Latitudes Storytelling Festival: Part 2 with Guest Blogger Lori-Ann Livingston

In the previous guest blog of Latitudes Storytelling Festival founder Lori-Ann Livingston, Lori-Ann answered questions about the benefits of storytelling, why the festival was founded, and what she hoped to accomplish with the festival.

In today’s guest blog, we learn about the use of computer technology at the festival.


1. How do you incorporate computer technology with your festival?

This is something we’ve started exploring in the last couple of years, with our partnership with Dwight Storring, a digital storyteller and photographer. Dwight’s workshops help individuals craft their stories in such a way that the story is foremost. The story audio is recorded, matched with some personal images, edited on the computer, and somehow, miraculously, a story emerges with poignancy, advocacy, reflection and personal insight.

Our Made in Kitchener project, which Dwight also initiated, uses QR codes on stickers on the sidewalks — once the code is scanned, it takes you to a series of stories about several locations around downtown Kitchener; former factories, union halls, churches, etc.
We’ve also had bloggers and app developers and filmmakers on our stages to tell their stories, and the connections they make through stories. And for awhile, we had a story geocache, which is a bit like a treasure hunt using clues and a GPS to find the cache. In ours, people who found it could leave a story, or take one of ours. I think our cache is no longer around, though. It’s gone to find its own story . . .

I’d like to add, though, that technology takes a back seat to the story. It’s a means to an end.


2. Do you find the use of the latest technology to be controversial? Some people are very traditional; what would you say to them about that?

Yes, there are many storytellers in this area; they are traditional tellers with amazing repertoires and performance experience, and without them, there would be no storytelling in this area. Many are purists, who would feel the festival has got it kind of wrong. I sort of feel like I’m a bit of an upstart, though. I have no storytelling experience — I think of myself as a story writer — and yet, with the help of a lot of people, and the hard work of a few, we have this unusual storytelling festival that embraces technology and the arts as tools or means to tell stories. It doesn’t quite fit with tradition. I wouldn’t say it’s controversial, maybe; at least that’s not the sense I get. Traditional storytellers are artists, too; don’t get me wrong. Their craft requires the same creativity and discipline and joy that artists thrive upon. I guess I’m just looking at story a bit differently. It’s not better, it’s not worse, and there is a place for everyone around the storytelling circle, I think.


3. How can parents bring storytelling into their home?

Made in Kitchener

Latitudes and Longitudes Storytelling Project

(Click on “Garret’s trip to Ireland” for a good example of how children can become involved.)


Thank you to Lori-Ann Livingston for sharing her insights about Latitudes Storytelling Festival. This year’s festival is to be held on June 22-June 23. We hope to see you there.

An Excellent Book to Read to your Child on Earth Day

I read the book called “Winston of Churchill” to my daughter last week. It was recommended by TVO parents as one of the best science books.

Written by Jean Davies Okimoto, the story is about a polar bear called Winston who comes every year to the ice by Churchill. Winston is the type of bear that every bear listens to. So when he asks all the polar bears to band together in order to save their ice and home, every bear but one agrees. The other bear only will agree to cooperate if Winston stops a damaging habit and shows every bear that every little bit counts.

When I finished reading the book, my daughter was left with many questions. How can what we are doing affect the bears? Don’t the trees take care of it?

I said that we are doing too much harm now to let the trees take care of all of it. And many trees are being chopped down.

That left her thinking. She decided that she wanted to make a sign that said “save our trees”.

I love books that make a child ask questions.

New writing challenge: Chapter book challenge anthology

A group of us at the chapter book challenge are getting together and writing stories for an anthology in support of the challenge. Each story will be a fairy tale, either a new one or one with a twist on a standard one. The story also is supposed to be flash fiction, maximum 700 words.

I love fairy tales. But my favourites were not the sweet ones where everybody lives “happily ever after”. I loved bittersweet ones like “The Little Mermaid” (not the Disney version) and even “The Little Match Girl”. They were truer to my reality. And probably my all time favourite is “The Ugly Duckling”, because it gave me hope that one day I would turn into a swan too.

