The Crown of Feathers and Fins

For a long time I had wanted to do something with music and storytelling, its nothing new, but I had been telling a story for years which just seemed to beg for some music. I tried telling the story in so many ways, but in my heart I heard music and knew until I matched the two mediums I wouldn’t be happy.

Skip a few years until February 2013 when I am running a workshop at a local youth centre, and start chatting to the manger of the centre, Chris Secker, who I had worked with in 2012 on a storytelling and music workshop. From my musical talent depravity perspective Chris seems to have the ability to pick up virtually any instrument and create improvised masters pieces in seconds… Which got me to thinking that if storytelling works on an improvised level, then any music or musician would also need the ability to improvise too. So when Chris mentioned he’d like to explore storytelling a bit more a plan formed in my mind, a talented improvisational musician with and interest in storytelling… It might be time to revisit that story and music combo again. I already had a booking for a featured spot at Three Heads in a Well storytelling club run by Surrey Storytellers Guild, so I suggested the idea to Chris who hesitantly agreed.

Our first meeting involved telling a couple of stories I thought might lend themselves to the project, and Chris brought along some instruments to explore different sounds, the irony was the story I had been wanting to put to music for so long didn’t inspire Chris all that much… D’oh! We talked about different sections of each story, the characters and their journey both physical and emotional, and the feel of different chapters. I saw a lot of links between the two stories and started exploring ways to piece them together into one over arching show.

The next meeting Chris started to play bits he had composed and we started to fit them with different sections in the stories, and although we unravelled that plan several times over, it was the first spark of what was to come, and ease it would develop. Much of the time I had to just say what was happening in a particular section and the emotional state and Chris would start playing a melody on the ‘three string strum stick’ (which creates a sound somewhere between a regular guitar and a lute) and it would fit as though the tune and story had always been together.

The next four sessions we worked upon the second story, as this was the weakest link, it was also the story I had always wanted mix with music… and as if the music had breathed life into the story, suddenly it was alive. To aid the rehearsals and the development process we recorded each rehearsal, which I then edited and shared with Chris via Dropbox, this made being able to reflect upon the work much more effective, and at each new session the beginning was a buzz of new ideas. It also made refreshing the memory so much easier and hear when the story and music worked, and where we needed to adjust levels, let the music or the story shine and for the other to be quiet.

The potential of where this project was going filled us both with infectious excitement, and when Helen Stewart contacted me about doing a featured spot at ‘Word of Mouth’ in Manchester, and around the same time an opportunity at Farnham Maltings, suddenly we had the makings of a tour. Of course there was then the issue of a title and considering one story featured a feather and the other a mermaid, and both featured Kings, ‘The Crown of Feathers and Fins’ seemed appropriate.

It was at this point Chris left for three weeks to go travel around America, and I was left to play with the word weaving of the stories, and building the over arch of the entire show. This developed through research into the places the stories came from, the mythology that built the backbone of the plot, character exploration through creating family trees and relationships, and ‘Midrashing’ a technique I learnt from Shonaleigh on the Walking the Wildwoods course. During the latter process I started creating pieces of prose, poetry, kennings and riddles which have danced off my tongue twisting the twirling in images.

Finally Chris arrived back with a sprained/fractured right wrist after a snowboarding accident on the last day of his trip, and so for the first week back it was gentle does it, but at last work could begin on the story for the first half, which was just as well as we had two weeks before our first open run through to a test audience. It was a battle tackling this story, although it had been the one of the two which had seemed straight forward to begin with, now we started working with several elements weren’t gelling. Talking, working, talking, working, listening and some of the strongest coffee I have ever drunk in my life as well as chats with the ever wise councils of Belinda McKenna and Tom Goodale, little by little the story emerged.

I am really proud of both halves of the show now, and I known Chris is too, and no more so when we previewed it to the Home Education group consisting of around twelve 11-16yr old. They were told they didn’t have to watch, or could leave after the first half, but all stayed and gave us amazing feedback, including that the show was just the right length (we had been worried it was too long), that the music and story balanced each other and we introduce five new people to storytelling.

It has been a wonderful adventure crafting this show over the last two months, exploring, understanding and creating, not to mention the laughs, coffee and cake that has kept the process going, and it continues to develop. One of the greatest things of this project has been how we both have developed across medium, I suppose to begin with we both thought I’d handle the story and Chris would handle the music, but now we can both happily make suggestions about story and music.

