Storytelling at the Horniman
15 August 2017 | 12:00 am

Tue, 15th Aug 2017

Debbie from Small Tales Storytelling Clubs reflects upon her experience sharing stories from across India at the Horniman Indian Summer Garden party. The day dawned bright and sunny over London and over India.  I was looking forward to the storytelling sessions, as today I was performing with four of my young storytellers from Small Tales Storytelling Clubs at the opening of the Horniman Museum’s Indian Summer Festival. The group consisted of Emily, Eve, Joe and Rose beside myself, Debbie.  We were going to tell stories from different parts of India, as well as doing both hand dancing and Bollywood dancing with our audience.  The sessions began with a hand dance that helps hand-eye coordination and got more difficult as the dance went on.  There was much laughter as the adults tried as hard as the children to make shapes of birds, flowers, trees, and water. Then I introduced the storyteller who was going to tell the next story.  The first young storyteller was Rose, who told the story of a man who wanted a horse and could not afford it, so a wily stallholder sold him a horse egg. This was followed by Eve and myself telling the story of a King who loved his baths yet always ended up with dirty feet.  He was responsible for the first shoes being created. The next story was told by Emily and Joe, about a Topi Wallah (hat seller) who pits his wisdom against the monkeys in the forest and ends with understanding the true meaning of stories. The audience really got into the swing of being either the Topi Wallah or the monkeys, with most choosing the latter. Needless to say, our stories had unexpected endings and brought forth laughter and nodding of heads in agreement. Finally, I told the story which was told to me when my mother wrapped my first sari around me.  It is the story of a weaver who marries the woman of his dreams and ends with creating the very first sari, which she wore on their wedding day.  We are told this story so that we realise the importance of following our dreams and the possibility of them coming true. Whilst I told the story, I wrapped a beautiful golden sari on a volunteer from the audience.  The moment that last piece was laid over the shoulder, there was a gasp from the audience as it goes from a long piece of cloth to an amazing piece of clothing.  Then I showed the audience some simple Bollywood dance moves and we ended with us all dancing.Our young storytellers had only positive things to say about the experience. “Performing at the museum was very interesting as I got to tell stories to people of all ages and it was a wonderful experience. My partner, Joe and I told an Indian story, the Topi Wallah. We used audience participation to include everyone and it was an amazing opportunity. During the performance, we danced with the audience, which I especially enjoyed”.  Emily (14) “We all had a fantastic time performing at the Horniman. The audiences were very engaged and seemed to love our stories! The surroundings were very interesting, especially in the room with all the masks. The staff were also amazing and looked after us so well. Thank you to the Horniman for having us, we would love to come again”.  Eve (11) “Getting to tell the story of the Topi Wallah was an amazing experience. We were treated very professionally and were given a great venue to perform in. The atmosphere during the performance and the dancing afterward were very pleasant and overall a joy to be a part of”.  Joe (14) My memory of the day was that the stories flowed; the young storytellers enthralled the audience who laughed and danced with us.  As for me, I left with the joy induced by the people, both young and old, who had taken the time to come and listen. 

