‘Storyknowing’ symposium & festival

‘Storyknowing’: A Symposium and Festival on Storytelling and Theatre with Young People

This event was held on 22-23 April 2016 at York St John University and York Theatre Royal.  It brought together researchers, arts practitioners, mental health/youth work professionals, teachers and young people (11-18) to explore the artform of storytelling with adolescents – through outstanding practice, workshops and talks.  It also featured performance both by and for young people, across artforms from oral storytelling to dance.

This short film shares the event’s learnings and the issues that were raised by our diverse and vibrant range of participants:

Further information on Storyknowing:

Storyknowing A4


Story is the way humans make sense of the world we live in.  A story does not tell us what to think – it poses questions and leaves spaces for us to interpret them together.  It carries wisdom and experience, and asks us to add our own wisdom and experience before passing it on.  Therefore stories – whether modern, mythical, traditional or fantastical – are particularly important to help young people to position their own lives and difficulties in a wider context, and to become critical, responsible, problem-solving adults.



And yet many young people may rarely hear or have the chance to work with stories.   The revival in performance storytelling has tended to favour adults and the very young, neglecting teenagers and older children.  Tightly planned school curricula or professional anxieties may prevent teachers or mental health professionals from sharing ‘whole stories’, either fictional or personal, with the young people in their care.

So what kinds of stories do young people need to hear?  What do they find in them, and how do they use them to put across their own perspectives?  How might stories help them negotiate with dominant narratives of individualism, economic and academic competition, or physical perfection?

How should practitioners (in the arts, mental health, education or youth work) develop a participatory practice of storytelling? In what ways is this challenging to, or congruent with, current trends in education, mental health and youth work?


For further information about this area of ICAN’s work contact c.heinemeyer@yorksj.ac.uk