Our Visual Storytelling session at the Charles Dickens Museum was, like many of our workshops, an introduction to power of pictures as a fun, engaging and effective form of communication. There's often some truth in the phrase 'a picture's worth a thousand words.' But if those words are written by Dickens, it's perhaps not wise to try and upstage them. So this workshop showed how well-crafted visuals can compliment the words - drawing people into the story, and before that, helping to shape characters and providing the structure for watertight plots.
The museum, in Dickens' former home in Doughty Street, is one of the organisations we've enjoyed getting to know since becoming partners in the Knowledge Quarter. The common ground between us and the great writer might not be immediately obvious. On the face of it we’re all about trying to strip back detail and untangle complexity, whereas Dickens is generally thought of as a creator of labyrinthine plots and rich, full-bodied characters. But as we began to plan the workshop we soon realised there were lots of strong parallels with Dickens: we see ourselves as storytellers too, albeit in a different medium; we have to be adept at keeping the big picture in mind while managing lots of narrative strands; and like Dickens, we’re always keen to use our work to support social causes whenever we can.
So there's a lot we Scriberians admire and appreciate about Dickens, and it was very much in the spirit of honouring the great writer that we devised a Visual Storytelling session with a Dickensian twist (no, not that Twist). Often when we run these workshops we have a good idea of the participants' backgrounds but we really had no idea who was going to show up. As it turned out there was a nice mix of people with an interest in Dickens, people who, through their work or through social media, had come across Scriberia, and people just looking for something fun to do in London on a Thursday night. It turned out to be a fantastic group, eager to participate and most importantly, not afraid to pick up a pen and draw. “God bless ‘em, every one,” as Tiny Tim might say.
Dickens provided us with some wonderfully detailed characters and intricate storylines - perfect material with which to practice simplifying ideas and paring down detail. Cathy Haynes of the Dickens Museum joined the session, and summarises the evening's activities perfectly:
"Dan and Chris started with a basic visual alphabet that got everyone drawing straight away, even those who’d expressed self-doubt about their ability. They then led us through increasingly complex and insightful exercises, eventually getting us to draw characters and plots from Dickens's A Christmas Carol and Great Expectations. It really did reveal the stories in new ways for us all, and made them a lot more memorable. The workshop was fun, and what we learnt has loads of applications.”
We look forward to the next chapter in our relationship with the Charles Dickens Museum, and encourage everyone to drop into 48 Doughty Street when they’re next in the area.