Today we held a storytelling workshop in the Pre-Raphaelite galleries at BMAG. Storyteller Dawn Powell explained to students from BCU School of English how storytelling works, and helped them to develop their own stories around some of the paintings in the collection. As I’ve said before, Pre-Raphaelite paintings are often narrative, not only inspired by literature but with biographical and personal narratives too, and often with layers of symbolism and imagery which inspire further stories. It was this last aspect which came to the fore today: to me, it was a bit strange to hear stories being told which bear no relation to the painting’s stated meaning, but then, these stories are to be told to children, and many of the stories are simply not suitable for children (Medea, for example). And after all, why shouldn’t the paintings be open to interpretation? So the students put their own interpretations on the paintings, making up stories which fitted what they could see, often combining two or more pictures in the gallery. Having become very familiar with the stories of the paintings, including Beata Beatrix, The Last of England and The Proscribed Royalist, I found it really eye-opening to hear students’ creative takes on what these paintings suggested to them, from stories about children who opened a forbidden box, to the journey of a postman. In the Easter holidays the students will be telling stories to children in the galleries, and I can’t wait to hear them.