Do talk in class to find your story.

One of the joys of my work in heritage interpretation is that I often meet people with a compulsion to tell stories.

Peter encouraging volunteers to speak the stories of the Leighton Buzzard Narrow Gauge Railway at a workshop last week.

They have a passion for their place that shows in the way they talk. Often they display that mastery of their content that is so vital. Listening to them can be inspiring and entertaining as well as informative.

We have found talking is vital, it liberates stories far better than writing does.

So in our workshops and elsewhere, we encourage people to talk. Listening is vital in our business.  We encourage them to speak to us and each other in story-telling style about the main events and characters  involved in their place or material. We find this liberates the storyteller inside them. It moves them away from the history or science class in their heads and creates compelling story-based communication crammed with the key ingredients of interpretelling.

Yes, maybe every picture tells a story – but a person will often help. Leighton Buzzard Narrow Gauge Railway, again.

It sounds so simple – but it works. A relatively small shift towards story can transform a piece of interpretation.

This Dublin shop houses 150 years of fantastic stories. I spent yesterday with the owners, listening as they uncurled them.

The biggest challenge is to help our clients keep and refine their stories when they move on to do ‘interpretation’ – whether that is writing apps, websites, leaflets and panels or leading a tour. Producing interpretation can be a killer of passion and story. In that more formal environment the ‘story’ can be easily lost in a mire of scientific and historical data.

Sometimes I think the most important work we do is to listen so well that people hear their own story. When they can do that clearly, we can help them protect it through all the stages of producing great interpretation.

If you would like to find out more about how we can help your project find its story and tell it with power and passion, look at our website at or contact me directly on


About susancrosstelltale

Great visits to heritage and natural sites do not happen by accident. This blog is about the work that make special sites great places to visit. I hope it will be useful to visitors and host alike. Find out more at me and my blog.
This entry was posted in Attractions, Consulting, Heritage attractions, Interpretation, Interpretelling, Mentoring, Stories, Storytelling, Thematic interpretation, Tips and advice, Training, Writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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