So now it is ready to share with the world and we want to get it out to as many people as possible. Below are the dates and places we are currently booked for, but if you can’t get along to those then book us for a venue near you… We would especially like a few American and Canadian bookings.

8pm, 3rd May 2013 – Word of Mouth, Manchester
7.30pm, 24th May 2013 – Three Heads in a Well, Ewell, Surrey
18th September 2013 – Farnham Maltings, Surrey

Flyer for The Crown for Feathers and Fins

Flyer

a GRIMM ole time!

After the generosity I received on my WCMT trip, with so many storytellers giving me time, books, cds, and a place to stay, I wanted to have the opportunity to give something back, and so this week I am playing host to American storytellers Judith Heinemann and Daniel Marcotte who are over in the UK performing their show Grimm’s Grimmest as part of Kingston University’s After Grimm: Fairy Tales and the Art of Storytelling’ Conference.

Judith and Dan performing Grimm’s Grimmest

I first met Judith in Cincinnati, in fact I was one of the first people she met when she arrived and Karen Chace introduced us and within the first two minutes of conversation we had established that Judith was going to be visiting the UK in September, performing at Kingston Uni and would be staying with me, and now she is it is lovely. Although Judith didn’t come alone, she brought the very talented musical gem Dan Marcotte with her, who I met for the first time when I opened my front door to them on Wednesday.

I am very glad to be able to host two such warm and giving folks, especially because it would seem they have brought the weather with them! Plus it has been great to be sat answering work emails to live lute playing in my living room. And apparently my flat is Dan’s ideal holiday resort, because I am a self-confessed Geek, so my collection of Sci-fi movies and series, my fantasy and sci-fi collector pieces, and my comic book collection and fiction library have been the subject of much conversation.

It has been wonderful to see so many lovely and familiar faces at the conference too, especially when so many of them graced the stage last night to perform a variety of Grimm stories. As well as Judith and Dan, there was Kelly Kanayama (with whom I appeared with earlier this year at the Taster Tales, as part of the Gathering, the Society for Storytelling’s conference), Janet Dowling with who I work with wearing my Surrey Storytellers Guild hat (actually we had a good representation what with Janet, Jeff, me, Alistair and Paul, it was a shame Belinda couldn’t make it, but she was being all dramatic and taking a week in hospital – feel better soon you crazy lady!), Cat Weatherill – the beautiful and sassy fellow redhead, and the spellbinding and somewhat other worldly Jamie Crawford. Not to mention the talent sitting in the audience with the likes of Simon Heywood and Jack Zipes!

Janet Dowling telling the Sea Hare

The evening of stories was truly mesmerising. First up on the small black stage with plush red curtains falling behind was Judith and Dan and their wonderful dressed stage with skulls and candles, Judith’s long black cape and their blend of story, music and historical periods (as Dan explains: ‘We like to take our 19th Century collected Grimm’s tales set them to 16th Century Ballard tunes using a Renascence lute and 21st Century vernacular’.). Next was Kelly blending the Germany folk tales with her experience of East Asian Mothers. A short break then catapulted us into a second half of strange beasts. Janet’s telling of the Sea Hare will linger with me always, I have seen Janet tell many times, but I have never seen her tell with such… pleasure, by the end of her story every woman in the room wanted race off and find a Sea Hare of her own! Cat’s use of the stage, dynamics and emotionally raw tensions really exploded the characters from ‘Donkey Cabbages’ into the room, always just at the right moment so that a greater understanding of the motives and complex relationships was understood and felt throughout the room, a highly enjoyable and thoughtful performance. And never one to disappoint, the last teller of the night was Jamie who told a modernised version of ‘Bearskin’. Jamie seems to have a elven quality to his movements and facial gestures, with just a look of his eyes you could which character was feeling what, he lept on and off the stage and really used every inch of the performance to his advantage, setting the scene and inviting the audience into every aspect of the story.

Cat Weatherill starting her version of ‘Donkey Cabbages’ with a haunting ballad

By the end of the night I felt fulfilled and exhausted by my journey through those dark woods of the Black Forest, and having met such wondrous creatures, sung along to and be serenaded by a chorus of ballads, mixed with magic and danced with the devil.

