Art of the Storyteller

Art of the Storyteller: Lesley O’Brien

The gift of storytelling is one of life’s most powerful – and coveted – skills. A well told story can make you laugh, weep, swell with pride, or rise with indignation and human beings are fundamentally hard-wired for stories: they are how we record both the small, everyday moments and the monumental events of life. But in an oversaturated world, where you can “connect” digitally to anything, anyone and anywhere in the world, how does one of the world’s earliest, basest and affective artforms thrive for a 21st century audience? What are the skills, experiences and inspirations that drive contemporary storytelling? What are the passions and approaches of today’s storytellers?

“Storytelling is good medicine.” (Lesley O’Brien) 

Lesley O'BrienAn exploration of these questions and a performance of traditional storytelling will take place at the Centre this December with two of the Scottish Storytelling Centre’s directory storytellers, who will exemplify storytelling as both a vibrant performance art as well as a transferrable skill that can be applied to any discipline.

The Storytelling Centre spoke to Lesley O’Brien, who will be leading a workshop and performance with Tim Porteus on Fri 11 Dec, and asked her a few quick fire questions about her passion for the art of storytelling. Born and raised in Glasgow’s East End, Lesley’s passion for storytelling lies in the fact that stories not only entertain, but also help us to understand ourselves and others. Lesley also utilises her storytelling skills as a Family Resource Worker with Glasgow Women’s Aid.

How did you become a storyteller?

It is, of course, a long story, but the short version is I wrote a children’s tale which led me to discover traditional storytelling. I attended storytelling clubs and training opportunities in Glasgow and Edinburgh – including the Scottish Storytelling Centre – and asked a professional storyteller who I admired, to be my mentor. I also learned a lot from being part of a peer support group of professional storytellers who held a specific interest in storytelling with therapeutic intent.

What do you love most about storytelling?

It feeds my soul. It inspires me to write music, songs, stories and poetry and connects me with so many wonderful people, who often share their stories and skills. It’s a great way to encourage others to tell their stories to help them in recovery from experiences that have caused suffering such as domestic abuse, mental health problems, and drug and alcohol addiction.

What is your favourite thing about performing as a storyteller?

The buzz, inside of me and in the room. The feel good factor and energy of performing live and unscripted, creating in the moment. And more recently, the buzz of storytelling with my new band Kittlinclapperdin, a fusion of poetry, song and storytelling with guitar, fiddle, flute and clarsach.

Kittlinclapperdin performing in Glasgow

What’s your favourite story and why?

A story I tell inspired by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, La Loba – The Wolf Woman, because I love transformation stories – I identify with the character and symbolism in it. I discovered this story not long after splitting from a long term relationship and then delving into the world of storytelling. The story mirrored my feelings about the death of my relationship and the birth of my new creative and professional path. It inspired me as a singer, musician, poet and storyteller, and I have recently worked with musicians to include fiddle, clarsach and flute in the telling of this tale. It also helped me express my grief for the loss of a family member because of the life/death cycle in the story, through the music it inspired.

How would you convince someone to come along to a storytelling event for the first time?

Did you love getting stories read to you as a child? Then you’ll love this. There’s no book this time though, instead they’re told from the heart.


Art of the Storyteller Workshop | Fri 11 Dec | 4pm (2hrs) | £15 (£12 Network members)

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Art of the Storyteller Performance | Fri 11 Dec | 7.30pm (2hrs) | £8 (£6)

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For the evening performance, Lesley and Tim will be joined by Kittlinclapperdin members Margaret Smith (flautist and storyteller) and Lisa Petticrew (violinist).