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Richard O’Neill Storytelling and Skills Training | Interview

Richard O’Neill is a professional storyteller and writer who works in over 150 schools, museums and libraries a year. From the Imperial War Museum Manchester, to Idea Store London, small rural schools to the largest primary in England. His story ‘Hidden Gold’ is currently being used by the Department for Education and Skills as a ‘raising achievement’ resource. He teaches storytelling skills to a range of educators and other professionals.

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i-genius: Why did you start Richard the Storyteller?
Richard O’Neill: I saw there was a need for an updated and contemporary storytelling service that would get people excited about communicating differently with each other whether for community engagement and development, education and business to business.or entertainment. I wanted to put the fun and entertainment back into communication.
i-genius: What makes a good candidate for a Manager?
Richard: Passion, belief, determination and the ability to dream.
i-genius: Who’s/what’s been your continued source of inspiration?
Richard: The children and adults we create our stories, performances and training for, as we’re continually trying to wow them with what we do. When we receive feedback about the positive impact our work has had on peoples lives that is the greatest inspiration you can have.
i-genius: In what way is Richard the Storyteller a social enterprise?
Richard: At every opportunity we try and use our skills to benefit as many communities and individuals as possible by making many of the stories, books and methods we develop available to them free of charge. We also mentor as many people as possible as well as training them in storytelling skills. We have helped a number of others to start their own social enterprises, two of which will launch later this year.
i-genius: What difficulties did you experience setting up Richard the Storyteller?

Richard: The main difficulty was persuading people that storytelling in the digital age was still a relevant and really useful thing, something very much of now and the future not just the past. Many people we spoke to had a very fixed view of storytelling and what a storyteller was; typically they imagined  a cross between a court jester and Gandalf. It was hard to overcome the stereotype.
i-genius: What are the most crucial things you have done to grow Richard the Storyteller?
Richard: In a word quality, everything has to be quality nothing that is second best ever gets put out. We also encourage people to tell stories about our work.
i-genius: What about your work is unique?
Richard: We create and develop all of our own stories and teaching methods so you can not get these from anyone else. We constantly look for new spaces and mediums in which to tell our stories and constantly look for ‘firsts’.For example we’re currently teaching storytelling skills in prisons and performing from market stalls.
i-genius: Why is storytelling important?
Richard: Because its the most natural and effective way to communicate, hence why we get similar stories from different parts of the world. We believe that its the very essence of communication as the old saying goes ‘there have been civilisations without the wheel but none without story.’ We believe story is the beating heart of literature, films, TV, business you name it and I bet you’ll find it tracks back to story. We help people to rediscover the power and the joy of storytelling and encourage them to use it in all aspects of their lives.
i-genius: Do you  have any future plans?
Richard: Yes, we want our storytelling skills and methods to be used more widely and aim to run more storytelling skills programmes and train more storytelling skills trainers. We have plans to take our most popular stories and characters like Sqeg, Jewel the Mule, Apple Juice Jones and Flat Faced Frankie to TV and radio.
i-genius: What is your favourite motto in life?
Richard: Everyone has something special to offer the world.
i-genius: What’s the worst business advice you’ve ever received?
Richard: Follow the trends
i-genius: What advice would you give to those starting up a social business/project?
Richard: Make sure you are filling a genuine need and stick with your principles and push everything to the limit.

This interview was conducted as part of the i-genius Getting Started interview series. If you would like to learn how to get started in your social business, then why not take our ‘Getting Started – Social Business Start Up’ online course with i-genius Academy. To find out more, click here!

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