Can you be a passive listener?

We can overhear tittle tattle, pick up snippets of conversation from passing strangers gaily hands free chatting believing that no else knows they can be heard. We mishear instructions when our mind is on other things, we can utterly forget directions from over eager guides giving us too much detail – but when you being given a story it’s another matter.

We do have the editorial challenge of juggling the images that linger in the mind, that can stop the world for a moment and even distract us from the story we’re listening to. We could be as confused as a dreaming carpenter gazing into the river with a roman soldier’s hand clamped to his shoulder, as stunned as a poor man standing before his king with a hatful of plums, as nervous as a servant handing a ring to his childhood friend, as wide eyed as a huntress facing a flying kayak, as a hungry fox stuck in a hole – or indeed all of these in turn.

When A Bit Crack takes a step back we invite friends to fill our space with their dreams, and we never know where they are going to take us. We could not have had an evening of more variety. – from Roman Britain, to a an ancient King’s palace, to the frozen north and even a Russian oak forest, joined by of all things, Polish and American Folk songs.

We’re locked down, but not locked up. Storytellers dream and tell. They spin webs of wonder that can – that must – carry us away from our lumpen lives and give us moments to live for. For those of us dulled by the darkness of isolation, for those of us ill and physically alone, for those of us trapped as we have never been before, there is hope in the story world. Stories can only free our minds, the inspiration that the tellers bring to this stories can give us the cheer and the drive to face whatever darkness is around us. Our November evening was called Awakenings and it gave us just that.

We were blessed and cheered by Jim Grant and 9 year old Una Clay Wallers from different parts of  Northumberland, from Gary Cordingley ( late of this parish) in Cornwall, Ben Holden under a Gateshead moon and Heather Jane hiding out in Norwich as well as being allowed to luxuriate in the powerful singing of Mariae Smiarowska. They drew in listeners from across the country.

One listener wrote   “Amazing to sit here with my wee family by our fire and hear each of your stories , drinking in their power, their play, their sorrow, their light….I love how different they were – we loved them all!  And then your songs, Mariae, giving us space to breathe out, open our hearts, shed a tear.”

Our evening invited donations to Peace of Mind, a local charity supporting refugees in the region and was dedicated to Pat Renton, who arranged the evening and is fighting the bug.

And no, we cannot be passive listeners – we all need to take the inspiration of the evening to become story bearers and tellers as well, to nurture the spirit, honour the ancestors and make ourselves stronger.


Chris Bostock, November 2020