This year, for me, has been all about Scottish Traveller, Duncan Williamson.  I’ve been working on a project, digitising and listening to his recordings of traditional stories and songs as well as reminiscences about his life. I’ve had time to think about what I learned during my storytelling apprenticeship with him, why stories are so important and consider how best to take the tradition on.

One of the many new connections and friendships I’ve made through the project is with Heather Yule. Heather is working with another great Scottish Traveller tradition bearer’s material, Stanley Robertson, in a similar way to my work with Duncan’s stories and songs.  Both Stanley and Duncan had a huge repertoire of Jack tales. Jack is a central figure in all Western folklore, but particularly to the Travellers.  He is fundamental to the values, ethics and soul of The Travelling People.  It happened one time that Heather was telling a Jack story at an event.  A woman came up to her afterwards to ask, “Why Jack?  Why is it always Jack?  Why can’t we have a female heroine?”

This made Heather – and me – think.  Neither of us had ever had a problem with Jack.  Jack is Jack.  But we both began to question our relationship with those stories.

On the face of it, while there are many strong heroines in Traveller culture, each with their own story, there isn’t a consistent strong female central character with a whole category of stories of her own on a par with Jack.  And then, I realised that, of course, there is.  It’s Jack’s mother.  It is very rare to have a Jack story that doesn’t start (and often end) with his mother.  The spotlight may not focus on her, but her guiding presence saturates the story. Jack is who he is because of her.

As I’ve been listening to Duncan, hearing again familiar Jack tales and encountering new ones, I’ve been meeting Jack’s mother again and again too and building up a rich patchwork image of her.

Jack is always brought up by his mother.  Occasionally, Jack’s father is mentioned, he died in the wars, or Jack’s mother kicked him out for being lazy or drunk.  Most of the time he is simply absent – the unspoken intimation, that Jack has been born out of wedlock.  Jack’s mother is strong, stubborn and single-minded.  She takes herself away from kith and kin, determined to keep her child.

Jack’s mother may stay at home while Jack goes off on his adventures, but it seems pretty likely she had adventures before Jack turned up on the scene.  Jack’s mother has no nearby relatives, her past is mysterious with a whiff of scandal.  There are a few stories where we meet her relatives – in the ones I can think of Jack is sent to his mother’s sister, who lives a ridiculously long way away and turns out to be a powerful witch, who talks about Jack’s mother’s own power. Jack’s mother often has elements of a henwife and in several stories, when Jack gets himself into trouble turns out to have an uncanny amount of knowledge – or perhaps more accurately an amount of uncanny knowledge.

Jacks mother

Artist Lynn Rust, c: July 2020

Of course, Jack’s mother has a range of aspects in the same way that Jack does.  Sometimes she has 3 sons.  She still brings them up on her own and Jack is always the youngest.  He is the one that has stayed with her in the house.  Jack may be seen as lazy, or odd, he may have spent all his life lying in the ashes by the fire.  But all that time in the ashes, he’s been keeping his mother company, listening to her songs and stories.

Jack’s mother never stands in the way of Jack leaving.  She gives him the choice of a full bannock and her curse or half a bannock with her blessing.  Or she nags him to get up and get a job.  Or announces, ‘Have you seen the quest the King’s advertising – you could do that!’. She is a strong woman and happy to speak up – while she might let Jack go with her blessing, she’s perfectly capable of making sure he’s topped up the woodpile first.

Jack’s mother and Jack are opposites in balance.  Between them, they incorporate male and female; youth and age; seen and unseen.  Jack’s mother is the voice of wisdom and experience, while Jack is young and naïve.  Jack has itchy feet and is off on adventures and quests, Jack’s mother wandering days are over.  She has claimed a patch of land, knows it well and is settled and happy in her place. She is the anchor for Jack.  She provides a place for adventurers to rest, where the kettle is always on.

Jack is the hero of the story because he has been brought up on stories.  Jack’s mother has given him a strong moral compass, a quick wit and permission to be his own man.  She inspires Jack’s wanderlust and thirst for adventure by filling his mind with stories of far-off places, pure-hearted heroes and quick thinkers.

