Visit to Uzbekistan

6th April 2012

On the 7th December two storytellers, Megan Lloyd and Francis Maxey flue to Uzbekistan to take part in an English teaching conference.  The week of seminars and debates was organised by the British council in the capitol Tashkent.  David Ambrose the artistic director of ‘Beyond the Border’ had given them the idea of showing English being used by storytellers.

Megan and Francis had to perform in front of a number of very different audiences ranging from students to Vice chancellors and ministers.  On our first day in Tashkent we discovered two things.  First the enthusiasm of the teachers wasn’t going to let us get away with just storytelling.  They wanted to know what it was we do and how it could be of use to them in their teaching of English.  The debate that ensued over lunch lead to Megan and I restructuring our shows for the teachers to include ideas for the practical use of storytelling in English teaching.  Second we discovered Plov, the national dish of Uzbekistan.  It’s a rice dish that has gathered so many myths and legends around it’s self that if we were to look for a storytellers food it would have to be Plov.  Although it is said to be a potent aphrodisiac.

Our first show was at the International business Centre, an impressive modern glass building, to an audience of about 200 hundred degree students.  It soon became apparent that they had not come across contemporary storytelling.  They found the performance fascinating.  In fact this was to be the reaction from most of our audiences.  The Uzbeks knew of their own epic storytellers but here was traditional stories being told in a modern voice for people of today.  Such was the enthusiasm of the students in our last show at the Lyceum that they cheered in the middle of stories.

 photo300 students listening to stortelling

At the University of Tashkent English department we were to present a 2 hour long show to over 300 hundred students in a large cold hall.  This time was luckily reduced by speeches and the presentation of flowers.  A young woman who played the dutar also joined us on stage.  The Dutar is a two stringed lute and for such a simple seeming instrument she made is sing.

 photoMegan telling at Tashkent University

On our last full day in Uzbekistan we went back to the business centre to present a short show at a round table discussion on English teaching.  All day vice chancellor and rectors of university had been in discussion with experts and the British council then for the last 20 minutes we turned up.  Our stories went through a Russian translation into the earphone of the delegates seated at a huge horseshoes shaped table with there aides sat behind them.  It felt a little like addressing the UN. 

One idea that I picked up at the conference is that English is no longer a foreign language in the world it is a tool that people in the future must have.

Our storytelling was a great success at the conference.  The professionals were introduced to a useful technique and audiences heard English being used in an informal and enjoyable way.  Storytelling presented by experienced tellers could be very useful to English teachers around the world.

We spent 7 days in Uzbekistan.  Most evening the British council entertained us, or local people invited us to their homes.  Young people gave up their own time to show us around their city.  Teachers invited us out with their families on trips.  So Megan and I would like to thank all of the people we meet and the friends we made.

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