Rob Parkinson
Rob Parkinson

All About Rob Parkinson

Rob has visited literally thousands of schools to perform and to lead workshop sessions. He has also ‘done his stuff’ at arts centres, theatres, festivals and libraries large and small, as well as less likely locations – pubs, castles, restaurants, supermarkets, gardens, shopping centres, bandstands, zoos and even shacks in the Australian outback and logs beside Canadian rivers. He has made various appearances on national TV and radio, chaired the Society for Storytelling in the mid nineties, ran a story club and edited a storytelling magazine. His publications range from poetry and stories for children to fiction for adults, self-development texts, books about the many practical uses of stories and metaphor plus several CD’s of stories, music and songs.

He is available for:-
• Performances for large and small school audiences (from nursery through primary and secondary stages)
• Performances and talks for parents and family audiences
• Shorter one-off workshop sessions on a range of themes (including story telling, oral story making and plot elaboration, story writing, poetry, narrative verse and song writing)
• Longer workshops and workshop series
• Able Writers sessions
• Special literacy sessions for more reluctant writers
• INSET and courses for students

Rob’s School Visits

In performances for schools, he draws on a repertoire of over 600 tales from around the world, his own stories, poems and fantasy songs, plus jokes, riddles and tricks. Performances also feature an astonishing array of unusual ancient and ethnic instruments: from medieval harp, renaissance cittern, psaltery and lute to Turkish saz, Moroccan gumbri and other ethnic stringed instruments, plus a wide range of percussion instruments, all played to a high standard and complemented by virtuosic skills on guitar.

Storytelling and Story Writing Workshops
Imaginative workshop ideas for encouraging pupils’ own story making, telling and writing have been an important feature of Rob’s output. He was a pioneer in the field long before the recent interest in talk into writing. Rob has also studied and written extensively about the many other extraordinary uses of stories and storytelling and trains adult professionals in many walks of life, particularly including education, therapy and healthcare.

His INSET sessions have been widely praised. Publications include major explorations of the role of storytelling in change work and schemes for taking storytelling and imaginative education beyond basic literacy, as well as linking storytelling, writing and using story and storytelling approaches across the curriculum.

‘I like loads of this book… In fact it’s all cool, especially Arthur’s Spaces Luggage because mum’s are just like that. Also songs like Fred the Dragon and Winston and the Wolves, which you can listen to as well as read and the stories and the one about sisters because my sister is a pain too.’ – Harry (age 10) reviewing My Dad’s Not a Dog 

‘I find myself bursting out laughing every time I dip into it and I just really enjoy it …. Being a dog owner I love My Dog rolled in Poo and I LOVE Happy Days – it really is great’ – Jan Dannenburg My Dad’s Not a Dog 

Poetry, Songs and Verse

Rob’s fun fantasy and narrative songs remain hugely popular with children. His poetry often stresses the story side, ranging from pure humour to imaginative experiments with old oral poetry techniques in modern forms to acute insight into children’s ways of thinking. Rob reads or recites poetry/verse from memory with the same powerful energy and feel for communication that is typical of his dramatic storytelling style.

Rob works with all primary and secondary age ranges.

Performances. Choice of material can be left open or Rob can shape programmes to have a particular emphasis, following suitable agreed themes. Material is always chosen spontaneously from a long list of options and adapted on the day to suit; no two performances are ever the same and completely different programmes can be presented on return visits. Audience size is flexible from very large to small groups.

Workshops. Shorter sessions can be combined with big audience performances during a day. Longer full and half day workshop sessions (whether for able writers or those needing extra encouragement in literacy skills) explore ways in which storytelling links into writing and include developed themes such as Adventure Stories, Fantasy Quests, Wishes Three, Fabulous Fables, The Voyage of Mael Dun and other Strange Journeys of Exploration, Fantastic Families and Tall Tale Telling. Workshop sessions are more usually for class-size groups, though oral workshop sessions can also be given for larger groups up to 100.

Storytelling and Story Writing Workshops. Imaginative workshop ideas for encouraging pupils’ own story making, telling and writing have been an important feature of Rob’s output. He was a pioneer in the field long before the recent interest in talk into writing. Rob has also studied and written extensively about the many other extraordinary uses of stories and storytelling and trains adult professionals in many walks of life, particularly including education, therapy and healthcare. His INSET sessions have been widely praised. Publications include major explorations of the role of storytelling in change work and schemes for taking storytelling and imaginative education beyond basic literacy, as well as linking storytelling and writing and using story and storytelling approaches across the curriculum.

Younger Secondary (Y7 & 8):
Approaches are broadly similar to those described above for primary schools. Performance material includes different choices and is developed differently to suit the ages involved. Workshops may also cover some more advanced ways of exploring or creating stories through telling.