I decided to dust off my Rumpstiltskin fractured fairy tale and rewrite parts of it. And then I was thinking that I would submit an original one about a cherry tree I created after my daughter, heartbreakingly, told me she didn’t like herself, because she doesn’t have long hair (like every other girl in her class). But I could go instead with a story about jars that I had created for my daughter when she was 3 or 4 and had left sitting for a long time.

Right now you can still sign up to be a part of the chapter book challenge anthology. Or you can sign up for next year’s challenge. And stayed tuned for word when the anthology is available for purchase.

What are your favourite fairy tales? And which ones would you love to write with a twist?

Storytelling: Latitudes Storytelling Festival with Guest Blogger Lori-Ann Livingston

We sat there, enchanted, my daughter and I, for several hours. Around us were many other children and adults, some sprawled on the comfortable pillows, others leaning forward on the chairs, drawn into the storytellers’ weaving of their tales.

We were at Latitudes Storytelling Festival, an annual event, which is part of the Tapestry series. It is held in Victoria Park in Kitchener and surrounded by the sights and sounds of the Multicultural Festival. I always pick out my food at the Multicultural Festival, and then head on over to the storytelling tent, where I know I won’t be disappointed.

It’s not easy to be a storyteller. You need to be able to  connect with the audience, often only using your voice and your facial expressions. I often wonder how they can do it. A bit of research told me that because of the connection between the listener and teller, the social element of language is employed.

While I admire those who can captivate with an oral tale, I am a storyteller of a different nature, one who pens her stories. But I love listening to stories, just as much as I love reading them.

I admit that I spend my time in the children’s section, although there is a section for adults. Last year, one of the highlights was Rukhsana Khan telling her story, which is now an award winning book called “The Big Red Lollipop”.

Listening to stories used to hold a very important place in every culture, before stories were written down. Somewhere along the line, it took on less importance. But now many people, realizing the benefits of storytelling, are reviving it. The result of one study suggested that among other benefits children could recall more from listening to a storyteller than from reading a story. This is because storytellers tend to use more gestures, repetition, and sounds when telling a story.

So I wanted to hear from Lori-Ann Livingston, the founder of the festival, about why she founded the festival, what she hopes it brings, and her take on technology in today’s storytelling.

Lori-Ann has kindly done some guest blogging for me. Here today is the first of two parts.


1. What are the benefits of storytelling?

Storytelling explores community narrative. It teaches, passes on wisdom and humour and history. Those are benefits ancient civilizations have known for ages (literally!). Other benefits are that stories entertain. Hollywood knows that. I think storytelling helps cultures and communities understand each other. It’s hard to argue with someone when you know their story. You might not agree with their point of view, but you can’t dismiss it, either.

This community has stories of new Canadians, refugees, abuse, innovation, war, faith and so many other threads that make it up. I see the value in capturing some of those stories, whatever way we can, and also in sharing those with an audience, so that there is a legacy of story to pass on.


2. Why did you decide to found a storytelling festival?

I didn’t start out to create a storytelling festival. I started out inspired by a liberal arts festival in the UK called Greenbelt, which mixes the arts with religion and politics and storytelling in all sorts of ways. I wanted to re-create that open dialogue, open approach here when we moved back to Canada, but somehow it morphed into a storytelling festival. Not a bad thing at all. I still feel like the right thing happened at the right time, with the right people.

So, that kernel of a liberal arts festival that’s down to earth, creative, mindful of the environment, etc. — those are all things I aspire to for my festival, and maybe achieve some of the time. But it wasn’t until Trinity United Church, a downtown Kitchener congregation, wanted to celebrate one of their milestones that we saw how a storytelling festival would be a good fit. Indeed, that first festival in 2006 had a room dedicated to Trinity’s stories, and stories of faith. Which I think is an important part of my story, and many people’s stories.


3. What do you hope to accomplish with your storytelling festival?
I hope we have created something that appeals to all walks of people, because we use such a broad range of the arts and technology to tell stories on our stages. I hope people will think about story differently, in particular, their own narrative and how that intersects with the community. I’d like to think we’re a bit cutting-edge, as we make forays into digital storytelling, talk to app developers and bloggers and journalists about the power of story.

And I want people to get away from the notion or perception that stories are just for children.


For more information about Latitudes Storytelling Festival, go to their website.

Stay tuned for part two, where Lori-Ann blogs about using technology with storytelling.