If you’ve never been there, Llandudno is a charming, and at this time of year extremely bracing, Victorian seaside town on the north coast of Wales. It’s also home to Venue Cymru, the national conference centre of North Wales. We were there, the Dark Angels, to run work-shops at a storytelling conference for public service managers from all over Wales.
The event was, in effect, a coming together of two domains which one of the speakers, borrowing from a contemporary German philosopher called Jurgen Habermas, described as ‘life world’ and ‘system world’ respectively.
On this occasion life world was represented by the storytellers, and that corner of each delegate’s heart that was ready to embrace the idea of stories as something that have a place at work. System world, on the other hand, was represented by the organisations the delegates came from, and their demand for a soulless obedience to a certain kind of logic.
We need both, of course. Without system world there would be anarchy or chaos. But Jurgen Habermas fears that it has got out of hand and is gradually colonising life world. In the face of this fear, stories are a vital line of defence.
Stories humanise and energise. They encourage their listeners to imagine, to feel, to connect. They allow people to lead through inspiration and persuasion. They help people understand change and each other, solve problems and come to terms with past difficulties. Most importantly, we don’t judge stories; they can’t be ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. They are not the truth, merely a truth. And they challenge the view that logic offers the only proper way to think.
Llandudno, with its guest houses and sedate hotels, its broad sweep of promenade and slightly incongruous palm trees, is surely a place of countless stories: stories of holidays that went right, or wrong, or perhaps never happened at all; stories of local lives lived out to the sound of the waves rolling in from the bay. And now it has one more: how sixty public servants arrived at the conference from the cold domain of system world and left with at least a part of their souls restored, by the possibilities of stories, to life world.
Last week I mentioned our new CD The Music of Burns but not where to get it. It’s now available from Shoogle Records www.shoogle.com