For Travellers growing up in Duncan’s lifetime, there were two sets of moral codes to live by – one set down by the church and the law, where things were either good or bad, lawful or non-lawful, a code that felt very rigid.  The second was the moral code of stories.  Stories have very strict codes – and if you don’t obey them, you come to a sticky end!  But good and bad are more fluid… stories are subversive and powerful – story moral values do not always sit well within the laws of the land.  Jack does what is right in his heart.  He feeds people when they are hungry, gives clothing and money to those that need it.  He will take a salmon or a rabbit from a rich laird’s land when he is hungry and he will twist his way out of trouble, using words, tricks and riddles to help him. He doesn’t care what people think of him.  He is happy to be different and thought a fool.  He will watch others make mistakes and be called a coward for not leaping in – instead stopping to think of another way.

Duncan told me Jack tales were (and are) essential education for Travellers.  When Traveller children listened to Jack tales, each and every one of them was Jack as they listened – whether a boy or a girl and whatever they looked like.  Even though Jack nearly always begins life in a settled home, rather than a Travelling family, he is the hero of the Travellers.  He is held up as the example of how to live your life and what is important – quick wits, self-reliance, fairness, compassion and generosity.  He teaches them the value of daring to be different and walking outside of society; of how to bend the rules while staying true to your principles.

I have been Jack, stepping out into the world on my own on my personal quest.  I have travelled, made (many) mistakes, met wise helpers and been tempted off the path.  Now I am settled.  I’ve built a home that I come back to.  I’ve planted a small patch of land, had children and plan for the turning of the seasons in one place.

How I tell Jack tales is changing.  Jack’s mother seems to be putting in more and more of an appearance.  Her twinkling eyes are watching.  I see her (almost) endless patience with her child and kittens chasing round underfoot.  Her house smells of bannocks and is full of the sound of her humming and the hens clucking.  She is always busy – knitting, weaving, sewing, cooking, sweeping, digging – there is always work that needs doing.  Her hands tie her to the land, while her tongue takes Jack around the world.

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Artist Phoebe Munson, c: July 2020 www.pmuink.com

Postscript:  Having written this, I sent it to Heather, who first starting me musing – and here is her reply:  Hi! Me again…. I am just looking through my mum’s PhD and found a quote from Stanley that I thought you would like: “the mother figure is very important because she doesnae only represent the mother figure, she represents Mother Earth.  She’s everything; she’s the very essence of his being.  An without her Jack is lost”

I’ll be hosting a Jack Tales ceilidh on Zoom at 8pm Tuesday 21st July – which will be available afterwards on my YouTube channel, Taking The Tradition On

If you’re interested in reading more on Duncan and Jack, I’ve written a previous blog on Jack and generosity.

@artscouncilofengland, @ace_midlands, @ace_national, @artyaml, @sfs_uk @scotstoryfourm @EU_SSSA @Stories4Society @BTBStorytelling @GEECStweets

#storytellingapprenticeship, #ScottishTravellerStories, #DuncanWilliamson #Passingontradition #TheScottishTravellingPeople

Like many others around the world I have been soul searching lately.  I am a person of white privilege.  I think of myself as an idealist.  I want to live in a world of equality and compassion.  However, I am realising more and more, how naïve and sheltered I have been.  I live, and was brought up in, rural Shropshire.  It is not ethnically diverse.  I don’t think I’m racist, but I have been passive.  I need to actively engage.  I am re-evaluating what part I play in maintaining the balance of power – what I can and should do to support change.

As a storyteller, my life is all about language.  I think about words and the layers of meaning they encapsulate.  Over the past weeks, I have been re-evaluating the stories I tell; what stereotypes and prejudices I am passing on without realising. Continue reading “The Legacy of Language”

When I talk to anyone about Duncan and ask what he was like, I hear all kinds of stories, but everyone always ends up talking about how generous he was.  Duncan was many things to many people, but all agree about his great heart and that he really did have a soul of generosity.

Ducan smiling 1

Duncan was the original Jack.  Jack, like Duncan, is many things – quick-thinking, self-reliant, adventurous – but at his core, he is generous.  So many stories start with Jack’s mother giving him the choice of ‘Take a whole bannock with my curse, or half a bannock with my blessing’.