For a free event it was one that there was no reason to miss, and is such a shame that so many of the delegates of the conference chose too – especially as so many others had been desperate for tickets and turned away. We had so much top talent giving their time for free crammed into a small converted church-theatre and yet half the seats were left empty. It is an issue that comes up time and time again, and makes my heart bleed every time. Storytelling is such a beautifully powerful art form we should support and cherish and yet the attitude of most is that it can be free or it can be missed… if you had seen what I saw last night, you would never miss a tale, fable or story again, maybe this is why I felt the need to play my Bodhran as we walked into Kingston after the show, ‘The storytellers are coming, the storytellers are coming, listen, celebrate and share!’

Mud, Mud, Glorious MUD!!!

The travels across Canada and America maybe over for now, but that doesn’t mean the adventure has come to an end…

The August bank Holiday weekend, as well as being the usually rainy affair we Brits are used to on Bank Holidays, was also the West Country Storytelling Festival, as well as the Devizes International Street Festival.

If you have never been to a storytelling festival, let me start by saying they are curious places where reality no longer holds importance, and fairies, dragons, heroes and villains can achieve impossible feats.

The West Country festival has been held for the past two times at Embercombe in Devon, just outside of Exeter. It has a very eco approach, and as well as have a beautiful stone circle, spiral mound, and lake, it has yurts with wood burning stove for those of us who wanted a bit of luxury as opposed to the camping option… which with all the rain I am mighty glad I booked the luxury!!!

This year’s WC Storytelling festival had a lot more poetry and music sessions, as well as crafts and agricultural workshops than previous years, but this might also be why, when asked at the opening ceremony who was new to the storytelling festival, over half the 750 peopled crowd said they had never been before. In a year when I have been looking at ways to encourage new people into storytelling this was heartening. The Opening ceremony had its usual Embercombe blend of honouring the land, the stories and the mysteries, and after the crowd had sung and swayed, the festival was officially underway.

opening ceremony at the West Country Storytelling Festival

The opening ceremony at the West Country Storytelling Festival, waking the giants of the land and stirring the stories.

There weren’t as many storytellers as in some years, and unfortunately most of the storytellers of note were programmed all to on in the many (some might say far too numerous, yet small) venues during the same times, which meant for those of us going mainly for the storytelling you had some sessions where it was frustratingly hard to decide who to see and who to miss, and other sessions where it was a struggle to find something to see at all. It was delightful though to find time to catch up with storytellers, and have time to meet new tellers too.

The highlights of the weekend were Jan Blake’s amazing stories and music which just made you want to dance. Simon Heywood’s ‘Jack Tales’, and later the same day ‘Robin Hood’, where I discovered several things I didn’t know about ole Robby as Simon blended history and story together beautifully around the fireside in the thick green woods of Embercombe. Shonaleigh’s Ruby Tree captured my heart, brought tears to my eyes and made me think of a story I wanted to give someone special. Sue Charman told the Handless Maiden with such skill, strength and understanding that I found many new levels to the story. Ben Haggarty’s ‘Iron Man’ was told with energy and power, so that the audience could just about feel the ancient Iron Man stirring beneath the ground, and Martin Shaw’s ‘Cinderbiter’ really did transport me somewhere totally other worldly, a fine mixture of music, story, rhythm and wonder, once it finished I actually found I could not speak for a full 10 mins – Martin my friends wants to know that secret!

People sat on top the spiral mound beneath the moon.

People sat on top the spiral mound at Embercombe, telling stories beneath the moon.

The low points was the weather, the damn rain and mud got everywhere, the lack of water for the loos, and the programme booklet being very confusing to read and not having details of the sessions, or times on each page.

The weekend quickly flew by and the fire ceremony Sunday evening really captured the spirit of Embercombe. Unfortunately I had to miss the closing ceremony, as a very early start on Monday saw Team Phoenix heading off to Devizes to perform all day at Devizes international Street Festival, however the weather had other plans! On the up side right next to the story tent, Nero’s Café was kind enough to open a new shop and so all drinks were free until 12noon – and a girl can never turn down free hot chocolate! Last year when I performed at the Festival it was a beautiful sunny day and I did 7 performances between 11am – 6pm with the crowds gathering around the story tent up to 250 people, but this year with the rain we only did 5 performances with the largest crowd being 20 people, and by 5pm all the performers and stall holders were closing up and running for cover as the streets turned into rivers.

Devizes international street festival in the rain

Steam Punk cyclists at the Devizes international street festival, like the rest of us getting very soggy as people dashed for cover from the rain.

