Hants’ Faces Friday – Barry Braun

Published on February 10, 2017

Barry Braun, who lives in St. Croix, is excited to start a new story circle at the Windsor Regional Library this month.

©Colin Chisholm

WINDSOR, N.S. — Faces Friday is our online feature highlighting members of our community: their strength, challenges and humanity.

Meet Barry Braun, a resident of St. Croix who is undertaking a new project at the Windsor Regional Library.

Braun is launching Story Circle, which has its first session on Feb. 16 from 6:30-8 p.m. Braun said he’s interested in starting this project as part of a larger initiative to foster a stronger sense of community.

Braun, an avid reader, says reading stories and the act of storytelling can tell you a lot about a person and can also lead to a better society.

Storyteller Barry Braun said he doesn’t stick to one genre, like fiction or drama. He prefers to mix things up.

©Colin Chisholm

“I’ve been working on another project that’s called the Happy Community Project and the basic idea is that happy, resilient communities, are communities that are well connected socially, both in depth and breadth. Breadth meaning how well we know each other and width meaning how many of us know each other. Communities that are strongly connected tend to have higher reporting of happiness, and they also have higher resiliency if something goes wrong. The reason why I started down this path is that five years ago I became a grandfather and I started asking myself the question ‘what was her future going to be like when she gets to be in the prime of her life, as we move into the age of disruption?’ There’s all kinds of stuff happening, environmentally, politically, technologically, which means anything we could count on yesterday, doesn’t mean we can count on it tomorrow.”

Barry Braun is no stranger to stories. A frequent visitor to the local library, he’ll usually read 50 to 100 pages a day, or about one book a week.

©Colin Chisholm

Barry Braun decided to take this storytelling project on after becoming a grandfather. He has a desire to make the world a better, more connected, place.
Colin Chisholm

“Where are kids going to find a happy place? And my thought is, they’re going to find a happy place inside a community that has, as its basis, that we are here to take care of each other and that doesn’t happen unless we know each other. The idea of the story circle is bringing people together in the community, where they actually get to know each other through storytelling. The idea of the story circle is that people will show up, some with stories, some will want to listen, and it’s really informal. People can share stories that are either personal or fiction or history or whatever they want to bring. Through that process people get to know that person and also the people on either side of them a bit better.”

“The easiest way we can know something is through metaphor. There’s lots of research that says that people learn best through metaphor, whether you’re learning at school or in life; it’s a great way of conveying meaning. So we have a community of people coming together and sharing together a common meaning through the story, whatever that story is about, whether it tugs at the heart or it gives them some information about something that’s interesting, or funny, or whatever it is, it’s a way of letting people share a common experience. When I read the newspaper, it’s like 80 per cent story and about 20 per cent fact or something like that, not that they’re dishonest or anything like that, but they’re all coloured up with lots of metaphors and experiences, which is how we relate to things.”

“One of the common things now is people wanting to learn about the history of the Windsor area. One of the things they’re looking for is for stories about what happened here 100 or 60 years ago. The librarians here often comment on the broad variety of books I take out. I find that reading in a broad variety of things is a way of fertilizing the ground for finding innovative new ways of thinking about things. I don’t think I’m a professional or formal storyteller, but I do tell a lot of stories, which tend to be very short, they tend to be a half a dozen sentences long. I don’t talk about me that much, I’m not sure why that is, but I just find it easier to talk about other stuff than it is to talk about myself personally.”

Barry Braun says stories and storytelling have a unique power to drive innovation and compassion in others – something he’s hoping to spread to the Windsor area through his story circle.

©Colin Chisholm

“I do read a lot, at least a book a week, normally 50 to 100 pages a day, and have forever... Most of my stories are reactive. I need somebody to feed off of. They’re talking about something and then I can interject with a likewise story, rather than just telling one off the bat. There’s going to be some Newfoundlanders coming, and they’re much better storytellers than I am. I’ve been out busy recruiting good storytellers; my job is to bring them together and let them have the venue for sharing their stories. The biggest benefit of listening to someone tell a story is you can look them in the eye and you get to see a little bit of their soul. I don’t know if that’s as easy to do in a novel. There’s always the four-line bio about the author in the back, but, you don’t really know them through that. When someone is telling a story, through the tone of their voice and the gestures, as well as the content, it tells you a little bit about who the person