Storyteller in Residence

Meet our Storyteller in Residence, Maria Gillen. Maria has been working with us at Kerry Writers’ Museum since February 2021 organising and hosting storytelling sessions, workshops, and our monthly Listowel Rambling House. She is also Artistic Director of Listowel International Storytelling Festival which takes place in September each year.

A Cork City native, Maria Gillen spent 22 years in a Global Multinational environment, spending her last 4.5 years as a European Operations Manager. She became a Biodynamic Therapist in 2007 and has an MA in Dramatherapy from Maynooth. Maria works through the medium of Drama and Story Telling and has designed and delivered workshops on Building Resilience, Exploring Difficult Community Issues and Team Building in several environments, including with young people throughout Munster. She has worked with DÉIS secondary schools in Cork and Limerick. Through this experience she has developed creative tools that allow participants to view their issues from different perspectives where they often discover they themselves have the answers that are needed.

Maria has been exploring the Medicinal Story through her work as a Drama therapist and Storyteller with Cork Yarnspinners. She has collected many delightful tales and wisdoms from Cork based Community work. Maria delivered workshops on the ‘medicinal story’ in Olomouc University in the Chez Republic and been a guest lecturer in UCC and NUIM. She co-developed a ‘Resilience through the Creative Arts’ 12-week program using the exploration of story as a mechanism to contact and grow self-resilience. She is interested in what the enduring myths and legends have to offer the modern world in terms of wisdom. She believes deeply in the power of stories to build communities, heal prejudice and to build resilience.

In 2018 and 2019 Maria featured as an emerging storyteller in the annual Cape Clear Storytelling festival. In 2018 and 2019 she won the Mick McCarthy All Ireland Storytelling competition in Finuge with her own original tales harvested from her work with the six-part story and collecting local wisdoms through story. She was a featured teller at the annual Listowel Writers Week in 2017. In 2017 she won the Butter Road Storytelling competition in Blarney with an original story about the Butter Roads.

During the Covid Lockdown Maria has hosted ZOOM storytelling sessions with global input for Storytellers of Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day and World Storytelling Day. Other organisations she has worked with throughout the country include the Mermaid Arts Centre in Wicklow and Cavan County Museum. She has also been running popular Medicinal Story Circles online in New Zealand and Ireland.

During her time as Storyteller in Residence Maria will work with local storytellers, community groups and visitors to Listowel in both telling stories and delivering workshops, children’s camps, and other story events.

Youthreach Resilience Workshops

Telling stories about our pain, problems, and hard-won perspective can be a cathartic release, a testament to overcoming adversity, and a gift to the listener, all at once. Research shows that connection to other people through shared experience, even if we do not know them well, strengthens internal psychological resilience while building social bonds. A memory is elevated into a story through a creative process that requires self-reflection, through taking stock of ourselves and our circumstances from a wide lens. A good story can convey a message, entertain or ignite a fire within your audience.

Maria recently commenced a series of storytelling and story making workshops with Youthreach participants in Listowel, Tralee and Killarney focusing on the power of story to encapsulate resilience. Participants co-created stories with Maria and worked with Godfrey Coppinger, a volunteer tutor with Fighting Words Kerry to illustrate the stories.

Watch some of the co-created stories told by Maria on our Facebook page HERE

The project is supported by Kerry ETB Local Creative Youth Partnership under the Creative Youth Grant Scheme 2021.