Maybe it was the weather or something else but I had a strange day telling, I had gone through my 400 strong repertoire and decided on the stories I would tell during the day, but out of the 20 I had chosen not one of them came, instead I became a story juke-box, asking the crowds what they liked stories about, and from that choosing tales – it was great! Sometimes the freedom to just tell a story in the moment brings about amazing things. It was also great to see people I had told to last year and who still remembered the stories… that is the best feeling as a storyteller that you left stories behind for people to enjoy.

And so the rain still falls tapping on my window as I tap on the keys writing up my report about my journey and discoveries in Canada and America, it makes as a strange rhythm, the music of stories, listen and see what stories you hear…

time flies!!! part 2

After San Francisco the next and last stop was Montreal for the SCCC (Storytellers of Canada) national conference. However I did make one final pit stop in Toronto to try and rest as the all the travelling was beginning to take it toll and to it gave me the chance to say goodbye to people in the hostel that had made Toronto home over the last month, and who I hope our paths will cross again.Thank you so much to Lindon, Pete, Dave, Dimitri, Laura, Sandra, Mary, Anna, Iman, Stephie, Nicole, Marijanka, Mossy, Hendrik, Kathrin, Amelia, Gordiano, Robbie, Goran, Marcin and Vera for making Toronto unforgettable, it was a barrel of a time!

With one last teary glance I said farewell and headed for Montreal a few days later than planned, and several hours later thanks to the bus deciding it had its own special timetable (at this point in my travels I was so over the bus journeys, to other WCMT travellers I give this piece of advice… take the train, or in fact just treat yourself to the plane, you’ll have more energy to do your work!) Finally reached Montreal, tired, hungry and on the brink of a hypo, then I found the storytellers with food, and soon sleep and the world was a better place!

The next morning the conference started, and just like the NSN conference a whirl of faces and names, workshops and performances filled the area, and information and contacts abound at every avenue. I will admit that my energy levels were not what they had been in Cincinnati, and getting up early and staying up late to catch people to chat about youth storytelling just wasn’t physically possible, and with the venue having no air-con everyone was finding staying awake tricky. However I did manage a conversation here and there, interviews, and I came away from it with pockets of cards to contact people who I knew I wouldn’t get the chance to talk over the weekend. I spoke to Jennifer Caley about how she got the Canadian arts council to recognise storytelling as an art form in its own right, which would hugely beneficial around in UK. Ruthanne Edward’s workshop on Story Slams was a wealth of discussion about getting young/youth into storytelling, and the methods, and the AGM of the conference was unlike any AGM I have ever been too, so much fun and silliness… got to say I approved.

The SCCC 2012 Storyquilt

The SCCC 2012 Storyquilt, I so wanted this, its a beautiful idea!!!

I also got to see the Story quilt, which is a bit of a Tradition, a new one is made each year byt the storytellers and the auditioned off to raise money to support the ‘Story Save’ project, which aims to record the voices of the older storytellers in the community, so they aren’t lost forever.

The Lovely Ladies from Ottawa, Gail, Ruthanne, Caitlyn and Me

The Lovely Ladies from Ottawa, Gail, Ruthanne, Caitlyn and Me

It was also really lovely to see many of the tellers I had met on my way around Canada, Mary from St John’s, Dan, Donna, Marylyn and Molly from Toronto, and the lovely ladies from Ottawa Gail, Ruthanne and Caitlyn, Dear Ole Winston even turned up on my last night…

Sir Winston, hanging on the wall of the Sir Winston Churchill Pub, Montreal

Sir Winston, hanging on the wall of the Sir Winston Churchill Pub, Montreal

My last weekend of my trip rushed past in a heat haze of stories, and sweet memories, and ended by being asked to tell a story at the closing ceremony of the conference, which I felt very honoured to do. Thank you to all those who made the SCCC conference amazing, including Cindy Cambell, Renée Englot, Nicolas Rochette, Marylyn Peringer, Dan Yashinsky, Stéphanie Bénéteau, Norman Walker, Petronella van Dijk, Peter Jarvis, Sylvi Belleau, Mary Fearon, Yannic, Judith Poirier, Yves Robitaille, Jan Andrews, Jennifer Cayley, Jennifer Ferris, Gail Anglin, Ruthanne Edwards, Caitlyn Paxon, Donna Dudinsky,

I can honestly say I never wanted the final hours of my trip to come, and found that I could of happily spent the whole six weeks in each place I went and still had more questions and more contacts to discover. I had some of my pre-trip thoughts confirmed, I had some questions answers, and discovered many more to ask. I was inspired by people, stories, places, moments, chocolate and the generosity of everyone I met my way around. I will be forever grateful for the opportunity that the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust has awarded me, and have appreciated each and every moment people have spared to talk, listen and advise me, and even cheered me on from back home. I may not always had as much time with people as I would have like, but every second counted and has touched, inspired, and altered me forever.

