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The Wonder of Stories

At Circus Starr we know a story told well is very powerful. Stories help us share the difference our shows make with donors and through live performance can fire imaginations and make worries melt away!

What makes stories so important to us?

Stories have been with us from the beginning of time. Throughout our evolution stories have helped us survive and thrive. They help us make meaning of our lives and can create an emotional connection.

A story told well can enable our brains to simulate what it would be like to live those events. That’s why a horror story can scare us even though there is no danger present.

Stories are full of possibilities. Lives can be changed by story-telling.

All the reasons why we’ve decided to tap into story-telling to engage better with children and young people who are non-verbal or don’t use words to communicate.  

One woman has had a profound effect on how we see the power of stories and what we could learn about inclusion through the act of sharing them. Her name is Joanna Grace and she is the driving force behind the Sensory Stories Project.

Joanna helped us a couple of years ago when we were putting together a sensory box for children with visual impairments. Her advice was invaluable. This led us to explore the work she was doing creating sensory stories to engage individuals with PMLD and commissioned her to write a story for us.

You can download this story and some guidance notes here.  

This year we asked for Jo’s help in finding sensory storytellers who could help us create and deliver sensory stories to families and groups of school children with complex needs before and after the shows.

Introducing our sensory storytellers…

Julia Collar runs Collar & Cuffs Co, a tiny multi-sensory musical theatre company specialising in work for early years children and those with complex needs. Her work focuses on topics relating to children's emotional development, mental health, and wellbeing, and in a short space of time - the company was established in April 2016 - she has won multiple awards for her productions, projects and entrepreneurial spirit. Julia tours all over the UK visiting schools, early years settings, festivals, theatres, and even people's homes to bring tiny worlds and big feelings to life. When not on tour, Julia can be found working with a range of organisations including art galleries, theatres, and community spaces delivering training or developing sensory experiences, resources and initiatives for children and families. Using her theatre experience, Julia's approach to sensory stories has a strong performance focus and she's interested not only in how performance concepts can be interpreted using stories and sensory experiences but in how sensory stories can become performances in their own right. For more information see www.collarandcuffs.org. 

Tracey Smith and Sarah Gardiner are both based in Shropshire and have 20 years of experience working with Children with Special Educational Needs between them. They bring extensive working knowledge of teaching a Sensory Curriculum and are currently teaching in a Specialist class for Children with Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties.  

They regularly use sensory stories, musical interaction, dance massage, story massage and tacpac in the classroom. They have written their own sensory stories e.g. A trip to the seaside. This story transported the children on a sensory journey - hearing the seagulls, feeling the cool sea breeze on faces, dipping toes into the crashing sea, feeling the sand between fingers while making sandcastles and sharing an ice cream. They have also adapted well-known stories and put their own twist on them to create a sensory experience. Both Sarah and Tracey believe that this project could become a whole family experience providing ideas and stories that can be continued after the Circus Starr performance.

They bring their knowledge and enthusiasm for providing the most exciting experience ever and one the children and their families will recall for a lifetime.

We look forward to reporting back on the sensory story pilot at the end of the autumn tour.  

By Rachel Oliver on 21st September, 2018

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