The need to listen

“How good are you at listening?”

I want to share with you 3 of my tips to be a more effective listener.

Before I do that let me tell you a story.


One of my first roles in London, was working for Sony in their global finance department.

It so happened that, on one particular day, I was required to meet with a senior Japanese manager to explain an issue. Now of course I didn’t just go with the explanation I also went with my proposal for the solution.

As I was talking the manager was looking at my directly and nodding his head slowly, up and down. As I finished explaining the matter at hand, I went on to propose my solution. The manager continued to nod his head, up and down.

“I thought ‘yes, he agrees with me!’”

After I had finished, I asked “Do you agree?”

He replied “No!”

I was surprised and asked “I thought by you nodding you were in agreement?”

To which, again he replied “No, I was listening”.

I have looked back at the day many times and realised how amazing that manager was at being totally in the moment of listening.

When you listen “Are you thinking about other things? Are you perhaps holding on to a response and just waiting for a gap to jump in?”

Or do you listen with total attention and just letting whatever comes into you head to leave, without holding on to it.

If you start holding on to something to say, you are not going to be listening.

So, what can we do to be better listeners? Here are my top 3.

1)         Practice sitting on your own for around 3 mins a day and try and listen for the sounds around you. Allow thoughts to come in and go out.

2)         When you are listening to someone give them your all! Try and move all distractions away.

3)         If you are worried that you may forget something said, quickly make a note and carry on focusing on the speaker.


Stephen Covey says it perfectly, “Most of us don’t listen with the intent to Understand. We listen with the intent to reply”.


Before I go I want to end off with this. “Everyone has a story to share and all it takes if for someone to listen”.


What is Storytelling and why is it so important?

Earlier in the year, i felt very privileged to be asked by the UK book retailer, The Book People, to contribute to their blog “Why is Storytelling important to children” over the National Storytelling Week. In that article I contributed to the questions of “What is Storytelling?” and “Why is Storytelling important?”

I have finally got round to actually sharing the same content on my blog as I still get asked to explain the importance of Storytelling.

Before I get started, let me clarify from the outset that ORAL STORYTELLING IS NOT READING A BOOK and certainly not just important for children. IT’S IMPORTANT FOR EVERYONE.

So then, what exactly is Storytelling?

It is one of the most ancient forms of communication and education and one could say it is inextricably instinctive to us as human beings. We have been telling stories ever since we have been able to speak, draw pictures or dance. There should no surprise then as to why storytelling is so popular with all ages

In simple terms, storytelling is the telling of a story, usually to a group of people. The main difference between telling a story and reading a story is that when the storyteller tells the story he/she does so by describing memorised images in their mind. When the narrative is interwoven with dialogue and actions, the story becomes powerfully real. The term used is the Mind’s Eye where the storyteller will invite the audience into the story and each of the audience will not just hear the storyteller’s voice but will see the story unfold. The beauty of this is that each person will imagine and see something totally unique.

Without a book to hold, I find am able to connect with my audience by looking into their eyes, I can use my body to create the gestures, movement and facial expressions to help the audience connect with me and feel a part of the story.

Why is Storytelling important?

There is a Latin phrase “Omne Trium Perfectum” that I have come to appreciate as a storyteller. It translates to “Those things that come in three are perfect”. Three is my preferred number for sharing information and so I am going to share my top three reasons as to why Storytelling is so important.

1.    Storytelling is the greatest stimulus for imagination. There is a wonderful quote by Albert Einstein of “Imagination is more important than knowledge”. I am constantly amazed when I run story-making sessions with children and adults, which requires interaction and participation, by the raw imagination and original ideas that are contributed.

2.    Storytelling certainly leads to an enjoyment of reading but it strengthens the skills of listening, speaking, writing, observing and visually creating things.

3.    Storytelling develops emotional intelligence and enhances well-being. It allows for someone to actually express themselves authentically and share their story.