Specimen of the Month: The Chameleon
14 August 2017 | 12:00 am

Mon, 14th Aug 2017

This month, Deputy Keeper of Natural History, Emma-Louise Nicholls, gives us the lowdown on Boy George's favourite reptile - the chameleon.If you have visited the Robot Zoo already, you will have seen we are currently home to, among other things, a huge, robotic chameleon. It’s about 20 times life size - if you take average chameleon species’ sizes into consideration - and it demonstrates perfectly what fascinates us most about chameleons: their ability to change colour, their bulging eyes, and their massive tongues. If you haven’t visited yet, I can easily entice you by letting you know that you can interact with this giant reptile, and control all of the above features yourself. The Real McCoyThe lovely pair of specimens shown here are on display in the Natural History Gallery and are Mediterranean Chameleons (Chamaeleo chamaeleon). They are thought to date back to the 1930s and have maintained their beautiful speckled skin due to a healthy (actually incredibly unhealthy for humans) coating of arsenic. In life, male Mediterranean Chameleons colour can vary from green, through brown, to grey. The females have an even larger repertoire which includes yellow, orange, and even green spots during the mating season. The ability to change colour is very important to a chameleon as changing colour can help regulate its body temperature, which of course reptiles can’t do automatically like mammals can. You’ll never find a sweaty chameleon. It can also change colour to make itself stand out if it wants to attract a mate, or ward off a rival. Or if threatened it can, to a certain extent, blend into its surroundings. Speaking of threats, the Mediterranean Chameleon’s primary predators, besides humans capturing them for the pet trade, are domestic cats, snakes, and…each other. They may look like a cute cartoon character but an adult chameleon will eat a juvenile if it catches one. Huge Assets The giant tongue, to which I referred earlier, can be twice the length of the body and they project it at such a speed that it can nab a fly right out of the air, just like Mr. Myagi with chopsticks. For this, they rely on the fact that they have incredible eyesight, but they can also move each eye independently of the other. Personally, I don’t get how this doesn’t blow their brain. I can play Lego Batman on the XBox whilst watching re-runs of Star Trek, but that’s as chameleon as I’ll ever get. 

Farmers' Market Focus: Pick's Organic Farm
11 August 2017 | 12:00 am

Fri, 11th Aug 2017

This month we speak to Horniman Farmers' Market regulars, Pick's Organic Farm, about how they run a business that's been in the family for centuries.  Hi, can you introduce yourselves to our readers? We're Pick's Organic Farm, we're a family business from Leicestershire, in fact, the farm has been with the family for centuries. We have six full-time employees and ten working part-time. Our whole farm is organic and we farm cattle, sheep, pigs, and poultry. Our cows and lambs are all grass fed, and our beef is hung for at least 21 days.  What do you sell at the Horniman Farmers' Market?  We cook our homemade 'old spot ' sausage hot dogs, breakfast rolls, homemade beef burgers, farmer's frenzy meat feast (which has a taste of everything), and our challenge burger. They all come served in an organic roll baked by Aston's Bakery. We have the usual condiments along with our homemade 'Mrs Pick's Old Homestead Chutney' made to an old recipe of Mrs. Pick's from our own Bradley apples.Why is being an organic farm so important to you? The farm has been in the family for hundreds of years but was converted to organic in 1999. Our reasons for converting to organic were mainly moral ones. Tim's father died aged 48 from an enlarged liver which we believe was brought on by the chemicals which were used in farming at the time and I wanted my children to grow up being able to eat an apple from the tree and a carrot from the ground and see the butterflies in the fields. Organic farming works with nature rather than eradicating it. We have seen fields with cracks inches wide because there is no goodness left in the soil and crops are grown reliant on chemicals. It isn't a sustainable way to farm and now we aren't reliant on a chemical company telling us what to do in order to make our grass grow we just spread a bit of old fashioned muck around. Organic farming works on good practices, rotation, and a lot of work. Our animals don't need antibiotics to keep them alive, they have fresh air green grass and the freedom to roam. What work is currently happening down at the farm right now? At the moment we are busy hay making. We have recently had the sheep shorn and have just had delivery of our goslings and turkeys for Christmas.What's the best thing about running the farm? We work every day of the week. Monday is my favourite day of the week as it is sheep day and after the driving and bustle of the London weekend markets it's the day that we bring the sheep in to sort out any problems and it is such a contrast and so quiet. It sounds very intense, when do you get a break? We do occasionally take a holiday but never longer than a week. We always stagger holidays with family members and have to work around lambing, haymaking, harvest, and Christmas which are all very busy times when it's all hands on deck.

Teen Takeover: Game of Thrones
11 August 2017 | 12:00 am

Fri, 11th Aug 2017[View the story "Teen Takeover: Game of Thrones" on Storify]

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