Jack would never take the whole bannock – the curse or blessing is almost irrelevant – he would never take extra for himself, to leave his mother with less.  When Jack sits down to eat his half bannock and a stranger appears, he shares his meal without thought or hesitation.  It’s an accepted line in a story.  It rolls off the tongue and we accept it as part of the formula. I think it’s rare that the storyteller or listener ever stop to think about it very much, except that Jack has followed story protocol and will probably be rewarded for it later.  But when you do stop and think, it is an enormous act of generosity, done without regret or bitterness.  Jack shares his food with a smile.  They sit, eat, talk and share company together and when Jack walks on, he has nothing left in his pockets.  Whatever happens later in the story, this is the act of a hero.  He has no idea where or when he will next be able to find something to eat or drink.  He has faith in the world and his own abilities.  When tomorrow comes, when hunger comes, then he will deal with it. How many of us could do that?  Share our last meal and not begrudge the giving of it in some small part of ourselves? Continue reading “Generosity: A True Act of Heroism”

The World Storytelling Café asked me to record a 45 minute set of stories to put up on their site. I’m flattered and slightly hesitant. 45 minutes?  Recorded?  Can’t I do it live?  Although we have agreed I’ll do a live sharing session, with stories, songs and discussion as part of Duncan project, they wanted me to do a straight storytelling recorded set first.

Well, I have been doing more and more online – getting used to Zoom, seeing myself on screen – and my experience of telling live online has been much better than I thought it would be! I love that I really can still feel the audience there – feel the umbrella of shared space created in telling a story, jointly creating the story between storyteller and listener to make a shared world.  I didn’t think it would happen – but it does.

So, here is the next challenge – recording rather than live.  At first, I decided not to think too much about it, to just sit at the computer and get on with it.  I know the more I think about it, the more I’ll get in a tizzwazz.  It will turn into a big thing and I’ll make a pig’s ear of it.  Then almost instantly, serendipitously, into my inbox came an invitation from Beyond the Border to a free ‘how to record your story’ webinar.  I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, so up I signed and put off recording my WSC set until after the webinar.

I’m not sure the webinar was a good or a bad thing for me. Continue reading “Live or Recorded – Does it matter?”

This week has been a rollercoaster – nail-biting, terrifying and exhilarating – now I’ve stepped off, my legs are a bit wobbly, but I want to do it again!

I have dived headlong into the world of Zoom – hosting three very different events.

1) Taking The Tradition On(TTTO) a storytelling chat show – every Tuesday at 8pm.

Taking the Tradition On, 7th April 2020
Amy interviewing the wonderful David Campbell

As part of my ACE bid I was planning to do 3 interview based podcasts – I’m really pleased with the one I did with Helen East, but doing any more is not feasible for the foreseeable future…so I came up with the mad idea of a storytelling chat show!

I can still meet storytellers to discuss storytelling, Duncan and swap stories, I just have to do it virtually.  I’ve hosted two so far – one with Nick Hennessey and one with David Campbell – and both have been fascinating.  It’s been wonderful to make the space for focused conversation and ask all those questions you want to ask, but somehow never find the time. Continue reading “Live Online!”

Summer is coming and with it, was supposed to be a wonderful tour of festivals, storytelling centres and universities. Performances to share what I’ve learned; memories and reflections of studying with Duncan; stories and songs and lots of questions and discussion.  I was just about to announce my summer dates… and now the summer is looking very different.  Cancellations and postponements have been pouring in – I have to say big love and thank you to The Scottish Storytelling Centre, who paid all their artists in full for the cancelled events before closing the centre, wanting to support the community they celebrate.

However, my project has been about challenging me to tackle the digital world.  It’s been about taking a deep breath and learning the skills to enable me to use the technology available to be creative.  Now events have pushed me in at the deep end! Continue reading “Zooming Into Summer”

Wow – what a World Storytelling Day that was!