Before I sign off, I wanted to share a short story. I was working at a school in East London in March of this year and was telling a story to a group of around 120, Year 1 and Year 2 students. The story was an African Zulu story about where stories come from. Now, I should mention that when i work with Early Years and Key Stage 1, I have a small albino ‘toy’ gorilla that sits on the chair in the front next to me. His name is ‘Ralph’.

During the story a young girl, I will call her ‘A’, came up to me a couple of times to hand me folded pieces of paper and she said, “This is for your monkey?” Now each time I stopped telling the story and the entire hall of students were quiet.

Young ‘A’ was was also carrying a toy monkey but more like a spider monkey with long arms and legs. She would go back to her Teaching Assistant and I would continue with the story.

There is a part in the story where I was describing an underwater scene where the protagonist in the story was meeting the spirits of the ocean and they were shining brighter than the sun. Not long after that ‘A’ came up again, this time with her TA and she said, “‘A’ wants you to open the papers for the monkey”.

I slowly unfolded the piece of paper and then I opened the others. I now knew what “A” was doing. She was drawing pictures of the scenes that I was describing in the story. I was lost for words and stood there in absolute wonder. It was truly a magical moment and one that I will never forget. I am sharing with you a couple of the pictures that “A” gave to Ralph. After that session that day, ‘A’ came up with her TA and said, ”My monkey wants to give your monkey a hug goodbye”. These pictures now travel with me and every time I tell this story the pictures come out and “A”’s story is shared.

So i hope that helps answer the question of “Why is Storytelling so important?”

What are you doing for National Storytelling Week?

Did you know National Storytelling Week is from the 26th January to 2nd February 2019?

Society for Storytelling Week.jpg

Don’t forget there is also World Book Day on Thursday, 7th March 2019.

 Would you like to take part in “Stories in the Woods”?

As part of National Storytelling Week, I need your help. Can you think of a story that has something to do with the woods, forests or trees? It can be absolutely anything. It can be a story that is well known or one that you have made up. A funny story, a scary story, an adventure story or even a true story. Everybody, of all ages, is welcome to take part.

Please contact me if you or anyone in your family would like to take part.

There will be the chance to come and tell your story, in the tradition of oral storytelling and even get your story printed if you wish. How exciting is that?

The first event for “Stories in the Woods” will be Sunday, 27th January 2019 at The Little Oaks Theatre, The Oaks Park, Sutton. Times and details for tickets will be announced on my website soon.

Look forward to hearing from you



My Three Tips for a Story-making session. Oh, and a story.

One of my favourite activities as a storyteller is Story-making. My definition is simply “using the power of improvisation and imagination to create something unique”.

A recent Story-making session for a 7-year old’s birthday party.

A recent Story-making session for a 7-year old’s birthday party.

As Albert Einstein said, ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge’.

My favourite audience is of course children however, this works with all ages.

My 3 key tips for running a successful story-making session are as follows:

  1. Introduce the audience to the concept of the ‘mind’s eye’. When children see the little tree growing out of their hand or the dragon crawling out of a crack in the ground, then you’re ready to start. It doesn’t take long but it does feel like you are introducing them to something unknown.

  2. Start the story and move around the group asking individuals for their input. Depending on the age you could just let it flow or you could help create a mix of description, a stir of action with a twist of dialogue. Try not to dismiss anything innocent. Use common sense for appropriateness. Don’t worry too much about a plot. The beauty in this exercise is that it acknowledges interest. For a child to know that his or her ‘part’ was acknowledged and included is by far so important.

  3. As the Storyteller, stop and actually tell the story to a point. This is very important, especially if you want to retell the story at a later point or even type it out. By retelling the story, the story gets slotted into The Storyteller’s memory banks. This also showcases the pure magic of what has just been created. In my experience, this goes down a treat.

There are many tips that i could share but these three are my favourite.

I was asked recently to perform at a 7-year old’s birthday party. The theme was ‘Paddington Bear’ so the children created a story of ‘Paddington Bear’s Adventure in the Woods’. They introduced the characters, including the villain and the plot evolved into something quite remarkable. I could not have imagined some of the things that were added. The following day, I typed out the story and did an audio recording. The children now have something tangible and beats any party bag gift by far.