Middle Secondary (Y9 & 10):
Sessions are still first of all imaginative and fascinating fun. They also subtly explore the vital connection of storytelling, story making and imagination with personal ‘meaning making’. Workshops develop an understanding of story skills and their application in speaking and listening and in both creative and critical writing, also teaching some valuable imagining routines.

Older Secondary Pupils Through 6th form
For general extra-curricular interest, this last approaches described above are extended and developed at more sophisticated levels.
For creative writing students, the many creative possibilities of traditional plots and motifs are explored in talk-into-writing workshops.
For literature students, Rob can perform parts of his Tales on Canterbury Tales show, based on Chaucer’s famous work, telling versions of the tales in modern English with some passages of Middle English plus medieval instruments, irreverent songs and modern guitar as originally featured on Carlton TV and at various arts centres and theatres in the nineties. He also runs workshops on this theme, giving students a practical insight into how stories can be re-written and ‘re-visioned’.

Special Schools:
Rob has extensive experience of working with pupils in various kinds of special school. The versatile musical dimension of his work as well as the flexibility of storytelling itself as he practises it allows him to adapt across the full range of learning ability.

INSET Sessions for Education Professionals:
Rob gives expertly focused training sessions for teachers and assistants etc. on a series of themes. Shorter sessions (twilight or as part of mixed training days) can follow themes such as:-
• Storytelling for pupils: where next? Practical ways to build from talk into writing and uses of storytelling as a super-powered learning tool across the curriculum. How this can be evidence-based practice.
• Storytelling: the skill of telling stories and how to develop it in yourself.
• Storytelling into writing: practical techniques for literacy and beyond.
• How to draw inspiration from tradition: from shaping plots to language patterns.
• Storytelling and music: how to use music to tell stories/how to use music to make stories.
• Using stories with difficult children and children’s difficulties.
• Guided imagination and stories: from creative stimulus to therapeutic tool.

Full day sessions can combine some of these themes (by agreement) with overall joined up thinking about developing stories and storytelling for literacy and beyond, making it clear how essential ‘the skill of the story’ is and how understanding this enhances learning on many fronts.

Parents and Family Audiences: Currently Rob’s show, ‘My Fantastic Family’ presents stories and verse for all the family, with something to engage all ages. Sessions for parents only might be focused on pure entertainment, reminding them of what children enjoy about simply using their ‘imaginative muscles’. There may equally (on request) be more obvious teaching functions, for example explaining the value of stories and imaginative education with convincing arguments and statistics as well as pure passion.

Higher & Further Education/Training Courses: Rob has very extensive experience of training adult professionals in the use of stories and metaphor for communication and for their powerful effects. Talks, seminars and workshops are available on this theme. He also explores the relevance of traditional patterns and ways of telling in creative writing workshops.

Speeches: Rob is a witty, entertaining and inspiring speaker, able to handle serious themes with a light touch and to engage large mixed audiences as well as responding to more intimate occasions.

Abroad: For performance work overseas, Rob travels with a range of smaller instruments that allow him to integrate his musical skills. Stories are an international language and adapt well to listeners with differing cultural experience.

Samples of Rob’s Writing

Once upon a storyteller

(Poems to recite before and after telling a story)

1.

Once upon a weird world
where white is black and black is white,
Once upon a feared world
where bright is dark and dark is light,

Once upon a wacky world
where everything works the other way round,
Once upon a tacky world
Where smiles lurk in upside frowns,

Then twice upon the listed time
Where history dances on a line
And thrice upon a twisted time
Where raunchy rats recite rude rhymes,
Then four times on an impossible star
And five times round a frosted car,
And six and seven and eight, nine, ten
And shall I go through all that again?
Or shall I just get on and say
It happened only yesterday?

2.

Once there was but twice there wasn’t
A dog so shaggy it filled the world,
And its eyes were comets and its ears were moons
And its shadow was as long as the Milky Way
And its fleas were flaming meteorites
And its bark was as loud as silence
And its tail was as tall as for ever
And the end of that tail is the end of my tale.

And now that it’s ended, you know that it’s true
Same as it’s true that I’m sitting here now*
Spouting this stuff out loud to you.
© Rob Parkinson 2012

Winston & the Wolves

(Song lyric)

Winston heard the Wolves in the kitchen one night
When his mum & dad were fast asleep
Their barks and their howls woke him up in a fright
And made his flesh start to creep
But he plucked up his courage and he walked downstairs –
It made him angry to think of them there.
And there they were with red eyes all big –
Six wild wolves stealing goodies from the fridge.

Wolves can be wicked, wolves can be wild
But wild wicked Winston had the wolf taming style.

If Winston was frightened, well it just didn’t show,
Maybe he’d a natural knack.
He raised his hand and he just shouted: ‘NO!’
And those wolves just froze in their tracks.
They stood stone still with pink tongues lolling out,
With crumbs in their fur and cream on their snouts
Six wild wolves all ready to obey
Six dream wolves all ready to play.