I have learnt that for all I want to achieve in my project this trip was not the whole conversation, but the beginning of a dialogue, so I know already that I will return and hopefully often and soon.

 

 

time flies!!! part 1

Well its been a few weeks since I updated, for which I apologise for. My last two weeks of my trip turned into a whirlwind of planes, trains and automobiles.

So the last installment I was in Toronto, It was becoming increasingly hard to leave as the hostel had quickly become home and where I was returning to in between the different sections of my travels, also have to say I met some amazing people there. Performing in front of my friends, and some just confused hostelers was nerve racking but brilliant, and it was great to share what I do and I was really pleased that people seemed to enjoy it, especially because the age range of the hostelers was for the most part the age range that my project applies too, so good news fellow storytellers, they are out there and they do enjoy stories!

Red Phoenix Performing at the Canadiana Backpackers in Toronto

Red Phoenix Performing at the Canadiana Backpackers in Toronto

Very early the next Sunday morning I was at the airport ready to fly to San Francisco and when I got there I was greeted by Robert Greygrass,

Robert Greygrass and Carmel, my generous hosts in San Fran

Robert Greygrass and Carmel, my generous hosts in San Fran

a storyteller who I met pretty much a year ago to the day, while he was over performing at the ‘Festival at the Edge’ which was just drawing to a close back home in Britain at the time Robert arrived to pick me up. And then it was a trip through San Francisco, checked out a couple of toruist spots on the way home and drove over the Golden Gate Bridge… to say I was somewhat excited is an understatement… I WAS IN CALIFORNIA BABY!!!!

However the intial excitment got somewhat subdued by the first couple of days plans getting rearranged, as various people had to cancel and rearrange, which was a pity…

Red Phoenix singing on the San Francisco trolley sytem

Red Phoenix gets her Judy Garland moment.

but it did allow time for the sight seeing of San Fran, and roaming around the Napa Valley and Berkley area.It was nice to catch up with Kevin Gerzevitz again, one of the storytellers I had met at the NSN conference, almost a month earlier, and recap the conference and the learning from it. I was really lucky on the Thursday evening to have the chance to perform in California, which Robert had arranged.

 

Friday started early as Robert was driving me up to Camp Winnarainbow, a performance skills summer camp, which is open to both adults and children (although not at the same time) and I was lucky enough to be performing there too, and would get the chance to talk to organisers… who I discovered was THE ‘Wavy Gravy’, and the camp was at the ‘Hog Farm’ (if this isn’t meaning much to you, Wavy Gravy has been on the Simpsons and has a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream flavour named after him – go google him now!!!!).

The Tipi village at Camp Winnarainbow where the campers get to sleep.

The Tipi village at Camp Winnarainbow where the campers get to sleep.

The camp was an amazing place where young people are taught various performance skills, or encouraged to develop the ones they have whether circus, drama, music or dance, but its the life skills which are formed out of the kids gaining confidence, communication and creativity which was the amazing part. I got the chance to talk to campers, staff and organisers, which was wonderful, everyone was so positive about the camp, the learning and the development which could be globally reaching, and that storytelling was already being used as part of the process was a highlight.

Red Phoenix dancing with one of the 'dupers'

I got taught a move or two while I was there.

Unfortunately my time at the camp flew by and soon I had to leave to get back to San Francisco (the camp was in Northern California, in the mighty Redwood forests – beautiful) and the trip back to the airport was one of adventure, hells angels, forest fires, traffic jams, flight rearrangements, after which I was never so pleased to see Toronto’s CN tower!

Trips, Tricks and no Ticks

Its was a very early start Saturday morning to get up and ready to so the radio show interview in St Johns, I talked about my research project with the Winston Churchill Fellowship, and plugged the show I was doing that weekend, got to ramble about general story-ness and told the Storytellers parable, and when they asked me if I knew any Newfie music which I would liked played I turned into a total girlie fan and blethered about Great Big Sea and Alan Doyle’s new album, so they played me one of his new songs – I was silly happy!!!!