The story is as follows:

CLICK HERE for the audio recording.

Paddington Bear’s Adventure in the Woods

Created by Florence and Friends 10 November 2018 

Adapted and Written by Andy Copps (


Once upon a time, Paddington Bear went for a walk in the woods.

He was quite surprised when a Frog, that went “Ribbit!” and a Flamingo, that stood on one leg, came up to him and said ‘Can we be friends?’

‘Of course!’ replied Paddington Bear.

They carried on walking and heard something that sounded like a crying baby, ‘Waaaaaaaaaah!’

Sure enough, they came across a baby and right next to the baby on the ground was a Poppy flower.

Suddenly, there was a rustle in the bushes and out came a Fox. ‘Good day to you. My name is Fergus’, said the Fox in a polite and posh voice.

Paddington Bear was just about to say something when out of the bushes followed Rapunzel and her Prince. Paddington Bear knew it was Rapunzel because she had long golden hair that she was carrying in a bundle, in her arms.

‘Now where have you all come from?’ asked Paddington Bear.

‘Well’, replied Rapunzel, ‘this Prince of mine fell out of my tower and pulled me with him.’

‘Goodness me’, said Paddington Bear, ‘are you hurt?’

‘Thankfully, we landed on some very soft, bouncy bushes so we were not hurt at all’, replied Rapunzel, taking a deep breath of air and continuing ‘and we decided to run away fast, before the Witch could catch us and then this fox………’

‘Excuse me! My name is FERGUS!’ interrupted the Fox, rather loudly.

‘Oh yes, sorry Fergus’, said Rapunzel, rather apologetically.

Rapunzel continued, ‘then Fergus the Fox came running after us and asked if he could join us because he likes running.’

Rapunzel heard the Baby crying and bent down and picked the Poppy flower and gave it to the Baby to hold. The Baby stopped crying.

So, there you have it. Paddington Bear, a Frog that went “Ribbit”, a Flamingo that stood on one leg, a Baby with a Poppy in its hand, a Fox called Fergus, Rapunzel and her Prince.

There was a flash of lightning and then the boom of thunder. Everyone looked up and saw the dark rain clouds above.

‘We had better get a move on’, said Paddington Bear.

‘I agree’, replied Rapunzel, ‘the Witch will also be looking for us now.’

Rapunzel paused and gave the matter a thought.

‘I have a great idea!’ shouted Rapunzel and with that she dropped her bundle of golden hair onto the ground. She then started to move her head round and round and round, spinning the hair above all her new friends. With a final flick of her head, the hair flew out straight across the path and landed softly, all very flat. It looked like a golden carpet.

‘Everyone, climb on and hold tight. You are going for a ride!’

So, Paddington Bear, the Frog that went “Ribbit”, a Flamingo that stood on one leg, a Baby with a Poppy in its hand, a Fox called Fergus and the Prince, all climbed onto Rapunzel’s hair and held on tight.

Rapunzel started to run and the hair lifted off the ground and all the friends seemed to be flying like they were on a magic golden carpet.

‘Rapunzel’s flying golden hair carpet!’ shouted everyone, ‘woooooooo-hooooooo!’

Rapunzel saw someone ahead and she stopped suddenly. The hair came down onto the ground with all the friends. It was a bit of a bump.

‘Ouch!’, shouted Paddington Bear.

‘Waaaaa! Ouch!’, shouted the Baby, still holding onto the Poppy flower.

‘Gosh! Ouch’, shouted Fergus the Fox.

‘Oooooh! Ouch!’, shouted the Prince

 ‘Ribbit!!!’, went the Frog, very loud of course.

The Flamingo didn’t say much as it just spread its wings and landed softly and then stood on one leg.

Everyone stood and looked down the path.

There in front of them was a lady, dressed in black with a large pointy black hat and a long pointy nose.

