Last night was the last performance of the Once Upon a Milton Keynes shows, and I am finding that quite sad. I have really enjoyed going out, sharing the stories within the communities, and using the stories to generate discussions (in the Q&A sessions). It is so fascinating to see what people pick up on and also to find out how they perceive their local area, especially if they see their local as Milton Keynes or just the immediate locality.
It was interesting last night that one of my colleagues from Loughborough University made an epic journey to see the performance, unfortunately she could not stay to the Q&A for I would have been really interested in hearing what questions she might have asked.
As for the performance I was thrilled with how it went. The stories just seemed to inhabit me and flow very naturally, taking form in ways which were not premeditated but seemed appropriate for the audience. I think I have found these performances tricky, far more than any usual performance I have done, principally because there seemed to be far more pressure on these performances due to them being part of the PhD. The performances carried a weight which I do not usually experience even in situations where the expectations are high.
This is worth considering, because my previous experience of storytelling local heritage have all occurred outside the PhD, so has my nerves affected on the performances? This is where the auto-ethnography element comes in, my experience as a storyteller has been impacted not only by my experience as a resident of Milton Keynes, but as a researcher carrying the weight of my study into the performance. One might argue that as a professional performer I should have the skill with which to separate the researcher from the performer, and to an extent this was possible. However, as anyone who has ever done a PhD will understand, so much effort is put into the research, you live and breathe it until it is always sat in your brain, even when you aren't working on it, so that until it is complete you are always working on it.
It will be interesting to speak to people who have seen me storytell before and see if they noticed any change, or whether it is one which inhabits just my emotions. Intentions even unspoken often are understood.
Sometimes known as storyteller Red Phoenix, Terrie has been a storyteller since 2004, and run her own storytelling and performing arts company since 2007. In 2016 she began a PhD in applied storytelling and heritage exploring how storytelling as heritage can impact on the sense of place experienced by residents in Milton Keynes in England.