Finnish storyteller and globetrotter Markus Luukkonen.

ONCE upon a time Finland’s rich oral tradition served as a primary source of entertainment and edification among the people here. Not so today, as the global storytelling revival seems to have sidestepped this country. “The storytelling scene in Finland is still taking baby steps,” according to professional storyteller Markus Luukkonen.

Fans of the art form must travel abroad to countries such as neighbouring Sweden to experience events like The Fabula International Storytelling Festival. This year’s Fabula line-up included performers from as far afield as India and South Africa, and as near as Denmark and Norway. The stories told drew upon traditional folklore as well as completely improvised surrealistic sagas. The programme, unfortunately, did not include any Finnish spinners of tales, but there is hope for the cultural movement in this country yet.

Artist Johanna Lecklin has had great success with her Story Café, which has travelled around the world enticing people to turn up and tell a story in exchange for a cup of coffee and possibly 15 minutes of fame, should their tale be selected to screen at one of her exhibitions. In Helsinki, the Samova association has regularly organised a story club, Shaibalaiba, for over a year now, including occasional English language evenings. In addition, this autumn will see the launch of a multicultural storytelling project at Turku City Theatre. The biggest boost to the scene, however, might well come in 2014 when Finland will host a biannual international symposium on healing in storytelling. This event will be organised by ALBA Finland, with storytellers Yvonne Karsten and Märta Uggla taking a lead role in production.

Markus Luukkonen: http://www.tarinoidenmaailma.fi/
Fabula Storytelling Festival: http://fabulafestival.com/sv/
Johanna Lecklin: http://www.johannalecklin.com/
Samova: http://samova.wordpress.com/shaibalaiba-tarinaklubit/
ALBA: http://www.nordiskalba.org/

But what exactly makes storytelling special? Why in this day and age of unlimited and flashy entertainment choices would anyone bother paying attention to an individual delivering a monologue? Perhaps it is the personal element that is so often absent from media today that makes it fascinating. “For me the main thing is the ability to listen and share,” says Luukkonen. “The story is told from ear to ear, from eye to eye, and heart to heart.” Just as it was centuries ago and, under the best circumstances, still is today.

Robin DeWan