The Healing Power of Storytelling

Cork Yarnspinners Virtual Storytelling Session September 2020

When the Yarnspinners storytelling community was founded in August 1991 by Cork librarian Pat Egan and Derry librarian Claire O’Brien, they couldn’t have imagined a year like 2020, when the power of storytelling became more important than ever and storytellers would have to perform online. In 2020, going virtual was the only way for tellers to keep harnessing the power of storytelling and to carry it out into the world. Even tellers who’ve previously not been keen on using technology for their craft had to learn quickly and adapt to this unprecedented situation.

Storytellers go online

Storyteller and Drama Therapist Maria Gillen
Storyteller in Residence at Kerry Writers Museum & Drama Therapist
Maria Gillen

To continue our storytelling sessions during the Covid-19 pandemic and thanks to the efforts of Maria Gillen (and later Anita Howard and Lizzie Strasser), we moved from our home in Crawford & Co to the virtual space of Zoom from April 2020 until March 2022. Despite a few technical hiccups in the first few months, we kept going and to our delight, international storytellers started to join our online sessions. The power of storytelling connects us all and we were thrilled to welcome new friends from Canada, the US, UK, France, Switzerland, and Austria.

We weren’t able to see each other in person but found new friends and stories that helped us on our journey through these strange times. Having international storytellers, musicians, and poets in our sessions to fill our treasure trove that is our YouTube channel with performances would have been incredibly hard to pull off before the era of lockdowns. Now you can get your story fix in all corners of YouTube at the Storytellers of Ireland, Kerry Writers’ Museum (hosts of Listowel Storytelling Festival), or the German Verband der Erzählerinnen und Erzähler, and many more channels.

The difficult times we were living in only increased the appetite of story enthusiasts to find storytellers online. The increased social media presence and use also helped to spread the magic of stories across the globe. More so than ever before, social media became a platform where performers and their virtual audiences found each other.

Healing through the power of storytelling

Tree in Killarney National Park
Tree in Killarney National Park
(Image credit: Elisabeth Strasser)

Our online storytelling nights connected us and let us know that we’re not alone. The yarns and the songs that tell a story are therapeutic for both the performers and the audience. You can take your mind off things for a while and go back to reality refreshed. There is a certain kind of magic involved when a story is told orally. It awakens something ancient within the listener. Stories can help us cope, as we follow along with how characters deal with difficult situations. We see ourselves in the characters and what happens to them and it helps us to overcome the obstacles in the stories of our lives.