‘That’s the witch!’, said the Prince.

‘Good to see she dresses the part’, joked Paddington Bear.

There was another rustle in the bushes to the side of the path and out came Harry Potter.

‘Harry Potter!’, shouted everyone, very pleased to see him.

Harry Potter stepped forward and was just about to do something, with his wand no doubt, when Paddington Bear walked in front of Rapunzel.

‘I have an idea’, said Paddington Bear.

Paddington Bear took off his hat and reached inside and took out a Marmalade Sandwich.

‘I hate to waste a good sandwich’, he whispered to himself.

And with all his strength he threw the Marmalade Sandwich at the Witch.

Paddington Bear and all his friends watched as the Marmalade Sandwich went flying like a frisbee and just before it hit the Witch the two slices of bread opened up and “SPLAT!”.

Two slices of bread were stuck to the Witch’s face.

The Witch screamed as best she could because one slice of bread was covering her mouth.

“Eeeeeeeeeehhhhh! Aaawwwwww! sssssspppfffff!”, was the sound the Witch made.

‘Gosh’, said Paddington Bear, ‘she sounds like a donkey going “Hee-Haw!” while blowing raspberries at the same time.’

Paddington Bear and all his friends, including Harry Potter, burst out laughing.

The Witch was not pleased. She wiped furiously at her face, flicking the slices of bread away and trying to wipe the sticky marmalade away with her hands but it was sticking everywhere.

‘I will get you for this Rapunzel! You and your prince and that silly horrible bear and that ridiculous flamingo standing on one leg, oh and that frog that keeps saying “Ribbit”, as well as that baby holding that poppy and that fox ….’

‘My name is Fergus!’, shouted the Fox.

‘I don’t care!’, screamed the Witch, ‘now, where was I? Oh yes, who else is there? Harry Potter! I will get you too Harry Potter!’

The Witch started waving her hands in the air.

“Stand back everyone!’, shouted Harry Potter, ‘the Witch is about to cast a spell but don’t worry I will protect you!’ Harry Potter pulled out his wand from inside his cloak.

Before the Witch and Harry Potter did anything, a gigantic red Dragon flew down and scooped up Rapunzel with its massive claws but was very careful not to hurt her. Rapunzel lifted off the ground with her long golden hair rising slowly.

‘Grab onto Rapunzel’s hair everyone!’ shouted Paddington Bear.

Everyone grabbed hold of a chunk of Rapunzel’s hair and there you have it. A gigantic red Dragon flapping its wings gently and magnificently, while holding onto Rapunzel with her long golden hair, trailing below with Paddington Bear, a Frog that went “Ribbit”, a Baby still holding onto a Poppy, a Fox called Fergus, the Prince and Harry Potter, clinging on as best they could. Oh, and the Flamingo but it didn’t need to hold onto Rapunzel’s hair. It just flapped its wings and was able to stay close.

The Witch was standing now with her mouth slowly opening and closing in utter shock of what she saw.

A drop of Marmalade fell off the tip of her pointy nose and landed on her bottom lip.

She shook her head and then realised she had lost her chance to cast a spell. She started to run after them.

The Dragon saw a clearing just ahead by a small lake of water and he decided to come down.

‘We are going down!’, shouted Paddington Bear, ‘get ready for landing in about 10 seconds’.

Everyone started counting down together, ‘Ten! Nine! Eight! Seven! Six! Five! Four! Three! Two! One!’

The Dragon came down like the gentle giant it was and placed Rapunzel carefully onto the ground. The same could not be said for the friends. Rapunzel’s hair also come down but quite quickly with everyone holding on and they hit the ground again with a BUMP!.

‘Ouch!’, shouted Paddington Bear.

‘Waaaaa! Ouch!’, shouted the Baby, still holding onto the Poppy.

‘Gosh! Ouch’, shouted Fergus the Fox.

‘Oooooh! Ouch!’, shouted the Prince

‘RIBBIT!!!’, went the Frog, the loudest ever.