Wolves can be wicked, wolves can be wild
But wild wicked Winston had the wolf-taming style.

“Come on!” said Winston, and they went outside
And Winston fetched out his sledge
He yoked them up like huskies and then “Mush!” he cried.
And those wolves just flew over the shed.
They went high over the houses with the town far below
And Winston clinging on wondering where they’d go
That night they took him to the moon and back
And to wild strange place on the wolf wild track.

Wolves can be wicked, wolves can be wild
But wild wicked Winston had the wolf-taming style.

Now every night, Winston rides through the sky,
Those wolves go fast enough!
Winston has trained them so they fly really high
And find him treasure and stuff.
His mum sometimes complains about the state of the fridge
And Winston takes the blame and says his appetite’s too big
Of course he never says exactly where he’s been
It’s too hard to explain and she might just scream!

Wolves can be wicked, wolves can be wild
But wild wicked Winston had the wolf-taming style.

From Wild Imaginings – weird, wacky & wonderful songs by Rob Parkinson’
©Copyright Rob Parkinson 2003

Sisters

Some sisters are stars, some are certainly not,
Some sisters are cool, some are too hot.
Some sisters care and some just don’t
Some sisters support you and some just won’t
You never quite know with sisters.

There are sisters who nibble like annoying gnats
At old wounds and resentments and ongoing spats
They fan the flames of arguments and squabbles
And seem to like making your confidence wobble.
You never quite know with those sisters.

Some snigger when they’ve done something specially bad
And then put on angel faces for Dad
Who thinks they are lovely, so sweet and so nice
Whilst you know they’re spiteful experts in vice.
They never quite know such sisters.

Other sisters make faces and whisper about you
To make sure that people will definitely doubt you
And think that you’re the one in the wrong
Whilst she is the person who’s always on song.
They never quite know such sisters.

Yet some sisters sing anthems of unstinting praise
And celebrate deeds that you’ve done for days
And are proud of you even when you make mistakes
And help you no matter how much effort it takes.
Not everyone gets such sisters.

Sisters are special: you’ll never quite lose
The taste of them, not like the friends that you choose.
Sweetly or sourly, it goes on forever:
They know you in ways you hope friends will never.
There’s all sorts of knowing in sisters.

Some sisters are saints, some are snakes,
Some sisters ring true, some are just fakes;
Some sisters are gold and always will like you,
Some sisters go cold and filled with fight too.
You’ll just have to see with your sister.

From My Dad’s Not a Dog (Caboodle Books 2011)
© Rob Parkinson 2011

To purchase Rob’s book, click here.

Recommendations & Reviews

‘ALL feedback from staff and children was extremely positive.
You have truly inspired and entertained… Oh, and Simon in my class has given me some very long winded information about your amazing musical instruments!’ Pat Sullivan, the Oaks Primary School, West Sussex

‘Rob has made many visits to our school… He’s always is very flexible and open to suggestions and his workshops and performances are wonderfully entertaining, not only for the children but also the adults. Even after all his many visits, it never fails to amaze me how he is able to perform, fresh, new, dynamic material. His superb telling of stories from many cultures, together with his immense musical repertoire and talent, make for a magical day.’ Jason Sims, St Michael’s School’s East Wickham CE VA Primary, Bexleyheath

‘It was an amazing performance and it had brilliant expressions. There were really cool instruments and brilliant stories.’ Ollie, Hildenborough Primary School, Kent

‘An excellent collection of vibrant, imaginative songs.’ John Rice, poet re. ‘Wild Imaginings’

‘It’s just the best. Really really funny and cool…’ Jason (8) re. The Wonderful Store – strange, fantastical & ridiculous songs

‘PURE gold both for adept storytellers and those for whom story making seems a mysterious art, this enormously rich book brings together the wealth of knowledge about stories … that is currently mostly dispersed across different fields, such as education, psychology, psychotherapy, anthropology, folklore and entertainment. Much more than a manual for creating and telling stories, the book itself, with its 90 or more stories, has the capacity to transform, sowing subtle seeds of possibility in the mind of the reader. From the outset, there is an immediacy and warmth to Parkinson’s prose, which engages the reader in a very practical way… This is, in my opinion, the crown jewel of storybooks, carefully constructed and a perfect joy to read. I shall return to it again and again.’ Human Givens Journal on ‘Transforming Tales’, by Rob Parkinson

To Make a Booking

To make an enquiry about Rob Parkinson, or any of the other authors, poets & illustrators listed on this website, please phone Trevor Wilson on +44 (0) 1535 656015, or email him at trevor@caboodlebooks.co.uk

Further information on Rob Parkinson is available from his website: http://www.imaginaryjourneys.co.uk