Meet a storyteller: Glenn B Swift


Hear a Story, See a Story, Feel a Story ©-ACLA. Image used with permission.

Jackie French (the Australian Children’s Laureate) and Ann James have created the Share a Story Calendar. (You can download it for free.) The theme for June is: HEAR A STORY, SEE A STORY, FEEL A STORY.

Today we are celebrating HEAR A STORY with a visitor …

Glenn B Swift (photo)

Glenn B Swift is a Western Australian Storyteller. Glenn says his repertoire ranges from the historical to the hysterical, and includes material for pre-primary through to adults.

Glenn has performed in almost every public library in Western Australia, and his talents have taken him as far afield as South America and Iceland! (He has performed in the Reykjavik Public Library.)

We asked Glenn if he could tell us a bit about being a storyteller.

Where do you live?
I live in Fremantle, Western Australia, which is where I was born and went to school. It’s a port, and I often go the end of the breakwater at the harbour and watch ships come and go. I like their hugeness, and I like to think that one day I’ll just jump on one for the heck of going across the ocean for some days or weeks. Fremantle is lovely place , and  a hot-bed of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, who are very welcoming to me as a Storyteller.

And how did you come to be a storyteller?
It started with a phone call. Well really, it started with some clowns. I had finished my training to be a teacher of the Alexander Technique (a useful thing for actors and musicians) and was waiting for my teaching job to begin at WAAPA (performance school in WA) when I ran into friends working as clowns for Myer in the school holidays. The marketing lady gave me a job working as a clown, and then before the next May school holidays, phoned me up to ask if I was a Storyteller, because that’s what she wanted in the Children’s Book department for the holidays. I answered of course, that I was  a Storyteller! (How hard could it be?) I spent the next couple of weeks reading Grimm’s Fairytales (often in the bath) and working out how I would perform them and get kids to participate and play parts as well.

Do you write your own material or do you tell stories written by other people?
Both. I like to adapt a good narrative — so for upper primary, I’m happy to tell my version of some Roald Dahl stories which can be quite ‘icky’, I also tell my own ghost stories. I have adapted some classic fairy tales and other stories for telling (with audience participation) and for junior primary I create stories that work as a game for many players that involve words, noises, screams and responses. I quite like having a big group of junior primary screaming together. They love it, though the teachers can look a bit worried, until it stops as suddenly as it began …

As a storyteller, what are your most valuable skills or tools?
My voice, and my ability to do funny voices for characters. Also a sense of simple comedy, little tricks that make kids laugh. And very good stories!

What is different about an oral tale from a written one?
Without a book in hand, there is a direct connection in a story between the teller and the audience. It allows me to always know how the audience is going, and if i need to make changes in pace, volume or content.

Can we hear an example of your storytelling?
There is this one link to a piece on YouTube …

Do you have any tips for young storytellers?
Just get up and do it! Start with a simple story everyone already knows, like ‘The Three Bears’. You’ll be scared the first time that you might get it wrong, but having done it once, you’ll find it’s great fun, and you’ll want to do it again! Your teachers will be very encouraging.

You can find out more about Glenn B Swift and his stories (and storytelling!) at his website:

If you want to celebrate Hear a Story month, check out these great activities on the Australian Children’s Laureate site.

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