My family's eyesight is exceptionally poor. An optician once explained, that due to the severity of my long-sightedness, the distance at which my vision becomes normal is so far away that anything there is pretty much out of sight anyway. I was just five years old on the evening that I received my first pair of glasses, which were contained in a hard brown plastic case.
I remember being in the Senior-Infants' Cloakroom at school on the following day. I was telling all the children that there would be a new boy joining our class. News of the new boy spread quickly. Everyone crowded around wanting to know more. I told them that the new boy had fair hair and was about the same height as myself. I was bombarded with questions about the new boy, which I answered with an infantile air of authority. The other children seemed both enthralled and perplexed. They couldn't understand how it was that I knew so much about the new boy. I felt oddly comfortable at the epicentre of their curiosity and confusion. Even when our teacher, Mrs Riordan, came in, I allowed the mystery to linger. She wondered why all the pupils were congregating in the cloakroom. A little audience had formed around me. She must have considered this particularly strange, as I was usually a quite quiet kind of pupil. When the children told her about the new boy, she too became intrigued. I must have been convincing because she even seemed to entertain the possibility that I might be right - that perhaps I was privy to some information that she had somehow missed.
'Who is the new boy?' she asked, her tone earnest, though she was probably half pondering on whether I had lost the run of myself altogether.
'Oh, he is very nice,' I replied. 'Don't worry. He'll be here in a second.'
Everyone looked perturbed as I reached into my schoolbag and rummaged for a moment.
'Here he is,' I said, quickly pulling out my new spectacles and placing them onto my face. 'I am the new boy.'
'Paul i s a gifted, talented and exciting storyteller who never fails to leave his audience calling out for more. His performance at our recent intergenerational storytelling event was the high point of the day. We were very glad to have Paul end the show. To be honest, he would have been a terribly hard act to follow. paul is a pleasure to work with. We very much look forward to having him perform with us again in the near future.' - Brenda Quigley, Age Action, North Dublin
IN THE BEGINNING...
Here I am performing a story at Tullamore Library, probably attempting to elicit a similar reaction to that which the children and teacher displayed when I did the spectacular spectacles reveal in that Senior-Infants' Cloakroom more then thirty years earlier.
I told the story of The New Boy so as to help to illustrate the point that it seemed to the five-year-old-me that the most sensible way to introduce people to the notion that I had gotten new glasses was to create a little drama about that fact. I don't remember even considering the possibility that I could just put my new glasses on and say no more about it. What struck me most that morning though, was my teacher's and classmates' reaction. They seemed not to be upset about having been lied to for several minutes. They actually expressed delight, amusement and appreciation instead. Their positive response precipitated my first ever feeling of absolute elation, and increased my desire to do many more similar things in the future. I did in subsequent years discover that there is indeed a limit to just how much people enjoy being deceived... but that is a whole other set of stories for another time.
I performed with children from The LauraLynn Children's Hospice in The Abbey Theatre in Dublin. I wrote a story titled THE MAGICAL CAKE MAKING MACHINE especially for this show. The idea was that myself and the children were demonstrating how to create a fantastical cake. I'm using a giant whisk to stir the ingredients in the above photo. We included usual items, such as eggs and flour... but also added some of the children's favourite memories and experiences, so that if you were eating a slice, it would not only taste delicious, but you might suddenly feel the sensation of being at a beach on a sunny day, or receiving a massage from your favourite family member. The cake was temporarily stolen by a scraggly crow, but after an intense chase scene, it was won back and the apologetic crow and the forgiving children became good friends.
I was part of an amazingly talented and kindhearted lineup of guests, which included John Sheahan of Dubliners fame and Lisa Lambe on the RTE Radio Arena Christmas Eve Special in 2015. This very low resolution image is of me performing my story-poem, PAT THE BUG, which I have since made into an illustrated story book.
I don't usually set about making poems and stories with any particular age group in mind. I mainly like to follow along with whatever ideas feel most enticing, and then I work to allow those ideas to express themselves using the language that seems most right. I have performed for people of all ages, and I love performing and workshopping with families and intergenerational groups. There are certain stories, poems and themes that children would neither understand or appreciate, and I keep poems such as ME FRIEND WANTS TO SHIFT YOU for older audiences. This poem was originally aired on RTE's Arena, but got a second broadcast amongst the week's highlights on Playback.
I do quite a bit of Storytelling whilst in character. In the pictures above I am dressed as A Monk and as A British Army Officer as I meet with a group of American and Canadian tourists at different junctures on their HISTORICAL HYSTERICAL TOUR OF MULLINGAR TOWN.