World Storytelling Day has been going in a truly International way since about 2004 and I have usually celebrated it by telling stories from around the world in a school.  This has been a great way to celebrate different countries, cultures and storytelling with young people and raise awareness of storytelling.  However, this year was entirely different!  All over the world people have cancelled gatherings and are maintaining social distancing. While that sounds like it should have been the end of this year’s World Storytelling Day, it led to the most vibrant celebration of our global storytelling community I’ve yet encountered! Continue reading “World Storytelling Day 2020”

Here in Bishops Castle, it is the calm before the storm.  Over the last couple of days, the sun has been shining and people have been out doing their usual things.  But you can feel a breeze springing up, the great ominous cloud looming, birds going silent in the lull before the full weight of the storm breaks.

The dress rehearsal for the school play went ahead yesterday and the shows are still planned for later in the week, everyone was out shopping, cheap paracetamol has sold out everywhere, but the expensive versions and toilet rolls are still freely available. Half my shopping was for a friend who has self-isolated with her children.

Green Road Amy in Motion BLASTGreen Road Lucy gazing BLASTGreen Road Amy Stretching BLAST

We had our last BLAST! of the season on Friday night, Beautiful Lies and Startling Truths, a performance storytelling club that I run with Suzanne Thomas from September to March. With the combination of fear of the virus and our storyteller having to pull out at the last minute, I was deeply doubtful what audience we would have.  Although a little bit down on numbers, we still had a decent turnout and Lucy Wells and I really enjoyed getting to perform The Green Road again.  It was a warm, beautiful celebration of story and a fitting end to our season.  But the signs were still there – one lady came with disposable gloves to pay and is taking all her change home and washing it before putting it in her purse. Continue reading “Keep Calm and Don’t Carry The Coronavirus”

taking the tradition on logo

When I first starting thinking about venturing into the world of podcasts, I assumed that I would get a decent phone, load an app onto it and record on that. How wrong I was!

I knew I needed some decent training.  Although I used to work for Radio Shropshire and have some experience in interviewing, I learned on reel to reel and edited with razor blades…over time I upgraded to minidisc, but that was as far as I got. I didn’t have the first idea of how or where to put up a podcast once it was put together.  I was pointed in the direction of Hannah Hethmon, author of ‘Your museum needs a podcast’ – a very helpful, step-by-step podcast manual – even if you have nothing to do with a museum. Continue reading “Playing with Podcasts”

 

The story of digitising and listening to Scottish Traveller Duncan Williamson’s archive tapes continues…

I am huddled under my blanket on the sofa.  The fire is on, dog by my side, late night telly to keep me company.  I am full of cold – aches, shivers, headache, sore throat, temperature.  It is a good time to be weak, I have the privilege of hiding inside and recuperating, until I feel fit to stand up again.  Storm Chiara whirled through last weekend and even before she’s finished wreaking her chaos, here is Storm Dennis, adding to the flooding and devastation.

I’ve been spending my time listening to Duncan’s tapes.  I don’t know what I’m going to hear in advance… although I have photos of the tape boxes with notes from Linda, the digitised recordings have new identification numbers and I need to match them up with the notes from Linda.  So, I never know quite what I’m going to hear.   What I am listening to at the moment – and have been for some time – are not traditional stories, but Duncan talking about his own life.  He has been describing growing up, his growing independence and leaving home to travel with his brother, Sandy. Continue reading “Streaming windows and a streaming nose!”

I am sat on a rather beaten up train, each person sat near me staring into phones, tablets and laptops, plugged into the digital world.  I’m on my way home from a Digital Skills for Storytellers Sharing Day put on by Beyond the Border in Cardiff.  Digital skills and digital storytelling is a fiery topic in the storytelling world. Some storytellers dig their heels in and have as little to do with technology as possible, eschewing mobile phones and televisions; resisting the threat of any dilution of the intimate connection of live storytelling. Most have ventured as far as maintaining a website and FaceBook page.  Some intrepid few are launching themselves into the world of live streaming, Facebook events and Skype storytelling clubs.  Personally, I think it is almost impossible to put on any event without interacting online… and as I try to reduce the plastic in my life, replacing the process of laminating posters and driving to various remote notice boards with facebook events seems like the ethical way to go (even though I know there are moral issues with Facebook!).  But that barely brushes the edge of using digital tools.  The possibilities opened by technology are huge!  While I find the prospect daunting – the time eaten by technology and the array of constant new skills demanded, I’m determined that if I’m going to enter this brave new world, there’s no point unless I embrace it wholeheartedly, play with it and make use of the myriad opportunities rather than dabbling in the shallow (on every level) waters. Continue reading “Digitial Skills for Storytellers Sharing Day”

Hurrah! My tapes of Duncan have been digitised.