‘Should have used my wand! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!’, shouted Harry Potter as he bounced three times and came to a stop.

Now the Witch just had to follow all the noise and it did not take her very long to find them.

‘I have you now!’ she screeched, ‘and you can’t escape!’

‘I can handle this!’, shouted Harry Potter. He reached into his cloak to get his wand and his face suddenly looked very worried.

‘Oh no!’, he shouted, ‘I must have dropped my wand when we came down with a BUMP!’

The Witch now started to laugh, a horrible screechy laugh that sounded like a barn owl and a laughing hyena singing a song together.

‘Heeee heeee haaaa haaaa eeeeeeek haaaa haaaa eeeeeeeek!’

The friends were now in stunned silence, except for the Frog who still went “Ribbit”.

Paddington Bear turned around and suddenly had an idea. He carefully took off his hat ,checked there were no spare Marmalade Sandwiches inside, and took a few steps back. He was now at the edge of the lake. He bent down and filled his hat with water.

The Witch did not notice Paddington Bear as she was still laughing. By this time all the friends were finding the constant screeching just rather annoying.

Paddington Bear used the opportunity to carefully walk towards the Witch, pretending he was just simply carrying his hat.

‘Excuse me madam,’ said Paddington Bear, in his usual polite voice.

The Witch stopped laughing and looked at Paddington Bear, scrunching up her face clearly showing her dislike for him.

‘What do you want, horrible little bear?’, asked the Witch in her high pitch scratchy voice. ‘That was not nice to throw Marmalade at me. So, for that, I am going to turn you into an orange.’

‘Oh, I see,’ replied Paddington Bear very calmly, ‘but before you do that, I want to give you something.’

‘Not more Marmalade, I hope?’, asked the Witch.

‘No, this!’, shouted Paddington Bear and he threw his hat of water all over the Witch.

The Witch screamed in terror, so loud that all the birds in the forest flew off and all the friends had to cover their ears and fell down onto the ground. The Dragon curled himself into a tight ball, wrapped up in his wings.

And then suddenly there was a squelchy noise “Spplllssssssfffff!!!!!” as the Witch frizzled and dissolved.

Everyone looked up and saw that the Witch had disappeared.

 ‘Hooray for Paddington Bear!’, they cried out.

‘How did you do that?’, asked Harry Potter.

‘I read it somewhere in a book that witches don’t like water,’ replied Paddington Bear.

Everyone laughed and celebrated and the Dragon blew fire into the sky.

‘Ooh, I do love fireworks’, said Paddington Bear.



Black History Month 2018

I had the great pleasure of visiting a school in Clacton-on-Sea, in Essex for a storytelling workshop day of celebrating Black History Month, October.

It was a privilege to talk about Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr and Mary Seacole.

My good friend and professional London storyteller, Wendy Shearer has kept encouraging me to use my love for the South African language Zulu in my stories and use that as a way to create something unique. And so I did, AGAIN.

Where does Zulu come from in South Africa?

Where does Zulu come from in South Africa?

I greeted the the whole school in Assembly in Zulu, we sang happy birthday in Zulu to a young lady who turned 8 on the day and I managed to get the whole assembly of 300 children singing 'Shosholoza'. ‘Shosholoza’ is a ‘Nguni’ song that was sung by the mixed tribes of miners, mining gold in South Africa. It has been described as the second National Anthem of South Africa.

Following the assembly, I worked with each of the year groups in smaller workshop groups in what was unbelievable fun. From understanding what storytelling is to interacting and discussing the lives of Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr and Mary Seacole. I do wonder how many people know who Mary Seacole was?

To end each of the sessions, I told a traditional Zulu folktale.

My greatest surprise was on receiving feedback from the school, that same day - “The workshops and assembly were fantastic. All the teachers were so pleased with the children's responses and the way Andy interacted with them. The children are now completing work based on the story telling Andy did today as they were so enthusiastic  about what they had learnt.”

What a fabulous day!