Coming out of Hibernation… (Catch up part 1)

So finally I am coming out of hibernation from this bleak winter both seasonally and in regards to my blogging goes.


Well at last we spoke I had just finished my first week of the three year Walking the Wildwoods course under the supreme supervision of Shonaleigh Cumbers. That week in Halsway Manor was beautiful and such a learning curve, since then I have been working with the tools I learnt, and creating a lot of origami cranes which brought calm in some pretty tempestuous personal storms.


December was very quiet, and January although seeing the start of two month school residency also bore witness to the lost of two full weeks of work due to the snow. Much of the work was in relation to the National Storytelling Week, which is celebrate every year in the week containing the 1st February, which is also St Bridget’s day.

St Bridget is a Christianized version of the old Celtic Goddess Brigid who was the Goddess of fire, fertility, the hearth, all feminine arts and crafts, martial arts, smithing, healing, inspiration, learning, and poetry among other things, and is perhaps as close to an ancient deity of storytelling as can be feasibly recognised.

Losing all that work was not only financially hard, but heartbreaking, by able to really bang the drum for storytelling during National Storytelling Week is vital to raising the profile of storytelling in the UK. As a storyteller we work hard all the time spreading the word about storytelling, encouraging audiences, and people to tell. Over the past 11 years since NSW has been running we see each year more and more schools, businesses, groups and individuals take notice and organise events, and so to lose out by the bad weather was saddening. However, Del Reid, organiser of NSW reported at this year’s Society for Storytelling ‘Gathering’ of record hits on the website, so its not all bad. I was lucky half of the work I had booked for NSW got moved to World Storytelling Day around March 20th, and with Book day, or rather week as it increasingly becomes, March proved very busy indeed. In the space of a week I had flown around the through stories on my flying carpet five times, been dressed as a pirate telling pirate and smugglers stories in a Naval town, told cat stories at a Naval base, and secured another storytelling residency, going bi-weekly to a home for disabled adults to tell stories.


Red Phoenix and the amazing flying carpet ride

Red Phoenix takes listeners around the world through stories on her amazing flying carpet.

Talking of resident storyteller positions, as well as the weekly one I have visiting a home for profoundly disabled adults, the one I start in January was an amazing project. It started one snowy morning walking around a sculpture park with four groups of year 3s. There were sculptures of every size and type and material at the park near Farnham in Surrey.

one of the wonderful sculptures at the Farnham sculpture park.

The School in Bordon, working along the Phoenix Arts Centre (also in Bordon, Hampshire) had put together a project to create their own sculpture park in the schools grounds (and at two other sites across Bordon, the Phoenix centre and the Eco centre) so that the children could create stories to tell to other children and their families. We started with workshops looking at the sculptures we had seen and building character types from these ideas, and also based in other familiar stories the children knew… We had a lot of werewolves and wizards. Then after picking the top ten most popular characters from the four groups, community artist Rob Turner came in and developed how the children thought these characters might look, and handed these images over to an amazing Chainsaw artist, Jona, how created the images straight from the page.

One of the sculpted characters by the children of Bordon Junior School

Whilst the characters were being carved from huge logs, I came back to do more workshops, this time on how to create, develop, learn and tell a story, and to help the children create their own stories using the sculpted characters. I was also commissioned to create a new story using all the characters and locations involved with the project, which was recorded and put onto MP3’s. Finally everyone came together for a community day at the school to unveil the sculptures, visitors could pick up one of the MP3’s and listen to my story as they walk through the grounds discovery the sculptures, or watch Jona do a chainsaw demonstration. Unfortunately the project ended as it had started, in snow, which meant Rob couldn’t get across from Kent to run a junk sculpture workshop on the day, and my walking tours through the sculptures meant a very chilly 2 hrs outside, and where we had planned for the children to tell their stories outside it proved too cold. We moved the storytent inside and whilst everyone enjoyed hot chocolate and cake, I and the children told stories to warm the heart and soul. It was such a great privilege to be able to spend that amount of time working with the same children on storytelling, and the teachers reported back that it had made a huge difference to their work and attitudes. I just love how when people get the chance to experience the magic of storytelling and the improvements it can offer, without fail they say, ‘why don’t we use this more?’ Indeed a good question, unfortunately the answer is usually found in ignorance and finances.


I was lucky to be so busy, but it came at the worst time physically speaking, because in February I was struck down by a virus which aside from attacking my heart showed no other symptoms. I had started to feel a lack of energy, which I put down to the long winter, but as it worsen and I start to feel dizzy and start collapsing it was obvious it was something more, when I finally got checked my blood pressure was down 88/46 at one point and my pulse was so low I was rushed to hospital, hooked up to an ECG and tested for everything. Finally it was concluded that it was a virus, which was also causing ‘Labyrinthitis’ which unfortunately had nothing to do with David Bowie in tight leggins, but rather causes an imbalance sickness placing the body in a constant state of sea sickness. I’d never been sea sick in my life and I have been out on small fishing boats in full on gales. It was terrible, sometimes not being able to move without being sick. After a while the virus stopped attacking my heart, and moved on to attacking my hearing. Although I am still suffering from the Labyrinthitis (they say it can take up to 6 months, to a year to recover) I was given the all clear a few weeks ago that the virus has done no permanent damage. However, they are not so sure about my hearing, the virus has damaged my mid range (where the voice registers) and although it is hoped that no, or minimal, damage has been caused, it is being monitored, until I finally get over it completely they won’t know for sure. In the meantime I have had to cancel a number of events, and even my holiday as I am not supposed to be driving, (a big thanks to my parents who have been ferrying me around to various gigs and workshops) even going on the train with its sideways motion has been troublesome. Good news is apart from the odd comedy prat fall, I am getting better and energy levels this last week have significantly improved.


Which was just as well because I helped organise the Society for Storytelling’s 2013 ‘Gathering’ on Saturday the 13th April 2013, and that took a lot of energy, to find one more on how it went, check out my blog post on it ‘The Gathering’.