Stuart Robinson at the School of Scottish Studies has worked incredibly hard, baking tapes, finding the correct playing speeds and has digitised all the tapes not previously entered into the archives.  At last I can let out an inner breath that I have been holding for years: the tapes are safe.  I can let go of the secret fear that the tapes would be too old and unplayable. All the time, while writing and submitting the ACE bid and driving the tapes to Scotland, at the back of my mind a small voice was panicking – what will I do if it’s too late?!

Now I am full of relief and excitement.  My computer and phone are full of downloads of Duncan.  My ears and mind are full of Duncan’s voice.  It is the Duncan I knew – and yet at the same time, it isn’t. When I knew Duncan, I was in my teens and 20s while he was in his 60s and 70s.  Now I am in my 40s – and so is Duncan.  He is telling many of the stories for the first time… I am hearing stories I know inside out, but they are full of a raw freshness. Continue reading “Digitisation is Done!”

This autumn marks 30 years of the storytelling club, ‘Tales at the Edge’.

Until I was invited to the party on Tuesday, the significant date had completely passed me by.  I told my first story at the first meeting of the club and so this is also my 30th anniversary of telling stories!

‘Tales at the Edge’ was the first regular storyround of its type.  Obviously, people have always told stories, but it was the first in the modern model of a monthly, advertised, ‘come all ye and bring a shortish story to tell’ session.  To begin with, the rules were rather strict – no poetry, no readings, no songs or music!  But we needed those rules, we were trying to establish storytelling in its own right and without those rules it could have easily slipped into another folk club with an occasional sprinkling of stories.

The first club night at Wenlock Edge Inn was busy, packed full of well-wishers.  In those days, you needed to be 14 to be allowed into the bar, so I scraped in by a couple of months.  I was nervous.  I’d always loved traditional stories and authors like Alan Garner, C.S. Lewis and Susan Cooper.  I loved the idea of storytellers, but until I met Taffy Thomas at ‘All Folk Around the Wrekin’, I didn’t think there were any left.  Taffy introduced me to Mike Rust, the possibility of a storytelling club and a door opened.  That summer, I went to more folk festivals and spent an entire weekend at ‘Towersey Festival’, trailing round after Pat Ryan and Terry Mann, listening to every story they told. It was a story from Pat Ryan that I told that first night and Taffy Thomas came to kick off the club Continue reading “Thirty Years of Storytelling!”

Whenever I visit Linda Williamson, it feels like coming home.  She was waiting for me in Edinburgh with roast chicken, conversation and company.  We talked of my children, her children and the man who brought us together, Duncan Williamson.

I was staying with Linda for the week so that we could take the tapes to The School of Scottish Studies, to sort out between us exactly what the tapes were and to begin the process of transferring them to a digital format.

However, my first port of call was The Scottish Storytelling Centre, www.scottishstorytellingcentre.com.  This is a marvellous building – right in the middle of Edinburgh on the Royal Mile, the first purpose built modern venue for live storytelling.  It has an exhibition/workshop space, gorgeous theatre, shop and café.  It is open all day, all week (except Sundays) and provides a physical heart for the storytelling scene in Scotland.  Donald Smith, the Director, was away and I’d meet him later in the week, but he connected me with Fiona MacDougall, who also works for the Centre.  I turned up expecting a half hour chat over a cuppa – a courtesy call to talk about my project; explain how I was digitising Duncan’s tapes and to talk about how and when a sharing performance at the Centre might work.  Three hours later we were still talking!