'Paul Timoney's storytelling goes far beyond simple stories. He weaves so many elements of language, expression, emotion, humour, silliness, seriousness and narrative that it is dazzling. He reaches all elements of the audience and engages the listener actively. You can't help but suspend reality for a time and join in his world of story when he spins the yarn. I have enjoyed collaborating with him while I was in Ireland as a Fulbright Scholar and seeing him in action several times with several audiences. The surface simplicity of his tales is deceiving in a way as there is a depth that touches universal themes and emotions - but he is never heavy handed in delivery. Sensitive to his audience, he incorporates environmental cues, random sounds, mishaps and other events into the festive path his stories take. If you've never seen him perform, be prepared to be surprised and enthralled.'
- Joan Phillips, PhD, LMFT, LPC,ATR-BC, ATCS, Fulbright Scholar, Art Therapist
'Booking Paul Timoney, Story teller, was a great addition to the recent LauraLynn, Ireland’s Children’s Hospice Family Camp. He delivered a unique and special story for all the families who attended camp. Paul is able to masterfully bring stories to life with great wit and an energy that fills the room, he can put a smile on anyone’s face. Due to the children’s complex needs families often rarely get opportunity for things like this. Paul is able to adapt the stories to make them special to everyone, no matter the background, age or medical fragility. All the families were able to fully relax and immerse themselves in enjoying this experience together providing family memories that will be cherished now and for the future.'
- Anna Brown, Senior Occupational Therapist, LauraLynn Children's Hospice
I don't tend to have particular audiences or age groups in mind throughout the early stages of my poem/story making process. I try to be open and sensitive to the means and mediums of expression that various ideas, emotions and imaginings seem most inclined to embody. I love playing with rhyme, word usage, metaphor and sound. I like it when things are funny and have depth... so that different people can enjoy a piece of work for different reasons, or the same person can come across something they have experienced before and find important elements that they had not noticed previously. I sometimes take on a character or alter-ego to collaborate with. I enjoy pretending to move, think and make as if I were another person, entity or thing. It is fun to see what playing a part in this way can produce. I recently illustrated a book titled PAT THE BUG as Pat T Bug himself, and created a collection of poems and short stories as Maureen Battleship.
RECENT EVENTS AND RECORDINGS
Not always one for taking snaps during life's more significant moments, I have employed a bit of drawing, googling and image editing (over the single photograph that I did actually take during the soundcheck) to recreate the moment I performed a new poem titled JIM for the opening of RTE's Cruinniú na Cásca Festival for a live outdoor audience in 2017.
Click the PLAY button to hear PAT THE BUG on the show. (Duration - 4 mins 30 secs)
Click the PLAY button to hear JIM on the show. (Duration - 5 mins)
Click the PLAY button to hear ME FRIEND WANTS TO SHIFT YOU on the show. (Duration - 1 min 30 secs)
And here is a more romantic (sort of) animated poem titled LOVE ME OR I WILL KILL YOU that was recorded at a Spoken Word Show in Dublin.
Click the PLAY button to watch LOVE ME OR I WILL KILL YOU. (Duration - 1 min 45 secs)
When I perform for young people at schools and libraries, stories tend to be quite interactive. I often intermingle creative activities and storytelling. Participants may have to make an object or drawing which they will use in a story. I may get people to make suggestions or become characters on a journey beset with a variety of interesting obstacles and issues. I write more about incorporating storytelling and art making in the section on WORKSHOPS. I think it can be very beneficial and enjoyable for people to participate in imaginative, improvised story-based play.
MAKING POEMS AND STORIES
Paul’s storytelling abilities are like no one else you’ve heard – they are also like nothing else you’ve seen! He created a wonderfully different story for each class that he spent time with. The children absolutely LOVED their stories. Squeals and peals of laughter were like a backing track to Paul’s unique stories! When the teachers in the classroom are laughing as hard as the children then you know you’re onto a winner. Very few people can walk into a classroom, start talking and have the whole room enthralled within two minutes. Each story was unique and Paul tailored it to suit the dynamics of the children in the room. His ability to ad lib and “wing it” was incredible – and it was hard to believe that he was adjusting his ideas as he went along. The children talked about Paul’s visit a long time after he left the building! He also inspired them to write their own stories. The long and the short of it is that Paul’s story telling is an art form in itself – it’s like a story and physical theatre wrapped up together – and it has to be heard (and seen) to be believed.'
- Elaine MacManus, Class Teacher, Saint Ciarán's National School, Castlejordan, Coounty Offaly