Communities are woven together by a collection of diverse stories.
The stories represent different times in our history, people that did great things, battles that were fought, won and lost, but most of all they talk about people who called this region home.
“The Kootenays is just full of stories,” said Ray Stothers. “Everywhere you look there is some character or characters doing something. You look at our civic politics, the provincial version of our politics, the kinds of economic development, our underground economy of all sorts, the Doukhobor background, our experience during the war with the Japanese and the experience of our men and women going away to both wars, there are so many stories to be told.”
Stothers along with a group of storytellers like Richard Rowberry started gathering at the Backalley Studio in the fall as an attempt to foster a space that would inspire Nelson storytellers.
“There’s so much artistry in Nelson, and the storytellers guild is an attempt to create a space where this kind of artisan quality can take root in the craft of storytelling; where the people who are trying to storytell will have the opportunity to develop in that way so that maybe some day we as a group of people will be able to contact the Scottish International Storytelling Festival and say ‘Hey, we really have somebody here that you should consider,” said Stothers.
Stothers had a career as a professional storyteller which took him around the world. He no longer calls himself a “professional” but is hoping he will be able to guide others who want to pursue a similar path.
“For a couple of decades I couldn’t imagine doing anything but storytelling. It took me through Scotland and Ireland, most of Western Canada and parts of the States. It’s fabulous and it’s a wonderful way to survive, but it’s virtually impossible to raise a family unless you’re married to somebody who has some kind of income stream that can support a family in these days,” he said.
The guild welcomes all new and experienced storytellers, and even those who just want to listen, and the hope is that aspiring storytellers will be given the support and mentorship from others to potentially move them forward.
“I might recognize somebody who can pursue storytelling professionally, and they might get something out of my touring experience, or Richard’s touring experience,” said Stothers.
The guild was born after several attempts at keeping a storytelling festival alive in Nelson.
The festival struggled with what many volunteer run events face: funding.
“The festival ran into the same dilemma that almost all not-for-profit societies run into, and that is, it’s difficult to get all the administration done by volunteers. Eventually, in usually seven to 10 years, they burn out and the festival as successful as it was — it was a brilliant little jewel that people would even drive up from Spokane for — there was no way to sustain it from a volunteer perspective,” said Stothers.
A group gathered again shortly after the original incarnation of the festival fell away to try and inspire the growth of a new festival.
Stothers said the goal was that little by little the festival would create a foundation which could eventually lead to a paid administrator, but then the event lost its funding.
“We couldn’t even afford to put on a proper festival anymore, so then what? The resource of story is still here. You look at the way the museum is built. There are stories oozing out of every crack in that place,” he said.
Stothers said the ideal place to hone the storytelling craft is in a “beautiful cave” with candlelight or a fire, but with no cave available the guild began meeting monthly at the Backalley Studio.
The group meets once a month on a Sunday at 7 p.m. and will be gathering on New Year’s Day.
For more information on the guild contact Stothers at firstname.lastname@example.org