Fiona is relatively new to the Centre.  She moved from the School of Scottish Studies to the Scottish Storytelling Centre about three months ago, bringing with her a passionate love of Scottish Traveller culture and a vast knowledge of stories, songs, family connections and history. My notebook rapidly filled up with names, possible connections, similar projects, books, documentaries, websites and discussion groups to follow up.  Positivity, knowledge and enthusiasm radiated out from Fiona.  She was full of excitement on my behalf about my impending visit to the School of Scottish Studies, still missing her ex-colleagues and sure that I would have a great time the next day with Cathlin and Stuart, sorting out the tapes and exploring all the material available within the hallowed halls. Continue reading “Copyright and Collaboration”

 

At last!  My reel-to-reel recordings of Duncan are going to be digitised!

heritage tapes 1

With all the boxes of tapes safely loaded in the boot and heading north to Scotland, I could feel echoes of that day, over 20 years ago that I’d first loaded those tapes into the car.  I’d taken Simon Heywood up to visit Duncan.  The day we were due to leave, Duncan had dragged out a load of boxes and bin liners from a cupboard.

‘Will ye tak these with ye, Amy?  They’re nae use to me.  Ye can tak them, or I’ll chuck ‘em in the skip, wi the rest o’them’

All the bin liners and saggy boxes were stuffed full of open reel tapes, years’ worth of recordings of Duncan’s stories, songs and thoughts.  We loaded then into the back of my car – and it probably did look like we were going to the skip, but we felt like we were in an Indiana Jones film, rescuing a lost treasure from oblivion.  Not that we’d had to face any great trials, traps or monsters – the worst we’d had to cope with was being woken up at 6 in the morning after a late night drinking session and smoking 5 times as many cigarettes as we normally would. And, of course, we’d left the real treasure, Duncan, behind, though he had promised to come and visit. Continue reading “Travelling with the Tapes”

Hello and welcome to my blog!

This blog will be about my mentor, Duncan Williamson, my apprenticeship with him, the legacy of material he left me and what I’m going to do with it.

Duncan Williamson was a Scottish Traveller storyteller and ballad singer.  He had a huge wealth of stories, songs, jokes, riddles and sayings collected from his family and the Scottish Traveller culture, but also from all the settled people he met as he travelled around Scotland.

For more than twenty years I have had hours and hours of reel-to-reel recordings of Duncan Williamson sat in boxes waiting for me to sort them out.  For the first ten years, Duncan was still alive, so if I had any free time, I’d always rather go and see Duncan himself rather than sort out the tapes.  For the next five years, it was too hard to listen to them. Over the last five years, I have been trying to sort out ways to digitise and archive the material on the tapes.

Eventually, I started a crowdfunding campaign to raise the money to pay for them to digitised–thank you to everyone who contributed –you are all marvellous!

Now the marvellous Arts Council England have awarded me a grant to work with the material on the tapes –listening, cataloguing and working out the best ways to pass it on. Continue reading “New project, new blog, an introduction to my year digitising Duncan Williamson’s reel to reel tapes (includes the story of The Tramp and the Boots)”

As you can see, I am currently updating my website.

I am trying to make it more user-friendly – I’m going to have a day at DASH to see how accessible I can make it.

I’m also going to be launching myself into the social media whirlwind of instagram and twitter as well as facebook.

This is a big learning curve for me – bear with me!  Feel free to laugh and try not to get frustrated.  Obviously you can still contact me all the old-fashioned ways if you get fed up trying to find information while the site is under construction.

 

I have big news! Hurrah! Are you ready?
Here’s the fanfare….
I’ve been awarded an Arts Council England bid to work with the large number of reel-to-reel tapes that I inherited from Duncan Williamson. Thank you to everyone who was involved in my crowdfunding campaign which gave me the money to digitise the tapes and the match funding for my ACE bid.
Part of the bid is to upgrade my all my technical skills – I’ll be writing a blog throughout the programme and learning how to podcast – I have some great podcasts planned talking about Duncan and his influence with Helen East, Ben Haggarty and Linda Williamson – and this website will get the sprucing up it’s needed for a long time!
So watch the space and as I set up my blog and podcast platform, I will let you know!duncan black and white

shropshire folk tales for children book cover

This is a children’s book. But it is for real children. It is a book of buried treasure, people-eating giants, sleeping kings and a monster fish. There’s fire, wee, milk and missing body parts. It’s a book that’s got the bits adults don’t like left in. These are stories of Shropshire. They are old and wild, like the land itself. If you like giants having their heads lopped off, girls who won’t do what they’re told, knights fighting with lances, one-armed ghosts and grumpy witches, then this is the book for you.

