Here at the International Storytelling Center, we couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome the first day of spring. It’s a beautiful time in Jonesborough, as the town shakes off the memory of winter and our staff readies for ISC’s busy Teller-in-Residence season, which opens in May. But today, March 20th, isn’t just the first official day of Spring; it’s also World Storytelling Day, which always falls on the spring equinox—or autumn equinox, if you’re in the southern hemisphere.
Founded in Sweden in the early 1990s, World Storytelling Day began as a national movement, but quickly expanded to an international audience. By the late nineties, it had already spread as far as Australia and Mexico. Today, it’s celebrated all over the world with concerts and other special storytelling events. Since 2004, these shows have been organized around a theme that changes every year. The theme for 2015 is “wishes.”
As it happens, just this week, the world of storytelling was granted a very special wish—a $1 million wish, to be precise. The founder and president of StoryCorps, Dave Isay, was granted a wish to change the world with the help of a $1 million TED Prize, which funds a creative project with global impact each year. Past recipients have used their wishes to address issues like education, health, and the environment. Dave Isay is using his to fund a worldwide storytelling initiative.
StoryCorps, which has collected stories from more than 100,000 Americans, is currently the largest oral history project in the world. Around the country, it has recorded one-on-one interviews between family members and friends, archiving copies of the conversations at the Library of Congress. With the TED Prize, they’ve developed a free app so that you—and people around the world—can collect stories with a smartphone. The app includes story prompts, and when you’re finished you can upload the interview to the Library of Congress with just a few taps.
The app is available here. Give it a spin for World Storytelling Day! Or, if you’re not ready to record just yet, we recommend StoryCorps’ archive of animated shorts. Here’s a link to one of our favorites, “The Nature of War.”