What I’ve learned about the ancient art of storytelling

Our intern, Orla, has written about what she’s learned about storytelling from her time with us.

A little over three months ago, I applied for a job as a marketing and PR intern with both Story Shop and their client, Kelvinside Academy.  After finishing my third year of University studying PR, Marketing & Events I was looking to gain as much experience in communications as I could. It’s been a total whirlwind, and a brilliant experience working with the most welcoming and supportive team. Over the Summer I have learned so much, and unexpectedly, much of it has been beyond the realms of marketing.

I’ve always had very vivid dreams and the night after accepting the job at Story Shop, I had one that I haven’t been able to forget throughout my internship.

Walking through a busy shopping centre past clothes shops and cosmetics shops, I came across a story shop. It didn’t sell TVs or lipsticks or the latest trendy trainers, it sold stories. It was the centre of a lot of attention, with a crowd of people gathered at the shop front. Inside it was bright and shimmering, as dreamt places often are. It felt like a funfair, with colours and laughter in every corner. Hues of pink covered the walls and there was a swimming pool in the corner.

As a group of people, we were led through the shop as if we were in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and you could feel the wonder in the room. There were different stalls for us to visit, and it was soon apparent that there was one for each client. You paid the cashier for a story and then, as if picking out names from a hat, they would reach into a glass bowl and pick out a little piece of paper. Then they told a story, us gripped to every word.  Listeners were left crying, laughing, thoughtful, and amused. Even though it was adults in the shop, it felt childlike and magical.

When I first walked into Story Shop’s actual office, I wasn’t surprised to find that it didn’t glow or have a swimming pool. But as the weeks went on what I did realise was that my dream summed up a lot about storytelling, and how innate it is to us.

We all want to hear stories that make us feel something, and as humans, our ability to communicate with each other is undoubtedly the reason our homo sapien ancestors grew to a population of over 7 billion. From cave stories and fairytales, all the way to infographics, Tik Toks, and even the Bible, we have always shared stories. Think about the poems we still celebrate 500 years later and the folk songs we all know well. We tell stories from cradle to grave, just swap bedtime stories with reading the news or celebrity gossip on your commute to work.

What they do at Story Shop is really no different. Before I started, the job title ‘Storyteller’ confused me, and I only had a vague idea of the kind of work I would be doing day-to-day.  My dream was very literal and obviously doesn’t reflect how much expertise and consideration goes into marketing and PR. But what I think it does reflect, is how intrinsic to society these jobs really are.

Over the summer I’ve learned about so much more than how to optimise a blog for google or how to pitch a press release. My friends are amazed (and slightly concerned) by the number of niche facts I’ve shared in conversation, from edible seaweed to video interviewing technology. I’ve learned things about myself, but more importantly, I’ve learned more about the world we live in. I’ve learned that being surrounded by creative people sparks creativity in yourself. I’ve learned that working in an agency lets you work with people from every walk of life, in every type of occupation. It opens so many doors for connection and the network that you can build is really special.

As I write this now, on my penultimate day in the Story Shop office, I’ve come to realise that my dream three months ago about the glowing pink shop wasn’t really so far off the mark. The storytelling isn’t as transactional, and we don’t always realise when we’re being told one, but it’s always happening and always has been. It’s changed a wee bit over the years, but it’s still just as important a part of our society. Storytellers really are the right job title for the team at Story Shop, and I’m proud to have spent these past months learning with them. 

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