 

I then went for a lovely brunch with Dale & Kelly after which I headed out to sea for a few hours whale watching.

Humpback whale tail

A Humpback Whale

Whilst out at sea I also got ‘Screeched’ a special ceremony to become an hounary Newfloundlander, which involved drinking dark rum, speaking special phrases and kissing a puffin’s bum! Now there’s a story!!!!

In the evening I went to see Dale Jarvis’ ‘Ghosts of Signal Hill’ show, which was an absolute treat, and I highly recommend to anyone who finda themselves in St Johns. After we headed out to Bay Roberts ready for my story show the next day, Which went amazingly well, more people turned up than expected and everyone seemed to really enjoy the stories and my energetic style. I also learnt that St Johns has no posionious plants no snakes, frogs or ticks.

Monday morning I left St Johns to return to Toronto so that Tuesday I could retunr to the Stop and tell some more stories at the women’s group, and because the summer camp was on I ended up telling to the kids camp and the women’s group. again it went really well and because the kids thought I looked like the Princess from Brave, I told some Scottish stories. I then headed to the Academy of the Impossible to meet Emily Pohl-Weary a writer who works with creative youths in Toronto. I interviewed a few of the attendees and Emily and got a really good prespective on how youths in Toronto (and I suspect elsewhere) find out about activities that they are interested in, and their views on storytelling, and all of them from hip-hop artists to playwright, games designers and poet all told me they were heavily drawing on storytelling to support their work.

Wednesday I back up to Ottawa for an evening interviewing the Ottawa storytellers about youth storytelling, in the gathering were a collaction of tellers who work with youth tellers, are youth tellers, and those just interested in the discussion. from that I have serveral hours of audio recording to sit through and write up… a good evening with good food and lots to think about.

Then back to Toronto for the last few days before heading to San Fran, and while out shopping earlier I bumped into Trick form the series ‘Lost Girl’ I was very excited (lucky it wasn’t Dyson, Vex or Kensi!). And as a parting shot t to the hostel I have been staying in and the many new friends I have made there, I am telling tonight as part of the wine and cheese evening.

Black board in hostel advertising my show tonight

The sight that greeted me at breakfast this morning! Good Stuff!!!

 

 

Toronto to St John’s

I was meant to leave Toronto on the 11th to head to St John’s, but after having a wonderful lunch with Donna Dudinsky after the Storytent last Saturday and finding out that the Racontuers (a storyslam in Toronto) meeting was also on the 11th I changed my flight and attended.

It was a very interesting evening, as only a couple of days before I had been sat in Dan Yashinsky’s garden talking about youth storytelling and how he percieved that a lot more talented young people were interested in storytelling in the UK than in Canada. But when I entered the wonderfully named ‘No One Writes To The Colonel’ 460 College St, what a feast beheld my eyes.

Racontuers Story Slam

Racontuers Story Slam @ No One Writes To The Colonel

The bar was packed, every available seat was taken, people gathered huddle in any space they could get, it was amazing to see just how many people had turned out on a hot summer evening to cram themselves into the wonderfully record bespotted performance space. And even more amazing was that the vast majority were 20-40yr olds, with the occassional older folk peppered amoungst the crowd.

As the evening began and the stories started it proved to be such a range, and dynamic of tellers. The theme this month was ‘Music’ and before each teller told the MC announced their name and their favourite song, which already gave an idea of the person we were about to see. Coming from the UK my ear is not atuned so much to the personal stories which seem to heavily fill repetoires in Canada and the US, and it should be noted that Racontuers only accepts personal stories, so I did not enter as a teller, for I have had no experince with playing with personal tales. Some tellers told of seeing their favourite band live, some told of how they developed their first crush on the favourite popstar, some told of their own personal connection to music through playing, and just like everything to do with music there was also a touch or sex, drugs and rock and roll!

Tellers told in blocks of three with a break inbetween each block, where tellers were greeted by eager audience members to congratulate them on their telling. All tellers told through a mic and even the quiet ones could be heard by all. Some tellers were newbies and other were old hats, but all were welcomed by a very story hungry audience.

