Michael Charton is a Capetonian whose enthusiasm for the story of South Africa gradually lured him away from his corporate career in finance – and the United States – and he returned to Cape Town in 2007. But while in the US, during a short career in advertising, he was awoken to the art and power of storytelling.
In 2015 he started an organisation founded on the sharing of untold, and often incredible stories from the past – but whose re-telling would have the effect of nation-building, but in a most entertaining way.
Michael’s stories (55 minutes each):
- LEAVE SOME FOR THE HONEY BADGER
In 1952, a strong-willed young man called Ian Player, driven by the lure of adventure, interviewed with a newly formed organisation called the Natal Parks Board, which later assigned him to the Umfolozi Game Reserve. The then head of the Game Guard force there was Magqubu Ntombela. A traditional Zulu man who carried the accumulated wisdom of his people, together with half-a-century’s experience in the Zululand bush.
The two men could not then have known it, but this introduction was to mark the beginning of an unlikely partnership spanning over three decades of Apartheid South Africa. Their conservation initiatives in central Zululand – underpinned by ancient African wisdom – managed to save an iconic African species (the southern white rhino) but also transformed conservation and attitudes towards biodiversity in South Africa and across the world.
A beautiful South African story about two men carrying vastly different backgrounds (and skill-sets) who built a personal and professional relationship which transformed both themselves and the world around them.
Take-out: LEAVE SOME FOR THE HONEY BADGER is a story about friendship, and the transformative powers of discovering and nurturing connections between ourselves; our environment; and the animals Preview:
2. YOU STRIKE THE ROCK
A story about the lives of the four forgotten women who organised the Women’s March of 1956. That march and its lead-up (now recognised as our August National holiday) helped to change the momentum of the struggle. Of our national holidays, this story is the least told, but actually played a pivotal role in the shape of the struggle. The story provides a human side to people whose names are (for most South Africans) known only by hospitals and roads named in their honour.
Take-out: A story of unity (in a time of fracture) and the power of identifying and driving a common cause for good.
Suits most occasions but is most popular around Women’s Day in August.
3. A RIPPLE OF HOPE
Years ago, Michael Charton wrote a 10-minute story about Robert Kennedy’s forgotten trip of South Africa in 1966, where he inspired hope into a nation in despair (through his famous “Ripples of Hope” speech as well as his actions on a most extraordinary tour). Since then many remarkable stories have found their way to Michael and he is putting the finishing touches together on a story he believes will be the most compelling version of this story ever told. It is
The story is a combination of well-known characters (including Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Albert Luthuli, James Meredith) and then a few lesser known protagonists (who probably should be better known)
- Take-out: An extraordinary, forgotten moment in our past with some striking similarities to South Africa today. Notably a subtle undertone of how important diversity of ideas is and its link to a free speech and free press. A story of hope, as Kennedy offered insights on how to shift the balance of power away from a top-heavy state.
- Original 10 minute story: (I am hesitant to send this, because it has been improved and expanded fairly dramatically since this version, but at least it offers some initial context): https://youtu.be/JB_PgzkhcOs
- Comment: This would be a brand new story (currently finishing it) but I think it has proper potential. Probably a little tight to offer it for March 24th, but soon thereafter it will be slick.
- FAR FROM A DANCE (50 minutes)
- Story Structure:
This is a brand-new story (I told it twice at the end of last year following a commission) exploring South Africa’s 100 year rugby rivalry with New Zealand (different to “1937”). It is the story of two nations bound by a shared passion for the game, but torn apart by their politics. A contradiction which has seen contests between the Springboks and the All Blacks transcending sport to emerge instead as a feature of our national identities. The story explores the pride, the shame, the characters and the rituals, which have served as the foundation for one of the most fascinating and emotive stories in all of sport.
The story focuses on the lives of two contrasting personalities: George Nepia, a great Maori full back, and Danie Craven.
- Poster: Attached
Comment: It is quite specific, and I am really only looking to push it ahead of the All Black tour to South Africa later this year, but I had really great feedback on the story on its release at the end of last year and I think it will get busy ahead of the All Blacks tour to SA in August.