Training Women’s Aid workers in Storyplay

Virginia's Diary

17th December 2021

In 2020, Scottish Women’s Aid (SWA) approached Licketyspit to explore a collaboration: ‘When I heard more about Licketyspit all I could think about was how few tools we’ve had (in WA) based on joy and play and love and excitement and art and music and all of the thing to allow us to express emotions and not only get them out but also share them in a really meaningful way with the people we love.’ Marsha Scott CEO SWA

In Feb 2021 Licketyspit introduced Storyplay to 30+ Women’s Aid Workers – who immediately understood how they could use this imaginary play-based approach and methodology – “(Storyplay is) a great way to create empathy and connect with a child …who may be unable to understand their feelings & responses / (of) helping Mums and children build a shared experience and address difficult issues” Women’s Aid Workers Feb ’21

SWA approached Scottish Government to support an innovative collaboration between Scottish Women’ Aid and Licketyspit. Last week the first Women’s Aid workers –from Wigtown to Shetland – completed an intensive 5-week online Licketyspit Storyplay Training programme – with flying colours!

Storyplay is not as easy as it looks. Learning to facilitate it is to embark on a journey of learning, self-reflection and bold experiment! The WA workers all described a similar experience, initially feeling out of their comfort zone, nervous and self-conscious, then increasingly relaxing and gaining in confidence. ‘At the beginning of the sessions I felt really quite scared… But I think we’ve all just coped really well with it. It’s really nice to see everybody’s confidence growing’. WA Storyplay Trainee’21

Taking play seriously in theory, as increasingly children & family professionals do, is different from being asked to play as an adult in practice, with your peers, and make it a core part of your engagement with children. Storyplay – which is often ‘silly’ & hilarious –  can at first feel counter-intuitive as your ‘job’. Storyplay training demands reconnecting with your ‘playful self’, revisiting memories of childhood play, learning to relax and take risks, immersing yourself in shared improvisations where you can “be anyone, go anywhere do anything!” while simultaneously unpacking how Storyplay works and what experiencing it can mean.

Storyplay is a rigorous practice. Facilitators need strong foundations. Few adult professionals other than actors are required to learn scripts! But word-perfect play-scripts, songs and rhythms free the Storyplay facilitator to read the room and attend to the multiple needs of a diverse intergenerational group, to think on their feet and adapt, for only then does this work become, as it consistently does, utterly irresistible and foolproof.

But Storyplay is a powerful deeply human emotionally engaged way of people being together which is as therapeutic to learn to lead as it is to experience –‘I think it’s just such an untapped thing we have like, playing and breathing and…it’s such an untapped resource we don’t use!’  WA Storyplay Trainee’21

‘I think you can really go into your imagination and you can go anywhere with it, there’s no limits!’  WA Storyplay Trainee’21

Storyplay is anchored in reciprocity, equality, fairness. The idea that everyone is creative and has something equally great to bring to the ‘game’. Our rock-solid belief is that we all need what children need – to know we are seen, heard, valued and included. Everyone wants and needs to play because playing with others is essentially about belonging – to your family, your community, society. The feelings we experience through Storyplay are real feelings! We are free to relax and enjoy being and exploring ourselves and our amazing collective imaginations.

The value of intergenerational drama-led play or as we call it – Storyplay – is not yet fully recognised. What we see happening among the parents & children we play with, is that in a safe nurturing inclusive space, we can enable Storyplay to be a catalyst for all of our participants to overcome barriers to full participation, to relax and  increasingly nurture themselves and each other; to build their self-esteem, confidence, social skills and strengthen their relationships.

As actor-pedagogues, we know that everyone wants to be included and storyplay with us – even when it might appear otherwise. ‘Play’ as a word and an activity is not given enough weight as a therapeutic tool away from the world of therapists. Many adults have let themselves be persuaded they are not ‘creative’ or ‘good’ at drama. But when we talk about children’s rights and needs and accept how vital play is for every child, we must surely enable and support every children’s professional – and parent – to become a Play Expert. The wonderful thing is that this is easily within all of our reach. We adults have all been children! Storyplay is about reconnecting with our playful selves. And like exercising a muscle – it’s about practice.

‘I felt lucky, happy, grateful and energised!  Also, couldn’t help thinking about future possibilities.’ Women’s Aid Storyplay Trainee ’21

Block Two Women’s Aid Storyplay starts in January when WASP Trainees working alongside Licketyspit actor-pedagogues will begin the first Storyplay deliveries with parents & children and a new co-hort of Women’s Aid workers will begin to train in Storyplay!

Find out more about Licketyspit in our 2020/21 Annual Report

Family Page

Click below to go to the family page about Storyplay online sessions with Women’s Aid and Licketyspit.

Your Storyplay Champions!

‘If we can have so much fun with what we got it’s gonna be so fantastic to bring this out for the women and children who we support because I think that’s what they need in their lives’ 

WA Storyplay Trainee 2021

The most significant thing I’ve taken from working with Women’s Aid is that given the right support, guidance and encouragement – Storyplay truly holds magic for everyone, whatever their background, age or life experience.’

Iona Zajac, Lead Actor Pedagogue Dec 2021
‘Through sheer empathy, understanding and will, they have allowed their playfulness to take a front seat. And what a joy to bear witness to it!…. I cannot wait …to play and share this joy not only with the courageous WA women, but with the children and grown-ups they know, support and care about.’
Itxaso Moreno, Lead Actor-Pedagogue 2021
‘When I was a kid in school I founded quite hard to play with other children …I think if I could have gone to Licketyspit sessions when I was a kid it would have really helped ….I just think that’s such a wonderful kind of gift that you (Women’s Aid groups) are going to be passing on to others …to find that playfulness and to find that joy and get in touch with themselves and others.’
Hilde McKenna, Actor-Pedagogue 2021

‘Marsha (CEO SWA), I can only begin to tell you how amazing this has been & how bold, funny, hard-working and insightful we have found your workers. Really willing to push themselves beyond their comfort zone to work in a totally new way. It’s been an absolute joy to work with them see them grow & develop and relax & absorb Storyplay. To have people doing such serious work taking play this seriously is both radical and exciting.’ 

Virginia Radcliffe, Actor-Pedagogue 2021

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