At this point I must admit I was more fasinated by the dynamic in the room than the stories, not that they weren’t good, but like I say I’m not use to personal tales and at times for me it felt a bit like watching stand-up comedy without the punch lines. I didn’t not enjoy it, and I don’t mean to sound like a story snob, because believe me anything that can generate the amount of people in a room for storytelling I’m all for, its just I found it hard to recognise it as storytelling that I am familiar with for it is such a different style. But I have been told that is also how it feels in reverse, many people who have only had personal tales find it hard to listen to what they determine over here as ‘folk tales’ (which back home refers to a certain genre of stories, rather than a generic term for any fictional tale). This in itself is an interesting insight into the trip, does this mean to be more appealing to more people, we as a storytelling community in the UK have to look to this, or is it just a cultural difference. Having spoken a lot to Csenge Zalka at the NSN conference about this (Csenge is from Hungary, which also has a long history of ‘folk’ tales) we both, having worked with youth in our own countries have seen how ‘folk’ tales are still popular, and so at this stage my belief is that it is more of a cultural thing, but that we must be aware that personal tales are a great way of giving a voice to young people who can often feel like no one is listening.

But net result is that far from being devoid of youth talent, Toronto has a wealth of youth talent bubbling away, but it might need a to be sort out in a new fashion.

And then before I knew it, and far too soon I was on a flight to St John’s, and flying into the airport I saw hilltops and coast line which could have been mistaken for Scotland, and colourful houses which would look at home in Balormory. The place is awash with Irish accents, and I have finally found out why East Killbride in Scotland doesn’t have just a Killbride, cos its here in Canada, so East Killbride is VERY east!

I arrived at the hostel at 6pm dropped my bags headed into town (finding within mins a chocolate shop… my true chocoholic nature is far from the surface) grabbed some food and found Hava Java, the venue for tonight’s Storytelling circle, and finally met at long last Dale Jarvis, which was a strange first meeting as I many an email has gone back and forth, and so many people have talked to me about him it really didn’t feel like a first meeting. What an evening of diverse stories, and international tellers, besides myself there were tellers from Spain, Wales, Ireland and then plenty of local talent. After which Dale and his partner took me up to Signal hill to look down over St John’s at night, a beautiful sight… a good way to end the day.

Friday the 13th was – and that is all that can be said, roll on the radio interview at 9am local time Saturday 14th, but I shall leave with that view…

Over looking St John's at night

Over looking St John's at night

 

Bravo Toronto

The CN tower in Toronto

Bravo Toronto

So much to catch up on, because it has been a crazy busy week.

So after the course not running I went up to Ottawa to visit the story circle there I travelled by Greyhound (a 5hr journey where I read ‘A Monster Calls’ which Shonaleigh Cumbers recommended, and whilst it was an amazing book it resulted in me crying for the last hour of the journey… I got a few funny looks) and was met off the bus by Caitlyn Paxson of the Ottawa Storytellers. We went for dinner and met up with Ruthanne Edward, both of whom were a mind of information about what was happening in youth storytelling in Ottawa and I was most impressed with the different activities, such as the story slams which Ruthanne set up. We then went to the Story Circle where such wonderful tales were told and shared. Ottawa was such a warm bunch of people and Gail Anglin was a delightful hostess with story conversation into the night and first thing in the morning. Definitely worth a repeat visit.

The next day I found myself back on the bus back to Toronto to arrive in time to attend the 1001 nights in Toronto, which was a diverse blend ofstories, ages and cultures and the stories reflected that. I met a number of people who use storytelling in schools. Saturday was an early start to the StoryTent in St Clare West, and its was a lovely day where I told a number of stories and met more storytellers we even had time to have a huge conversation about youth projects around the world, my pen had a hard time keeping up. Since then I have been invited back to that site everyday for different projects, which included a group for differently abled folks and a womens group where I got feed and given a lovely massage after I finished telling. They were really keen for me to come back again, but it is time for me to start thinking about the next town and the next adventure. Although it is with a heavy heart and much resistance I will leave Toronto, I would quite happily stay for good!

Thanks again for reading and many thanks to Storytelling Toronto and Ottawa Storytellers for being so generous and welcoming.

Toronto is great, but their driving is nuts!

 

 

Internet Killed the Backpacker!!!

So I went from the thronging conference held in the swanky Marriott Hotel in Cincinnati to the back street backpackers hostel in Toronto, it was always goign to be a change, but having been a keen and well travelled backpacker in the past I was prepared, or at least I thought I was.

