Canadian Storytelling: A Profile

Voyageur Storytelling's

Canadian Storytelling Exposé

Part I

Canadian Storytelling:

A Profile

Storytellers, Groups and Festivals


Welcome to our Profile of Canadian Storytelling: Storytellers, Groups and Festivals, an exposé, directory, web-guide and who-knows-what-it-will-become compiled by Voyageur Storytelling located in Northern Bruce Peninsula, Ontario.


This service is being launched in early 2012, and is expected to develop fully in two years. It thus remains very much a work in progress. All suggestions for expanding and improving it will be gratefully received.


Most importantly, if you have an idea, or are a storyteller, group or festival we have missed, or know of one, or if you think we need to correct or up-date something, please tell us what we need to know by e-mail, with "Storyteller" in the subject line. We'll up-date every week or two, as time allows.


For a start we are going to cover the topic under five headings:


Profile of Canadian Storytelling (this page)

Ideas about Canadian Storytelling (learn more)

Canadian Storytellers (learn more)

Canadian Storytelling Organizations and Groups (learn more)

Canadian Storytelling Festivals (learn more)


Under the rubric of Ideas we have added two more sections, and continue to work for more. Those launched so far simply present ideas from earlier writings, which remain valid but have slipped out of sight. We are working on new materials. The present ones are:


Thoughts on Storytelling Performance Standards (found here)

The Twisted Tale of the Whole Hog (found here)


We have launched this service because we believe that Canadian Storytelling, as a whole, is not nearly well enough known. To be sure, Storytellers of Canada ~ Conteurs du Canada (SCCC) does its best, but is heavily dependent on volunteers to do the work, a severe constraint. Also, its perspective on Canadian storytelling tends to be determined by a small number of working members, who naturally find it difficult to represent the whole.


At the time of compilation (February 2012) we had identified 365 conspicuous Canadian storytellers, of whom 199 (55%) have recently been members of SCCC, and 110 (30%) are currently. (The latter percentage will no doubt increase as people renew their memberships.) For example, SCCC is severely under-represented in Québec (19 of 112 (17%) recently; 12 of 112 (11%) currently). All listings, including ours, are likely to under-estimate aboriginal tellers.

We are steadily adding tellers to the list. We will up-date the statistics from time to time. The current total is given on the Tellers page.


We are trying to take a broader view, although we are members of SCCC and intend to stay that way. Leslie was one of the founders and the first Ontario coordinator, and Paul was the first editor of the SCCC newsletter (now called The Raconteur) when it formed an insert in the now-defunct Appleseed Quarterly. He also chaired the committee that developed the SCCC Ethical Guidelines. We have been active in the past, although not now, largely because SCCC holds its annual gathering (the heart of the organization's life) during the summer, our performing season, when we cannot attend.


We are calling this site an exposé, exploiting the second definition of the word, which is (c.f. the Canadian Oxford Dictionary) "an orderly statement of facts". The information we display will be such as we can find in public sources or is volunteered to us.


Canadian Storytelling: Some Statistics

(as of February 2012)

Note: All data are preliminary and subject to further investigation


Table 1: Totals

Storytellers*
365
Groups**
72
Festivals
29
Total
466

* "Storytellers" means "conspicuous storytellers"; see clarification below.

** "Groups" include organizations, guilds, collectives, circles, etc.


We are, we hasten to clarify, using the term "storyteller" in a somewhat restricted sense, including only "conspicuous storytellers", those who not only tell stories, but have made some discoverable effort to be noticed beyond the bounds of a particular local group, formal or informal. For the time being "conspicuous" means taking some initiative to appear on the internet, usually by commissioning a web site or appearing in a published directory. As this project matures, we may well discover that some storytellers are using other media or approaches to attract attention, but we will always want to concentrate on those who are making some deliberate effort to attract a wider audience, who are, in other words, engaging in "marketing" in some fashion, who are acting as "professionals" in that sense, and not only in an artistic sense.


Table 2: Distribution by Province

Tellers
Groups
Festivals
Canada
365
72
29
Newfoundland & Labrador
9
1
0
Prince Edward Island
3
0
1
Nova Scotia
12
5
1
New Brunswick
10
1
1
Québec
112
25
12
Ontario
118
22
8
Manitoba
8
3
0
Saskatchewan
12
2
0
Alberta
31
5
1
British Columbia
41
5
2
Yukon
2
0
1
Northwest Territories
6
1
1
Nunavut
0
0
0
Unknown
1
National
2
1


Table 3: Tellers per Capita by Province

Population

('000)

Tellers
Tellers

per million

Canada
34,500
365
10.6
Newfoundland & Labrador
511
9
17.6
Prince Edward Island
146
3
*
Nova Scotia
945
12
12.7
New Brunswick
756
10
13.2
Québec
7,980
112
14.0
Ontario
13,373
118
8.8
Manitoba
1,251
8
6.4
Saskatchewan
1,058
12
11.3
Alberta
3,779
31
8.2
British Columbia
4,573
41
9.0
Yukon
35
2
*
Northwest Territories
44
6
*
Nunavut
33
0
0

* Because of small numbers, these ratios are not meaningful.


These numbers, while preliminary, are certainly interesting, and we may venture a few analytical observations:

1. Storytelling is a small phenomenon, wherever you go.

2. As you move from east to west, the proportion of storytellers in the population drops significantly when you cross the Québec-Ontario line. The reasons for this pattern may be cultural, or demographic, or both. Given the numbers, it is unlikely they are accidental. This question needs further investigation.


Table 4: Tellers in Selected Cities

(by address, not by metropolitan area)

City
Tellers
Montréal
53
Toronto
47
Ottawa
21
Victoria
19
Edmonton
13
Calgary
9
Vancouver
8
Winnipeg
8
Halifax
6
St. John's
6


When we have identified metropolitan areas, we will find, we think, that storytellers are even more concentrated in large urban areas than this table suggests. Even so, over half of Canadian Storytellers, as we are identifying them, are shown to live in large urban centres. Storytellers with professional aspirations would be wise to go there, at least to get started, if they wish to find supportive colleagues with a diversity of approaches, although perhaps only Montréal (especially) and Toronto can be considered truly rich environments in the full sense. Ottawa and Victoria (and to a lesser extent Edmonton) are notable, however. The data from Vancouver need further exploration.


The weight of numbers and cultural diversity clearly has something to do with these patterns. What could be called "accidents of leadership", or lack of it, may also explain some of the variation in data from centres of comparable size. Perhaps we may hypothesize that a dynamic storytelling centre requires not only artistic energy and ambition but also a "community energy" that includes leadership, an inclusive ideology, and a general willingness to do the work.


It will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with Canadian Storytelling that the majority of tellers are women. The regional differences are interesting, however:


Table 5: Gender Profile

Canada and Provinces or Regions with More Than 25 Tellers

Tellers
Women
Men
Percent

Women

Canada
365
254
111
69.6
Eastern Provinces
34
22
12
64.7
Québec
112
64
48
57.1
Ontario
118
90
28
76.3
Prairie and North
28
20
8
71.4
Alberta
31
27
4
87.0
British Columbia
41
31
10
75.6


Once again we can only guess at the reasons for these results, and their implications. In a reasonably just culture, of course, they would not have any implications, any more than would the age profile if we had the data. We might perhaps give offence by even suggesting that they could have implications and so, of course, we are not suggesting it.


We will continue to gather data, and perhaps more patterns will emerge.


Thank you for visiting this part of our site. Please bear with us while we build it. Please send us an e-mail or give us a call if you wish to comment or add or correct anything.




Voyageur Storytelling, February 2012

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