While we might use the Kindle to read our stories, Godfrey Duncan re-kindles the love that most of us might have shared listening to stories from our parents and grandparents. Born to Guyanese parents and raised in West London, Duncan also goes by the name TUUP (pronounced Toop), short for The Unprecedented Unorthodox Preacher, which came to him in a dream “Growing up in London, I was lucky to be surrounded by the Guyanese community of artists and thinkers. When there was a community celebration, we got together. I started as a performance poet — doing readings and gravitated from there. I realised I didn’t enjoy reading word for word. One day, I saw someone perform without a book and it touched something in me. I knew then that this is what I wanted to do.”
Godfrey Duncan at a previous performance
He became a professional storyteller in 1981, when he joined Ben Haggarty and Daisy Keable to form the West London Storytelling Unit. This became the internationally acclaimed Crick Crack Club. The main aim of the group was to revive the spoken word, the art of passing down stories from one generation to the other by word of mouth. “Storytelling, an ancient art form that was present in most parts of the world, has tremendous hold and reach in India. Today, storytelling is used not only in schools but also in galleries, museums, theatres and on radio for children and adult audiences in the UK,” he explains.
His style of total improvisation, fabulous capacity for mimicry and ear for a wild story is what draws an audience across age groups. “We are trying to break the myth that story telling is only for children. Adult stories can deal with sex, violence and various adult issues. As a modern day storyteller, I want to tell these stories like they are, unlike Europe where they have cleaned up a lot of their stories. The stories help us cope with issues as a community.” He gets most of his stories from research and reading. “Nowadays, I tell stories from around the world. The foundation of my stories tends to be African and Caribbean, but after working with artists like Flora Gatha, I’ve also been influenced by Indian stories. I like to tell a good story that needs to be told wherever it may be from. I fuse storytelling and music.” Godfrey performed at the Jaipur Literature Fest, this year, telling the story, The King and the Corpse.
Having performed in India several times before, he finds stories from India intriguing because of their variety. “From animal stories of the Panchatantra to modern adult stories, Indian stories are deep and seeped in culture and history,” he elaborates. Godfrey’s visit to India is part of the The Art of Storytelling India tour organised by the British Council. “It is our endeavour to share this expertise with India and showcase the contemporary style of storytelling. This vibrant art form has its roots in India, dating back to centuries and is indeed a great tool to bridge the knowledge gap, promote learning and knowledge outside the classroom via various art forms,” says Sharon Memis, Director West India, British Council.
On: Today, 5 pm to 6.30 pm
At: Lodha World School, Kalyan-Shil Road, Palava, Dombivili (E).