Available direct from me if you see me, or click here

 

I’ve been asked by artist Anne Marie Lagram to respond to her exciting, thought-provoking new exhibition, developed working with the story of Mitchell’s Fold and the witch who is buried there.  It’s fantastic challenge to respond to the artwork through story, I’ve really been enjoying watching the pieces develop and questioning my own assumptions about the story.

Medgel poster

The dream team are getting back together!  I’m delighted I’m going to be working with fabulous storyteller Fiona Collins again.  We have been appointed to create a storytelling garden with Year 1 pupils at Bryn Collen School in Llangollen.

I am fascinated by early years literacy.  Writing is an extraordinarily complex skill.    I have been working more and more in this area, using play, physicality and outdoor spaces to isolate and hone different component skills and processes.  This project gives us the opportunity to implement much of what I have already learned, to learn far more and to have lots of days playing and creating with a group of creative, mischevious, fun children!

The Bishops Castle Storytelling Series, ‘Beautiful Lies and Startling Truths’, second season launches on 8th September with Robin Williamson!

All performances are at Bishops Castle Town Hall. Tickets £7.00, £20 for a group ticket of up to 4 people.  Bar available.  Doors open at 7.30pm for 8.00pm start.

BLAST!

Beautiful Lies and Startling Truths

Bishops Castle Storytelling Series

Fabulous storytelling performances through the dark winter months.

Magical, dreamlike, witty, sometimes disturbing stories for adults – and there is always cake and locally brewed beer!

Thursday 8th September 2016– The Craneskin Bag, Robin Williamson. *7.30pm start

Friday 14th October 2016 – The Falcon Bride, Katy Cawkwell

Friday 11th November 2016 – Travelling Together, Amy Douglas and Helen East

Friday 9th December 2016 – Grimms Sheesha, Peter Chand

Friday 13th January 2017 – How to Spin Enchantment, Tim Ralphs

Friday 10th February 2017– Kings and Promises, Debbie Guneratne,

Friday 10th March 2017 – The Opal Forest, Shonaleigh

Bishops Castle Town Hall, www.bishopscastletownhall.co.uk, Shropshire, SY9 5BG 01588 630023

Door open at 7.30 for 8.00pm start. Tickets £7.00. Tea, beer and homemade cake available.

 

I’ve been working the English Folk Dance and Song Society as part of their project, The Full English. They have recently completely digitising their huge archive and now it is all online – an amazing resource! The Full English includes all sorts of projects in a wide variety of educational settings to celebrate the access and explore different ways of working with the material.
My project was a collaboration with Queensbridge School, musician John Kirkpatrick and mentee, Beth Gifford. All of Year 7 went off timetable for a week to create a performance based on a ballad printed in Birmingham. Six classes concentrated on different aspects of the performance to create an extravaganza including morris dancing, singing, music, storytelling and drama.

If you would like to read a write-up of the project, please click here. Photos coming soon.

Descriptions of the exercises and games used are here

I’m delighted to have been commissionsed to compile a book of Shropshire Folktales for the History Press.  I’ve just submitted the manuscript and looking forward to seeing what the proofs look like.  The book includes thirty of the region’s stories, some old favourites and plenty that are new material for me.  Lynn Rust has created some fabulous illustrations and Katherine Soutar of Dancing Cat Designs at Maws Craft Centre in Coalbrookdale is working on the front cover as I type!  The book is due for publication in July 2011.

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Once again I teamed up with the marvellous Fiona Collins and Wrexham Country Parks. We played, jumped, ran, skipped and danced in six of the country parks with children from local schools, to create a book of new active stories for the parks.

During the spring term Fiona Collins and I mentored a group of year 9/10 students at Selly Park Technology College preparing them for their Bronze Arts Award.  Over a period of weeks the students explored a variety of storytelling techniques and organised a performance of stories and riddles within school.  The students all came to the Young Storyteller of the Year Competition on 13th March in Birmingham and either performed in the competition or assisted the judges and took part in the deliberation process.  The whole day was brilliant – an excellent opportunity to hear professional storytellers, perform stories in a professional theatres and meet other young people interested in storytelling.  All our students have now successfully acheived their Bronze Arts Award.