It wasn’t the best of starts, the plane was delayed in Cincinnati due to bad weather, and I mean BAD, don’t believe check the news about Ohio! It was beautiful arriving into Toronto on the tail end of Canada Day, as I flew over the city all the fireworks were going off – stunning and at the same time disconcerting have things fly up and explode as you are descending. Just for good measure the bus was late and when I arrived into the room expecting even at this late hour backpackers still to be up due to the celebrations, everyone was asleep!

So I slept missing all my new found friends from the conference, and Monday I got on with my day (which consisted of finding Godiva’s chocolate shop – a girl has her priorities! – and getting my Canadian phone up and running) I get back to the hostel thinking I should spend a little time catching up on blogging and emails, to find the hostel slient once more, people were awake, but all plugged into their laptops. I remember when hostels were bursting with stories, but sadly this is no longer the case, rather than going out and exploring the many wonders of Toronto they sit watching episodes of tv shows or films… I was at a lost as to what technology has cost us.

So OK, I am right here being one of them, I do get the irony about complaining about everyone plugged into the internet while being plugged into the internet – but I am after all on a working trip, and part of that is to report what I find.

However I will be spending sometime away from the computer over the next few days as plans have had to change somewhat. The course I came to Toronto to work on and review was cancelled due to lack of bookings, which is the first time in 30years it hasn’t run – typical! So rather than sit around I am heading up to Ottawa to visit the story circle there, and dash back to Toronto for their story circle Friday night and story tent on Saturday morning where I will be meeting Dan Yashinsky.

But I have not been bummping around waiting for the bus to leave, I met up with Marylyn Peringer who was going to be running the course to find out what would of happen. From what she told me it was going to start quite literturcey (bear in mind I’m dyslexic) based, and build over 4 days to develop a traditional tale for telling. Marylyn took for dinner and dancing bear foot in the ‘Winston Churchill Park – he is most definitely keeping tabs on how my trip is going, Cheers Sir Winston!

International Hide and Seek with Sir Winston… I see you!

No good looking the other way Sir C, the sign gave it away!

And just to prove story is in every fibre of my being, while I was out on the street a Greenpeace canvaser stopped me with the words ‘hey let me tell you a story’ so I stopped and he did, it was great, so being the kind of person who thinks a gift should be met with one in return especailly when it comes to stories, I told him an ancient Roman tell of enviromentalism and consumerism. So happy was he I have been invited to come tell at one of their meetings :)

Ooh and an opportunity has come my way which is mind blowing!!!! But right now its a secret, I might even give a prize if you can guess :)

Stories will travel, and be our passport to places we would usually get too.

And rememebr if you are out there reading this, let me know, it is never lonely or quiet on the road with stories in your heart, but it is nice to know there are others out there.

Much love y’all!

NSN Pre-conference

Storytellers started to drifted into the hotel as from Tuesday, The first I met was Jane Crouse, whom I had breakfast with, and not only did we share story chit-chat but discovered we were both huge fans of Robin of Sherwood, breakfast was a long and laughter filled event.

Throughout the rest of Tuesday (aside from a little shopping and tourist trip) Jane introduced me to a number of other storytellers including Sherry Norfolk, writer of many books (along with Jane Stenson) on the subject of storytelling in the classroom. The three of us went for dinner and I have been finding out that there are far more similarities between US and UK storytelling especially in the realms of trying to get funding and convincing schools and youth centres to take on stoyrtelling.

Wednesday was the YES/SHE (Youth, Educators and Storytellers Alliance/ Storytelling is Higher Education) Workshop, both Susan O’Halloran, and Karen Chace spoke at it, but Karen’s afternoon session was by far the most relavant to the work we are trying to create in the UK, it focused on the substainable storytelling projects she has worked on in schools, one of which has been running for ten years, and that not only performs to the school, but has a yearly festival. She also has a great website to explore, especially the Teachers Porch, and writes an amazing blog. It is thanks to Karne I am at this conference in the first place as she recommended I came to the YES/SHE workshop, so thanks Karen!!!

I also managed to finally catch up with Csenge Zalka in person, which was lovely after the months of emails going back and fourth, and I am really pleased we did.

I have had such a warm welcome (the temperture is up in the 100s) from all the storytellers here it has been fabulous, If the first day of this conference is anything to go by I can see I will be coming away from Cincinnati armed to the teeth with information!!!