and to listen to the Maori voices speaking in their language, telling their stories and talking about the importance of storytelling as a way to bring communities together. It brought tears to my eyes experiencing the healing power of story to bring cultures and generations together in a space where community voices can be heard loud and clear.


The audiences in the New Zealand storytelling festivals were small (a few hundred), but the hearts of the festivals were big. Both the Glistening Waters and the Southern Skies Storytelling Festival showcased international as well as local storytellers. This rich mix created a dynamic and sometimes surprising program of stories and music.


At the Southern Skies Storytelling Festival, I had the chance to spend some intimate time with two master tellers from USA , Diane Ferlatte and Jay O’Callahan. And what masters they are! Meeting the masters is a humbling and inspiring way to find new ideas and different ways to tell our own engaging stories. Mastering the art of telling stories on stage to large audiences needs practice, coaching and more practice. Masterclasses provide a safe and supportive environment for us to grow as storytellers and to really look inside what makes a story and  a storytelling work.


The Glistening Waters Storytelling Festival provides story listeners many different opportunities for experiencing storytelling in large stage shows as well as intimate solo sessions in classrooms. It was wonderful to have three Aussie storytellers invited to the 2008 Glistening Waters Festival (myself, Donna Jacobs Sife and Hendre Roelink). Alas, I was too busy performing to be able to attend many of the solo sessions, but I heard great things about these sessions and really enjoyed my own solo time. In the coziness of a classroom (out of school hours!), thirty or so people can gather to hear a whole hour of stories from one teller.


Storytelling festivals are a place to make new storytelling friends, to hear new stories, to pick up some storytelling technical tips and to feel the pure pleasure and magic of being immersed in stories all weekend.


Be sure to include these two New Zealand storytelling festivals in your calendar.

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Coming up for me this year is the Singapore International Storytelling Festival.

I’m excited to be invited to be a feature teller and will be presenting at the festival

Sept 3 – 6 2009.  Read the article.

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Last updated, Monday February 08, 2016


All content © 2004/2016 Anna Jarrett t/a the Travelling Storyteller.