“If you’ve heard this story before…”

“If you’ve heard this story before, don’t stop me, because I’d like to hear it again.”

Groucho Marx

We have had stories for as long as we’ve lived in communities. It seems that we are all interested in hearing a good story be it fictional or factual. As the embers of the fires burnt down, the stories would have started, possibly as a means of passing on vital information, of building identity and keeping memories alive. Homer, the bard who originally performed Gawain and the Green Knight and the Norse poets who declaimed the sagas all provided their share of entertainment and wisdom. Look carefully enough and you’ll see a story just about everywhere.

You’ll find stories in most classrooms on most days. Not just ones that are in books but ones that are written by the pupils themselves. Stories are told between pupils and to teachers. We tell ourselves stories. I’d probably not remember much about genetics but for the story of Mendel and his sweet pea plants, physics was livened up when I learned about the innovative way in which Nils Bohr passed his university oral exams and I liked the whole Archimedes’ story – maths was just that little bit more fun. No surprise that I chose history as a discipline, it is of course, a form of academic storytelling.

Stories help us to learn languages and allow for the development of understanding without even noticing that it is going on. They ignite curiosity and teach us about behaviours in society. They can be funny, salutary and developmental. Whilst modern literary analysis has identified that there are only seven basic plotlines that seems two be enough to keep us educated and entertained.

Sir Michael Morpurgo is a master storyteller. A knighted teller of tales and singer of songs. It was an absolute pleasure to have the chance to welcome him to the BSP this week. His stories have entertained and perhaps more importantly have taught us, shown us, many of the values and virtues that make us better people. His stories are stories of hope. Hearing him read his newest poems and talk about how he gains inspiration from things around him (even boring grown ups at a dinner party) was an important reminder that we learn better when we take some notice of those around us and when we keep hope in our hearts.

We were fortunate to hear one of Sir Michael’s newest poems about the human cost of war. He has written movingly about previous conflicts, but this poem addressed the eternal questions of the futility and waste of war. Sadly, the conflict being addressed is all too close. We’ve heard the stories and today we bid farewell to two young gentlemen who joined our community as a consequence of conflict. Andrii and Ivan have been quietly active members of our community for a little over a year now, they have been good humoured, hardworking and committed to the activities programme. As well as following our curriculum and adding to our lessons they have followed the Ukrainian curriculum in the evenings and now they return home to take up well deserved places at university. Just as Sir Michael’s stories remind us that there can be hope in dark times, these two unassuming yet courageous students have built a quiet narrative of strength and integrity for us to witness. If we ever needed a story of fortitude, of good humour and of hope then this is it. As you take your leave lads, we wish you every good fortune. You will go home to build a community in which bright futures will follow dark storms and hope will grow ever taller and ever stronger like a glorious sunflower bringing joy to all who witness it. Your nation can be proud of you. So, here’s to stories, particularly those with happy endings.

Nicholas Hammond