Why “Telling Tales”? What Does it Mean and Why Would We Bother?

John Gill, Chair of the Steering Group, explains why he is in love with Telling Tales and is so excited about this year’s Festival theme

Storytelling and Story Hearing is Learning, pure and simple. As a minimum, we tell stories to pique interest, but what we are usually aiming to do is to connect and inspire. Stories motivate and prompt creative thought, and creative thought is the place where for new ideas and beliefs are born.

Our stories talk of our experiences and passions; they make sense of what we know, and what we aspire to. It’s because our stories are so important to who and what we are that we want to share them.

That’s why our speakers are here this year – to share their beliefs and their passions.

  • Hearing a story. When we hear an inspiring story it creates a lasting memory – especially when it speaks to our hearts. I’m prepared to bet that everyone reading this will immediately connect with a powerful story that they were told that changed them profoundly and immediately.
  • Telling a story helps the story teller make sense of what they already know and to tease out new ideas and perspectives. When telling a story, the story teller is learning every bit as much as the listener and the connection between the tellers and the listeners is rich in learning and can crackle with excitement.
  • We remember stories, not isolated facts. Facts and data are hugely important, but very different to telling tales. Learning facts without context taxes memory and any learning can soon fade without leaving a lasting imprint. But learning through a story provides the context and can speak to the listener emotionally as well as factually; stories provoke personal memories and these in turn embed us in the story we are hearing.


Telling powerful tales allows both teller and listeners to challenge themselves….

  • What do I know?
  • How do these ideas fit together?
  • How has my understanding changed?
  • And can I explain what I know to someone else?


When we are asking questions such as these, we are growing both personally and emotionally as it helps us change our understanding of our world.

  • Being part of a story. Tales told are full of power and often unforgettable. This is especially true when the listeners feel that they are part of the story itself- that their experience is right there, in the middle and there is the strange feeling that this story could be about me and my life.
  • Festival of Ideas 2024. When we chose the theme for the Festival of Ideas for this year, it was our ambition to create this connection.


Of course, if any Festival is to be stimulating and worthwhile, we need to share facts, theories and data. These are all crucial to learning and in validating what we think we’ve learnt. However, this year we are looking to go far deeper and engage all attendees at an emotional and (on occasion) a spiritual level.

We are seeking to share ideas in a way that change us in our understanding as well as in our beliefs.

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