Erasure & Enchantment

sky madien

We are delighted to invite you to join friends and colleagues at a gathering of the Centre for Narrative Leadership to be held at Hawkwood College, Stroud from 11.00am on Monday 8th to 4.00pm on Tuesday 9th July 2013. This will be our eighth gathering since we formed in December 2007 and it will be a wonderful opportunity to explore new themes, share our practice and enjoy good fellowship in a beautiful summer setting.

The title of the gathering comes from conversations with Dr Arran Stibbe of Gloucester University (whose book Animals Erased explores how we “erase” the vibrant actuality of the natural world from our language in order to exploit it) about the role of storytelling in re-connecting us to the more-than-human world.

The story
As always we start our gathering with a story. This one is a bushman tale from South Africa and the version here is from Ashley Ramsden’s and Sue Hollingsworth’s fabulous new book The Storyteller’s Way:
There was once a man who kept a herd of black and white cows that gave him milk everyday. One day the milk dried up and he couldn’t understand why. He took them to better pasture but there was still no milk, so he decided to stay up all night to see if someone was stealing it.
    That night he hid himself by the kraal and waited. In the middle of the night, a rope descended from the sky and climbing down this rope came beautiful maidens, each carrying a calabash. As he watched, they milked his cows until the calabashes were full and then climbed back up the rope. Suddenly the man sprang to life and chased after them. He managed to catch hold of the ankle of the youngest and most beautiful maiden and pulled her back to the ground.” Stay with me and be my wife,” he said.
    “I will,” she answered, “but only on one condition. You must never look in this basket I’m carrying on my back.”
    “Of course, I agree,” he replied.
    Back to the house they went and lived happily for some time. The cows gave milk and all was well. One day he came home early and she wasn’t there. He looked at the basket in the corner and he thought to himself, “I’m sure she won’t mind if I just take a peek.” So he lifted the lid and looked inside. When he saw what was there, he laughed and, closing the lid, went back to what he was doing. When she came home she looked at him and knew at once what had happened.
    “You’ve opened the basket.”
    “Yes,” he said. “But it doesn’t matter, there’s nothing in it!”
    At this she turned and, without saying a word, walked out of the door, never to return.

Why do you think the sky-maiden left? What do you think might happen next? How else might the story have gone? Maybe there’s a clue in something that master-storyteller Roald Dahl once wrote:
    And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.

The event
One reason why environmental activists like, Sharon Blackie, David Abram and Stephan Harding are calling for a revival of oral storytelling is that stories deal not with abstract nouns and generalised concepts but with particular places and characters. Perhaps we need the power of storytelling to re-enchant our disenchanted world: to make it real once more so that we cannot hide the damage we are doing behind the impoverished jargon of “erasure”.

At this gathering, we are going to explore the potential of our work as storytellers, leaders, researchers, and consultants to counteract the banal language of exploitation and to re-animate our relationship with the planet.

We’d like you to bring your stories, experience, curiosity, questions and offers and suggestions for sessions (see ‘how you can help’) in the spirit of peer-inquiry.

In the programme so far
New member, Dr Arran Stibbe (with whom Chris Seeley, Chris Nichols and I worked on a recent programme at Schumacher College) will be contributing a session introducing us to his ground-breaking work on the language of erasure and how it has entered the discourse of sustainability. Arran’s style is informal, accessible and participative; we’ll get a very practical feel for how erasure occurs and the extent of its pernicious effect.

Charlene Collison, storyteller and sustainability consultant is offering a session on the role stories can play in facilitating change for sustainability. The session will be based on her work in communities,  NGO’s, and drawing on her collaborative research with storytellers and practitioners over the last few years. This research has culminated in a book, “Storytelling for a Greener World: Community, Connection and Change” which will be published by the Hawthorn Press in 2014.

And that is just the starting point; there is plenty of time and space for other contributions. We are very much a peer community and the gathering is a great place to try out new ideas, test an exercise or simply to engage people with a powerful question. Don’t be shy!
At the gathering we will inquire together as a community of storytelling practitioners into such questions.  We will also create informal opportunities to explore our practice and share experiences.  There will be time for swapping stories, socialising over meals and an evening ceilidh to meet, relax and enjoy each other’s company.

How you can help
Please justify our shared hopes and ambition for the Centre by making an early commitment to attending the gathering.  As well as attending yourself, there are two other ways in which you can help to ensure the success of the event.

First, we want to extend ‘membership’ of the Centre by asking you to invite other people who you believe would be interested in, benefit from, contribute to and enjoy Erasure and Enchantment. Our core constituency includes leaders, developers and researchers as well as storytellers but we are also open to ‘wild card’ invitations to people you know and trust from other fields including clients (bearing in mind that this is a participative event rather than a showcase).

Second, please come forward with offers to facilitate sessions, bring case studies, run workshops, share stories, initiate projects, and whatever else you would like to see at the gathering.  You do not have to be an expert just enthusiastic and committed. Your active participation is essential to shape the Centre in the ways that you want to see it develop.

The venue
Hawkwood College ( is set in 42 acres of beautiful gardens, woods and fields, with its own spring water and wonderful views of Cotswold hills and valleys. It is easily accessible from Heathrow and London by train (direct service between Paddington and Stroud) and by road (M4/A46).

Booking and fees
The gathering is being run as a low-cost (not for profit) event. We will have a maximum of 24 places for this event which is offered at £130-150 (residential) or £80 (non-residential) inclusive of VAT. This includes use of the facilities, all meals and refreshments.  On-site accommodation is in pleasant bedrooms with shared bathroom facilities.

Please use the separate booking form to register your application to attend. Payment in full is required at the time of application. A VAT receipt/invoice will be provided on request.

You can download the booking form here: Booking Form

Further information
For further information contact Geoff Mead  or call him on 07966-840669 (mobile) or 01297- 445077 (office).